Any seasoned hiker will tell you that a good pair of hiking socks is a must-have on the trail. But despite their simple appearance, hiking socks can be a complicated purchase. That’s why we spent 25 hours researching 65 sock options. Then we took to the trails of Vancouver, British Columbia, hiking for more than 75 hours, 160 miles, and 350,000 steps in 18 pairs of socks. Eventually we determined that the women’s and men’s Darn Tough Light Hiker Micro Crew Light Cushion socks are the best hiking socks for most people. Backed by a lifetime guarantee, these wool socks offer the ideal mix of comfort, durability, and cushioning.
The Darn Tough Light Hiker Micro Crew Light Cushion sock comes in both women’s and men’s models and is the most versatile hiking sock we tested. Its micro-crew height is taller than an ankle sock but a few inches shorter than the average crew sock, rising just above the top of a standard pair of hiking boots. The Darn Tough Light Hiker is constructed with highly breathable merino wool, nylon, and Lycra spandex, which means your feet won’t feel sweaty during summer hikes. The sock’s form-fitted toe, added arch support, and underfoot padding make it especially comfortable too. And while these socks are among the most durable we tested, Darn Tough’s unparalleled lifetime warranty will save you in a pinch: You can send back any item, at any time—even if it’s just a worn-out sock—and the company will replace it for free.
The Farm to Feet Damascus Crew Light Targeted Cushioning sock, which comes in women’s and men’s versions, is a great second-best option if our top pick is out of stock. The Damascus is also a great option if you plan to hike off-trail often and need extra shin protection, as this sock comes up higher on the shin than most of the other models we tested. The Damascus is extremely lightweight, highly breathable, and loaded with padding around the toe, along the heel, and across the top of the foot. The tight knit keeps microgrit from getting to your foot. Plus, these socks are also guaranteed for life should the fabric ever wear thin.
If you’re looking for a non-wool hiking sock, we think the Darn Tough Coolmax Micro Crew Cushion, which comes in women’s and men’s options, is the best choice. This synthetic sock has midlevel cushioning, which means it’s more padded around the heel and toes than the other lightweight non-wool socks we tried. It’s also breathable: While wearing the Coolmax Micro Crew in hot summer weather, our feet stayed dry and sweat-free. The shorter micro-crew height makes the Coolmax Micro Crew suitable for both boots and shoes, too. And like all Darn Tough socks, this model comes with a lifetime warranty.
The Icebreaker Hike+ Light Crew sock (which comes in both women’s and men’s models) contains light cushioning and has ventilated areas along the foot, making it a good sock for hikers with sweaty feet. These socks were among the softest we tested, and they were also the only pair that fit anatomically. That means better breathability, with more space around your foot in the boot. Note that these socks showed signs of wear more quickly than the other models we tested—but like the rest of our picks, Icebreaker’s socks come with a lifetime guarantee.