Smith Lake, Desolation Wilderness

My quest for the comfiest hiking sock

Picky with what goes on my feet, these are some of my loved and not-so-much socks for hiking or backpacking.

I’ve gotten one blister in my entire hiking career, and that was coming down from Mt. Whitney.

Unbelievable? What’s harder to believe is how picky I am with footwear. I go through socks like gasoline and if it doesn’t keep me comfortable I return or trash it (read, donate). Sure, that might be pricey in the long run, but staying warm/cool and dry is priority one, hence the lack of blisters… even more fascinating when you consider I have sweatier than average feet. That might be too much info, but profoundly important when considering the right toe-hammocks, especially if you’re in the same situation.

In my long search for the perfect sock, I’ve tried a few brands and more materials, my favorites being of the trusty wool variety. Prices generally strut the $20 point for this rundown, though be prepared to be surprised with how the cheaper pairs fair.

Cloudline Socks

CloudLine Sock Review
Light Cushion

*Added 4/29 – With a full review coming soon, these are well on their way to becoming a favorite. I’ve tried out three of the different thicknesses from CloudLine and they all seem to compete against Smartwool or the other top brands in terms of comfort and performance. Funky-cool colors and basic patterning round out a great wool/nylon knit.

At roughly 20 bucks per pair, they are on the pricier side, but I’d spring for more if they hold up well over time.

Smartwool Men’s PhD Crew


At $24/pair, Smartwool captures the heart of my toes with expensive comfort and style. I thought these had the best cushioning combined with moisture-wicking ability, which is key for my happy feet. A mix of merino wool and nylon, they also held their shape nicely with a bit of stretch. My favorite sock, the only thing that hurts is the price tag.

Is it worth it? Yes, take out a loan and go buy some. Also, if you look hard enough, they can often be found cheaper during seasonal clearance sales. (Don’t forget to check out the casual socks for office wear.)

Thorlo Lighter Hikers


Super soft and very comfortable, these socks did diddly for me when keeping sweat from hanging out on my tootsies. Made from proprietary “Thorlon” acrylic, the material is a spongy fiber similar to any sock, but enhanced with the power of marketing. Very absorbent, the problem is after soaked, the sock didn’t seem to pull any moisture away from my feet, leaving me with what felt like soaked stompers.

Coming in at $18 bucks, I’ve never bought more than one pair, for good reason.

REI Lightweight Merino Wool


The holy grail for anyone who wants cheap (ish) hiking socks that work well. I probably have seven or eight pairs, in different styles and heights, all of which wick moisture well, stay fluffy after washes, and don’t demand too high of a price. For $12-14, these are an awesome deal and shouldn’t be scoffed at when considering pricier options.

Darn Tough Hiker Micro Crew


I really wanted to like these socks. Great for the first wear, made in the US with a lifetime warranty, and great colors, there are many things to like, but not the socks themselves. After a few hikes and washes, the wool insulation has flattened out, leaving little moisture absorption and cushion. They’re OK for casual wear now, but any intense hike overloads these with sweat. (Yes, I followed the wash instructions.)

Disclosure: Smartwool and Cloudline contributed socks for the purposes of review. All opinions are my own and truthful.

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