If you spend a lot of time on the trail, you know the importance of liner socks. Particularly in cold weather or high-mileage situations, hiking liner socks give an additional layer of warmth and comfort. Blisters usually stem from moisture and friction, and liner socks help you to avoid both.
Like you might infer from the name, liner socks are worn under your regular hiking socks. In hot weather, some hikers choose to wear them alone, because of their thin (yet comfortable) construction.
The biggest thing that there is to know about liner socks is the material they are made with. The most common materials are: wool, polyester, polypropylene, nylon, and spandex. It’s not uncommon to also find lycra or silk. Each material has it’s own pros and cons, so it is important to pick socks for the conditions that you will be in (full explanation below).
1. SmartWool Hiking Liner Crew Socks (Top Pick)
Our overall pick for the best hiking sock liners is the SmartWool Hiking Liner Crew Socks. These liners offer a great combination of merino wool, nylon, and elastane.
These liners are great for cold weather hiking, hunting, or skiing. They are warm enough, that they are probably not the ideal choice for especially hot weather.
They have a high level of merino wool, which makes these socks comfortable and naturally odor resistant. They also have a slightly higher height, hitting many hikers at mid-calf (or above!).
All in all, a very comfortable liner, and our overall choice.See It on Amazon
2. Injinji Liner Crew Toe Socks (Best Toe Sock Liner)
What’s all the rage about toe socks? If you are newer to hiking, you may be wondering this. Essentially, toe socks were developed to give hikers the ability to spread and wiggle their toes. Many hikers report that this gives them better stability and control on the trail. They also help to decrease the rubbing between your toes, and therefore prevent blisters.
If this sounds like what you’re after, then check out the Injinji Toe Sock liners. They are entirely synthetic, made of polyester, nylon and lycra, so they are durable and wick extremely well. People use and abuse these suckers–marathon runners, long distance trekkers, rollerbladers, and more.
If you are trying toe socks for the first time–they will feel weird (ask anybody you know). But almost everybody will tell you that the sensation goes away after your first hike or two (although some people never like them).See It on Amazon
3. Fox River Wick Dry Sock Liners (Best Polypropylene Liners)
These liners don’t play around. 93% polypropylene means that your feet will have their moisture wicked away like crazy. Polypropylene also has warming properties, making the Fox River Wick Dry Sock Liners a great choice for any kind of cold weather hiking.
They are a “crew” length sock, so a nice in-between sock for a lot of different activities. Because of it’s high polypro content, this liner makes a great complement to be worn with merino wool outer socks.
If you talk to enough people about polypro liners, you will find some that report a slight amount of stretching, so something to keep in mind. Still, they have our recommendation as an excellent choice for cold weather and superior wicking.See It on Amazon
4. Wigwam Ultimate Liner Pro (Best for Not Wrinkling or Bunching)
One of the complaints that people voice from time to time in the world of hiking socks and liners is that a certain pair of socks will bunch or wrinkle on them. This comes from a poor fit.
A particularly common spot for socks and liners to bunch is on the front of the ankle (think the inside of the “L” shape that your ankle and foot make).
The Wigwam Ultimate Liner Pro sock liners are an all star for this. Their unique design gives them a superior “no-wrinkle” fit, that experienced hikers appreciate. If you have had trouble finding liners that fit flat, give the Wigwams a look.See It on Amazon
Hiking Sock Liner Materials
Wool: wool is awesome for temperature regulation, comfort, and being naturally antimicrobial. This means that you won’t get quite as much funky smell as you will with fancier synthetic materials. However, wool usually needs to be combined with another fiber to get maximum durability and shape retention.
Polyester: the “wicking all-star”, polyester is great at keeping your feet dry. It is an awesome insulator, and an extremely durable fiber. For this reason, it actually makes a nice compliment to wool, resulting in a sock liner that is comfortable, durable, and gives dry warmth.
Polypropylene: similar to polyester, polypropylene (or “polypro” as it’s often called) offers even more durability and an even higher level of wicking. This is because the fiber is more “hydrophobic” (while not 100% accurate, the easy way to remember this is essentially that it’s “scared” of water). Polypropylene has warming properties as well, and is actually used in many surfing rash guards, which should tell you something.
Silk: it’s crazy good as an insulator and a great moisture wicker. Plus it’s really lightweight, so it gives a high level of comfort. However, it seriously lacks in the durability department (a la “mom’s got a run in her silk stockings”).
Spandex: spandex is used in liners and socks because of it’s elastic properties. Socks with spandex just wear better. They retain their shape, bunch less, and have a longer usable life.
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