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The 7 Hiking Socks I Wear on the Trail (and the Street)

Photo: Matt Hage/Getty Images/Aurora Open

Hiking socks are literally made for walking (a five-mile hike breaks down to some 10,000 steps), and I find them so comfortable that they’re often my go-to socks for everyday wear. All good hiking socks have qualities you’d want in regular socks. They wick sweat away from your feet and dry quickly, and are at least mildly elastic (staying snug even after hours of active wear) while offering support and cushioning.

Wool is the most popular hiking-sock material, thanks to its natural sweat-wicking and antimicrobial properties. But all-wool socks can get quite toasty — especially in the summer months — and some people find them itchy. So I recommend looking for a wool-synthetic blend, preferably with a small percentage of Spandex or other stretchy material (just avoid cotton pairs like the plague). I also look for socks with technical elements such as mesh panels, extra cushioning, arch and ankle support, and seam construction (for hot weather, look for socks designed for high breathability; for long hikes, favor support and cushioning; always opt for flat seams). Below, seven pairs of hiking socks that I swear by after wearing them on plenty of treks — and even more days just trudging from home to office and back.

Best ankle hiking socks

Merrell’s ankle hiking socks offer the same cushioning and reinforcement found in its taller styles — because they’re the exact same socks, just cut lower. They feature arch support, a reinforced heel and toe, and a blend of acrylic, wool, nylon, and spandex that makes them perfectly snug yet comfortable.

Best crew hiking socks

The thinnest, lightest hiking socks I’ve ever worn, these still provide solid support thanks to an elasticized arch. The thin weave of 56 percent merino wool, 41 percent nylon-polyamide, and 3 percent lycra allows for plenty of breathability, and won’t suffocate your feet even on the longest journeys. I should note that they lack the cushioning a thicker sock offers — but if you have comfortable boots, these are a superlative option for warm-weather wear.

These socks have the least amount of wool among my favorites. Their blend of merino (29 percent), bamboo rayon (36 percent), nylon (30 percent), and spandex (5 percent) gives them an almost silky feel, and allows them to stay nice and cool. Large mesh patches on the upper ventilate excess heat and sweat, and tight knitting on the bottom offers good arch support. At $22 a pair, they’re not the cheapest, but I’ve worn the same pair regularly for a year and they’ve yet to show signs of wearing out.

I’ve also worn the same pair of these slightly less-expensive Feetures hiking socks at least once a week for the past year, and they too have held up. Their blend of merino wool and Tencel — a material made from wood pulp — gives them a silkiness similar to the above pair, and they also feature mesh patches (for ventilation) and tight knitting on the bottom (for arch support).