Smartwool PHD Outdoor Approach Crew
Our take These are the socks that get used first every laundry cycle. From an ascent of 10,541-foot Glacier Peak in Washington to a thru-hike of the Continental Divide Trail, the Approach kept our feet dry, cushioned, and blister-free. To achieve that, Smartwool uses a thin 54 percent merino/43 percent nylon/3 percent elastane blend in the majority of the sock; along with a thinner weave on the top of the foot, this minimized sweat in the heat of Colorado’s high desert. A thicker terry-loop knit provides cushion in high-wear areas like the ball of the foot, around the toes, and at the heel (where it extends up and around the ankle). Those spots also have stronger, multi-ply merino yarn—the rest of the sock is single-ply—and nylon reinforcement to prevent holes.
Trail cred “I wore these socks every day during our climb of Glacier Peak,” said our tester after his 34-mile trek. “Despite getting wet from stream crossings and drying out (in about three hours) multiple times, the Approach didn’t bag out at all.”
$25; 2 oz.; m’s M-XL, w’s S-L Buy Smartwool PhD Outdoor Approach Crew Socks Now
CEP Dynamic+ Mid-Cut Outdoor Merino
Our take We’ve tested a lot of compression socks, but not all of them are built for serious outdoor use. That’s not the case with the Dynamic+, which blends durability with the benefits of compression so well that one of our testers lived in them while hiking Montana’s notoriously rugged portion of the Continental Divide Trail. Thicker-than-average, 160-needle-gauge thread held up to the rigors of the 800-mile section, and extra padding at the ball of the foot, heel, and on top of the big toe made following the many ups and downs of the northern Rockies all the more tolerable. And as for the primary benefit? Moderate compression around the lower ankle ensured the Dynamic+ never slipped, and kept swelling down as our tester knocked off one 30-mile day after another.
Trail cred “Even though it’s tough, the Dynamic+ is one of the softest, most comfortable socks I’ve ever worn, which my beat-up feet appreciated near the end of the CDT,” says our tester, who credits the sock’s silk fibers (8 percent) for the luxurious ride.
$25; 3.4 oz.; m’s S-L, w’s S-L Buy CEP Dynamic+ Mid-Cut Outdoor Merino Now
FITS Ultra Light Runner No Show
Our take When a pair of socks is this light, we’re skeptical about durability. Yet, this offering from FITS held up over a season of constant use. “I ran around the Cascade foothills all summer and into the fall in them, and never noticed any signs of wear that pop up seemingly overnight with other zero-padding socks I’ve used,” our Washington tester says. To achieve the extra staying power, FITS blends nylon (27 percent) and merino (66 percent) in a gridded pattern that incorporates more durable 23.5-micron wool at the heel and toe, and a softer 18.5-micron merino on the instep. Unsurprisingly, these super-thin socks dried fast after puddle missteps. Note: Our testers appreciated the minimal stitching around the toe box, which prevented bunching, but the ultra-low profile meant looser-fitting shoes had to be tied extra tight to prevent the socks from slipping .
Trail cred “The extra groundfeel these thin socks provide is actually helpful on slippery surfaces,” noted one tester following a month of trail running around Washington’s Issaquah Alps.
$16; 1.1 oz.; m’s 3.5-15.5, w’s 5-16.5 Buy FITS Ultra Light Runner No Show Now
Hilly TwinSkin Anklet
Our take Wet feet are a one-ingredient recipe for disaster, which is why the TwinSkin has become our testers’ go-to socks in the soggy Pacific Northwest. To combat moisture, Hilly takes a two-layer approach: Highly absorbent polyamide fibers on the inside suck up sweat, while a second, outer layer made of mixed 85 percent polyester and 15 percent cotton pulls the moisture up from the first layer and wicks it away. (The layers are joined near the toe and around the ankle.) Thin, gridded sections at the ankle and on top of the foot aid sweat management. “Hiking on the Olympic Coast in muggy weather after a rainstorm usually swamps my feet, but I ticked off 5 miles with no discomfort,” our tester says. It can take an extra second to line up the layers at the toebox, but our testers experienced no friction. Drawback: Our feet overheated in the TwinSkin while wearing heavy hiking boots in summer.
Trail cred “I was worried the layers would bunch up in my trail runners, but the TwinSkin feels just like a single-layer sock, only a bit cushier,” our tester says.
$13; 2.4 oz.; m’s M-XL, w’s S-M Buy Hilly TwinSkin Anklet Now