Someone puts on a high calf-high black walking sock while sat on a rock

Choosing The Best Walking Socks

Our Expert Guide To Finding The Right Pair

Just like your walking boots, your walking socks and hiking socks are a vital piece of your outdoor kit - that's why you need to ensure you get the right pair for the job. Get the right socks, and you won't even notice them - but get the wrong socks, and discomfort, moisture, and the threat of blisters and sores can easily ruin your morning hike. That's why we've compiled our expert guide to buying the perfect walking socks, outlining all the key things you need to consider when finding the right socks for your adventures - letting you make the most of your time in the outdoors in comfort.

Why Do I Need Walking Socks?

Although not a complex item to purchase, socks can often get overlooked when shopping for state-of-the-art hiking boots and other walking items. The same care and attention you put into choosing your boots and shoes should also apply to choosing your socks. A quality pair of socks will feel comfortable, provide cushioning to high-impact areas, wick moisture away from your skin, offer good circulation, and help maintain a consistent and comfortable foot temperature. Like footwear, there is no one sock for everything. Instead, you need a range of socks in your kit list for various activities and to help you adapt to changing climatic conditions. Here are some of the different things you need to consider when shopping for walking socks...

The Importance of Thickness / Weight

Socks come in various thicknesses, from thin-lining socks to thick double-layered socks. Whatever sock you go for, it's vital to relate its thickness to the fit of your footwear, as the thickness of your sock can drastically change the volume of your foot, potentially making your footwear feel too tight.

Lightweight Socks

Lightweight socks are designed to help keep your feet cool and comfortable on short, lowland walks in warm, dry conditions like in summer. Their lighter weight means they're not as cushioned as thicker socks - however, they retain some lightweight padding in key impact areas for comfort.

Midweight Socks

Most hillwalking socks are midweight. Midweight walking socks are incredibly versatile, performing well in hot and cold conditions. While heavier than lightweight socks, Midweight walking socks provide a higher level of cushioning around the heel and ball of the foot and are the sock of choice for extended hill and mountain walks in all weather conditions apart from extreme cold and heat.

Heavyweight Socks

As the heaviest, heavyweight socks are also the thickest, warmest, and most cushioned socks available. Designed for use when adventuring on tough terrain in extreme cold, they’re great for mountaineering, alpine pursuits, and sub-zero expeditions. A bit overkill for most UK walking conditions, heavyweight socks still have their uses even if you're not mountaineering in the depths of winter as a cosy pair of camping socks, or for everyday low-exertion activities where you’re standing around in the cold such as sports matches and birdwatching.

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The Different Materials and Fabrics

Walking socks are available in a variety of materials and fabrics, each with unique benefits. A mixture of natural and synthetic materials is quite common in socks and is used to balance out any negatives of one particular material while keeping the benefits of both. The most important things to consider when choosing the material of your walking socks are how much your feet are going to sweat from the activity, how long you’ll be wearing them, the terrain you’ll be walking across, and the climatic conditions you’re likely to encounter – then you can select the materials to suit.


Whilst great for comfort at home and work, everyday cotton socks aren’t suitable for strenuous activities like hillwalking because of the sweat your feet generate from the extra exertion. Once wet from sweat, cotton socks struggle to cope, wrinkling up as they absorb this extra moisture and making feet moist. This combination of softened skin and friction makes your feet vulnerable to blisters. In addition, cotton socks are also slow to dry and have zero insulation capabilities once wet - not ideal for hot or cold temperatures. However, cotton remains the most cost-effective material and is comfortable when used in the right conditions. Because of this, many walking brands still use it in a mixture of other materials to improve its performance.


A widely popular material used in socks, wool has fantastic insulation properties, retaining heat even when wet. The more wool used, the warmer the sock will be, making it ideal for cold-weather walking socks. The shortcomings of wool are a lack of elasticity, a scratchy feel, slow drying, and that it can wear out quickly. Because of this, you’ll usually find wool used alongside a combination of other materials.

Merino Wool

Merino wool is a popular material due to its fantastic ability to manage moisture and regulate your foot's temperature. Merino wool works hard to absorb sweat and wick away moisture, keeping your feet dry, less prone to blisters, and comfortable in warm and cold temperatures. Because Merino is so fine, it's less itchy than regular wool, with the bonus of being odour-resistant. This makes merino wool an excellent choice for hillwalking, with their only minor downside being that they are usually a little more expensive.


Human-made synthetic fabrics offer better structure, durability, and breathability, and can even be waterproof - ideal for the fens and coastal paths. Nylon and Lycra® socks retain their shape, create a snug fit, and, in certain styles, can provide welcome arch support. CoolMax® polyester, Wickspun™ acrylic and Isolfil® polypropylene are fantastic at wicking away moisture and are ideal for walks and hikes. Synthetic socks are often combined with natural materials like cotton or wool to help make them more comfortable in warmer weather and introduce better insulation qualities when wet.


Whilst socks are primarily designed to keep your feet dry on the inside (by wicking away sweat), investing in waterproof socks will ensure your feet stay dry even if your waterproof footwear fails to keep water out. SealSkinz is the leader in waterproof socks, with pioneering StretchDry 100% waterproof, windproof, and breathable technology to eliminate blistering, enhance moisture control, provide comfort, prevent odour, and offer a good balance between warmth and breathability.

Discover more key differences between Merino Wool and Cotton socks...

The Right Fit and Length

As a rule, it's always best to try your socks with the footwear you intend to wear them with to check the two pieces work well in conjunction and are going to deliver the comfort and performance you need and want. Depending on whether you're fitting for a trail running shoe, walking shoe, or hiking boot, you'll want to think about the fit and sock height you desire. Your socks should feel comfortable - not too tight or too loose.


Too Tight - They could start to affect the circulation in your feet.

Too Loose You’ll get friction putting you at a higher risk of blisters.

Too Low - You may find that the shoe's heel and tongue start to rub.

Too High - You might find your feet to become too warm.

Find out more about which length sock is best for you...

Features and Technologies

Walking socks come with a range of features that help further enhance your comfort and performance. Here are some of the key ones to look out for:

Seamless Toe Box

The absence of a seam in this vulnerable area takes away the chance of any painful rubbing across the top of your toes.


Look for thicker padding areas (created by an increased density of the weave) on the heel and ball of the foot for added cushioning and protection. You want just enough cushioning, as excessive padding can make your shoe feel too tight. Good cushioning can be a real foot-saver on longer walks or over rough terrain.


Elastic at the top of the sock helps to secure it around the foot and maintain its shape, reducing friction and the chance of blisters.

Mesh Venting

Found at the top of the foot, this feature allows heat to escape for better breathability.

Arch Braces

Some socks offer a tighter, reinforced weave in the arch to improve support and keep the sock in place. This is helpful for high arches but can be useful for those with regular arches or flat feet. Keep in mind, though, that your footwear is the key factor for arch support - never your socks.

Layering Fabric

Many socks have layering to improve performance and reduce rubbing. An inner layer will often be synthetic beneath a warm natural outer such as wool. The inner layer will move with your foot and wick away moisture to keep it cool, whilst the outer layer moves with the shoe.

Shop Our Walking Sock Range

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