Gear Tips

Common Hiking Sock Questions Answered

POSTED ON September 4, 2020 BY Ralph S.

Before planning a long hike, there are hundreds of questions most backpackers need to answer. For instance, one would like to know what the best backpacking food ideas are and how to prevent and treat blisters during hiking. All these questions need the correct answer to create a great hiking experience. Here are some of the most frequently asked hiking sock questions.

Make sure to also check out our post on how to choose the perfect hiking socks.

What material is best for hiking socks?

Merino Wool sheep

Merino wool is considered the best material for hiking socks. This particular material has three properties that make it stand out from other materials like cotton, polyester, and nylon. Wool, in general, provides the necessary cushioning you need during hiking and regulates the temperature inside your boots. In addition, merino wool has natural anti-microbial properties.

Wool Vs Cotton fabric

Cotton is a relatively soft and heavy fabric that allows your feet to breathe well. However, believe it or not, cotton can cause blisters on your toes when worn for prolonged periods. You should have possibly noticed by now that there are no workout/gym gears made from cotton fabric.

Cotton will also never dry as fast as wool. The natural cotton fabric retains a lot of moisture inside your hiking boots causing dampness and uncomfortable experience.

Wool Vs Synthetic fibers

Both Nylon and Polyester fall under this category. Synthetic fibers are characterized by their durability and fast-drying properties. However, there is a downside to this particular material. Almost all synthetic fibers will stink after intense physical exercise, including walking long distances.

Polyester hiking socks help keep the feet cool. It’s resistant to chemicals (including sweat), shrinking, stretching, and moisture wicking properties make it a good choice. Also, it is a fast drying fabric and best alternative for hikers who intend not to wash their socks when hiking.

But as much as polyester helps keep the feet cool, fully-polyester hiking socks start to stink after periods of intense physical activities and long-distance hikes.

Nylon is even stronger and durable than Polyester and is therefore a good choice for long hikes, however it comes with the same problems as polyester.

Today, most high-end hiking sock brands choose to make socks with some blend of wool and Nylon or Polyester. It decreases the odor-problem from synthetic fabrics and prevents the durability issues of pure wool socks.

Silverlight socks are made with a blend of Merino Wool, Nylon and Spandex, just as many other hiking socks, however by adding silver yarns to the mix, unlike other hiking socks we are able to completely eliminate odor.

What’s the best hiking sock height?

sock sizes chart

Because most people wear hiking boots, a pair of socks that extend 6-8” above the heel is ideal for outdoor excursions. Crew socks are the most common sock size for hikers that can protect your feet from skin abrasion caused by high cuffed boots. Crew socks are also warmer and provide lower-leg protection if the hiking weather suddenly changes.

However, some backpackers are moving away from hiking boots and have started embracing trail runners. Trail runners are light and travel-friendly and often the best choice in warm and moderate temperatures.

Most backpackers are not familiar with the correct sock size to wear. Some even wear short socks with high cuffed boots. So, what size should you pick?

Here are other sizes and their significance for hiking:

Ankle socks: Just as the name suggests, ankle socks go up to the ankle bone. This particular pick is ideal for lightweight trail runners and is the best hiking sock for summer outings. Hiking boots and crew will make you sweat a lot in a tropical climate or during hot summer days, choose lightweight shoes and ankle socks on such occasions.

Quarter socks: Silverlight quarter socks cover both the ankle and heel. Quarter socks are usually ideal in hot climates. However, the quarter socks should not be worn with high cuffed hiking boots because they provide minimum protection from friction.

Over-the-calf-socks: Also known as Knee sock, these socks stand higher than crew socks and cover your feet up to a few inches below the knees. If you reach a mountaineering terrain with high grass and burly roots, then these particular socks are ideal. However, knee socks are not ideal for plain terrains.

Should you wear liner socks when hiking?

Liner socks can be quite useful to prevent blisters and boost padding. Sock liners are very thin and light socks to be worn inside your regular hiking socks. If you’re suffering from blisters when hiking, adding sock liners can possibly prevent blisters, thanks to additional padding.

Silverlight hiking socks are unique because they have two layers of seamlessly knitted together fabric to boost comfort, wick sweat, and prevent blisters. The two layers mimic a sock liner plus hiking sock combination and work fine or as many customers report even better, without wearing actual sock liners.

How thick should hiking socks be?

Medium thickness is the most popular choice and can be considered the best “all season” hiking socks. Medium padding is enough for most people to prevent blisters, while providing enough warmth during spring and fall, without being too hot during summer months. If you just buy a few pairs of hiking socks, medium thickness will be the best choice.

Thin and light socks are the most comfortable to wear during short trails or during the summer season. If you plan to trek snow terrains or go for hiking in winter, hiking socks with heavy thickness provide the most warmth and padding.

Light vs. medium hiking socks

Light hiking socks are more comfortable if you live in the tropics or plan to hike during hot summers. They are even better than medium hiking socks in desert excursions. However, thin and light socks are more prone to causing blisters.

If you only want to invest in a few pairs and live in a region with different seasons, medium crew socks will usually strike the best balance for an “all season, all weather” hiking sock.

Thick vs. medium hiking socks

Most mountaineers prefer thicker, heavy padded hiking socks. This is because it gets colder as you ascend a mountain. Also, in winter, you are better off wearing thick hiking socks to keep your feet warm and avoid blisters.

two people climbing on top of mountain

Should you wear compression socks while hiking?

Compression socks have their advantages and disadvantages. From supporting veins in the lower leg to improving blood circulation in the feet, you should consider compression socks that have low levels of compression. The high level of compression socks are only recommended to treat specific medical conditions.

While compressions socks are not common for hikers, they can

Silverlight hiking socks usually use breathable light compression to provide superior comfort. This light compression is good if you are looking for a solution that eliminates sock movement and improves overall comfort with a snug feeling.

For more info read our post on compression socks for hiking.

Should you wear two socks when hiking?

Wearing either two pairs of sock or double-layer sock can help not only prevent blisters but regulate foot moisture. Wearing two pairs of socks has its challenges compared to wearing a double-layer sock. Socks bunching, slipping and moving to the front of the toes are the three noticeable challenges.

Silverlight socks are lightweight and are made with a two-layer design with light compression on the outer layer and merino wool and silver yarns in the inner layer to prevent any movement.

What socks last the longest?

Wool blended with nylon/spandex  is the best overall material for hiking socks. These socks are not only comfortable but will not wear out even after long-term use. Quality hiking socks should come with a lifetime warranty, so if durability is ever an issue you know you’re covered.

Merino wool has been discovered to not be durable enough on its own. It needs to be combined with synthetic fabrics for better performance. But it’s more durable than regular cotton socks.

Silverlight hiking socks have been endorsed by thru-hikers, undergone rigorous testing, and have shown to be even more durable than other hiking sock brands, thanks to their dual layer construction and tough nylon/spandex outer layer.

Do hiking socks make a difference?

Hiking socks make a huge difference compared to wearing regular cotton socks. Hiking socks provide extra cushioning, wick moisture, and are much more durable. Also hiking socks can be worn for long periods and will not stink or cause blisters.

Silverlight hiking socks have ensured that all these factors have been put into consideration by manufacturing quality durable hiking socks.

There are other benefits of hiking socks compared to regular socks:

  1. Blister prevention: The extra cushioning from hiking socks prevents blisters even when hiking for days at end. Regular socks lack the extra cushioning and can often cause blisters since they also don’t wick moisture well.
  2. Support: Silverlight hiking socks are designed to support the toe, heel and midfoot. This is because it is crucial for your feet to be comfortable during long hikes. Regular socks will not support the feet in all the right places.
  3. Grippy outer layer: A hiking sock should not slip, move or bunch during hikes. The Silverlight hiking socks fit precisely and do not slip. As much as regular socks can fit precisely, their weave does not ensure a grippy outer layer and comfortable journeys.
  4. Durability and comfort: Hiking socks are designed to be comfortable and usually last longer than regular socks. From the choice of fabric used to the design, hiking socks are better than the regular socks


What are the best socks to wear to prevent blisters?

Blisters are caused by moisture, movement and bacteria. The best socks to prevent blisters therefore should wick moisture, dry-fast have padding and ideally have dual-layers. Merino wool/nylon blends will be the best material of choice while light compression can prevent movement.

Silverlight socks are manufactured with the following features to prevent blisters better than any other sock on the market:

Dual-layer construction: Many hikers choose to wear two pairs of socks for improved comfort and blister prevention. Silverlight socks are made with a dual-layer design that provides padding, support and

dual layer hiking socks

Light compression: Because the right amount of compression prevents blisters and provides comfort, the Silverlight hiking socks have enough compression to prevent bunching-up, slippage, rubbing and other movement.

Merino wool/nylon blend: To improve comfort and moisture-wicking characteristics, Silverlight merino wool socks have been blended with nylon and spandex for faster drying time, maximum durability and blister prevention.

Silver Yarns: Silver yarns create a bacteria-free zone around your feet, making them less prone to blistering and eliminate odor.


I hope this Q&A style post was able to answer some of your hiking sock questions that you had in mind. Did we miss anything you would like answered? Just ask your question in the comments and I’ll get to it.


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Ralph S. is the founder of Silverlight, an avid hiker and trail runner he enjoys spending time outdoors, riding his motorcycle and swimming at the beach when he's not busy replying to customers or developing new Silverlight gear.

1 comment

  1. I bought these mainly to wear over compression stockings that I had to wear right after surgery. These did the trick to prevent me from slipping even when walking on hardwood floors using crutches. I also use them around the house during the colder months. Owned them for about 7 months but really only actively wore them about 2 of those months. So far they are holding up to regular washings and grip on the bottoms of the socks are still working well.

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