Keep feet happy and warm whatever the activity or weather with our pick of the best thermal socks on the market
Cold feet can ruin your day, so as temperatures dip, it would be wise to invest in some socks that will keep you warm and going about your day with happy feet. Whether you want the luxury of cashmere, the temperature-regulating brilliance of merino wool or some high-tech man-made fibres for your feet, there’s a pair of socks that will suit your needs.
Below, you’ll find our pick of the best thermal socks to keep your feet warm, featuring a mix of high-performance and affordable thermal socks for running, hiking, standing in streams, the daily commute and dog walks. We’ve even included super snuggly socks for when you’re at home. First, check out our quick guide to buying the best thermal socks for you, which covers the materials, fit and features needed to ensure your toes stay toasty.
Best thermal socks: At a glance
- Best-value thermal socks: Quechua SH100 X Warm Hiking Socks – 2 pairs | £8.99
- Best everyday thermal socks: Uniqlo JW Anderson HeatTech Anti-Odour Fair Isle Socks | £7.90
- Best thermal socks for luxurious warmth: Panthera Stalbridge Cashmere Socks | £45
How to choose the best thermal socks for you
What types of thermal socks are available?
Whether you’re hiking in the snow or cosying up on the sofa, there’s a pair of thermal socks available for you. A good pair of hiking socks will see you through the winter, keeping feet sufficiently warm and comfortable. Padding helps to keep feet blister-free, allowing you to go the extra mile – and, if you’re a runner too, you won’t have to suffer cold toes as you put in the effort. Thankfully, you can also find extra warm socks for everyday wear that don’t look as though you should be heading across a glacier any time soon.
Should I choose man-made or natural fibres?
As a rule, the more wool in the mix, the warmer and more breathable the socks will be. Merino wool is especially good in this regard. It’s a natural fibre that’s breathable, odour-limiting, and keeps the cold at bay. It holds its shape well, provides lightweight insulation – your socks don’t need to be super thick – and dries quickly. Wicking away any sweat, it keeps feet dry and odour-free. However, you will pay a higher price for this wonder-fibre. It’s often blended with man-made materials, which can increase its durability and performance.
Synthetic materials (such as nylon and polyester) also make excellent thermal socks that are extremely durable, won’t shrink in the wash, and will always fit properly. Acrylic can be made to feel like wool, too, for added warmth, while Lycra helps maintain shape and offer support.
One fabric you won’t find on the list is cotton, since it absorbs a lot of moisture, and when wet, it can leave feet feeling cold and clammy. Cotton takes a long time to dry, too, which isn’t good news for feet; wet socks can cause blisters.
What makes a well-fitted thermal sock?
You want socks that are snug-fitting so that they stay up. If a sock begins to slip down on a long walk, you increase the chances of rubbing and chafing. Equally, a tight fit around the arch of the foot helps keep it in place. Most socks come with extra padding on the heel and forefoot, with the aim of limiting hot spots on longer treks.
How much cushioning do I need?
Not as important for house socks, but if you’re active in the winter then a tightly woven sock will deliver greater support and better cushioning. The best thermal socks come with different densities of material at different points, for added cushioning where it matters.
Are thicker socks better?
As a general rule, super-thick socks almost always deliver more warmth than their lighter counterparts, but thickness doesn’t guarantee warmer feet. Make sure you choose a quality material and that the socks fit properly in order to maximise their thermal properties. And if your footwear is too tight, you’re almost guaranteed cold feet – no matter how good the socks.
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The best thermal socks you can buy in 2023
1. Smartwool Hike Light Cushion Crew Socks: The best light thermal walking socks
Price: £25 | Buy now from Go Outdoors
Woven using a mix of 12% recycled nylon, 54% sustainably sourced merino wool and some elastane to help maintain shape for longer, these lightly cushioned crew-height socks are thin where it counts, but offer a nice amount of padding along the sole and heel that really elevates comfort on long walks.
We happily recommend all Smartwool socks since they’re extremely well made, and have a cleverly engineered seamless toe box. Combine with a snug but not overly tight fit, and you won’t suffer from bagginess that could result in blisters.
The use of thinner mesh zones and merino wool also helps your feet breathe, reducing any nasty whiffs when you take your boots off. Go Outdoors also offers a special, lower price for members.
Key specs – Material: Merino blend; Style: 8in crew
2. Darn Tough Vermont Nomad Boot Sock Full Cushion: The best thermal walking sock for comfort
Darn Tough socks are made from a mix of 68% merino wool, 30% nylon and 2% Lycra. This combination of materials makes them particularly adept at temperature regulation and moisture-wicking, not to mention also helping to reduce the risk of blisters.
There are plenty of Darn Tough socks to choose from, but we opted for the Vermont since they’re incredibly soft. Technically, they’re a mid-weight sock, but by combining two layers of super-fine merino yarns, they have a very high loop stitch count that gives your feet a real cuddle.
They’re expensive – although deals are often to be found – but they come with a lifetime guarantee. If you wear a hole in them, Darn Tough will replace them for free, no matter how long you’ve owned them.
Key specs – Material: Merino blend; Style: 8in crew
3. CEP Hiking Merino Mid Cut Socks: The best high-performance thermal socks for cold weather
Price: £24 | Buy now from Alpinetrek
The running community has been enjoying the benefits of compression technology for years, but the tech works equally well if you’re hiking. These tight-fitting socks (19% merino, 71% polyamide, 10% elastane) are designed to boost blood flow to the muscles while also acting as an ankle support, helping stability over rough terrain. It sounds a bit far-fetched for your average hill walker, but putting these socks through their paces with a firm pair of walking boots, we immediately felt the difference.
As mentioned, these compression socks are seriously tight, which takes some getting used to. However, we never found them uncomfortable, and the added support proved a useful reminder to watch our step when scrambling in the Lake District. This particular pair is lower mid-cut, but they’re also available in a full length version (at a higher price).
Arguably a bit much if you’re just walking to the pub on Sunday, but if you like your hikes to be fast-moving and across varied terrain, we suggest giving these a try. The fabric also incorporates silver with an antibacterial effect to minimise odour in your footwear.
Key specs – Material: Merino blend; Style: Mid-cut
4. Keela Primaloft Expedition Sock: The best thermal socks for walking
This is a sock to keep your feet happy even in the harshest of conditions. If you find yourself up Snowdon in February, you’ll be grateful for a pair of these. They’re tough and hard-wearing, but also extremely warm and well-cushioned, with a practical crew-length fit that sits mid-calf, which is ideal for most walking boots and shoes.
Made from a blend of Primaloft Silver yarns, merino wool, polypropylene and some well-positioned patches of reinforced Cordura nylon that will help them last for years, they’re extremely comfortable, won’t give you blisters, and will keep your feet warm on even the most Baltic of adventures.
Key specs – Material: Merino synthetic blend; Style: Crew length
5. Quechua SH100 X Warm Hiking Socks – 2 pairs: The best-value thermal socks
Price: £8.99 | Buy now from Decathlon
As we’ve come to expect from Decathlon these days, you get plenty for your money. In this case, it’s two pairs of thick, impressively insulated socks that will keep the cold away with ease for less than a tenner.
With only 5% wool they’re largely synthetic, but they remain soft, they wash well, and we didn’t experience any bunching or pressure points during an 8km walk. The toe-box section is quite large, so those with skinny feet may want to try before they buy, but we were impressed given the bargain price.
They lack the support and breathability of more specialist designs, but for weekend strolls in the winter they’re more than up to the task. Spend a little more and you could pick up Decathlon’s MH500 Walking Socks, which offer a more premium fit and feel for just £15 – although they’re not quite as toasty.
Key details – Material: Synthetic (5% wool); Style: Calf length
6. 1000 Mile Fusion Double Layer Walking Sock: The best thermal socks for blister protection
Price: £18 | Buy now from Amazon
Unusually, these are double-layered socks, with a traditional merino (40%) and synthetic fibre outer layer and a smooth, thin inner sock made from Tactel – a fast-wicking, exceptionally soft synthetic material that’s designed to dry eight times faster than cotton.
We’ve worn sock liners in ski boots for added warmth before, but this is different, and while these socks are thicker than most (only an issue if you have boots that are a little small), they’re impressively comfortable and beautifully warm. They will keep your toes toasty, no matter the time of year you wear them; but they’re more than just insulated socks, as they offer extra padding on the achilles, heel and toe.
They also come with a blister-free guarantee, because the inner layer stays with the foot and the outer layer moves with the shoe to reduce friction. It’s a clever system, although they do recommend sizing down to ensure as snug a fit as possible.
Key specs – Material: Merino, nylon, polyester, tactel; Style: Calf length
7. Uniqlo JW Anderson HeatTech Anti-Odour Socks: The best thermal socks for everyday use
Price: £7.90 | Buy now from Uniqlo
Uniqlo’s HeatTech fabric is something of a wonder product, offering serious warmth without the weight, and to date the brand has sold more than 100 million items, which gives you an idea of how popular it’s been.
While we were familiar with HeatTech’s super-warm ranges of base layers and t-shirts, we didn’t know socks were available too. We wish we’d discovered them sooner, though: these thin but cushioned socks are comfortable, extremely warm and an absolute bargain.
Available in a host of colours and patterns, these synthetic socks are part of the JW Anderson collaboration, but standard designs are just as toasty, and you can pick up two pairs for just £13.
Key specs – Material: 51% acrylic, 18% viscose, 16% cotton, 11% polyester, 2% polyamide, 2% elastane; Style: Calf length
8. Pantherella Stalbridge Cashmere Socks: The best thermal socks for luxurious warmth
Price: £45 | Buy now from KJ Beckett
Yes, we know you can buy shoes that cost less, but when you want luxurious warmth, only cashmere will do. Impossibly soft and delightfully warm, these standard-style socks have a 6 x 2 rib pattern, seamless toe for extra comfort, and each pair is hand-finished.
Cashmere can be up to three times as warm as traditional sheep’s wool, and without any extra bulk of the type you would see with a walking sock, they’re ideal for smarter occasions – although once you’ve worn them, you’ll probably want to sleep in them too.
Key specs – Material: 85% cashmere, 15% nylon; Style: Mid calf
9. Sealskinz Waterproof Cold Weather Mid Length Socks: The best thermal socks for wet weather
Price: £43 | Buy now from Sealskinz
Handmade in the UK, these Sealskinz socks are completely waterproof and impervious to the cold. Ideal for anyone who enjoys being outside in all conditions – and for avoiding freezing wet feet, if you do step in a deep puddle or need to cross a stream.
Just like a waterproof jacket, they come with a Hydrostatic Head rating of 20,000mm, which is seriously impressive. The waterproof membrane is sealed between two layers – the outer being 90% nylon, and the inner having 35% merino – making them soft, warm and capable of wicking away any sweat.
Be warned, though: this triple-layer sock is super-thick, so you may struggle to get your feet in snug-fitting boots or wellies.
Key specs – Material: Mixed nylon, elastane, merino, acrylic, polyester; Style: Long
10. Heat Holders Bigfoot Slipper Socks: The best thermal slipper sock for men
Price: £12 | Buy now from Heat Holders
If you still get cold feet wearing these socks, we strongly suggest you go and see a doctor. With long-pile cushioning and an inside layer that’s been fluffed up so much it’s like having your feet cuddled by Chewbacca (in a good way!), they may well delay the need for you to put on the heating. These even come with a TOG rating of 2.34, just like your duvet.
The fluffy interior traps warm air, and while we found them far too hot for our sweaty feet, if you’re always cold then they will be a revelation. Available as standard socks, we preferred the slipper design with extra grip on the sole, which will transform your WFH routine.
Key specs – Material: 91% acrylic, 5% nylon, 3% polyester, 1% elastane; Style: Long slipper