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Are Special Hiking Socks Overrated?

Are Special Hiking Socks Overrated?

When you’re preparing to tackle a long hike, you don’t want sore feet to be why you can’t meet your goals. Your feet are your primary source of transportation on a hike, and keeping them well-maintained is critical. Shoes and socks that protect your feet are of the utmost importance, but are hiking socks any different than everyday socks? Is it worth the hunt to track down quality socks for hikers? 

Some hiking socks can be costly compared to an average pair. Start your investigation now, and decide which socks are best suited to your feet. Let’s dive in!

What Are Hiking Socks? 

Hiking socks offer more cushion and support in the front ball and heel of the foot. Stepping and climbing can quickly wear holes in ordinary socks. Hiking socks alleviate that problem. 

These socks also include materials that are helpful in wicking moisture from your feet. Wet and sweaty feet form blisters during a trek, so you need socks that keep your feet dry. 

Hiking Socks Guide - 4 Things To Know Before You Buy

Do Hiking Socks Make a Difference? 

Most everyday socks are primarily cotton. When you’re going to work, playing a game of catch with friends, or even taking a short hike, cotton socks are sufficient to protect your feet. 

When you wear cotton socks on a long trek, it’s a very different story. Cotton absorbs moisture, and it gets pretty warm inside your shoes. Your feet sweat liberally. By the end of a journey in cotton socks, you’ll likely feel like you just went swimming with your boots on. 

Most hiking socks are a predominantly wool blend. Wool is thicker for more cushion at the ball and heels of your feet, but it does something even more valuable than providing a cushion. Wool is excellent for wicking moisture. Even if your wool socks get wet, they are far more efficient at insulating your feet, and they are naturally antibacterial. 

Man putting on socks before hike
Before you hit the trails, slip into a pair of comfy hiking socks.

What Is Special About Hiking Socks? 

The main differences between hiking socks and cotton socks include cushioning, wicking ability, insulation, strength, and compression. Today’s hiking socks are more efficient, as older styles were strictly wool, and wool has a habit of stretching out with very little elasticity. Wool is also quite scratchy and uncomfortable when it is the only material present. 

Present-day hikers have an excellent advantage with socks that do more to keep their feet protected. Some of today’s socks also have arch support. The addition of nylon and polyester to the wool mix makes the build of today’s options far superior. 

Pro Tip: Along with your hiking socks, make sure to pack these 10 Hiking Essentials You Should Never Hit the Trail Without on your next adventure.

Friends sitting at the top of a mountain sticking their feet with hiking socks and shoes out over a cliff
Hiking socks are thicker than standard socks and give you more support to make sure your feet don’t start to hurt while on your hike.

Why Are Hiking Socks So Thick?

Hiking socks are thicker for a few reasons. They need to be thicker to protect against blisters and other friction-related injuries. It’s common for hikers to choose trails in cold environments as well. Hiking socks are thicker for more insulation in freezing temperatures. Also, wool is an inherently thick material. 

What Are Liner Socks for Hiking?

Liner socks are socks you wear as an added protective layer to your feet. They are a very thin silk synthetic material that will help further protect your feet from blistering. You wear them beneath your hiking socks, and they add to the wicking, comfort, and support of your overall sock setup. They are best to use on long hikes. 

Choosing the Right Sock for You

There are different hiking socks too. Understanding the various types will help you choose the best socks for each adventure. 

Lightweight hiking socks detract moisture and keep your feet cool and dry. They are best for warm weather treks, and you can wear lightweight socks safely with no liner sock in place. 

Midweight socks are a little heavier. They provide the same benefits as a lightweight sock with more warmth and cushioning in the ball and heel of the foot. Midweight socks are best to use on adventures that take several days or when you’re climbing mountains with talus and scree fields. 

Person standing barefoot in front of hiking backpack and boots and socks
Keep your feet blister-free and well-insulated by wearing special hiking socks.

Finally, heavyweight socks provide the most insulation and cushion for your feet. They are best for hiking in colder environments and mountaineering expeditions. You will likely need a quality liner sock to provide extended protection if you’re planning a long adventure. 

How Do I Prepare My Feet for Hiking?

Having the proper shoes and socks while on the trail is essential to good foot health. There are also things you can do before you hit the trail to ready your feet. 

Toughening your feet will help them support you longer while exploring. Toughen the skin on your feet by walking barefoot on various surfaces. Build strength in your muscles and connective tissues to avoid stress fractures or soft tissue injuries. You can achieve this by walking on uneven surfaces like rocks, sand, or gravel. Exercises like heel raises and towel grabs are excellent ways to give your feet a better shot at success. 

Pro Tip: On a hike to your camping spot? Ditch these 10 Overrated Camping Gear Items That You Really Don’t Need from your pack!

Close up of person in hiking boots with hiking socks
If you’re hiking for many days, wash your socks and hang them out to dry overnight every day.

How to Take Care of Your Feet After Hiking

Aftercare is crucial, especially if you hike often. When you are done hiking for the day, cleaning and drying your feet should be the first course of action. Elevating your feet is second. 

You may also want to soak your feet in cold water to prevent swelling and help the muscles heal. Ensure you’re rinsing and hanging your socks to dry on those several day hikes. Have more than one pair, too, so you can rotate them. 

REI Co-op Gear Guide: Best Hiking Socks

Are Hiking Socks Worth It?

Hiking socks are more than worth it; they are essential. Your feet need proper protection while hiking. If you don’t protect them, you won’t be walking for long. Though hiking socks are a bit more expensive than regular socks, you only need a few pairs to get the job done. Invest in some quality hiking socks, and enjoy the scenery on your next adventure. 

Walking sticks can also make your hiking experience safer and more enjoyable. Check out our top picks: 7 Best Walking Sticks for Hiking and Why You Want Some

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About Mortons on the Move

Tom & Caitlin Morton of Mortons on the Move gave up the stationary life for one where they are constantly on the move. They are full-time travelers, television hosts, and digital media producers.
They left their jobs, sold their house and possessions, and hit the road in September 2015 in their full-time “home on wheels”. Since then they have traveled the US, Canada, and even internationally by RV.
Now, they are Discovery Channel & PBS TV Co-stars of The RVers, producers of “Go North” on Amazon Prime, co-founders and instructors of RV Masterclass, and contributing authors for Hwy.co and an Arizona travel guide.

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