Ahh summer! Dry trails, blooming flowers and snow-free peaks. The right hiking sock makes all the difference in the way our feet feel at the end of a day. We want something that offers padding and temperature control; something that won’t leave our feet feeling swampy or blistered.
Here, we reveal the 5 best socks for hiking from undiscovered companies.
Merino wool, a key ingredient in all but one of our featured hiking socks (Golden Touch Naturals use Alpaca fleece) is something of a miracle fiber. It’s finer than other types of wool, making it soft to the touch. The wool is breathable and able to wick moisture. And it even insulated when wet, keeping you warm if a storm rolls in or a creek crossing is required.
Naturally antimicrobial, Merino wool also resists odor. Though Merino’s natural crimp makes it a durable fiber, most of the featured socks also add synthetic materials such as lycra, spandex, nylon and elastic to improve cushion and durability.
Joe Shaw and Austin Campbell founded Seattle-based Cloudline Apparel. They decided to develop a product related to their personal passion: hiking. Their goal was to create the best socks for hiking, while ensuring materials are sourced ethically and manufacturing is done domestically. The Merino wool used in Cloudline socks is imported from several farms in South America, primarily Uruguay. The socks are then manufactured in Alabama.
Cloudline socks come in a range of weights, colors and sizes. Cloudline offers a 100% Satisfaction Guarantee, and the brand’s Instagram feed features happy customers wearing their socks on various continents, and even above the clouds.
Farm to Feet
Each pair of socks is packaged with a portrait of an individual who gets their livelihood off your socks. For example, the packaging on my pair of socks features the farmer whose sheep were sheared to make the product. This gives the company a great neighborhood vibe.
But the main reason to buy Farm to Feet socks is for their performance and durability. Design features on several models include cushioning panels and ventilation channels. The socks are also compression knit for a superior fit across the arch of your foot and feature seamless toe closures that keep blisters at bay.
Golden Touch Naturals’ Survival Socks
Golden Touch Naturals hiking socks deviate from the use of Merino wool in favor of Alpaca fiber. Shelly and Chris Riley own the Golden Touch Alpaca Farm in Westport, Massachusetts, where more than 70 alpacas roam the land. In addition to using the fiber from their own animals, they also frequently purchase alpaca fleece from other small farms.
Alpaca fleece has many of the same great qualities as Merino. The fleece is odor resistant and anti-microbial. Additionally, Alpaca fleece contains no lanolin or other potentially irritating oils, making it hypoallergenic and a great choice for hikers who can’t tolerate wool. Alpaca fleece is also 7% stronger than sheep’s wool, a plus for durability.
Golden Touch Naturals Survival Socks have a more rustic look than the other brands we’re featuring, in large part because the fiber in the socks has not been dyed. Made with a “terry loop” technique, the socks are soft against your skin and are available in a mid-weight thickness. The hiking socks can be machine washed and dried.
Peter and Patty Duke started Smartwool in 1994. After selling their iconic company a decade later, they decided to start anew with Point6 socks. Point6 is based out of Steamboat Springs, Colorado, while the socks themselves are manufactured in the Southeastern US.
The socks are set apart by their use of compact spun yarn made from New Zealand Merino wool. This reduces piling and increasing durability. Many of the styles come in bright patterns and polka-dots, and the socks are offered in a range of weights and sizes.
When your Point6 socks have hiked their last mile, you can send them back to the company to be donated to a group that processes the fibers into blankets for disaster relief and use by the homeless.
If budget is your bottom line, check out SockGuy. Priced between $10.95 and $14.95, SockGuy’s lineup features plenty of funky designs for both women and men. Or, you can even create a batch order with your own custom design.
Based in Carlsbad, California, the company is made up of “avid cyclists, hikers, runners and weekend warriors who have experience as expert level racers, sport enthusiasts, beer aficionados and industry professionals.”
SockGuy products are made in the U.S.A. Most of its socks are made with a durable fiber blend called TURBOwool, a 50/50 blend of Merino and polypropylene, offering wicking and all-weather performance.
We know there are other great companies out there we likely overlooked. We'd love for you to share with us your top picks for the best socks for hiking, by leaving a comment below.