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The best walking socks for men and women in 2023

Looking after your feet is key to happy hiking. Here’s our pick of the best walking socks on the market

Hiking boots are one of the most important bits of kit you can buy, but they need to be partnered with the best walking socks you can afford. “Look after your feet and the rest will look after itself” is an age-old army saying, and it could easily be applied to walking and hiking, too. There’s nothing more important for enjoying a long hike than having comfortable, warm, blister-free feet.

Why do you need hiking-specific socks? Your feet sweat more and are far more likely to chafe or blister on long hikes than in day-to-day life, and even the best hiking boots can be tough, tight and heavy on hard-working feet. A great pair of socks will wick away sweat, keep your feet cool and dry and prevent chafing with cushioned panels and breathable wool.

Just like when buying boots, it’s worth spending money on a few well-made pairs of walking socks. Expensive walking socks can start to sound pretty technical – offering temperature regulation, blister prevention, even full waterproofing – but we’ve explained exactly what to look for in our guide below, and reviewed the best pairs to suit most budgets and all seasons.

READ NEXT: Check out our favourite hiking boots for all seasons

Best walking socks: At a glance

How to choose the best walking socks for you

How do I get the right fit?

Hiking socks are often sold either by shoe size or in grouped sizes (say, 4-6). Make sure you’ve picked a pair of male or female-specific socks or, if they’re unisex, that they’re the right size for you.

It’s essential that you try on a new pair of hiking socks at home, with your hiking boots on, before you venture outdoors for the first time, as ensuring your hiking socks fit just right is more important than you might think. Tight socks are very uncomfortable and can make you sweat even more, and loose socks can cause blisters, chafing and slipping about. The length of a pair of socks is down to personal preference, but we favour socks that can be pulled up well above your boots so they keep you warm and don’t slip down. Look for comfortable, elasticated tops.

READ NEXT: Enhance your hike with these top walking poles

What key features should I look out for?

First up, you need to pick the right material. The thin cotton socks you wear with trainers won’t usually cut it unless it’s a warm day and you aren’t walking very far. Better than cotton for hot tropical hikes are silk socks, but these are thin and easily worn out. For proper hiking over fair distances in most weather, merino wool is the best choice as it’s warm and soft but strong. Merino wool also wicks away sweat and is antibacterial. Merino tends to be more expensive than normal wool socks, but we reckon it’s worth it. Bamboo is a new material on the market that makes for lightweight, breathable and super comfy socks – a great choice for summer strolls.

Normal wool socks are cheaper, and still a very good choice for hiking socks, but can be too warm when worn in spring and summer. Pick thick wool for winter and thinner wool warmer weather. If you pick a thick pair of wool socks, make sure you try them on with your boots before you head out.

You’ll also find IsoCool socks on the market, which are quick to dry and very breathable, so are also a good choice in summer or if you tend to get sweaty feet. If you’re planning on hiking in horrible weather, waterproof socks such as Sealskinz are a sensible choice, creating a barrier from rain and snow.

Good hiking socks have added padding on the heel and toe areas, to keep these easily blistered areas protected and comfortable. Look for socks with seamless toe boxes and flat seams so there’s less to rub and irritate inside your boot.

We’d always recommend picking hiking-specific socks over general outdoors or sports socks but, in winter conditions, thinner ski socks work very well for hiking if you don’t mind a longer length. They tend to be very well padded to protect feet from cold and stiff ski boots.

The best walking socks to buy in 2023

1. Simond Mountaineering Socks: The best socks for mountain hiking

Price: £15 | Buy now from Decathlon

A simple, comfortable and effective sock for glacier hiking, mountaineering, mountain hiking and skiing, Decathlon’s warm and versatile long sock is a useful addition to your active sports sock drawer (you have one of those, right?). We like wearing a longer sock like this for extra warmth in winter, and this one’s a rare beast in that it stays up but doesn’t dig into your skin. Plus, they’re seriously comfortable and stay in shape even after years of hiking. They’re slightly more prone to odours than other socks we tested, so wash them regularly.

Key specs – Material: Wool and polyester; Waterproofing: No; Recommended season: Autumn/winter; Padding: Toe box and shin

Buy now from Decathlon

2. Sealskinz Waterproof Extreme Cold Trekking Socks: The best walking socks for rainy days

Price: From £40 | Buy now from Amazon

Sealskinz socks sit at the more expensive end of the market, but we reckon they are totally worth it, as they’re completely waterproof and windproof, so you can stride out in the elements without getting sodden or freezing feet. Merino wool keeps them soft, cosy and odour-free for longer, and well-designed, deep padding around toes and heels stops any blisters in their tracks. Invest in a pair if you’re planning a big winter adventure or spend a lot of time working or playing outdoors in any weather. As the name suggests, they’re on the thick side, so check they fit well inside your hiking boots before you head for the hills.

Key specs – Material: Nylon and merino wool; Waterproofing: Yes; Recommended season: Autumn/winter; Padding: Heel, toe and footbed

Buy now from Amazon

3. Bridgedale CoolFusion Light Socks: The best all-rounder in warmer weather

Price: From £18 | Buy men’s | women’s from Amazon

Meet our quiver-of-one sock for warmer seasons. Bridgedale’s CoolFusion is perfect for hiking and walking from spring through to late autumn (we recommend swapping to a warmer wool sock for winter, or a merino wool sock such as Bridgedale’s Explorer). We love how luxuriously soft feel of these light socks, knitted in Britain since World War I, but they also perform well technically, with deep padding on the heels and toes and thinner vent sections to stop your feet from overheating. The only downside? The pale colourways start to look dirty fast. Men’s and women’s versions are available.

Key specs – Material: Polyester and cotton; Waterproofing: No; Recommended season: Spring/summer/autumn; Padding: Heel and toe

Buy men’s from AmazonBuy women’s from Amazon

4. Darn Tough Hiker Socks: The best hiking socks for using forever

Price: From £22 | Buy men’s | women’s from Amazon

“If our socks are not the most comfortable, durable and best fitting socks you have ever owned, return them for another pair, or your money back. No strings. No conditions. For life.” That’s the promise behind Darn Tough’s socks, which are tough as anything by both name and nature. A comfy yet durable combo of merino wool and nylon can withstand hard use but stays wicking, soft and breathable. The aptly-named Hiker socks work brilliantly for walking, with cushioned sections to keep you comfortable even over long distances. And then there’s that brilliant commitment to swapping them for a new pair if they do happen to fall apart. Top marks.

Key specs – Material: Merino wool and nylon; Waterproofing: No; Recommended season: Autumn/winter/spring; Padding: Toe and heel boxes

Buy men’s from Amazon

Buy women’s from Amazon

5. Rohan Summit Socks: The best all-round hiking socks in cooler weather

Price: £19 | Buy men’s | women’s from Rohan

Insanely comfortable and comforting on cold-weather hikes, these soft-as-anything socks are designed to offer great protection when the mercury drops. They blend merino wool for its natural warmth, antibacterial properties and softness and also feature great padded heel and toe boxes. We found Rohan’s socks tough and long-lasting, and they stood up well to washing. If you hike year-round, buy these winter wonders along with Rohan’s lighter summer pairs, which are treated with insect repellent, and you’ll be sorted for hikes in every season. Men’s and women’s sizes available, as well as a longer version.

Key specs – Material: Merino wool and polyamide; Waterproofing: No; Recommended season: Autumn and winter; Padding: Toe and heel

Buy men’s from Rohan

Buy women’s from Rohan

6. Craghoppers Nosilife Adventure Socks: The best hiking socks for travelling

Price: £8.80 | Buy now from Craghoppers

Off on your travels? There’ll be no more pesky insect bites on your ankles if you pack Craghoppers’ unisex Adventure socks, which are treated with Nosilife anti-insect fabric treatment. These comfy socks, available in men’s, women’s and children’s sizes, are ideal for hiking, and are antibacterial, cushioned and lightweight, and provide good padding around the heel. This breathable design is the perfect all-rounder sock if you’re off backpacking or trekking in warmer climates where mosquitos could be a pain.

Key specs – Material: Cotton and polyester; Waterproofing: No; Recommended season: Spring to autumn; Padding: sole, ankle, toe and heel

Buy now from Craghoppers

7. BAM Woodcombe Socks: The best bamboo hiking socks

Price: £19.50 for four pairs | Buy now from BAM

Like to treat your feet? Bamboo is a bit of a wonder product for active and outdoor types, as it’s soft, sustainable and highly breathable, wicking away sweat and keeping you cool even as you move. These lovely lightweight Woodcombe socks from BAM are very stretchy and comfortable – ideal for warmer weather walks – and cushioning protects toes and your heel, so you can clock up longer distances in comfort. At under £20 for four pairs, this multipack is excellent value, too.

Key specs – Material: Bamboo; Waterproofing: No; Recommended season: Spring to autumn; Padding: heel and toe

Buy now from BAM

8. Stance Crew Socks: The best hiking socks for style

Price: From £8.99 | Buy now from Snow + Rock

Hiking socks are – dare we say it – not usually the most fashionable item in your wardrobe. Unless, of course, you go to Stance. Their bright and beautiful socks come in fun patterns and limited-edition collections featuring hip-hop legends, The Simpsons, Spider-Man and many more besides.

Our top pick for hikers are the cushioned Crew socks, which feature mesh in their construction to make them more breathable on hot summer hikes and which come in a range of mountain-inspired designs.

For walking in cold winter conditions, swap to Stance’s warm ski collection.

Key specs – Material: Nylon, wool and polyester; Waterproofing: No; Recommended season: Spring to autumn; Padding: ankle and toe

Buy now from Snow + Rock