Folks who want to keep working and playing outdoors when colder weather arrives may augment their wardrobe with specialized work gloves, heated gloves, heated jackets, heated vests, and, perhaps most essentially, wool socks. The main function of wool socks is to keep feet warm and dry. And while they’ve been around for centuries, current fabrications have advanced performance features, such as reinforced cushioning, moisture-wicking capabilities, antimicrobial properties, and breathability. You can also find quality pairs geared to specific activities, such as hiking and running.
Use this guide to learn what to look for when shopping—and why the following products are considered among the best wool socks you can buy.
- BEST OVERALL FOR WOMEN: Smartwool Women’s Cable II
- BEST OVERALL FOR MEN: DANISH ENDURANCE Merino Wool Light Hiking Socks
- BEST SET FOR WOMEN: EnerWear 4 Pack Women’s Merino Wool Outdoor Sock
- BEST SET FOR MEN: EnerWear 6P Men’s Merino Wool Blended Outdoor Socks
- BEST WOMEN’S HIKING: Darn Tough Hiker Micro Crew with Cushion – Women’s
- BEST MEN’S HIKING: Darn Tough Hiker Micro Crew Cushion Sock – Men’s
- BEST WOMEN’S RUNNING: Smartwool PhD Outdoor Light Micro Socks
- BEST MEN’S RUNNING: CloudLine Merino Wool Athletic Ankle Running Socks
- BEST WOMEN’S WINTER: Carhartt Women’s Extremes Cold Weather Boot Sock
- BEST MEN’S WINTER: Carhartt Men’s Cold Weather Boot Sock
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Wool Socks
If you aim to treat your feet right for everyday work and outdoor adventures, keep these factors and features in mind to select the wool socks that will suit you best.
Wool socks can help you better enjoy a host of activities, including hiking, camping, running, and hunting. And they’re not for cold weather only; wool socks can be worn in all seasons because they effectively regulate temperature, keeping feet warm in winter and cool in summer. Wool is sometimes blended with various other materials to make socks thicker for warmth or thinner for performance.
Wool socks are available in different lengths, depending on the activity. Crew lengths are great for hiking as they reach just above a hiking boot’s neck. Wool dress socks also come in crew lengths. Low-cut socks, or quarter size, are best for running and warmer weather, whereas socks for snow sports, like skiing, sit just below the knee.
You’ll find both wool and wool blend socks on the market, and different types of wool as well. Among 100 percent wool socks, merino is prized for being breathable, itch-free, and odor resistant. While pure wool socks are certainly warm, wool blends (typically incorporating acrylic or polyester) tend to wear better and last longer, despite being generally less expensive. Quality wool blend socks also tend to offer more cushioning and elasticity than pure wool versions.
Wool socks come in different weights as well. Lightweight versions are preferred as dress socks, while medium and heavyweight socks offer varying levels of warmth. Heavyweight wool socks are ideal for long hikes during the winter months, while medium weight socks are a good choice for running.
Ribbing refers to a knitting pattern that creates vertical columns, which helps ensure proper, lasting fit. You’ll often see this type of stitching on the cuffs and hems of sweaters and along the top or throughout the entire leg portion of socks. Wool socks with ribbing tend to stay in place on your ankle and calf more securely.
Reinforcement and Seams
Reinforced heels and toes add comfort and increase socks’ durability against wear and tear. Seam construction is an important consideration when it comes to comfort. Seamless or flat seam socks are typically the most comfortable because there’s no seam to rub against the toe or heel.
Pair vs. Set
You can purchase wool socks as a single pair or as a set. If you plan to wear wool socks only for a particular weekend activity, you may want to purchase a single pair. But if you expect to rely on wool socks more often, consider buying a set so you’ll have clean pairs on hand. Sets range from three to 12 pairs per unit.
Colors and Patterns
Although gray, brown, blue, and green have traditionally been the common colors for wool socks, nowadays you can expect to find them in a variety of colors and patterns.
Our Top Picks
Read on to discover some of the best wool socks on the market today, selected for how well they satisfy the criteria detailed above. Whatever your activity, you should be able to find a quality pair here.
Whether playing outdoor sports or simply running errands, a busy woman’s feet are likely to stay warm and comfy in these socks, which are 70 percent merino wool, 29 percent nylon, and 1 percent elastane. Unlike unisex socks, these crew-length Smartwools are designed for women with a narrow heel bed.
The cable knit construction offers durability and breathability, fitting snugly with no slouching. Seamless toes mean there’s no obstruction to rub against, while lightweight cushioning makes them suited to vigorous activities like biking and hiking. The machine-washable socks come in small, medium, and large sizes and 15 color options.
Developed in part by an expert mountaineer, DANISH ENDURANCE Merino Wool Light Hiking Socks are designed to keep a man’s feet at a comfortable temperature in any season and during any activity. The crew-length socks are a blend of 30 percent merino wool, 36 percent nylon, and 33 percent acrylic to combine cooling and heating properties. They feature anti-blistering cushioning in the heel and ventilation lanes to stave off sweat.
The socks are available in green or orange and come in three sizes. Whether you’re chopping wood, camping out, or just going about your daily business, these machine-washable socks are a solid choice.
Women who wear wool socks often may well come to depend on this EnerWear set, even in the coldest temperatures. The blend of 86 percent extra-fine merino wool with 10 percent polyester, 3 percent nylon, and 1 percent spandex is made for extreme weather conditions. Terry-loop cushioning is a design feature that absorbs moisture and allows for extra comfort during all-day outdoor activities.
The socks are reinforced at the heel and toe for durability. They come in crew length and one size that fits shoe sizes 5 to 9. This four-pack of machine-washable socks is available in a variety of colors and patterns so you can choose the style that suits your taste.
Heavy terry-loop cushioning, a design feature that maximizes moisture absorption, makes the EnerWear set of six hiking crew walking socks ideal for the trail, the street, and the work site. The reinforced heel and toe provide durability while the wool blend (25 percent merino wool, 61 percent acrylic, 10 percent polyester, 1 percent spandex) sits smoothly against the foot to prevent blisters.
The seamless toe provides comfort in a variety of shoe styles, and elastic cuffs keep the sock in place. Odor-control technology, which neutralizes bacteria, staves off sweaty smells for 72 hours. The machine-washable socks come in one size, to fit shoe sizes 10 to 13, and six colors.
Height, weight, and warmth combine to make the Darn Tough Hiker Micro Crew Midweight Sock popular with female hiking enthusiasts. Seamless technology and midweight cushioning provide a comfortable fit that’s snug and secure, yet not tight. The shorter crew length, which sits just above a standard hiking boot, provides a more concise fit.
The socks’ machine-washable fabric, a blend of 59 percent merino wool, 39 percent nylon, and 2 percent Lycra spandex, keeps them breathable, fast drying, and odor-resistant. The socks are available in small, medium, large, and they come in eight colors.
The Darn Tough Hiker Micro Crew Cushion Sock for men is made from an antimicrobial and odor-resistant blend of 61 percent merino wool, 36 percent nylon, 3 percent Lycra spandex that offers all-day comfort and performance in any weather. Undetectable seams and high-density knitting reduce bulkiness, while the sole’s mid-level cushion keeps feet warm and comfortable.
The ribbed micro crew length and snug fit keep the socks from slipping and bunching, reducing blister risk on long hikes. These machine-washable socks come in 10 different colors and five sizes.
Women who enjoy running in any weather may want to check out Smartwool’s PhD Outdoor Light Micro Socks. These low-cut socks are designed for performance with body-mapped mesh zones for breathability, a flex zone at the ankle for comfortable movement, and just the right amount of cushioning to reduce fatigue while pounding the ground.
The blend of 48 percent merino wool, 48 percent nylon, and 4 percent elastane—which the company touts as “Indestructawool”—provides excellent durability. The socks are available in small, medium, and large and come in eight colors. Machine wash inside out for best results.
For the man who enjoys running in every season, these CloudLine socks are a quality choice. They’re a blend of 63 percent ultrasoft merino wool, 31 percent nylon, and 6 percent spandex. The sock’s moisture-wicking and antimicrobial properties keep feet dry, while the no-show ankle tab makes for a good fit with most traditional running and trail running shoes.
The reinforced toe and heel areas and natural moisture-wicking capabilities keep you blister-free all day. The machine-washable socks are available in four colors and four sizes.
Women who want serious warmth without bulkiness might find these Carhartt crew length boot socks a best bet. They feature extra cushioning at the sole and a light knit style to banish bulky bunching around the ankle. A blend of 21 percent merino wool, 66 percent acrylic, 12 percent nylon, and 1 percent spandex gives the right combination of warmth and moisture-wicking properties to keep feet toasty but not sweaty.
There are mesh vents for breathability, plus Carhartt’s FastDry technology to help fight odors. The machine-washable socks are available in one size and five colors.
Those who hike, hunt, or work outdoors for hours in cold weather may come to rely on Carhartt’s Cold Weather Boot Socks. The socks are a blend of 70 percent acrylic, 16 percent wool, 13 percent nylon, 1 percent spandex for rugged durability all day on the job site or in the woods.
There’s a ribbed cuff to keep the socks in place, while a reinforced sole lends durability as well as all-day comfort. Ankle vents help reduce bulkiness for comfort in hiking and work boots. The machine-washable socks are available in three sizes and seven colors.
FAQs About Wool Socks
Still wondering what makes wool socks so great? Check out the answers to some common questions that will help you get the most use and enjoyment from your purchase.
Q. What are the benefits of wool socks?
Wool socks are beneficial for keeping your feet at the optimal temperature during outdoor activities. Many wool socks also have anti-odor and moisture-wicking properties to keep feet dry and feeling fresh in a host of environments.
Q. Are wool socks machine-washable?
While it’s always best to follow manufacturers’ laundering recommendations, generally speaking some pure wool and most wool blend socks are machine-washable. Superwash wool, which has been pretreated to avoid felting during machine washing, can be washed in warm water with regular detergent and tumble dried on a low setting. However, untreated virgin wool ought to be hand washed and air dried. When washing wool socks, be sure to avoid using bleach, which could weaken the fibers.
Q. Will wool socks shrink when washed?
Many wool socks are treated to be shrink-resistant. Hand-knit and virgin wool socks usually do not undergo this process, so it’s best to wash them with warm water and avoid the dryer.
Q. Do I need liners for wool socks?
The primary purpose of sock liners is to avoid blisters by reducing friction and wicking sweat away from your feet. If you’re heading out on a short hike, liners may not be necessary, as long as your shoes fit appropriately. For long outings, liners may be a good idea, especially if you’re prone to blisters or are wearing new boots or shoes. As many outdoor professionals will point out, you often don’t know you need liners until you actually need them.
Q. Are wool socks waterproof?
Wool socks are water-resistant and can hold a third of their weight in water before you experience any sensation from the moisture. Another notable quality of wool socks is that even when wet they can still keep feet warm.