As we inch toward winter — and anticipate continuing to spend lots of time at home — we’re starting to feel the pull of all things warm and cuddly, like cashmere throw blankets, plush bathrobes, and a classic cold-weather staple: wool socks.
Besides being cozy, wool is naturally temperature regulating and moisture wicking, making wool socks a favorite for outdoor activities like running, hiking, skiing, and snowboarding. Anne Wiper, vice-president and general merchandise manager at Smartwool, explains that wool is porous, with tiny air pockets that pull moisture away from your skin, allowing sweat and wetness to evaporate faster. This means that your feet won’t feel cold and clammy during the winter or hot and sticky during the summer. Benjamin Ferencz, sales marketing manager at activewear brand Houdini, adds that wool is “naturally antibacterial, keeping the garment fresh longer than any other fabric.” That translates to better-smelling socks and feet — even after exercise.
If you’re concerned that wool socks will be rough or itchy, look for merino wool, which is shorn from a specific breed of sheep and is known for being softer than regular wool. Most wool socks are also blended with other materials, like spandex for added elasticity, or polyester to cut down on weight. Below, we’ve rounded up the best wool socks for all activities, as recommended by athletes, tasteful people, and even Strategist writers.
Best casual wool socks
Besides being one of the few things former presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg told us he can’t live without (he wore them while serving in Afghanistan and still puts them on for long-haul flights), Darn Tough’s made-in-Vermont wool socks are also beloved by stylish guys. All of the brand’s socks come with a lifetime warranty, and the company will replace your pair if you wear any holes through them.
Dan Snyder, a menswear designer and founder of Corridor, says these wool-silk-blend socks are perfect for cold weather because they’re warm and come up “superhigh.” In a range of autumnal hues with flecks of color, they also look nice peeking out from your loafers. For a more athletic style, personal-branding and lifestyle consultant Victoria Hitchcock likes the brand’s merino activity socks, which feature antimicrobial silver for additional odor control. She says it’s a “gorgeous sock” that’s both “old school and hip.”
Last summer, Strategist writer Hilary Reid started spotting old-fashioned tube socks popping up everywhere, from the Prada runway to designer Rachel Comey’s Instagram. Among the fashionable pairs she found are these camp-style wool socks that would work for a hike or just lounging around at home.
If you’re looking for a dressier option, we heard about this fancy Falke pair from Rebecca Ramsey, a stylist and former fashion director at the Cut, while fielding a reader’s question about the best trouser socks for women. It’s a warm sock that, unlike similar ones made from other materials, doesn’t feel like tights.
Best wool running socks
As someone who runs outside in all seasons (including some questionable weather conditions), I’ve tried a lot of sock brands, and Smartwool tops my list for winter running socks. I like that the crew socks cover more of my ankles, compared to low-cut or no-shows, so the gap between my tights and my socks stays covered and warm.
Even though they’re made from merino wool, according to Strategist contributor Steven John, these lightweight socks “keep my feet cool and dry, even when it’s humid out and my body temperature is up,” and they’re often the ones he chooses for his daily runs all year round. They’re also designed to anatomically support the foot and provide a touch of compression. Back in 2017, we named the higher-cut crew version of this sock the best for winter running, writing that they “feel like stepping inside a pillow.”
Best wool hiking socks
Unanimously recommended by eight hiking experts, Darn Tough’s socks are a no-brainer pick for treks of any distance. Ashley Manning, a thru-hiker and river manager at Adrift in Utah, told us that she usually goes through socks “like crazy, but I’ve had a pair from Darn Tough for seven years that are only now showing signs of wear.”
Best wool ski and snowboard socks
Snow sports is yet another category that Darn Tough socks dominate. Daryl Morrison, a former alpine racer and ski expert for the gear recommendation and shopping site Curated, says they’re the only socks she buys because they’re so warm and durable, adding that she still has pairs from high school.
Like Darn Tough, Smartwool also came up multiple times when we polled ski experts about their favorite socks. Backcountry “gearhead” Matt Schroer says the brand’s socks “blend merino wool with synthetic fibers for that perfect combination of comfort and durability, all with the ability to wick moisture away from your skin.”
Best waterproof wool socks
For running, hiking, or just walking the dog on a rainy day, you can opt for a waterproof wool sock, like this one recommended by John. He says his feet “stayed totally dry” after running on a particularly wet day (with non-water-resistant shoes), thanks to the socks’ three-layer construction. There’s an inner wool layer to pull moisture away from your skin, and a waterproof mid-layer and nylon outer layer to prevent water from getting inside.
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