- No dual layer components
- No extra cushioning
When you’re hiking in frigid conditions, besides selecting your gear and layering up your clothing to stay warm, you’re always going to require a quality pair of cold weather socks. Socks are typically the item that hikers focus least on, but when you consider the fact that heat escapes directly through your feet, it’s essential to find the best cold weather socks that will help you stay warm and dry.
For a detailed guide to selecting the best cold weather socks plus the top 5 cold weather socks of the year, keep scrolling.
The top 5 cold weather socks we recommend for 2021:
Here’s exactly what you need to look for when selecting the best cold weather socks.
The first thing to be aware of when selecting the best cold weather socks to meet your hiking needs is the comfort factor. Your cold weather hiking socks should have moisture wicking components to reduce excess sweat and keep your feet warm and dry.
Without the proper wicking components, your feet will not only feel gross and sweaty, but you could catch a chill from the dampness. The best cold weather socks maintain the temperature in your feet (and therefore the rest of your body), by ensuring that your feet aren’t too hot or cold.
Besides moisture-wicking technology, the best cold weather socks need to be highly breathable. You don’t want your feet to be overheated and uncomfortable either.
The material of the best cold weather socks is another key component to bear in mind when selecting a pair for your hikes. Most socks are designed from synthetic fibers such as elastane and nylon, a blend of both synthetic and natural fibers, or 100% natural fabric. Synthetic fabrics don’t absorb much moisture, which means they dry very quickly when compared to materials like merino wool or cotton.
That said, synthetic fibers don’t tend to fight bacteria as well as other materials do, so you might have more odors to contend with when going on lengthy, chilly hikes. Merino wool socks are always manufactured with a blend of another material, such as nylon.
Socks with 100% merino wool are not sturdy enough to hold up against the wear and tear of your hiking shoes, so a blend solves that conundrum.
Socks designed primarily with merino wool are not only highly breathable but do an excellent job of moisture wicking to keep sweat and nasty odors at bay. Merino wool is also a great option because it helps your feet stay warm even if they become damp, which is not true of other sock fibers.
As a rule of thumb, you should not wear cotton socks for hiking (and certainly not for cold weather!), because they do not wick moisture well at all, which often leads to a loss of heat in the feet and unpleasant blisters. Because cotton socks absorb moisture so easily, they should not be part of your hiking wardrobe.
These are the features you need to look for when selecting the best warm socks.
The height of your socks is an important factor to take into account when searching for the best cold weather hiking socks. The main types of sock heights are no-show, ankle, crew, and knee-high.
No-show socks are not a good pick for cold weather, because they are designed primarily for low-cut shoes and offer minimal protection from footwear rubbing and chafing. Since no-show socks are compatible with light hiking shoes and trail running footwear, they are not a viable choice for the best cold weather socks.
Ankle socks are another option. These could work if you plan on layering them with another pair of socks for cold weather use or don’t mind a little rubbing from your boots. Ankle socks will typically shield your ankle bone to offer a little additional protection and are a good choice for low to mid-cut footwear. For really cold conditions though, you should stick with a crew or knee-high length.
Crew socks are the traditional sock height, stretching over your ankle bones and resting a few inches above for extra protection and warmth. If you’re going to be wearing higher-cut boots for your cold weather hiking, these could be an excellent option for you.
Knee-high socks are mainly designed for mountaineering, so they’ll keep you super warm if you’re hiking in very cold weather, at night, or traversing glaciers. For bulkier hiking footwear, knee-high socks are a quality pick.
It is essential to make sure that the best cold weather socks you select have the proper cushioning to keep your feet nice and warm despite frigid outdoor temperatures. You’ll want to stick with medium or heavy cushioned socks for cold weather hiking. Medium cushioning offers excellent padding in the ball and heel regions of the foot and is ideal for weather ranging from moderate to cold.
Heavy cushioned socks are the warmest and most padded options you can pick from. Designed for lengthy hikes, rough terrain, and very cold weather, they will serve you well on extensive mountaineering and other outdoor excursions.
While not all of the best cold weather socks for hiking have this feature, a compression design to support your arch and heel will ensure a quality fit that won’t slip around on a tough hike. Compression components also result in less bulky sock fabrics to create a lighter, thinner sock that will keep your feet warm and comfortable.
Breathability panels are another bonus feature to keep an eye out for when hunting for the best cold weather socks to meet your hiking needs. The panels are typically situated in the arch area, which is where the most sweat gathers. If you are going to be hiking in cold weather, it is essential to have socks that will absorb sweat and wick dampness away from your foot so you don't catch a chill.
Pay attention to the seams when selecting the best cold weather socks. The majority of hiking socks are seamless, featuring a design that won’t rub or bunch up with extended wear.
Always consider the fit before purchasing the best cold weather socks. Check the manufacturer’s sizing chart to ensure you select the product that is best for your foot size and needs.
The heel of the sock should be positioned correctly on your foot. There shouldn’t be excess material sitting at your toes that would rub and cause blisters. The socks should also be long enough that you won’t be pulling them up all the time while out on the trail.
Check out our review of the top 5 best cold weather socks to keep your feet warm and dry.
The first best cold weather socks pick on our list is designed from a durable blend of 67% merino wool, 31% nylon, and 2% elastane for stretch and bonus warmth. These socks are insanely comfortable and are a fantastic choice for very cold weather hikes.
Because the socks feature built-in temperature regulating components, you can wear them in a variety of seasons. You won’t have to restrict yourself to wearing these during winter only and can rest easy that you’ll get plenty of use out of these socks. We love the merino and synthetic blend these socks are designed with, which makes them highly breathable with excellent moisture wicking and odor fighting components.
We also like that these socks sport mesh ventilation to keep your feet warm and dry, with an integrated 4 Degree Elite Fit System for stretch and long wear use. High impact regions of the socks are enhanced with ReliaWool for additional durability as well.
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The SealSkinz best cold weather socks are designed from a super warm blend of 41% merino wool, 41% acrylic, 14% polyester, 2% nylon, and 2% elastane on the inner layer, with 90% nylon and 10% elastane on the outer layer. That’s right, these socks are multi-layer for extra warmth. On top of the outer and inner layer, there is a third hydrophilic membrane layer for added flexibility and protection from the elements.
These best cold weather socks are waterproof, which is a huge plus if your boots spring a leak and you are trekking in snow or other cold, damp conditions. We love the antimicrobial components of these socks that keep bacteria which lead to odors well at bay.
With elastic ankles to ensure the proper fit, these socks stand in a class of their own in terms of functionality and durability.
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The Falke TK2 best cold weather socks are designed from durable 40% polypropylene, 28% polyacrylic, 22% wool, 9% polyamide, and 1% elastane. We liked the fast-drying materials of these socks, even though they are a little thinner than our previous 2 picks. If you wear these with the right hiking footwear in cold weather conditions, you’ll stay warm and dry despite the slightly thinner material.
We liked the synthetic design of these best cold weather socks because they wick moisture like a dream. Plus, the socks feature cushioning in the footbed and toe areas, which will ensure that you are extra comfy when hiking long cold trails. We also really liked the elastic ankles as a bonus touch for a flexible fit.
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The Teko M3rino XC Midweight Hiking sock features a quality blend of 74% merino wool, 25% nylon, and 1% elastane, which means these socks are highly durable and will serve you well for many hikes ahead. Because the socks are designed primarily from merino wool and the synthetic components are on the lower end of the scale, these socks do a fantastic job of maintaining body temperature and wicking excess moisture.
We also really liked that merino wool is completely free of chlorine and is 100% organic. We loved the ribbed design of these best cold weather socks with a seamless toe that ensures the perfect fit. We were happy to see the integrated reinforced footbed for extra comfort and longevity.
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The final best cold weather socks pick on our list is this delightful pair by Icebreaker. Featuring 69% merino wool, 27% nylon, and 3% lycra, we love how comfortable and durable these socks are. We liked how breathable these socks are too, with fantastic moisture wicking components to ward off sweat and unwanted odors.
We were also pleased with how well these best cold weather socks maintain your foot temperature, so your feet won’t feel too hot or too cold. These cold weather socks sport stretch panels in the ankle region with a fit that contours to the shape of your foot. These are a great option to control odors and sweat while being comfortable and stretchy enough for lengthy outdoor excursions in frigid temperatures.
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While we loved each of the best cold weather socks on our list for durability, design, and optimal comfort, our top pick was definitely the SealSkinz Trekking Mid Thick Sock. We were very impressed by the 3-layer system these socks feature, offering incredible flexibility, comfort, and warmth.
The waterproof design was also a huge plus for us, especially because you can easily run into damp and snowy conditions when hiking in cold weather.
The antimicrobial elements and elastic ankles sealed the deal for us because you’ll not only keep odors at bay but enjoy a fantastic fit as well. For longevity of use, bonus warmth, incredible comfort, and exceptional waterproof elements, the SealSkinz Trekking Mid Thick Socks are the best cold weather socks for outdoor enthusiasts.