The 5 Best Winter Walking Socks to Buy in 2018

Your feet need two things for winter walking—insulation from the cold and wicking to draw moisture away from the foot. Even in winter,​ you can get blisters from sweaty feet, and you may also get moisture entering your shoes from rain or snow. You will need socks made of a tech fabric or wool to manage moisture correctly and you should avoid cotton socks as they retain moisture next to your skin, which leaves it prone to blisters.

Your socks must fit properly without bunching, and not be too thick to fit into your shoes. This can be a problem as you buy thicker socks for warmth or wear two pairs of socks for extra insulation. You may have to buy wide shoes or shoes a half size larger than usual so you can accommodate thicker socks.

Wool is a traditional choice for winter socks. But pure wool socks need to be hand-washed and air-dried to retain their shape and size. This is remedied by sock manufacturers using wool blends that can be machine-washed and dried and that have superior moisture-management properties. Sock manufacturers have even found ways to make wool itch-less so those who are sensitive to that sensation don't have to wear liner socks with wool socks.

SmartWool makes machine-washable, non-itchy wool socks that provide natural moisture management. These walking designs are woven for comfort where walkers need it most. You don't need a liner sock with SmartWool socks, just wear them like any other sock and feel the natural comfort of itchless wool. Smartwool socks insulate well and many designs do so without added thickness. They are suitable for cold and freezing temperatures.

You can choose the crew length to help keep your lower leg warm, or you can buy shorter socks if you prefer. SmartWool has many other designs, so if you need a thin sock to fit your shoes or boots, they have those as well.

Balega makes excellent tech socks. They have crew length, quarter length, and no-show socks in a blend of mohair and technical moisture-management fibers. This blend draws moisture away from your skin while the mohair holds the moisture and still keeps your feet warm. These socks are of medium volume. They have seamless toes so you won't get rubbing in that area that can contribute to blisters.

The old-school technique used by hikers was to wear a liner sock made of wicking polyester acrylic and an outer sock made of wool. Wrightsock has built its business on putting that strategy together in one double-layer sock that is no thicker than a regular pair of socks. These are well-designed to stay in place and provide a nice amount of insulation for temperatures close to freezing.

Designed for walkers, these socks use a Thor-Lon and merino wool blend to wick sweat from your foot and prevent blisters. The padding is placed just where needed in the instep, heel, and the ball of the foot. Thorlos wear like iron, you'll have these for years to come. They may be thicker than your regular walking socks, so try them out with your walking shoes. They are available with different levels of padding, which may help you find the right amount of your comfort and needs. These socks can be machine-washed and dried.

Teko makes environmentally-friendly socks. Their organic tekoMerino wool comes from organic sustainable farms in Argentina. They use an ozone process rather than chlorine to make their wool non-shrinking. The polyester used in their blends is recycled. The socks are well-engineered for walking and hiking, but you may find the fit a bit narrow and the wool still a bit itchy. They have a variety of styles for men, women, and kids, with medium or light cushioning. They also come in both crew length and in ski length to insulate your calves.


Bogerd CP, Rechsteiner I, Wust B, Bruhwiler PA. The Effect of Two Sock Fabrics on Perception and Physiological Parameters Associated with Blister Incidence: A Field Study. The Annals of Occupational Hygiene. 2012. doi:10.1093/annhyg/mer127.

Laing R., Swan P. (2016) Wool in Human Health and Well-Being. In: Fangueiro R., Rana S. (eds) Natural Fibres: Advances in Science and Technology Towards Industrial Applications. RILEM Bookseries, vol 12. Springer, Dordrecht


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