Do's + Don'ts of Hiking Socks

What to look for in your hiking socks

The Do's

What makes a good hiking sock?

When hiking, it is a good idea to always make sure to pick the right socks. Even if you get the right shoes, if the socks don’t fit, you can face a world of problems. This is why, so much emphasis is placed upon getting the right ones.

For beginners, buying the right lightweight hiking socks can be a long process, involving a lot of trial and error. In this case, you should pay attention to the following do’s and don’ts. With the help of these, you can ensure that you get the most comfortable socks for walking without any worries.

The Do’s of Hiking Socks

hiking socks for trail

To start off, we’re going to be taking a looking at some of the do’s of hiking socks. These are healthy practices that you can pick socks before your hiking trip and even what you should do during it. The following are the best do’s of picking hiking socks:

  1. Find a Good Fit: 

    Always make sure that the pair of socks you get fits you properly. The aim is to get a pair that fits you like a glove, even when you are moving. Movement causes the material to move, which creates a stretch and causes the sock to expand and breathe.

    On occasion socks may expand in size after you buy them. This size difference can cause folds or wrinkles in the fabric. If you picked a size (or now ended up with) that was too big, the sock has a higher chance of slipping and sliding inside the shoe.

    Such socks tend to make hiking more difficult and increase the chances of developing foot issues like blisters or hot spots. This happens because the skin of your feet will be severely chaffed by the sock and the shoe. When trying to find a good fit, try to find the answers to the following questions:

    • Are they loose? If you experience them sliding down your feet while inside your boot, they are not only too loose but there is a higher chance of you developing blisters when you are walking. This is why we created socks that do not quit. 
    • Are they tight? Socks that are too tight can be uncomfortable to walk in but some can cut off the circulation in your feet. This can lead to swelling in the feet, bruising and tenderness in your legs. We think we got it just right, but we have had a few folks return socks stating they were too tight - we'd rather fall on this side of the spectrum so that's OK.
    • Are they lower than the ankle? Your ankle needs protection and is also more prone to chafing caused by the heel or even the tongue of the boot. Pay attention to this factor as you could end up skinning your ankle which is also a painful foot injury to deal with. Trails are no place for no-show socks. We always cover the ankle.
    • Are the socks too high? This can turn into irritants as well as they will catch the heat that your body is releasing. It can make you feel overheated when you are doing nothing more than just walking. Choose shorter socks for summer and long socks for cool temps.

    Remember that hiking with ill-fitting socks can be extremely uncomfortable as well so get a good-fitting pair of compression socks for hiking.

fitted hiking socks

  1. Pay Attention to the Materials: 

    Not all socks are made equal and some materials are actually better than others when it comes to hiking socks. In fact, many people have their own preferences here so, make sure to pay attention to your own. As a general rule, it’s a good idea to opt for natural fibers when picking hiking socks as they tend to be more breathable and are kinder to your skin (and the earth).

    Synthetic fibers are oil-based, man-made and while some variants can be extremely breathable, they generally tend to have shorter lives than natural fiber socks. What this does is increase the chances that your socks will be torn, worn out or just experience rips after some heavy usage. Color fading in synthetic socks is also common.

    This leaves natural fibers as the major option for serious hiking socks. In this case, you should still be careful about picking between sheep wool and alpaca wool. Sheep wool tends to be thicker, has lanolin and tends to hold 30% of water. However, alpaca wool is lighter and denser, is hypoallergenic and only absorbs around 5% of all water. They're both great choices, but alpaca comes out on top in most categories.

  2. Focus on the Weather (and keeping your feet dry): 

    When you’re getting hiking socks, it is a good idea to remember what climate you will experience on the hike. Hiking often leaves you exposed to the elements. Exposure problems usually mean that a person was ill-equipped to the weather, terrain and other outdoor elements of a particular destination.

    While having the right kinds of socks doesn’t mean that you’re able to be completely prepared to ward off problems, it does make sure that you are comfortable and protecting your most important asset on a hike - your feet! Warm weather and cold weather hiking are not all that different, it's still a dry foot that prevents most problems. So focus on socks that can work to keep your feet dry by wicking moisture at the highest levels.

    Additionally, some alpine trails may experience frosty or cold temperature, particularly during night-time, early morning or after a rainfall. Again, a dry foot saves the day - focus on the moisture more than the temps.

    Temps can guide you on how to pack for your trip by having socks that are designed for the outdoors and suited to the weather you will experience there.

  3. Have Two or More Pairs: 

    Always make sure that when you’re picking out hiking socks that you grab two or more pairs. This is because it’s definitely not a good idea to go hiking in one pair of socks only. Additionally, you also need to wash and air out the pair that has been put through a day or two of heavy hiking. Even if you have wicking socks, it’s still not healthy to wear those same socks again if possible.

    With another pair, you can also ensure that should the first rip or tear, you have replacement socks available. Some treks are not only long, they can also mean that you travel for miles without any modern shops, locations or destinations. So, if your hiking socks get damaged, it may not be as simple or easy to get a replacement for them.

    By being prepared for the worst, you can ensure that you are able to have a hiking trip comfortably without having to cut it short. With two pairs, you should be good to make it through a week of hiking but, it’s always good to pack three or four. You really never know when you might need a good pair of socks for yourself. Our alpaca socks have been worn for days with virtually no stink, but we do recommend changing them out frequently to avoid any potential problems.

multiple hiking socks

  1. Looking for Wicking Materials: 

    Always make sure to pick moisture-wicking material for your hiking socks. This is something that you really should not compromise upon. Dry feet are going to be happy and healthy feet. In many cases, sweat does collect in shoes and around the toes but the socks you wear tend to absorb all the moisture.

    In this case, wicking socks not only relates to how moisture is removed from the foot but how quickly the sock itself dries (air-wicking or moisture working properties). Again, the material of the sock makes a huge difference. Not surprisingly, we’re going to recommend that you get alpaca socks again because they are extremely good at moisture-wicking and do not hold as much moisture as sheep wool does as shown in studies conducted in the textile industry (Yocom-McColl Wool Testing studies)

    Compared to other materials, good alpaca hiking socks are one of the best options. The cost about the same as quality sheeps wool socks and perform just a bit better. They are more expensive than nylon, cotton socks from big box retailers, but the difference is quality is noticeable. Your passion for the outdoors deserves the best gear for the job.

    By focusing on the do’s highlighted here, you can make sure that you end up picking a sock option that is comfortable, durable and perfect for your hiking journey.

trail hiking socks

The Don'ts of Hiking Socks

When it comes to picking comfortable socks for walking, many people end up making more mistakes than they might realize. For this reason, it is a good idea to take a look at some of the don’ts that are associated with picking the right hiking socks.

These will ensure that you make an educated decision and are able to get a pair of socks that is a valuable addition to your hiking journey. The following are some of the most common don’ts of hiking socks:

  1. Focus on the Design Only: 

    When it comes to the design, many people get distracted by pretty colors and forget to focus a lot more on the functionality. While it is a good idea to get compression hiking socks, you also have to make sure that the fiber, as well as the type of sock, matches with the kind of footwear that you have and is appropriate for your planned events and activities.

    In some cases, different kinds of boots will require different kinds of socks. Your own comfort level will also define the kind of socks you prefer. Some people might like crew socks whereas others might like to have ankle socks. Thickness and thinness may be a factor as well.

    A lot of hiking socks are versatile and multi-purpose in use so pick a good pair wisely. Trail runs, hikes, bike rides - a good quality sock can handle all that with no problem. The focus should be on the performance, the dryness and the quality of materials, not just the colors.

  2. Get a Synthetic Fiber: 

    Synthetic fiber is a huge no-no because it tears easily, is not as breathable as natural fiber and just generally gets worn down faster. Not to mention the impact those socks will have decades after you toss them. In comparison, natural fibers like alpaca wool tends to be more durable, better for your feet and also more eco-friendly.

    Many people don’t realize that alpaca wool socks cost less than synthetic fiber socks after factoring the years of use you can get from a high-quality pair of socks vs. disposable synthetics. 

    It’s a good idea to shop for natural fibers online, especially if you don’t have a store near you. You get to save more money, plus get a product that is durable, great for your hikes and is well worth the cost. It’s a win-win scenario. Skipping layers of retail gets a better product on your feet with less mark ups along the way.

  3. Forget About Weather Conditions: 

    Never ever pick socks without thinking about the weather conditions that you will be exposed to when on your hike. Based on this factor, you will have to pick socks that not only make walking easier but also protect your feet appropriately. 

    • If you expect to experience warm days and have short and easy trails for hiking, then it is perfectly fine to pick thin to light hiking socks.
    • If you’re going on tougher hikes but the weather can still be relied upon to stay warm, then you can opt for mid-thickness hiking socks for your feet. This is generally what people think about our thickness.
    • When you know that the hike is going to be tough or that you will be experiencing cold temperatures, it is a good idea to opt for thicker hiking socks. We're working on a deep winter sock - coming soon.

    As a general rule, you should have one of each sock in your backpack. This ensures that even if the weather takes a turn for the worst or the hike becomes tougher than expected, you are still prepared and not caught completely off-guard.

  4. Forget to Test Them Out: 

    Never make the mistake of not trying on and thoroughly testing your hiking socks with your shoes. You need to make sure that you get the most comfortable hiking socks for your feet. The only way that you can do this is by testing them.

    This gives you a chance to test them out and see how the socks will feel after a long day out on the trail. Sometimes, a sock may be a good fit but once you wear your hiking shoes, you will see that the shoe is too tight. It can then make hiking for long distances extremely uncomfortable, especially if the sock starts to affect your circulation.

    However, if you test it out beforehand, you can identify the issue and even have plenty of time to get a replacement for your hiking sock without any worries.

    By paying attention to these important pointers, you can easily pick out the best socks for hiking and the most comfortable socks for walking as well.

Happy hiking