When hiking, you need two basic things – your brain and your feet. Fortunately, your brain is well protected by your skull. But your feet? Those need some extra level of care. So, it only makes sense that you use the necessary gear to protect them. This means getting the right pair of hiking boots and the right socks.
Socks? Now, you’re wondering, “do I need special socks for hiking?” You definitely need special socks for hiking. Well, that’s unless you like your feet being uncomfortable and full of blisters after your hiking trip. Unlike regular socks, hiking socks protect your feet, cushioning them and keeping them warm and dry.
Still not convinced? Wondering why you can’t simply wear two pairs of regular socks instead of getting hiking socks? No problem! In this article, we’ll talk more on why hiking socks are a necessity when going hiking. Then, we’ll guide you on how to choose the best socks for your hiking trip.
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Do Hiking Socks Make A Difference?
Hiking socks do make a difference. In fact, they’re the difference between hiking comfortably and coming back from your hike full of blisters and abrasions on your feet.
Hiking socks keep your feet dry and cushioned. They stop friction from occurring between the back of your feet and your boots. This, in turn, prevents blisters and abrasions.
Besides preventing blisters, here are some additional benefits of getting hiking socks rather than regular socks.
- They keep your feet healthy. Hiking generally causes your feet to sweat. If the sweat remains trapped in your skin, it can cause Moisture-Associated Skin Damage (MASD). It can also lead to other foot problems such as toenail fungus and athlete’s foot. Hiking socks help prevent these infections as they typically wick the moisture away from your feet.
- They prevent smelly feet. Feet generally tend to smell if they remain sweaty for a while. This is because sweat creates a breeding ground for bacteria. However, since hiking socks wick most of the sweat away, they’ll be little to no bacteria. This means no stinking feet or boots.
Do You Have To Wear Hiking Socks?
In general, you should wear hiking socks if you’re going hiking. But if you’re simply going to the grocery store that’s a block away, hiking socks may be a tad bit over the top.
With hiking, you’re going to be putting your feet under a lot of strain. As such, you need to make your feet as comfortable as possible. And that’s what hiking socks are for. Here are a few reasons why you should wear hiking socks rather than regular cotton socks.
- Hiking socks are thicker. Since hiking socks are thick, they provide extra cushioning. This cushioning stops your feet from rubing against your boots which prevents blisters. The thickness of hiking socks also provide insulation for your feet. If you’re an avid hiker, you’ll know how essential it is to have your feet warm and dry while hiking.
- Hiking socks provide wicking. Hiking socks absorb the moisture on your feet, keeping your feet dry throughout your hike. This, in turn, helps to prevent blisters from forming on your feet.
- They help with stability. Hiking with regular socks will cause your feet to slide in your boots. This can be pretty uncomfortable as your toes will keep hitting the front of your shoes as you walk. However, hiking socks have the right fabric and cushioning to ensure that your feet don’t slide around but remain stable as you hike.
- They’re durable. Hiking socks are designed for that exact purpose – hiking. They’re made to withstand the strain of hiking. So, unlike regular socks that’ll fall apart after one or two hiking trips, hiking socks can last for years.
Things to Consider When Choosing Hiking Socks
Now that you know how important it is to get hiking socks, let’s go into how you can choose the best hiking socks. Below is a list of the factors you should consider when making a choice:
Choosing the right material of hiking socks is essential for functionality. Hiking socks are available in several materials, each having its strengths and weaknesses. Just remember to check that you’re not allergic to the fabric you decide to go for.
Let’s look at some of the different fabrics that hiking socks have.
Merino Wool: This material type for hiking socks should come as no surprise. With great cushioning and temperature regulating abilities, wool hiking socks are the go-to for most hikers. Merino wool is also antibacterial, making the socks odor and germ-free during long hikes. Another great thing about merino wool is that, unlike regular wool, it’s very soft, so your feet remain comfy throughout the duration of your hike.
Silk: Silk hiking socks? That’s right! These socks are pretty lightweight and comfortable, seeing as silk is a natural insulator. However, they typically don’t last long. Because it’s so lightweight, the material can’t stand long extended use like wool can. As such, most manufacturers blend silk with other fabrics or use it in liners to aid in socks’ moisture wicking.
Cotton: These socks are cheap, easy to find, and comfortable on the skin. However, they don’t regulate temperature and can’t wick moisture off your feet. As a result, cotton socks trap heat and moisture, leaving your feet smelly and soggy after your hike. It’s even worse in colder terrains. You can expect blisters and abrasions with cotton socks. So, word of advice: never use cotton socks for hiking.
Nylon: A synthetic material, nylon has many great attributes. It’s lightweight, breathable, comfortable on the skin, and naturally moisture-wicking.
Polyester: Also synthetic, polyester is a great option for hiking socks. Also used to make hiking daypacks, it has natural moisture-wicking abilities and dries rapidly. As such, even when it gets wet during a hike, it’ll dry out as you walk. Polyester socks are also very durable and comfortable.
Spandex: Very elastic, spandex socks mold to your feet, giving you a great fit. And because it’s that tight, it stops your feet from slipping in your socks and gives you a barely-there feel.
Blends: Most modern hiking socks are typically made from more than one material. Manufacturers tend to mix different fabric types to get the right blend of warmth, breathability, comfort, and moisture-wicking abilities. So, you’ll typically see a combination of wool and synthetic fibers, making for comfortable but lighter hiking socks. To know the fabrics of a particular pair of socks, check the label. You’ll see the percentage of each material used to create the socks.
Hiking socks do not only come in various materials but in several heights as well. While some are so tall that they almost come up to your knees, some are so short that they are perfectly hidden by your shoes.
Choosing the right sock height would depend on the type of shoes you intend to wear with them. If the cuffs of the shoes or boots are high, you should go for taller socks.
The goal is that your skin shouldn’t be in direct contact with your footwear. Skin rubbing against boots could cause abrasions. Here are the various sock height options in the market:
- No show: These hiking socks are pretty short and barely reach the ankle. As such, they don’t offer much protection from skin-to-boot abrasion. Therefore, you should only go for these socks if you intend to wear trail runners or light hiking shoes.
- Ankle: These socks are a bit higher than no-show socks. As the name suggests, they typically come right to the ankle. Like no-show socks, they aren’t ideal for hiking boots but should be worn with low-cut hiking shoes.
- Crew: The most common height of hiking socks, these socks are usually a few inches above the ankle. As such, they’re ideal for both light hiking shoes and high-cut hiking boots. They protect your skin from abrasions while also keeping you warm.
- Knee-high: There aren’t many hiking socks this tall in the market. The ones available are typically for mountaineering. These heavy-duty socks come up to the knees and prevent shin and calf abrasions caused by big, burly hiking boots. And because they’re so warm, they’re also ideal when climbing in extremely cold conditions and at night.
One of the basic requirements for the ideal hiking socks is that they are comfortable. To meet this requirement, many hiking socks have additional padding around high-impact areas that need protection. These areas include the heel, toe, and underfoot regions.
This extra padding is great for warmth and comfort when the cushioning is just right. However, too much cushioning can be bad, especially if you’re going hiking in a warmer climate.
Hiking socks come in different thicknesses, and each has its pros and cons. Some are thin and light, ideal for short easy hikes and warmer weather conditions.
Others are thick socks which are best for tougher hikes and cold climates. Finally, there are the mid-thickness hiking socks. These socks are somewhere between the thin light socks and the thick ones.
They are thicker than the thin socks, making them better for tougher hikes and slightly cooler temperatures. However, they’re not as thick as the thick socks.
You can wear anti-odor socks for various days without worrying about the socks or your feet having a stench.
The size is an important consideration when deciding on the right hiking socks. The right pair should fit snugly. It shouldn’t be too tight, causing discomfort as it’ll cut off blood circulation in your feet. Too loose socks can also result in chafing and blisters.
In choosing the right fit, it’s essential to take the size of your boots into consideration. This will ensure that you buy a sock size that fits perfectly with your boots.
What Type Of Sock Is Best For Hiking?
Generally, the best type of socks for hiking are merino wool hiking socks. Footwear specialists recommend this type of socks as they have great cushioning and regulate temperature.
Should I Wear Two Pairs of Socks When Hiking?
Generally, you can wear two pairs of socks when hiking. However, whether you should or not is really a question of preference. While wearing two pairs of socks when hiking has its advantages, its not without a few cons. Let’s look at a few pros of wearing double layer socks when hiking.
- It prevents blisters. Two socks generally provide the necessary cushioning for hiking. It eliminates friction on your feet, as the two socks rub against each other rather than one sock against your foot. This, in turn, prevents calluses and blisters.
- It helps keep your feet dry. If your feet tend to sweat a lot, double layer socks are a great idea. For one, you can easily switch a wet sock for a dry one.
- It provides extra padding. If your hiking shoes are a bit too loose, wearing two socks can help make your shoes fit more snugly.
- It keeps your feet warm. This is particularly useful if you’re hiking during winter.
- It protects your feet from bugs. If the terrain has bugs, critters, or sharp plants, wearing two pairs of socks provides additional protection against them.
That’s it for the pros. Now, what about the cons?
- You can’t wear them with properly sized boots. If your hiking boots are the perfect fit, two pairs of socks won’t fit into those boots.
- It can cause your feet to get wet. If you’re hiking during the summer, wearing two pairs of socks will make your feet sweat more, causing your feet to get wet. Wet feet can, in turn, cause blisters. The additional sweating can also make your feet smell bad.
At this point, it’s important to point out that the type of socks we’re refering to in this section aren’t your plain ol’ regular socks. In fact, we strongly advise against wearing two pairs of regular socks when hiking.
Regular socks are typically made from cotton and do not have the necessary compression and cushioning to make double layering work. So, what you’ll get by wearing two pairs of any random socks is blisters and a whole lot of discomfort.
What is the Difference Between Hiking and Trekking Socks?
Generally, there’s no difference between hiking and trekking socks. The terms “hiking” and “trekking” are typically used interchangeably. Similarly, you can use hiking socks and trekking socks interchangeably.
Now that you know how to choose the right hiking socks, you’re almost prepared to embark on that hiking trip. Almost. But you’ll still need a couple of things. So check out these articles:
Best Hiking Pants To Avoid Ticks
What is the Best Rain Jacket for Hiking?