What are the best socks for a thru hike?
Durability and Performance:
If there was ever a true test of a hiking sock’s durability, a 2200 mile thru hike surely qualifies.
I’ve tried many different hiking socks over the years with varying results. As most already know, anything made out of cotton is out…absorbs too much water and they take forever to dry. For many years I was big fan of Smartwool but they seem to wear out surprisingly quickly (especially for the price). So my sock of choice now is a brand called Darn Tough out of Vermont (but widely available). They are a wool blend which makes for a more durable sock…so much so that they have a lifetime guarantee…now that’s standing behind your product!
I’m not a fan of socks that are overly thick or have cushioning. A thinner sock for me makes my shoes feel more secure and does a better job of keeping my feet from overheating, especially as things start to warm up in the summer. A thinner sock also has the advantage of drying out more quickly when they get wet…handy whether it’s from rain or from washing them in a stream (or a campground sink). I use a style that is called: Micro Crew Light like the ones shown below. Darn Tough also does a good job of creating seams that are unobtrusive so there is no irritation to your toes. Occasionally, I’ve used other socks that felt pretty good until you put on a shoe at which point you could feel the terrible seaming… sure to cause blisters. For those that want more cushioning Darn Tough has a wide variety of styles to choose from both in thickness and height
After more than 2200 miles in all sorts of conditions Darn Tough socks more than stood up to the challenge. I had two pairs with me that I used for four months with no holes! When I got home I looked at them more carefully and one pair seemed to be getting a bit thin in the heel…definitel gets my stamp of approval. Furthermore, I was surprised that these socks oukdnt smell worse after 5 days of hot, humid, muddy hiking. You wouldn’t want them under your pillow at night but I didn’t have to quarantine them in a heavy duty freezer bag while I slept.
There were times on the hIke that my feet felt like they were taking a beating from the cumulative affect of many miles, the brutal terrain and worn down boots (not as supportive). In those situations I’d stop on the side of the trail and double up the socks. This created just enough extra cushioning to ease the problem and luckily I recovered quickly overnight. This style sock is thin enough that doubling them up didn’t make my feet feel like sausages in my shoes. Additionally, some people use thinner socks doubled up as way to help prevent blisters.
As far as moisture, I had my fair share of wet days to test things out. For the most part my boots kept my feet fairly dry but when my socks did finally get wet they only seemed to retain a modest amount of moisture and the heat of my foot often helped to dry them out over the course of the day. If your shoe completely submerges you’re just out of luck but fortunately, they would air dry overnight if you are indoors or an arid climate (not as good in the humidity of the northeast.
And last but not least is that lifetime guarantee!
Everyone will have their personal preferences and different objectives (blister prevention, foot impact, cost) so just try them out and see what works for you. Although good hiking socks have gotten significantly more expensive over the years, so has their performance. Plus, they are still relatively cheap compared to boots, packs and tents so test driving a pair of $20 socks shouldn’t break the bank and your feet will thank you.