Many hikers are prepared to spend the money for a good pair of boots but go into sticker shock when they see the cost of quality hiking socks. Nevertheless don’t stint on socks. Wearing cotton gym socks with your new hiking boots is almost guaranteed to make your feet—and hike—very unhappy. Synthetic socks, specifically made for hiking, are well worth their price.

The time-honored two-sock tradition can still be a useful one for some hikers. A thin, inner liner sock of synthetic material, such as polypropylene or Capilene is coupled with an outer layer of rag wool. This tandem reduces friction and thus the odds of developing blisters.

Ah, but time and sock technology marches on.

Match those good hiking boots with good socks: I've hiked thousands of miles in Thorlo socks.
Match those good hiking boots with good socks: I’ve hiked thousands of miles in Thorlo socks.

For many years now, I and a whole lot of other hikers have opted to one-sock it. I prefer wearing hiking-specific socks, such as those made by Thorlo, a company that weaves and markets a line of socks specifically for hikers, and even for specific kinds of hiking. I’ve appreciated the company’s usage suggestions (i.e. “light hiking”) and found these recommendations to be right on target.

A good-fitting sock should be snug, but not tight. Bring your hiking boots with you when you sock shop (and bring your hiking socks with you when you boot shop). Sock thickness can bump up your boot size a half-size or more.

Carefully check sock sizes on the package. Don’t know your hiking sock size? Not to worry, neither does anybody else. (The way sock-makers size socks is truly bizarre.) Some quality European brand socks have Euro-sizes and correlating Euro shoes sizes printed on the package in much larger print than the American sizes. If your sock size is anywhere close to falling “between sizes” try the pair on!

One manufacturer’s size medium might be another manufacturer’s large. Other sock makers put the “M” and “W” for Men and Women in a type size so small you need a magnifying glass to see it. Many hikers think about shoe sizes and look at “M” and “W” as Medium and Wide widths rather than Men’s hiking socks and Women’s hiking socks.

Fresh feet are happy feet. On any day hike longer than half a day, consider bringing an extra pair of socks. Change socks at midday and hang your damp pair on the back of your daypack to dry.