Last Updated: June 30, 2022

Wool Vs. Cotton Socks: Which Is Better?

Cotton socks are a go-to for most people even though they really shouldn’t be. There are more cons than pros to wearing cotton socks, and I will cover them all in this detailed comparison. I’ll also talk about socks you should wear for hiking, as well as include the best pairs of hiking socks you can get your hands on.

Read on to learn why woolen socks are the better pick for hikes and workouts and see some of the best pairs of wool socks you can get!

Wool Vs. Cotton Socks: A Detailed Comparison

Wool Blend Socks

Are wool socks better than cotton ones even in the summer? You’ll find out everything you need to know about that in this section! I’ve compared all the properties of socks that matter, including comfort, durability, breathability, and temperature regulation!

Durability

Cotton socks are not very durable and that’s okay. When we buy a cheap pair of socks, we don’t expect them to last forever. It is perfectly normal for the material to get thinner over time, with the occasional hole in your toes. When they’re so torn and thin that you feel ashamed to take off your shoes in front of others, it’s time to toss them out.

Wool socks offer much better durability than cotton socks. The material is thicker, so it takes a lot more wear and tear to thin them out. Also, woolen socks rarely ever get holes and tears, even after you’ve owned them for years.

I have to mention the Darn Tough socks here – the brand gives a lifetime warranty on all their socks, promising to replace your pair in case of any holes or tears. You’re paying about $20 for a pair of that socks, but you’re getting a guarantee that you will be able to wear them for the next few decades. Just think about how many pairs of cotton socks you’d have to throw out in that period.

Say No To Cotton Socks (For Hikes)

Cotton Sock

Wool is a moisture-wicking material and cotton is not. Cotton absorbs moisture and it takes a while to dry, which is exactly why you should try to avoid cotton socks. Especially for hiking – cotton socks get wet pretty fast, they can bunch up inside the boots, and then constantly rub against your skin.

Even the best and most comfortable hiking boots feel horrible when worn with cotton socks, and you’re honestly better off wearing no socks instead of cotton ones.

What about woolen socks? They don’t get wet, they are excellent at temperature regulation, and they are surprisingly comfortable. Wool socks are the best option for hiking by far, especially if you go for Merino wool. Another huge advantage of these socks is that they are odor resistant as well, so they will smell fresh for a while, even after you’ve worn them for a couple of days.

That’s exactly why Merino wool socks are popular with campers and backpackers. When you set out on a multi-day hike, you’re limited in terms of what you can bring in your backpack. A single pair of wool socks will get you through several days of the hike, whereas cotton socks wouldn’t get you through the first few hours.

Pros Of Dedicated Hiking Socks

Hiking Socks

The best socks you can wear on a hike are those that are designed for hikers. They’re different from normal socks because they usually have extra padding in strategic places, which provides the hiker with improved support and comfort. Strategic cushioning can also help with shock absorption, making it easier to hike on rough terrain.

Also, dedicated hiking socks are made from natural and synthetic materials that are moisture-wicking, which is essential for a comfortable hike. The moisture is transferred from the sock to the interior of the boot and it evaporates from there, provided that the shoes are at least somewhat breathable.

Cotton socks absorb moisture and can cause blisters, which is not what you want on a long hike.

What To Wear In Warm Weather?

Woolen socks are still a good option for warm weather hikes. They’re great at temperature regulation and you shouldn’t get too hot in them. However, when temperatures get extremely high, it’s smart to ditch everything that’s thick and heavy-weight, including the socks.

Instead, you should pick up synthetic socks – they’re also moisture-wicking and thin, so they might be a bit more comfortable than proper wool. Thin, lightweight wool is also a good alternative, but it is a bit more difficult to find.

You can also get woolen ankle socks – they’re a good option for warm weather hikes, especially if you’re ankle boots or trail runners. However, keep in mind that these don’t offer as much cushioning as crew socks, so they likely won’t be as comfortable and supportive.  

Also, you can pick up socks that have mesh inserts. Brands add these to socks that are designed for running and hiking since these are activities that tend to make your feet quite sweaty. Mesh increases breathability and can make any pair of socks great for warm weather.

Wool Blends

Wool Socks

Wool is often mixed with other materials like polyester and elastane to make socks. These wool blends usually wear better than pure wool socks, and they are more versatile.

Pure wool socks are very warm and definitely not suitable for warm weather. With a small percentage of polyester in the mix, the socks become slightly cooler, lighter, and even more durable. Elastane and spandex are also mixed with wool to make the socks more stretchy.

Wool is generally a stretchy material, but the elastane helps socks fit your feet better, so they never feel too tight. Also, pure wool socks can be quite itchy and most people don’t experience that issue with wool blends. 

Additionally, most wool blends are machine washable whereas pure wool requires special washing and drying. You can throw it in the washer if it has a wool program, but you should never put pure wool socks in the dryer.

Pricing

One of the main reasons why cotton socks are so widely popular is their price point. They’re super cheap and it’s a no-brainer for most people.

Wool socks are pricey, especially if we’re talking about Merino wool. It’s about $20 for a high-quality pair of Merino wool socks, and you can get a 10-pack of cotton socks for the same amount of money.  On the other hand, wool socks have incredible durability and one pair of quality Merino wool socks will last you longer than that 10-pack of cotton socks.

Because of that, the value is there without a doubt. You’d have to spend some $100 to get five decent pairs of Merino socks, but you wouldn’t have to buy another pair of socks in the foreseeable future. Plus, there’s also the long list of pros of wool (blend) socks – if you want to live a comfortable and blister-free life, it is absolutely worth it to spend $20 on a pair of socks.  


At A Glance: Best Wool (Blend) Socks


Best Wool (Blend) Socks

I’ve told you about the various benefits of wool socks and now it’s time to see those in action. Here are some of the best pairs of wool socks with lots of cushioning, great temperature regulation, and excellent breathability!

Top Product Overview

Smartwool Hiking Light Crew Mens Color: Gray Size: XL(12.0 - 14.5)
  • High wool content
  • Lightweight wool is good for warm weather
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DARN TOUGH (STYLE #1466) Men's Merino Wool Micro Crew Hiker Sock With Cushion - Black, Medium
  • High wool content
  • Lifetime guarantee
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3 Pairs Thermal 80% Merino Wool Socks Hiking Crew, black, gray, brown, men’s shoe size 9-12, women’s 11-13
  • Great value for money
  • Brushed fleece lining
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Merino Wool Cushioned Hiking Socks 1-Pack for Men & Women, Made in EU, Walking, Trekking, Work, Outdoor (Yellow, US Women 11-13 // US Men 9.5-12.5)
  • Very affordable
  • Mesh inserts for better breathability
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YUN Men's Natural Pure 100% Wool Warm Boot Winter Socks Traditional Cream (3-Pairs)
  • Seamless design
  • Great for very cold weather
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Merrell Women's Merino Wool Cushioned Hiker Quarter Socks 1 Pair, Purple/Grey Heather, S/M
  • Good for warm weather
  • Quick-drying
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J.B. Field's Ankle Length Hiker GX 74% Merino Wool Hiking Socks for Men & Women, for Fall, Summer, Trekking & Outdoor 3-Pack, Made in Canada (Large (8-12 Shoe) , Taupe)
  • Great value for money
  • Good for all seasons
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Samsox 2-Pair Merino Wool Running Socks, Made in USA, Red S/M (Men 6-9.5 / Women 7-11)
  • Mesh panels for improved breathability
  • High-density cushioning on top and bottom
SEE ON AMAZON →

Top Products


Smartwool Crew Hiking Socks (Lightweight)

Smartwool Hiking Light Crew Mens Color: Gray Size: XL(12.0 - 14.5)

Smartwool hiking socks are popular with hikers. They are available in a few different weights, so it’s easy to get a pair of socks that’s suitable for any particular season. Heavier socks are better for cold weather, while lighter socks will keep your feet cool even in the summer heat.

The Smartwool socks feature a crew height, so they will peak above your boots. But they will stay in place – with these hiking socks, bunching is the last thing you should worry about.

The socks are made from 64% Merino wool, 34% nylon, and 2% elastane for the most comfortable experience. They are moisture-wicking, odor-resistant, and strategically cushioned for better support and stability. These socks are also available in a wide size variety, so it’s going to be easy to get a pair that fits you very well.

They’re around $20 for a pair, which is the average cost of Merino wool socks. You don’t get any sort of guarantee on them, so if they get tears or holes you will need to throw them out and buy a new pair. If that’s not ideal for you, definitely check out the next pair of wool socks featured here.

Pros

  • High wool content
  • Lightweight wool is good for warm weather
  • Washer and drier friendly

Cons

  • Not seamless
  • Somewhat small

Product Information

  • Materials: 64% Merino wool, 34% Nylon, 2% Elastane
  • Height: Crew
  • Cushioning: Yes
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Most Durable Socks

Darn Tough Merino Wool Socks

DARN TOUGH (STYLE #1466) Men's Merino Wool Micro Crew Hiker Sock With Cushion - Black, Medium

Darn Tough socks are a favorite among frequent hikers. The brand offers a lot of different types of socks, so there’s enough variety for everyone. The pair featured here are midweight socks with cushioning, for ultimate comfort on the hiking trail.

These socks are warm, so they’re best for colder weather. There’s cushioning under the foot for improved comfort and support, while the seamless toes ensure there’s absolutely nothing that will take your mind off the trail in front of you. Let’s face it – feeling that nasty seam on your toes is not only distracting but also a warning that you’re about to experience some blisters.

These socks are made with 61% Merino wool, 36% nylon, and 3% lycra spandex. The combination of these three materials is moisture-wicking, stretchy, and surprisingly durable. In fact, Darn Tough holds these to such a high standard that they promise you a brand new pair if your socks develop any tears or holes.

Additionally, these socks feature a micro crew height. They are shorter than traditional crew socks, for the best fit with hiking boots. When paired with an average hiking boot, the socks will peek just a little above the top of the boot.

Pros

  • High wool content
  • Lifetime guarantee
  • Seamless toes

Cons

  • Tight fit
  • Pricey

Product Information

  • Materials: 61% Merino wool, 36% Nylon, 3% Lycra Spandex
  • Height: Micro-crew
  • Cushioning: Yes
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DG Hill Crew Merino Wool Socks

3 Pairs Thermal 80% Merino Wool Socks Hiking Crew, black, gray, brown, men’s shoe size 9-12, women’s 11-13

The DG Hill socks are another great option. These socks have the highest Merino wool content out of the bunch at 80%, with the remaining 20% divided between nylon, spandex, and elastane. They are comfortable, cushioned, and ribbed at the top, making them an excellent option for hikers.

These socks are moisture-wicking and odor repelling, as is the case with all Merino wool socks. They feature a crew height that peeks above standard hiking boots, with a top that is ribbed to ensure it stays in place while you’re walking.

In terms of cushioning, the DG Hill socks feature reinforced toes, heels, and extra arch support, for the most comfortable hiking experience. Pair these with a comfortable insole in your boots, and you will be able to hike for hours without feeling tired at all. The socks also feature a brushed fleece lining inside, making them an excellent option for hikes in extreme colds.

One thing to note is that these socks are sold in pairs of three, for some $25 a pack. That’s excellent value for money, especially when you compare the prices to those of Darn Tough and Smartwool.

However, the DG Hill socks are slightly less durable than the more expensive brands, so don’t expect these to live a very long life. They will outlive your cotton socks for sure, but they’re not the most durable wool socks on the market.

Pros

  • Great value for money
  • Brushed fleece lining
  • Great for extreme colds

Cons

  • Not very durable
  • Inconsistent sizing

Product Information

  • Materials: 80% Merino wool, 17% Nylon, 2% Spandex, 1% Elastane
  • Height: Crew
  • Cushioning: Yes
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Danish Endurance Merino Wool Socks

Merino Wool Cushioned Hiking Socks 1-Pack for Men & Women, Made in EU, Walking, Trekking, Work, Outdoor (Yellow, US Women 11-13 // US Men 9.5-12.5)

The Danish Endurance socks are one of the cheaper pairs of Merino wool blend socks. That’s because they only have 30% merino wool, while the other materials in the mix are all synthetics. These socks actually contain more than 30% acrylic, which is an excellent insulator. However, acrylic is not very breathable, so these socks don’t perform quite as well as some other pairs.

But, that’s only going to be an issue if you wear these when it’s really hot outside, which you shouldn’t do anyway. These are medium-weight socks, and they’re made for colder weather. If you want socks for warm weather, you should look at some lightweight options instead.

These wool-blend socks are cushioned in strategic places to reduce aches, blisters, and help with shock absorption. The cushioning can also make it more comfortable to wear some more rugged boots and is especially helpful for people who spend most of their days standing on their feet.

The socks are available in three different sizes and it’s recommended to go with the smaller size, in case you are between sizes. It’s also worth noting that these socks aren’t seamless, so you might want to look at some other option if that’s a problem for you.

Pros

  • Very affordable
  • Mesh inserts for better breathability
  • Ergonomic design

Cons

  • Not seamless
  • Low wool content

Product Information

  • Materials: 30% Merino Wool, 36% Nylon, 33% Acrylic, 1% Elastane
  • Height: Crew
  • Cushioning: Yes
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Best Pure Wool Socks

YUN Men's Natural Pure Wool Socks

YUN Men's Natural Pure 100% Wool Warm Boot Winter Socks Traditional Cream (3-Pairs)

Yun men’s socks are made from 100% wool and they’re the best thing to get if you’re looking for pure wool socks. They are warm, comfortable, and quite thick, with mid-calf length. These socks are great for anyone who suffers from chronically cold feet and needs something to help deal with that in the winter.

The socks are seamless, so they’re going to be quite comfortable to wear. However, they can be a little itchy considering they’re entirely made from natural wool. The inside of the socks is very soft, so that shouldn’t be a major issue either.

One thing to note is that, although the manufacturer claims that these are 100% wool, there are some synthetic fibers at the top of the socks.

The Yun socks have all the properties of natural wool – they’re warm, breathable, moisture-wicking, and odor resistant. They’re perfect socks for people who have sweaty feet and do not feel comfortable in any socks they’re tried so far. These will make any boots comfortable, and they’re great to wear instead of slippers around the house. Just don’t wear them when it’s warm outside and you’ll be fine.

These socks should be washed with cold water (in the washer or by hand) and hanged to dry.

Pros

  • Seamless design
  • Great for very cold weather
  • Keep your feet completely dry

Cons

  • Socks contain some synthetic fibers
  • Somewhat itchy

Product Information

  • Materials: 100% natural wool
  • Height: Mid-calf
  • Cushioning: Some
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Merrell Women’s Merino Wool Cushioned Hiker

Merrell Women's Merino Wool Cushioned Hiker Quarter Socks 1 Pair, Purple/Grey Heather, S/M

Merrell makes excellent hiking footwear, and in case you didn’t know, they also make great socks. These socks are made with merino and nylon blend, for excellent performance in warm weather. They’re a little taller than ankle socks, but not as tall as crew socks, so I’d say these are best for ankle boots and some taller trail runners.

It’s worth noting that the Merrell socks have a higher content of nylon than Merino wool. That’s not a bad thing since it means they are thinner and lighter than other socks, ultimately making them the better option for warm weather.

These socks feature NanoGlide technology in the heel and toe, which enhances durability and minimizes friction. These are the parts of the sock that get worn out the quickest and minimizing friction can really help prolong the life of the socks.

Additionally, these Merrell socks feature cushioning in strategic places with enhanced arch support. They also have mesh ventilation zones for improved breathability, which pretty much guarantees you will always have dry feet when you’re wearing these socks.

On top of that, the Merrell wool blend socks are made with MerinoMax technology, which uses faster drying yarn for ultimate performance and comfort. Ladies, if you’re looking for shorter crew socks, you’ll have a hard time finding a better pair.

Pros

  • Good for warm weather
  • Quick-drying
  • Very durable

Cons

  • Lower wool content

Product Information

  • Materials: 50% Nylon, 48% Merino Wool, 2% Spandex
  • Height: Short crew
  • Cushioning: Yes
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J.B. Field's Merino Wool Hiking Socks

J.B. Field's Ankle Length Hiker GX 74% Merino Wool Hiking Socks for Men & Women, for Fall, Summer, Trekking & Outdoor 3-Pack, Made in Canada (Large (8-12 Shoe) , Taupe)

The J.B Field’s socks are a great option if you want socks that have a very high Merino wool content. With 74% Merino wool in the blend, these socks have one of the higher wool contents out of the bunch. The blend also includes nylon and lycra spandex that makes them thinner, lighter, and stretchier.

The socks feature cushioning in strategic zones for improved support and durability. They are available in two sizes that are equivalent to men’s 5-9 and 8-12 sizes, so it should be pretty easy to get a pair that fits well. They do contain 6% of lycra spandex and they’re very stretchy, so in case you are between sizes, it’s safe to size down.

The height is a tall ankle or a short crew, while the thickness is medium. They’re good for both warm and cold weather, but they’re not the best choice for either extreme.

One thing worth noting is that these socks are sold in pairs of three, so they’re actually great value for money. You’re paying less than $10 for a pair, which is a steal compared to the prices of some other brands.

Pros

  • Great value for money
  • Good for all seasons
  • True to size

Cons

  • Not suitable for extreme weather
  • Tight around the ankles

Product Information

  • Materials: 74% Merino Wool, 20% Nylon, 6% Lycra Spandex
  • Height: Short crew
  • Cushioning: Yes
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Best Socks For Running

Samsox 2-Pair Merino Wool Running Socks

Samsox 2-Pair Merino Wool Running Socks, Made in USA, Red S/M (Men 6-9.5 / Women 7-11)

The Samsox pair are great lightweight wool blend ankle socks. They’re actually running socks, with mesh inserts in strategic places for improved breathability. They’re also very soft, comfortable, and cushioned, for premium comfort on your morning jogs.

These socks have seamless toes so you don’t need to worry about discomfort, chafing, or blisters. Also, the ankle height is perfect for trail runners and sneakers, while the tabbed heel ensures they will stay in place.

The cushioning on the heel and toes improved the durability of the socks, while the striped cushioning on the arch just makes you more comfortable. Also, the thick cushioning helps with shock absorption, allowing you to run longer distances without additional discomfort.

The Samsox wool blend socks are sold in pairs of two and they are good value for money. They are true to size and unisex, so it shouldn’t be hard to get a pair that fits you perfectly.

Pros

  • Mesh panels for improved breathability
  • High-density cushioning on top and bottom
  • Great shock absorption

Cons

  • Not the best option for hot weather
  • You can’t mix and match the colors

Product Information

  • Materials: 65% Merino Wool, 34% Nylon, 1% Lycra Spandex
  • Height: Ankle
  • Cushioning: Yes
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