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Why You Shouldn’t Wear Cotton Socks for Hiking

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The summer months are in full swing, and with them comes one of the most fun activities of the year: hiking! Whether you’re into long day hikes or short overnight excursions, it’s crucial to prepare yourself with proper gear and to know how to handle certain situations that can arise in the wilderness.

One thing many people don’t think about is their choice of socks – they just grab a pair of cotton socks and head out the door without giving it much thought beyond that. But did you know cotton socks may be doing more harm than good?

Let’s have a look at why you shouldn’t wear cotton socks for hiking.

Why you shouldn’t wear cotton socks for hiking? – 6 Reasons


If you’re heading outdoors, cotton is your enemy because it loses moisture quickly. This means that even if your feet feel wet, they can actually be surprisingly dry. For example, you may wear rubber boots while hiking in wet weather and yet find yourself with dry socks by lunchtime. So if you prefer wearing cotton socks, it might be a good idea to wear waterproof hiking boots instead of cotton shoes when hiking in rainy weather.


Wet cotton is much slipperier than dry or synthetic materials; slip on some water, and it will be difficult to stay upright. Wet leather or wool becomes slightly slippery too, but not as bad as wet cotton; look down at your toes once your boot gets soaked though, and chances are pretty good that you’ll start skidding rather than stepping forward.

The bottom line: When hiking in rainy conditions – stick with wool or synthetic (ideally merino) socks over cotton ones; these wicking fibres will keep moisture away from your skin so everything stays much drier (and safer) for longer periods of time compared to regular cotton socks!


Dirt tends to accumulate quickly and easily on cotton socks, which don’t have an outer layer like polyester or wool do. After just a couple of hours outside walking around, your feet tend to end up very dirty (if not downright filthy). In contrast, polyester microfiber has a smooth exterior that repels dirt–making them perfect for outdoor activities.


Many campers face two problems when washing their clothing items after going camping: how to wash clothing items effectively in rinsing Cold Mountain streams and how best to dry things enough to minimize the building of odour fast. With its antibacterial properties, Polyester does not hold odour nearly as much as Cotton does and it holds colour better.

Why You Shouldn’t Wear Cotton Socks for Hiking


Because 100% cotton breathes poorly and absorbs sweat, it doesn’t work well for people who suffer from sweaty feet syndrome. Also, consider that high-performance athletic apparel is usually made with Coolmax or Lycra blends. These fabrics wick perspiration away from your body keeping you cool and comfortable all day long.

If you’re looking for non-breathable hiking sock options, Merino Wool socks offer excellent temperature regulation throughout a wide range of temperatures (ranging from 32 degrees F to 105 degrees F.) Mercians muscles generate less heat than standard fibered socks, making them more breathable to help reduce hot spots underfoot.


It’s too light, it will make you lose your balance. Similarly, when wet, cotton absorbs water and increases the weight of your backpack

All of these reasons are enough to justify Why You Shouldn’t Wear Cotton Socks for Hiking.

Guide for best material for hiking socks 

Comfort is an important consideration when you are looking for hiking socks, but there are other factors to consider as well. A good pair of hiking socks will protect your feet from blisters, keep them comfortable and dry, and allow your feet to breathe.

Although cotton socks might be comfortable in some circumstances, they should not be worn for hiking. Instead, try wool or synthetic blends of socks.

Synthetic fibres such as polyester are lightweight and allow air to flow through easily so that your feet stay cool and dry. Wool also offers excellent wicking abilities because it draws moisture away from your skin before it can cause any discomfort or problems. Both wool and synthetic fabrics offer maximum comfort while you are hiking.

The best blend of materials depends on your preferences, too; a soft blend like merino wool might work better if you prefer warm environments over cold ones, while a sturdier blend works better if heavy rainstorms pose more of a problem than sunshine.

As with everything else on our list so far, first-time hikers aren’t going to have much experience with different types of socks until they’ve spent some time in the backcountry. That’s why our next recommendation may seem obvious—go camping!

What are best socks for walking boots in market?

1.  BraceAbility Replacement Sock Liner for Walking Boots

  • The BraceAbility Replacement Sock Liner for Walking Boots is designed to fit left or right feet and can be used with short or tall walking boots.
  • Designed to keep your foot dry and comfortable during long walks, this sock liner will also help prevent blisters on the heel of your boot by keeping moisture away from the area where you place your foot into the boot.
  • Compatible with all brands of walking boots: This universal replacement sock liner fits women
  • Durable, machine washable and dryer safe
  • Made from a cotton/polyester blend that is comfortable to wear and soft against the skin

2.  Impresa Replacement Sock Liner for Aircast Compression Walking Boot

  • Stretchy, breathable fabric that will fit most feel and won’t irritate your skin or cause blisters
  • Machine washable and dries quickly to prevent odor and sweat
  • Prevents moisture from building up in the boot making it more comfortable for you to walk in the cast
  • This walker cast socks prevent sweat and odor so you stay cool during your day on. By preventing sweat and odor, ensuring you stay clean while walking

Different Factors to Consider While Choosing Hiking Socks

Hiking socks are essential while you are on a hiking trip. You need to choose the right pair of hiking socks that will not only protect your feet from any kind of weather conditions but also will keep your feet dry and comfortable.

Hiking involves walking on a variety of terrains, so you must consider different factors. Some of these include your feet and ankle protection, breathability, temperature regulation and moisture-wicking properties etc. All of the major factors are explained as follows:


The socks should be of the right height so that your toes don’t feel cramped or cramped. The best hiking socks will have enough cushioning to protect your feet from abrasions and blisters.


No matter what type of sock you choose, though, make sure that they fit properly and don’t slip down around your ankles where they can get caught in shoes or trip up as you walk.


The socks should have enough cushioning to provide you with comfort during the hike. Merino wool hiking socks are stretchy enough to accommodate swelling, provide cushioning where needed and deliver an optimal fit without bunching up inside your boots or shoes.

They come in different styles—such as crew length, no-show and ankle—to accommodate all foot shapes.


Though hiking socks should protect your feet and enhance performance, some tend to be too thick and not breathable. They don’t absorb much moisture either. The best solution is merino wool hiking socks.

What is a good fabric for hiking socks?

Wool is a great fabric for hiking socks. It wicks moisture away from your skin, keeping your feet dry and warm (or cool, depending on how you layer it). This moisture-wicking action also keeps odours at bay, so wool hiking socks can last longer than cotton socks.

Although synthetic fibres are sometimes preferred because they are machine washable and hold up to repeated wear and tear better than natural fibres, they will not keep you as warm.

Because of that fact, if you live in an area where temperatures drop below freezing during certain months of the year, choose a wool sock made with thicker material or wear several thin pairs of wool socks instead of one thick pair.

Why not buy athletic socks?

A majority of hikers buy athletic socks and roll up their pant legs to complete their look, but those aren’t ideal. Athletic socks will make your feet sweat since they have less ventilation than normal socks do.

That keeps your foot dry and warm

There are also wool socks that come with merino wool or polypropylene fibres to keep your foot dry, warm, and cool at all times. Such natural fibres might make you itchy at first but eventually get used to them after a couple of uses.

Many hikers wear liner socks inside which helps give cushioning support to prevent blisters on their feet caused by friction between skin and shoe or sock material due to repeated movements during walking or running.

You can use these liners for added warmth or wicking ability or else use them alone, either way, is fine. If a smaller ankle is part of your problem area then stay away from lace-up sock styles because they tend to stretch out rather quickly whereas elastic-banded socks can provide you much better comfort without stretching out that easily. Sometimes, your hiking shoes looks ugly and you want to know its reason and to know how to make them fashionable.


While choosing an elastic banded style, make sure not to go overboard on size because doing so will reduce its overall performance – meaning it won’t offer proper protection along with stability and absorption properties as desired.

Size does matter when choosing hiking socks even though many manufacturers would want you to believe otherwise; so don’t be fooled into buying too large or too small pairs just based on their size chart recommendations.

Alternatives of Cotton Socks

Wearing Synthetic Socks While Hiking – Both the cotton and synthetic socks will dry more quickly than wool, meaning they’re both good options if you’re expecting wet conditions. In general, however, cotton is less wicking than other materials.

This means it’s going to take longer for moisture to evaporate from your sock. As a result, cotton socks may leave your feet feeling damp and uncomfortable on multi-day hikes or treks.

When hiking in hot weather or after significant exertion during a hike, it can be wise to choose synthetic or wool socks instead of cotton ones; synthetics and wool tend to keep cool and comfortable when exposed to direct sunlight for long periods of time.

The downside to wool is that it holds onto odor, so avoid wearing stinky boots that are perfect for wintertime but smell like a locker room by August. Go with synthetics and throw them in with a load of laundry mid-week if need be.

Wool or Cotton socks for hiking – Which one to choose?

On cooler days or if you’re not going on an intense hike but still want to cushion, wool hiking socks offer warmth without as much bulk as synthetic counterparts.

If your shoes are waterproof, you can use any kind of sock in them, but in case they are not, wear seamless socks that don’t rub against your skin when wet with sweat.

Why You Shouldn’t Wear Cotton Socks for Hiking

While during summertime cotton absorbs moisture easily and dries slowly, it is a poor choice for hiking in high temperatures or humid conditions. If your shoes are waterproof, you can use any kind of sock in them, but in case they are not, wear seamless socks that don’t rub against your skin when wet with sweat.

Wool is a natural fibre that has moisture-wicking properties, so it keeps your feet dry even when you sweat. It also regulates temperature effectively by retaining warmth in cold weather and releasing heat in warm conditions.

Frequently Asked Questions

Should we completely ditch those cotton socks?

Just like cotton shirts are bad for hiking, so are cotton socks. A lot of people still use them and I don’t know why; they’re uncomfortable and don’t offer as much support or protection as a good wool sock.

I also haven’t found any that stay up on their own either, which is even more annoying. If you want to wear cotton, by all means, do so—just don’t wear it while you’re hiking! (Wear wool, instead.)

Should hiking socks be 100% wool?

There is no definitive answer to this question as it depends on the individual’s preferences. Some people prefer 100% wool socks because they are warmer and more comfortable, while others may choose synthetic socks because they are cheaper and easier to care for.

However, wool is a great choice for hiking socks because it naturally absorbs moisture and is antimicrobial. This means that not only will you have dry feet, but your socks will remain fresh-smelling longer, so you won’t need to change them as often (which comes in handy when you’re travelling).

Are wool socks long-lasting?

Wool hiking socks are also great for providing extra padding and shock absorption. Since it’s sturdy, wool also insulates well, keeping your feet warm even when wet. And with an amazing ability to keep its original shape, wool is also long-lasting.

Are merino wool socks good for summer?

Merino wool socks are a good choice for summer because they are breathable and keep your feet cool and dry. They also have a high level of insulation, which makes them perfect for cold weather.

Should hiking socks be thick or thin?

Thin hiking socks are better for hot weather conditions because they allow your feet to breathe. They are also less likely to cause blisters.

Thick hiking socks are better for cold weather conditions because they provide more warmth and protection from the elements. Since these are light and airy socks, therefore they will keep your feet cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter.

Conclusion – Why you shouldn’t wear cotton socks for hiking?

Wool or Synthetic? Wool socks are more expensive than cotton, but they have a number of advantages that make them worth it. They stay dry longer, require less washing (less lint to vacuum up), don’t shrink like cotton and last for years.

Furthermore, their anti-bacterial properties are useful for reducing odour and preventing infection in a small cut or blister. That said, we’re not recommending you go out and throw away all your cotton socks right now; after all, if you’re comfortable with what you’re wearing then what’s wrong with sticking with what works?

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