The Hiking season is here. Have you seen your socks? We beat on a bunch of socks and found out what we liked and what we didn’t. See how your favorite hiking socks held up to our test.

 

I have the worst feet in the world. I’m not kidding. The worst. If I even think “blister” I’ve got one in seconds. I actually get blisters beneath my callouses. Of course, callouses are your feet’s way of protecting you from getting blisters. My feet just go ahead and blister anyway, callouses or not.

What really helps me is some extra cushioning, resulting in fewer hotspots and no sneaky blisters under callouses. This was great discovery during my testing. I also found the relatively high price of some of these socks warranted. I’d do just about anything so I won’t come back from a hike or a day of walking with blisters. And while looks are important to me, I’d forgive a homely sock if it really worked for me. Not so with a really pretty pair that got a hole on the first wearing, and also kept sliding down into my shoe. Flunk. There were a few features touted by the various manufacturers that I found a little hard to believe. “Strong as Steel?” Really? Sounds uncomfortable. “Arch support” in a sock? Really? Yeah, I’ll bet. (Turns out it’s true!)

I tried a lot of socks. I wore them with boots, running shoes, and Tevas, and around the house to lounge. I washed them, I checked them out for beauty as well as function. Here’s what I found:

BALEGA

If I were judging on looks alone, these socks would have won, hands down. They were the coolest looking of all of the socks I tested. Pricey, but beautiful. And a couple of them really delivered. I got pretty excited just looking at them.

I tried the Balega Blister Resist/for running and did a few 5.5 mile walks. I thought these might not have enough padding, but they did. Really soft. I would wear these anywhere.

Next, I tried the Moh-rino Adventure sock. I wore these with a pair of boots and walked about two miles. Super cushiony, but really thick, so it was tough fitting in my boots. These socks became uncomfortable after about an hour, because they were so warm. This might be good on a really long, cold hike, but for me it was just too much. I could not wait to get them off.

The Balega Moh-rino V-Tech Enduro were next. I wore these for two 5.5 mile walks and I loved them. I loved their cool design, and how comfortable they were, but after two days, I had a hole in one of the socks. Flunk.

Last up were the little short Balegas. I wore these on some errands around the neighborhood. One of them kept creeping down and I kept having to rescue it from the bottom of my shoe. Horribly uncomfortable and as such, not one I would choose. 

Softness: Very soft

Fit: Fit well

Style: Gorgeous design

Materials: Merino wool, wool, acrylic, nylon, alpaca

Wear: Not bad but not great, since one pair got a hole in the toe after two wearings. Maybe I just got a lemon pair?

Price: $12 Quarter Crew, Moh-Rino Adventure, $12 Quarter, Moh-Rino V-Tech Enduro

Loves: Stunning style! Really soft

Meh: Too warm for regular wear, good choice for cold conditions

Dislikes: Holes happened right away in one pair, creep down into shoes

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DAHLGREN

These are great looking socks and the most expensive of the bunch. But I found they did not protect my feet from blisters and hot spots. I only tested two types of Dahlgren socks, the Backpacking/Heavy weight, and the Multisport Compression, both of them from the Dri-Stride Alpaca line. Compared to others I tested, the Dahlgren socks had very little cushioning. I walked 5.5 miles in these for 5 days, but found I was getting discomfort and hotspots. I would probably not use these socks for a longer hike.

The Multisport Compression sock had great compression and support, but little if any cushioning for the feet. I’d wear these everyday for support if they didn’t cost so much. $39 is over my sock budget. Great looking stripes, though.

Softness: Very soft

Fit: Fit well

Style: Great style, great designs

Materials: Merino wool, Nylon, Alpaca, recycled polyester, spandex

Wear: Seemed relatively strong would like to see if they hold up over a long period of time.

Price: $25 Backpacking, Heavy weight, $39 Multisport Compression 

Loves: Great compression support, great look

Meh: A little shy on protective cushioning

Dislikes: Pricey

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KEEN

When the socks arrived from Keen, I was taken aback. After the pretty designs of others I tested, these looked like homely cousins. One pair even looked a lot like the kind of sock used for those sock monkeys. Kind of sad. If this were a comparison based strictly on design and packaging, there would be no contest. My Keen socks would not be in the game.

In all fairness to the designers of these socks, I looked online and saw that they have some much cooler designs available, so check those out if style is high on your list.

I tried the North Country/crew cushioning, the Targhee/mid cushioning, and the Targhee/lite cushioning, and all of them were very comfortable. Soft, cushiony, and really protected my feet.

The Keen-Olympus with Dura Zone technology socks in both the mid cushioning and lite cushioning styles are billed as “15x stronger than steel”. I’m sure that if you are going on an extended backpacking trip, a strong sock is preferred, but it just doesn’t sound comfortable, does it? Okay, they were very comfortable, and had good arch support, but I want some proof of that “15x stronger than steel” claim.

All of the Keen socks had enough cushioning to help me avoid blisters, so I learned to love them, even if they weren’t the prettiest of my options. 

Softness: Very soft and comfortable, lots of cushioning

Fit (length) Fit well, but have that “right sock” and “left sock”, feature, so you have to pay attention when putting them on.

Style: I got some really dull looking pairs, but there appears to be a better selection than what I was sent.

Materials: Keen Hiking: Merino wool, nylon, and polyester

Dura-Zone: Wool, nylon, polyester, dynema polyethylene, Lycra spandex

Wear: Seemed to wear well, no noticeable wear and tear visible. But I’m not sure they really are “15x stronger than steel.”

Price: $17.99 – $22.99 

Loves: Great comfort and blister protection

Meh: Left and right designations

Dislikes: Dull designs

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ICEBREAKER

This was the first group of socks I tried, and I was blown away. They come in some really great colors and they are beautiful. And contrary to my past record, I did not get a single blister after 5 days of daily 5.5 mile walks. And that’s without moleskin on trouble spots! The most comfortable pair for a long walk, and probably for a 10+ mile hike, would be the Hike+/medium cushion/medium weight. These socks were comfortable and warm enough for a winter walk. The Hike+/medium cushion/lite weight, while comfortable for a 5.5 mile hike, might be a little too thin for a longer hike. The Hike+/heavy cushion/heavy weight was very comfortable and cozy, but they added so much bulk that you might not fit into your preferred shoe or boot. Great for padding around the house though.

In the Icebreakers, I looked down at my feet and felt happy. They are beautiful and very comfortable. When I read on the package, “instep support”, I thought that claim hard to believe. But they really do support your instep. They felt great. And not a hint of a blister after 5 days in a row of 5.5 mile walks.

All of the weights worked. Most comfortable was the “medium” but the lite was surprisingly comfortable. The heavy cushion was just too thick and warm for my purposes. Might be great for backpacking, but it was just too much for regular day use.

I love these socks. They work and they are beautiful. They wash beautifully too. From my notes about this group of socks: “I’ll never wear any other brand of socks.”

Softness: Very soft and comfortable

Fit (length): Fit great, great arch support

Style: The most gorgeous socks I’ve ever owned. Really. Great colors and very cool designs. I would buy these for their looks alone.

Materials: New Zealand Merino Wool, nylon, elastane

Wear: Seemed to wear well, no noticeable wear and tear visible

Price: $16.99 – $22.99

Loves: Truly gorgeous in design and feel

Meh: Heavy cushion on the heaviest pair was too much for me

Dislikes: There’s nothing here. Loved them.

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