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The Best Hiking Socks for Summer Treks

Stay dry, cool, and blister-free, no matter how much you sweat.

hiking sock
Staff, Courtesy of Smartwool

When it comes to hiking socks, we’ve got opinions. That a sock is durable, odor-resistant, and comfortable is non-negotiable. In the summertime, we take extra care to slip on a pair with excellent ventilation to keep our hikes from turning into sweaty slogs. Our list of the season’s best summer hiking socks includes a variety of styles, fabric blends, and price points, so you’re covered on every trail.

Prioritize Ventilation and Thin Fabrics

It makes sense that wearing less fabric keeps us cooler, but it’s not just because there’s less insulating material on our skin. As a professor of environmental physiology and ergonomics explained to NPR, wearing fewer clothes allows air to travel across more skin, which speeds the phenomenon that keeps us comfortable: sweat evaporation. So, for hot days, consider choosing a low or quarter-crew hiking sock made with a thin fabric. If your hiking boots have a mid-height or tall cuff, you’ll probably be most comfortable wearing a mid- or traditional crew thin sock. A tall height can also help protect you from ticks. Luckily, most companies offer the same sock in multiple heights.

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Still, height isn’t everything. A sock with mesh ventilation zones or wicking fabric can keep you cool, dry, and blister-free no matter how short or tall. In particular, wool is a naturally absorbent fiber that can retain up to 30 percent of its weight in moisture (in this case, sweat). That keeps your foot dry, effectively reducing the chance of blisters, and cool, as the sweat evaporates from the sock. Thanks to its soft feel and stink-proof capability, wool is a key ingredient in the fabric blends of many hiking socks. Before you become a wool sock purist, keep in mind that polyester can make for a great hiking sock, too. The synthetic material wicks sweat, dries faster than wool, and is cheaper to produce, resulting in a lower price sock. What you’ll lose out on is odor control. Some brands do apply a funk-repelling coating to the synthetic material in their athletic apparel, but this isn’t common practice for socks.

How We Evaluated

We’ve hiked in a lot of socks over the years. We evaluated thick and thin, ultra short and knee-high, and socks with varying degrees of wool, elastic, spandex, nylon, and even cotton. We did our testing in Alberta, British Columbia; eastern Pennsylvania; Vermont; and in National Parks throughout the West. All the while we took notes on how good the socks felt on our feet, paying attention to fit, bunching, temperature and moisture management, and our impressions when we didn’t have shoes on after a long day.

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Best Low Cut
SynchroKnit Axiom Light Low

• Cushioning: Light
• Fabric: 51% Merino wool, 44% nylon, 5% spandex
• Available Heights: No-show, low, quarter, mid-crew, and crew

Our feet often get the raw end of the deal when hiking and trekking. Show them a little love with the Merino wool–blend Axiom, which quickly rose to the top of our sock rotation and hasn’t budged. Wigwam’s patented construction method reduces stitching throughout to create a foot-hugging, secure fit, while padding at the ball and heel add comfort. Better still, the unisex Axiom is softer and more equipped to fight stink than others in the SynchroKnit line.

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  • Soft yet secure

  • Prone to pilling
Best Value
Eddie Bauer Active Pro Coolmax Quarter Crew Socks (2 Pack)
Eddie Bauer

Cushioning: Light
Fabric: 32% Coolmax polyester, 32% cotton, 25% polyester, 5% rubber, 4% rayon, 2% spandex
• Available Heights: Low and quarter

The quarter crew Active Pro Coolmax socks from Eddie Bauer sit right between where a typical quarter and crew sock would fall. They stayed exceptionally cool during hikes in hot, muggy weather, which we credit to the moisture-wicking blend of the Coolmax fabric. The mesh venting felt smooth (not abrasive) on our skin, and the light cushioning in the heel and toe was extra helpful for long scrambles where we were wedging (that is, using our toes) a lot. 

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  • Comfortable amount of well-positioned cushion

  • Height might not be to everyone’s liking
Best Ventilation
Smartwool PhD Outdoor Light Hiking Crew
$17.05 (26% off)

• Cushioning: Light
• Fabric: 56% Merino wool, 41% nylon, 3% elastane
• Available Heights: Low, quarter, mid-crew, and crew

When the mercury surpasses 80 degrees but you still want the protection of a tall sock, choose the PhD Outdoor Light Hiking Crew. The lightweight sock has a thin layer of padding from the toe through the achilles with extra cushion at the ball and heel. It was just enough for absorbing impact when we hiked longer than a few miles but not so much that we found ourselves overheating. The unisex sock always felt dry when we took it off, too. We credit our comfort to the mostly Merino fabric blend and the mesh ventilation zone at the top of the foot. Moderate compression kept the sock securely in place and prevented any slipping. 

  • Taller cut that doesn’t cause overheating
  • Thin padding absorbs impact

  • On the pricey side
Best Compression
Feetures Graduated Compression Light Cushion Knee High

Cushioning: Light
Fabric: 87% nylon, 13% spandex
Available Heights: Knee-high

Using targeted compression that’s most snug at the ankle, the Graduated Compression Light from Feetures is a great option if you’re looking for a sock that can provide comfort and helps reduce muscle fatigue, leading to a faster recovery after those long, multi-day hikes. We loved that they use an anatomical right and left foot design that helps to boost comfort and ward off blisters. Plus, the high-density cushion means it’s extra protective without excess fabric.

  • Best for reducing muscle fatigue
  • Anatomical socks create a better fit

  • Expensive
Best for Blister Prevention
Wrightsock CoolMesh II Crew

Cushioning: None
Fabric: Outer layer: 71% polyester, 24% nylon, 5% Lycra / Inner layer: 70% polyester, 26% nylon, 4% Lycra
Available Heights: Quarter and crew

For a sock that boasts two layers, the Wrightsock CoolMesh II Crew are thin and light enough for extra-hot days. The inner layer works to wick moisture, while the outer layer uses a mesh weave to boost airflow. This makes it a great option if you’re prone to blisters. Although the unisex sock has no added cushioning, the two layers work together to absorb friction and are comfortable enough to wear during long, multi-day hikes.

  • Two-layer design improves sweat-wicking and reduces friction

  • Some people might want more padding
Made with Recycled Polyester
REI Co-op Coolmax EcoMade Ultralight Tech
REI Co-op

• Cushioning: Light
Fabric: 77% polyester, 22% nylon, 1% spandex
Available Heights: Quarter and crew

Although the name suggests an ultralight design, we consider REI’s Coolmax EcoMade Ultralight Tech sock more in line with a lightly cushioned model. It has some padding throughout with additional cushioning at the ball and heel. We enjoyed the protection, especially because it didn’t interfere with temperature or moisture regulation. As an eco-friendly bonus, the unisex design is made with polyester sourced from plastic bottles. The sock has less compression than many others, but we didn’t experience any slipping while wearing it.

  • Stays in place, despite less compression

  • Not as ultralight as advertised
Best Cushioning
Darn Tough Hiker Micro Crew
Darn Tough

• Cushioning: Medium
Fabric: 61% Merino wool, 36% nylon, 3% Lycra
Available Heights: Quarter and mid-crew

Although we tend toward light and ultralight fabrics in the summer, sometimes the occasion (like a multi-day backpacking trip) calls for a heavier duty sock. We found that, with many medium cushioned socks, the thicker wool often means more heat build up and therefore increased sweat and discomfort. That’s not true of Darn Tough’s Hiker Micro Crew, which breathed better than similarly padded socks even in poorly ventilated boots. Guaranteed for life, the sock offers a comfortable squish underfoot and hugs your foot and ankle with a good amount of compression throughout. For sweltering days, choose the quarter-crew height.

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  • Very comfortable

  • Expensive
Best for Variable Temperatures
Smartwool Light Hiking Crew

• Cushioning: Light
Fabric: 67% Merino wool, 32% nylon, 1% elastane
Available Heights: Crew

Sometimes you need a sock for shorter day hikes when the temperature climbs from chilly in the morning to warm in the afternoon. We found the Merino wool in the Light Hiking Crew from Smartwool helped keep our feet both warm in the morning and cool as it reached mid-day. The elasticized arch brace held our socks in place all morning, and after hiking, our feet were dry and odorless. If you’re hiking for a longer period of time, you can opt for the same sock with medium cushioning

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  • Stays in place thanks to elasticized arch brace

  • Pricey
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