It’s essential to put a solid foundation in place before you start building up. This goes for construction as well as when preparing for day hikes or backpacking trips. If you don’t take the time to take care of your feet, it simply doesn’t matter how nice the gear is on your back. I learned this lesson the hard way in the form of a close encounter with the early stages of trench foot (see my article on Tips for Hiking the John Muir Trail). As such, it’s important to me to help others avoid the hard way by providing my top picks for the best hiking socks.
Side note: If you’ve got your foundation in place and you’re interested in other product reviews, be sure to check out my Outdoor Gear and Backpack Reviews pages for reviews on water filters, tents, hiking shoes, trekking poles, and backpacks from brands like Kelty, REI, Gregory, and more. Also, check out my Tips and Trails page for more hiking tips and trail recommendations!
Back in 2016 I was hired as the RV driver and medic for a ‘Run Across America‘ expedition. The goal was for our runner to complete the 3,000+ mile journey on foot from San Diego, California to the 9/11 Memorial in New York City. As his crew, it was our job to do whatever was necessary to keep him going. While I could tell a great number of stories from those 5.5 months on the road, there’s one important takeaway relevant to why you’re reading this today: our runner swore by Swiftwick Socks. In fact, it’s the only brand he wore.
Being a very casual trail runner myself, I’ve found their socks to be everything that’s advertised and more. My current pair (American Flag design), is my sock of choice for my Tuesday evening pickup basketball games here in Uvita, Costa Rica. That being said, Swiftwick specifically manufactures a number of socks for hikers and backpackers. A couple of their best hiking socks include the Pursuit Hike Six Medium Cushion and the Pursuit Seven.
When I hiked the John Muir Trail back in 2014, I had an uncomfortable case of trench foot coming on after the first week. The bottoms of my feet were so sensitive that I was seriously questioning whether I would continue on after our first resupply stop in Mammoth. While there, I found a sporting goods store and inquired about sock recommendations. I told them my story, briefly, and they pointed me towards the Point6 brand. At the time, I think the brand we relatively new, but the guy I spoke to in Mammoth highly recommended the socks coming out of Steamboat Springs, Colorado.
Believe it or not, those Point6 socks are still with me today! They were an instrumental part of getting my trench foot under control and finishing the John Muir Trail in comfort, and they’ve kept my feet happy on countless hikes since then. In fact, I’ve worn them so much that it’s about time for me to get myself a new pair of Point6 socks. If I was making a purchase today, I’d go for one of their newer hiking models, such as the 37.5 Hiking Block Light Stripe Crew or the Hiking Essential Medium Mini Crew.
At the same time I purchased my first pair of Point6 hiking socks in Mammoth, I also bought an extra pair of Smartwool hiking socks. The recipe for making my feet comfortable was simple. Change your socks at least once a day and apply a liberal amount of Gold Bond every time you make a change, as well as before you go to bed. With an extra couple pairs of socks, my feet were much happier. Anyone that has experienced their comfort knows it’s tough to beat Smartwool.
Their standard hiking socks are extremely comfortable and also breathe enough to keep your feet dry throughout a long day on the trail. They also have a remarkable ability NOT to retain the odors from your previous day’s excursions. If I hiked the John Muir Trail again this summer, I know I’d be just fine with two pairs of Smartwool socks. In fact, maybe I’ll go get myself a pair of their PhD Outdoor Light Mid Crew socks right now!
This brand out of Vermont has caught my eye recently. Their socks have come highly recommended from a number of trusted reviewers (Gear Patrol and Outdoor Gear Lab), which is why I, in turn, had to include them in my top picks for best hiking socks. One of the things I like most about this brand is what you find when you visit the ‘About Us’ page on the Darn Tough website.
The first thing you see is this quote: “Nobody ever outsourced anything for quality.” I think that speaks to their company values and their commitment to making their products in their home state of Vermont. If I were to pick myself out a new pair of their socks today, I’d be most intrigued by the Via Ferrata Micro Crew Cushion or the Coolmax® Micro Crew Cushion.
REI Co-Op still has some of the best hiking socks available, despite the fact that so many new brands are popping up around the Internet. It’s just hard to beat the guys and gals that have been doing it for more than 80 years now. I know they’re widely recognized for much more than hiking socks, but they still haven’t forgotten that the best adventures
Whether you’re looking for short, crew, or knee-length socks, they’ve got you covered. They also offer a variety of socks with varying designs and types of wool, and their selection includes a few stylish designs to boot! Some of the offerings that caught my eye were the Wallace Lake Merino Wool Crew Socks and the Merino Ultralight Hiker Crew Socks.
A Couple Other Brands To Keep Your Eye On
In addition to my top five picks, my research turned up a few additional brands that deserve an Honorable Mention. Injinji is unique in the bunch because they make “Performance Toesocks.” I’ve personally never actually given toesocks a try, but if you’re like me, you should still visit their site, as they do have a number of hiking socks that fit the more “traditional” mold.
FITS also produces some of the best hiking socks you’ll find. Using U.S. engineering and manufacturing, this brand’s technological approach sets it apart from the competition. Many of their socks include gradient compression, which helps to improve blood flow from your toes up through your legs, ultimately making your day-long hiking adventure much more comfortable.
The last brand I’ll mention is Farm to Feet. To be honest, I haven’t given any of their socks a try (yet!), but I do love their name. Another brand that offers a 100% American-made product, their name is inspired by the completely domestic supply chain. All the wool, nylon, and spandex used in their socks comes from farms right here in the United States.
Find YOUR Best Hiking Socks!
As The Backpack Guide, I’m always looking for new trails and wildernesses to explore and I’m also interested in the experiences of others in the wild. If there is one thing I am sure of it’s that we can all spend more time enjoying and connecting with Nature.
Do you have experience with any of these hiking socks? If so, I’d love to know which you’ve used, what your favorites are, and what you’d do differently if you manufactured your own hiking socks. If you’ve compared any of these socks to others that I didn’t mention in this post, I’d love to hear about them!
Also, if you decide to make a purchase from any of these brands with the best hiking socks after reading this review, I’d love to know how you like whichever socks you acquire after you’ve had a chance to put them to use for a few trips or travel excursions!
Feel free to reach out to me directly (email below), or share your latest adventure or backpack by tagging @thebackpackguide on Instagram!
I hope you’ve enjoyed this review and I’d love to hear your feedback in the comments section below. I’ll be quick to reply to any questions, comments, or concerns you feel like sharing!
Take Care of your Feet!
The Backpack Guide