Take it from Jax on our team, who is a World Champion in the 4 Desert Race Series. When she wore a pair of socks that did not perform in extreme desert heat at the Gobi March, she built 3 blisters under her toenails with 100 miles left in the race. Choice of socks can make or break your adventure, so here are our favorites to take on the trails so you can forget about your feet and take it all in.
What To Look for When Buying Summer Hiking Socks
Hiking in the desert during the summer months requires specialized gear, and that includes socks designed for the heat. Here’s what to look for as you shop.
When your feet are damp, they’re much more likely to blister than when they’re dry. That’s because moisture creates more friction between your skin and socks, increasing the chances you’ll rub the skin off and develop a painful blister. Thin socks made with moisture-wicking material maintain the consistent airflow needed to keep skin cool and dry, helping prevent blisters from forming.
The type of fabric that hiking socks are made from plays a big role in how breathable they are. Hot-weather hiking socks are almost always made from a wool blend or synthetic fabric designed for breathability. Here’s what to know about each:
Wool — Wool has a lot going for it. It’s highly breathable, wicks away moisture easily, and keeps the feet at an even temperature, even when wet. As a bonus, wool is naturally antimicrobial, so socks made from wool are less likely to smell funky after a long day spent inside your hiking boots. But 100% wool socks aren’t as durable as some synthetic options, and they don’t dry as quickly. At end-of-life, wool is also a sustainable resource that can be streamed back to nature.
Synthetics — Socks made from synthetic material are generally more durable and dry more quickly than their woolen counterparts. But they come with some tradeoffs: synthetic materials don’t wick moisture as quickly, they lack odor-inhibiting qualities, and don’t have a safe path back to the earth.
TENCEL™— This fabric is made from wood fibers that are converted through a closed-loop, ultra-sustainable process into a high-performance fabric that is lightweight and breathable, making it another great option for summer hiking socks.
Thick socks tend to be warmer, so summer hikes call for something thin that still gives your foot protection within your footwear. Ideally, a good pair of summer hiking socks should be made of thin material with extra padding strategically placed on the bottom of the foot for durability and comfort.
To allow as much of the skin to remain exposed for maximum evaporation and cooling while preventing chafing, you should choose the shortest sock height that will extend slightly above your boot cuff. If you’re adventuring in shorts, a higher sock should be considered for added protection against scrapes and bites depending on your terrain. Quarter crew and crew cut socks are ideal for desert hikes with most hiking boots and pants.
Best Summer Hiking Socks
There are many good hot-weather hiking socks on the market today. Here are seven of our favorites that you can depend on to keep you cool and comfortable, mile after desert mile.
Image courtesy of Smartwool. Used with permission.
When it comes to picking out the best Merino wool socks for summer, Smartwool’s PhD Outdoor Light Hiking Crew ranks at the top of its class. Available in quarter, crew, and mid-crew lengths, these summer hiking socks are cool and breathable, even in the taller cuts. The thin layer of padding from the tip of the toe to the back of the heel is thicker on the ball and bottom of the heel. This strategic use of padding keeps the feet feeling fresh while avoiding excess fabric that can cause overheating. A mesh ventilation panel at the top of the foot also helps to funnel off excess heat and moisture. These aren’t the cheapest socks on the list, but they’re some of the best.
Image courtesy of Wigwam. Used with permission.
This lightweight crew hiking sock is an ideal all-rounder. It’s easily one of the best hiking socks for women or men. The Axiom is constructed from a Merino wool blend that’s specially woven to reduce the amount of stitching. The result is a fit like a glove. There’s padding in all the right places, targeting the ball of the feet and heel. When the mercury begins to rise, the SynchoKnit Axiom won’t disappoint.
Image courtesy of Wrightsock. Used with permission.
The Wrightsock CoolMesh Crew II’s innovative dual fabric layers make it one of our top picks for summer hiking. The interior fabric layer works hard to wick away moisture from the skin to reduce friction and the blistering that can come with it. The outer layer’s mesh weave does an admirable job at boosting airflow. Although there’s no extra padding for the bottom of the feet, these synthetic fabric socks do have two layers to work with, making them a great choice for hot hikes.
Image courtesy of Darn tough Vermont. Used with permission.
Midweight cushioning on the bottoms of the feet puts some extra pep in the step. The Darn Tough Hiker Micro Crew socks are over 60% Merino wool, so they’re supremely cool and breathable. The balance is made up of nylon for added durability, with a touch of spandex for stretch. The micro crew cut comes just above the boot line, making these the best boot socks for summer.
The Icebreaker Hike+ Light Crew is another Merino wool blend sock ideal for warm-weather hikes. These come with all of the positive traits of wool blend hiking socks and feature moderate cushioning. A close, foot-hugging fit keeps these socks comfortably snug.
Another 100% synthetic fabric sock, the REI Co-op EcoMade Ultralight Tech is perfect for the hiker who prefers a snug fit with less compression than your average warm-weather hiking sock. These socks are lightly cushioned and fairly short, making them ideal for day hikes. As a bonus, REI manufactures these using polyester sourced from recycled plastic bottles.
Eddie Bauer’s Coolmax fabric is a unique blend of cotton and synthetic fibers. This sock provides superior moisture wicking that keeps feet cool and comfortable on even the toughest hikes. The strategically placed mesh venting provides superior airflow for a supremely comfortable hot-weather hiking sock.
Put your summer hiking socks to the test — here are some of the best hikes in Utah.
Perfect Together: Summer Hiking Socks + Erem Desert Hiking Boots
Erem’s desert hiking boots and top hot-weather hiking socks like the ones listed above make an unbeatable combination. Crafting next-level desert hiking boots is our passion. Our men’s and women’s hiking boots are designed to power all of your on- and off-trail desert adventures, helping you thrive in some of the world’s harshest landscapes. Erem boots keep your feet comfortable and protected, providing superior breathability and unrivaled durability. Erem Xerocole™ boots are Biocircular, with proven paths back to nature. Each pair is created using sustainable, eco-friendly practices and are made with 100% Biocircular components. If you can’t bear the thought of parting ways just yet, you can return them to us through our Reboot program, where they’re resoled and restored to like-new condition.
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