Choosing the best socks for thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail or any major hike is something that deserves careful consideration. I’ve talked about my go-to hiking shoes, but never what socks I use. So, in this post, I’m going to go over what I look for in a good hiking sock and give you a breakdown of what I think are 5 of the best socks for Thru-Hiking.
Some people swear by using thin liner socks inside of a medium weight hiking sock to prevent blisters but I’ve never found this necessary. Because with the right socks and proper foot care I’ve suffered from very few blisters on the trail.
What Makes for a Good Hiking Sock?
Good materials is the most important attribute of a sock. It affects the comfort, durability, and functionality of the socks. The best socks for thru-hiking are usually a three-way blend of Merino Wool, Nylon and Lycra.
Merino Wool – Merino wool is soft, keeps the stink at bay and drys fairly quickly. It’s the biggest benefit is that wool is still warm when wet. Believe me, your feet WILL get wet on a thru-hike.
Nylon – A purely Merino wool sock won’t have the best durability. Nylon is blended with Merino to increase durability. Being a synthetic material means Nylon drys quickly but can retain some foot funk.
Lycra – A very small percentage of Lycra is often used in the best socks. This allows for good stretch in the sock and helps to keep it snug to the foot.
Fit and Comfort
You can have a sock with the best blend of materials but if the sock is ill-fitted and doesn’t suit your foot then you’re asking for blisters. A hiking sock should be snug fitting but not too tight. You don’t want to have excess bunched up material in the toe region. I find that a sock that sits just above the ankle is perfect for use with running shoes, any taller is unnecessary.
Ability to Dry Quickly
It’s important that a sock can dry creatively quickly as hiking in wet socks for hours on end is not good for your feet. A sock using the materials above will be sufficiently quick drying but don’t go for a sock that’s too thick as it will take longer to dry. A medium thickness sock is what we’re looking for. This strikes the right balance between being padded enough for thru-hiking and thin enough to dry fast.
Durability is a factor to consider but the least important of the ones listed here. It’s more important that a sock works well for you and doesn’t give you blisters. You’ll be going through multiple pairs of socks on a thru-hike anyway but a durable sock is an added bonus.
Five of the Best Socks for Thru-Hiking
Darn Tough – Hiker 1/4 Cushion Sock
Darn Tough makes some of the best socks for thru-hiking because they deliver a quality product and have a lifetime warranty. The “Hiker 1/4 Cushion Sock ” provides coverage for the ankle and nothing more. The 1/4 sock is snug fitting with zero excess material. It has extra padding where you need it and venting on the sides to let out heat and moisture. Darn Tough socks are made with an optimal ratio of 61% Merino, 37% Nylon and 2% Lycra.
Defeet – Wooleator
Defeet have been making a wide range of socks aimed at runners and cyclists since 1992. The Wooleator is their original wool sock that’s been upgraded over the years to be a bomber option for a long distance hike. It strikes a good balance of Wool (63%), Nylon (26%), Cordura (10%) and Lycra (1%) to keep your feet cool in the summer and warm in the winter. It retains good durability whilst also being thin enough to breathe inside your trail runners.
Smartwool Men’s Mini Hiking Socks
Smartwool makes a huge array of socks but I feel the Mini Hiking Socks strike the right balance between thickness, durability and ankle height. They have a flat knit toe seam to prevent hot spots and uses ventilated mesh to prevent your feet from overheating when hiking long distances. They are 69% Merino, 29% Nylon and 1% Elastane which strikes a good balance.
Balega – Blister Resist Quarter Running Socks
Balega does something a little different with its materials. They use a mixture of Mohair (Goat Hair) and Drynamix (Polyester). Mohair has similar characteristics to Merino Wool and mixing it with Polyester provides durability and elasticity to the sock. Customers praise Balega for their elasticated arch support band and a deep heel pocket that holds the sock in place.
Injinji – Outdoor Original Weight Micro NuWool
If you want to look like a Ninja and give your hiking partners a chuckle then pick up some Injinji’s. Joking aside, people that are prone to blisters between their toes should seriously consider a pair of toe socks. The extra material between the toes takes a little getting used to but can be a great solution for blister prone feet. The “Outdoor Original Weight Micro NuWool” (long name) has the right mix of materials. It has excellent ventilation on the top of the sock but some say it may not be as durable for long-distance hiking.
Figure out the Best Hiking Socks for YOU!
As you can see from our list above there are a lot of good hiking socks on the market. It’s hard to pinpoint one brand as the best socks for thru-hiking. Use our list above and pick up a couple of different models to test out before you head out on a long trip in the woods. If you have thoughts on any of the socks above or you think we missed off a good one then leave a comment below, we’d love to hear from you. 🤘🏻
I highly recommend this guide to the best clothes for hiking where I list every item of clothing I recommend
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