Wool socks are a gift from the gods of warmth in the winter months. They keep your feet comfortable and cozy as outside temperatures plummet, but they’re also useful throughout the year. Many hikers swear by wool socks year-round, and there are types of wool socks made for a variety of activities.
Our list of the Top Ten Wool Socks includes options that are great for winter weather, all-season hiking, trail running, and much more. Whatever your activity of choice, you’ll find something here that fits your needs. Be sure to read through our Buyer’s Guide after these rankings to learn more about selecting the right pair of wool socks for you!
1. Darn Tough Micro Crew
These wool socks deliver on comfort, performance, and style. They’re great for everything from a casual day hike to ascents of the world’s highest mountains. Cushioning all along the bottom of the foot provides the perfect amount of support for adventures of all shapes and sizes.
These Darn Tough Micro Crew Cushion wool socks are made for a performance fit, which means they won’t slip, bunch, or cause blisters. They are made with fine-gauge Merino wool, a material that is naturally antimicrobial and antibacterial. Made in Vermont, these wool socks are unconditionally guaranteed for life (1).
2. Smartwool PHD Mountaineer
These wool socks have earned their ‘PhD’ because they were engineered for “performance in the highest degree.” Made from an optimal combination of mesh, nylon, and wool, these socks are an excellent choice for mountaineering or alpine adventures.
The Smartwool PHD Mountaineer wool socks boast a 4-degree, elite fit system that uses two elastics for greater stretch and recovery to keep the sock in place. Mesh venting zones in these socks are designed to provide optimum moisture management and maximum breathability. They also have a flex zone at the ankle for increased flexibility and comfort.
3. Wigwam Midweight Crew
The Wigwam Midweight Crew wool socks provide exceptional comfort for any adventure. They are the go-to socks for everything from long days on the trail to cool nights around the campfire. Ultra-soft Merino wool makes these socks extra comfortable.
These socks are engineered with 60-percent Merino wool, 33-percent stretch nylon, 5-percent acrylic, and 2-percent elastic. This blend of natural and synthetic fibers extends the lifetime of the product by providing reinforced durability. These socks are also cushioned throughout and insulated with loops of Merino wool for added heat retention.
4. Icebreaker Hike+ Compression OTC
The Icebreaker Hike+ Compression OTC wool socks provide support, breathability, and comfort across a wide variety of active pursuits. They combine a blend of soft, breathable Merino wool with nylon for improved durability and lycra for stretch and shape retention.
These wool socks offer the benefits of graduated compression to improve blood flow during long, high-output days on your feet. Their reinforced, half-cushioned design offers long-lasting performance and strategic breathe zones help to provide the comfort and flexibility your feet need.
5. People Socks Crew 4-Pack
This four-pack of crew length wool socks are designed for everyday wear. They are built to find the perfect balance between being too thick and too thin. A reinforced heel and toe mean they won’t wear out as quickly as many others, and The People’s Promise (2) means you won’t have to worry even if they do!
The People Socks Crew wool socks are constructed of 71-percent Merino wool, 21-percent nylon, 7-percent polyester, and 1-percent spandex. This carefully considered blend is designed to be itch-free, anti-odor, and capable of maintaining durability throughout the lifetimes of the socks. The shaped cushioning in the footbed provides additional comfort without adding unnecessary bulk.
6. Injinji 2.0 Midweight Crew
This is the first (and only) pair of toe socks included in our list! They are part of Injinji’s Outdoor Series, which provides the ultimate in foot comfort and performance. These socks are designed to offer optimal cushioning, stability, support, and comfort for backpacking, day hiking, running, and many other outdoor activities.
The Injinji 2.0 Midweight Crew wool socks are made with a blend of 64-percent NuWool, 33-percent nylon, and 3-percent lycra. This combination boasts superior blister prevention while maximizing wool’s inherent natural properties to make these socks ideal for all weather conditions.
7. J.B. Icelandic Arctic Trail
These wool socks are made for extreme cold winter conditions. Made for temperatures down to minus-40 degrees Fahrenheit, these socks were specifically designed for people that need to keep their feet warm even when in some of the coldest conditions imaginable.
Made in Canada, the J.B. Icelandic Arctic Trail 40 Below wool socks contain a whopping 85-percent PreShrunk Wool. The remaining 15-percent of the material used in these socks is nylon. These socks also boast an X-Hi cushion to provide extra warmth and protection.
8. Darn Tough Vermont Hiker
The Darn Tough Vermont Hiker wool socks are made with fine-gauge Merino Wool. The Vermont Hiker is a fast-drying and extremely breathable sock designed to stay cool in the summer and warm in the winter. This makes them an ideal option for year-round, all-weather use.
These socks boast full cushioning throughout for superior support and comfort without unwanted weight and bulk. For backpackers, these socks are both antimicrobial and antibacterial, which comes in handy when you need to “squeeze” an extra day or two out of your socks.
9. Wigwam El Pine
These heavyweight wool socks are made to be worn in colder conditions and designed to provide exceptional defense against the cold. They are made from 76-percent wool, 22-percent stretch nylon, and 2-percent spandex to provide years of warmth and protection.
With dimensions of 12-inches high and 4-inches wide, the Wigwam El Pine wool socks are built from a unique blend of natural and synthetic fibers that combine to extend the life of the products. They also boast a “true rib,” which is a classic knit that provides a comfortable fit.
10. Rockay Accelerate
These wool socks are a great option for winter trail runners that don’t want an overly bulky and hot wool sock. They are made with wool from South America, which in and of itself has natural anti0odor properties. This makes these socks great for runners that frequently struggle with blisters, rubbing, and foot odor issues.
The Rockay Accelerate wool socks are designed to fit tight and snug. They have powerful compression in the arch and tight elastic at the top to prevent dirt from entering. They also contain ventilation zones that wick sweat to keep your feet bone dry and blister-free for miles and miles on the trail.
Comfort on the trail or in the wilderness always starts from the ground up. A solid pair of high-tech wool socks is your first line of defense against blisters and others uncomfortable foot issues. In this Buyer’s Guide, we are going to focus on a number of factors you need to consider when buying wool socks.
Why ‘Merino Wool’?
It’s no secret that wool socks come with a heftier price tag than their cotton or polyester counterparts. However, the added benefits you’ll get with a better quality pair of wool socks is certainly worth the added cost.
Merino wool naturally wicks moisture away from your feet when you sweat. Dealing with sweat is a natural part of most outdoor activities, and having socks that pull moisture away from your feet means added comfort for long days on the trail. Merino wool also contains natural antibacterial properties. When combined, these two natural properties mean merino wool greatly decreases the odor of your socks.
Additionally, merino wool is capable of retaining more warmth when wet than other materials. It also won’t feel as sticky to the touch when wet. This means a lot when there’s a high likelihood of your socks getting wet when you’re tramping about. Bottom line: merino wool is the best material to keep your feet comfortable in almost any environmental situation imaginable.
As you know, there are many sock lengths to choose from. They range from no-show to ‘over-the-calf’ and ’knee-high’. Generally, over-the-calf and knee-high socks are primarily used for winter sports, in everyday boots, or as compression socks for distance runners.
Crew socks (also sometimes known as ‘midcalf’ or ‘midweight’) are excellent for everyday wear, especially during the winter months. Many hikers, however, swear by crew socks year-round, because of their extra ankle protection when wearing high-top hiking boots.
One-quarter, ankle, and no-show socks are primarily those that are used during the summer months or for workout purposes only. These socks are great to use with trail running shoes, but most hikers tend to shy away from them on long journeys.
Most of the best wool socks on the market today actually contain a blend of wool and certain other materials, as opposed to being 100% wool. This is largely due to the fact that merino wool, by itself, is actually weaker than cotton. This is only of the only drawbacks to merino wool, but by combining it with nylon, spandex, lycra, and a variety of other fabrics, sock manufacturers have produced more durable socks while still retaining all of the naturally beneficial properties of merino wool.
It’s important to know that a higher percentage of merino wool in a sock’s composition doesn’t necessarily reflect higher quality. In fact, some of the most durable wool socks on the market today actually contain a lower percentage of merino wool. In reducing that percentage, they are able to engineer a more durable sock. A higher percentage of merino wool, however, does generally signify a sock that will feel softer on your foot.
Wool socks usually come in a specific weight. This is usually advertised as ‘ultralight, light, medium, or heavy’. A heavier weight wool sock is generally better for use in colder weather or for heavy trekking. This is because they provide more cushioning than lightweight alternatives.
Lighter weight wool socks tend to be more breathable than their heavier counterparts, which makes them an ideal option for summer use or with insulated boots. The downside to a thinner, more breathable sock is that it will also contain minimal padding in comparison to heavier weights. Consider your desired activity when choosing between light and heavyweight wool socks.
Frequently Asked Questions
Did you know that wool socks can actually break down more quickly is machine washed in excessively hot water? This Frequently Asked Questions section will answer some of the most common concerns about wool socks so that you can use and care for yours to the best of your ability.
Will wool socks shrink when washed?
Wool can shrink when exposed to heat. When caring for your wool socks, you want to avoid washing in hot water or drying on a medium to high setting. Wash in cold water and dry on low. Better yet, hand wash or spot clean and then lay flat to dry. Hanging wet wool socks can actually distort their shape.
Can I use bleach or fabric softener with wool socks?
The short answer is no!! The chlorine in bleach actually destroys the merino wool fibers that make up most wool socks. Fabric softener should also be avoided because it can coat the merino wool fibers of your socks. In doing so, it will reduce their ability to naturally manage moisture and regulate your body temperature. In other words, they compromise your sock’s ability to function optimally.
Do I need liners for any of these socks?
The socks mentioned above are designed to be durable and perform optimally without the use of sock liners. In general, if you’re considering buying a wool sock with a very high percentage of merino wool in the fabric, it’s more likely you’ll want to purchase a liner. A liner, in this case, will simply decrease the wear on the sock itself and make it last longer.
There’s nothing quite like slipping into a fresh, comfortable pair of wool socks as you’re gearing up for an outdoor adventure. Knowing your feet are going to be comfortable no matter what the environment throws at you frees you up to truly enjoy your experience. We hope you’ve enjoyed this article on the best wool socks and we wish you the best of luck in finding a pair that suits you!