Updated Jun 27, 2022 1:49 PM
Prevention is key when it comes to cold feet, and quality warm winter socks are not an optional item when you plan to be outdoors for extended periods of time. Your activity, climate, and footwear all affect your particular ideal warm winter socks, but a few factors are consistent: material, fit, and sweat-wicking. And as for the factors that vary? We have the info you need. We’ve done the research to bring you top picks for super warm socks for winter: from hiking socks to cabin socks, merino wool socks to thermal socks, check out our picks for this piece of winter clothing.
How to find the best warm socks
From the top, let’s debunk some common questions and myths when it comes to choosing socks for cold weather. Like: Are two layers of socks better than one? (No, with the exception of quality liner socks designed for the job. In all cases, it’s mostly about sock and footwear fit, in addition to material.) Are cotton socks good for cold weather? (Also no. Cotton holds moisture and will cause chill.) With that in mind, consider your primary use, climate, and duration outdoors—and we’ll help guide you to your best warm socks for this winter.
Looking for the best overall, warmest socks for winter?
The best winter socks overall are made from a merino wool blend so they are soft , warm, and moisture-wicking. They should be fitted enough that they’ll stay close to your skin, not bunch up under your boots (those air pockets invite in cold, as does adjusting your socks, besides being a nuisance), and not make your boots too snug (a too-tight fit will inhibit blood flow, and therefore warmth). At the same time, you don’t want your socks to be too tight, for comfort and circulation.
Many sock designs are unisex, and if you’re attentive with sizing—and, FYI, numerical sock sizes are not shoe sizes, they’re the measurement of your foot in inches—there’s no reason to limit yourself to pairs labeled either men’s or women’s. Remember that the sizing piece matters, though, as fit is an essential piece of sock performance, so if they are labeled one way or the other, check the numbers on both, particularly if you need a wider calf (men’s socks tend to have a looser top opening) or a taller or shorter tube (varies by sock).
Best for Men: Smartwool Men’s Mountaineering Extra Heavy Crew Socks
Super thick, warm wool socks that also provide an exceptional fit for extended warmth. Smartwool
Searching for the best warm socks for men? Attention to practical detail set these men’s socks apart: The 3×1 knit for a close-but-comfortable fit, extra-heavy cushioning, specific ankle and arch support, a flat-knit toe, and 74% merino wool for truly excellent moisture wicking, comfort, and warmth. As for all winter socks, check the size guide closely. (Note that Smartwool does not specify these socks as men’s or women’s on their website, so fit can be assumed as unisex.)
Best for Women: Smartwool Women’s Hike Heavy Heritage Crew
What about the best warm socks for women? With a heavy cushion for warmth, durability, and comfort, these socks are designed for a snug fit without being too tight, as evidenced by the arch and ankle support as well as the ribbing on the tube. And a 66% merino wool knit means moisture won’t steal your warmth. (If you’ve tried Smarwool’s much-loved women’s hiking socks, these are a step up in cushion and warmth.)
Do you need soft, moisture-wicking socks?
Both of our picks for overall best warm socks are made from merino wool, and that’s no accident. Merino wool socks are excellent for moisture-wicking, and if you’ve been stuck in a tree stand or on the trails in bad weather, you know that moisture is a quick path to freezing cold. The wool keeps skin from becoming (or staying) clammy or sweaty, which then stops that chill factor. Cotton, on the other hand, pulls moisture from your skin but holds onto it, trapping it in rather than wicking it away. And the thickest socks in the world won’t keep you warm if water gets in.
Merino is also an efficient insulator, and you can get more warmth with less thickness than with most other sock materials. Likewise—and not frivolously for a layer that’s going to be against your skin all day—merino wool is soft, particularly when you buy from a reputable brand that’s sourcing quality wool.
Best Warm Wool Socks: DANISH ENDURANCE Merino Wool Socks
Besides succeeding in the essentials of merino wool socks—softness, warmth, and moisture wicking—these have ventilation for added moisture removal, and are cushioned and tailored specifically to prevent chafing, irritation, and blisters from extended hiking and other movement, all in a fairly lightweight material that’s comfortable for daily wear.
Do you need winter socks for extremely cold weather?
If your setting is such that keeping body warmth in and external cold out will not suffice, you may be in the market for heated socks. Designed for extremely cold weather—and often most necessary when you’re not actively moving, and therefore not generating additional blood flow or body heat—most heated socks have a small, rechargeable lithium-ion battery pack at the top of each sock tube, with heating elements woven into the socks.
This is where pairs diverge: voltage/power, and the quantity and placement of the heat-source layer. Your best best will be heating that wraps the foot, rather than just being on the top or bottom. As far as power, opt for sufficient strength for the climate you’ll be in. Duration of power depends on heat level (e.g., will last longer on low heat than high), but our advice: Buy, and carry with you, extra batteries. It’s a small additional investment—and they’re rechargable—to make sure your heated socks keep heating as long as you need them to.
Want thick warm socks without wearing electric wiring? Try quality thermal socks, instead.
Best Heated Socks: SNOW DEER Heated Socks
The heat is coming from inside the socks. SNOW DEER
With three heat settings (and easily accessible controls), four sizes for proper fit, and double-sided heating that also covers the toes, these heated socks are consistently marked as meeting customer expectations, which may sound like a low bar, but when it comes to heated socks: it is not. Note that they, as many heated socks, are primarily cotton. The heating element will definitely help combat the cotton chills, but wear a thin, ultra moisture-wicking liner sock underneath, and pack extra batteries so you’ll never run out of heat.
Best Thermal Socks: EcoSox Unisex Blue Flame Thermal Crew Boot Socks
These thermal socks remove moisture and hold in warmth with a mix of looped and brushed fibers. EcoSox
A synthetic moisture-wicking option, the brand claims Blue Flame Footwear thermal socks as the world’s warmest socks. (We cannot confirm or deny, but they are certainly quite warm.) How, exactly? Per EcoSox: “It’s a combination of thick looped acrylic and an intensive brushing process.” Large looped fibers create the insulation needed to retain body heat, but it’s the inner brushed fibers that trap the air, using it both as a source of warmth and buffer zone to keep cold air out.
Are you looking for warm socks for hiking?
A good pair of warm, winter hiking socks demands all the features of warm winter socks at large, but with activity-specific considerations, too. Particularly: How the sock fits the foot.
With hiking socks, you’re looking for fit at least as much as warmth for a couple reasons. One, you’re going to be moving, so your blood is going to be flowing and you’ll be generating body heat (and sweat, so don’t skimp on moisture-wicking, adding a thin liner sock for that purpose if you tend to run sweaty). Second, loose, ill-fitting socks with too much bulk make boot conditions ripe for blisters, and too-tight socks will restrict blood flow, and therefore warmth and comfort.
Look for thoughtfully designed seaming—especially in the toe and heel, as bulky or thick seams will quickly become irritating with movement—as well as support through the arch and ankle, as those muscles, fascia, and tendons are under a lot of strain while hiking.
Think, too, about your specific boots. You don’t want too much compression, and you do want the sock to protect you from chafing at the top of the boots.
Best Hiking Socks: Smartwool PhD Outdoor Medium Crew
Cut in all the right places, and with all the right climate-control factors, to be the best socks for winter hiking. Smartwool
Smartwool’s PhD line of hiking socks nails all the needs of the genre. A fundamentally seamless toe and some of the best ankle support—and mobility—we’ve seen in a sock keep you moving in comfort, while the durable merino wool blend pulls moisture away. And the medium cushion level provides great support without excessive bulk that will interfere with the fit of your hiking boots.
Are you looking for warm, thick socks for lounging?
At some point, you’re coming inside, and your feet are not going to magically transport to someplace where it’s not winter. Both as a transition from outdoors-in or a 24-hour sort of indoor footwear, cabin socks (a.k.a., slipper socks) do the trick.
You want comfort, above all else; the “slipper” part of the title is there for a reason. This will mean a looser fit with flexibility in the ankle and footbed, but not so loose they’re falling down your legs. And while you still want moisture-wicking, since you’ll be sheltered from the elements, priority here on the materials goes toward comfort. That is: warm, super thick socks you both won’t want to take off, and are so comfortable you’ll forget they’re on—with some grip on the soles to keep you steady on hardwood and tile floors. There’s no better choice when it comes to comfy socks than this pick.
Best Cabin Socks: Tibetan Socks Hand-Knit Wool Fleece-Lined Long Slipper Socks
Sock, slipper, and leg warmer all wrapped in one—these fleece-lined wool cabin socks are a winter dream. Tibetan Socks
Style gets to match substance with cabin socks, but with these fleece slipper socks, you don’t have to sacrifice: These offer hand-knit-in-the-Himalayas New Zealand–wool exterior and super cozy fleece interior—with non-skid bottoms, to boot. Five unisex sizes of these comfy socks allow for a precise fit, and the sturdiness of their construction means they won’t droop, but also won’t constrict. The challenge here will be leaving the cabin, as it were.
Best cheap warm socks: What you get for about $6 per pair
The good news about the ubiquitous need for warm winter socks is that quality pairs can be found at affordable prices. The complicating factor: To get that great price, you’ll generally be buying a pack of several pairs. The still very okay news: You’ll use them, and have back-ups when you’re behind on laundry, lose one, or a pair gets wet out in the field.
Beware, though, before scrounging to the bottom of the price barrel: Quality materials don’t come free, even if you can find them affordably. Check the material list (we’d look for a merino wool blend), the fit, and that the socks have a reinforced toe and heel.
Best Budget: Pembrook Merino Wool Trail Socks
Good things can come at good prices, in the case of these great, cheap warm wool socks. Pembrook
The only thing “cheap” about these merino wool socks is the price tag. Pembrook has been making outdoor socks since the ’70s, and their accessible expertise shows in these 60% merino wool socks with arch support, a reinforced toe and heel, and cushioning.
Related: Three Other Great Pieces of Cold-Weather Clothes to Shop For
Q: What type of socks keep feet warmest?
The most important factors looking at what type of socks keep feet warmest are fit (snug, not tight; thick, not bulky) and material (moisture-wicking, e.g., merino wool is non-negotiable.) From there, consider activity: hiking socks vs. heated socks vs. cabin socks, for example.
Q: Who makes the best warm socks?
Who makes the best warm socks depends on your specific needs, the best brand of winter socks must have a long, positive track record making comfortable, durable winter socks a variety of fits and functions, as reliable customer service. In general, we’re confident saying that you’re in very good hands (er, feet) with Smartwool socks.
Q: Are merino wool socks good for cold weather?
Yes. Merino wool socks are good for cold weather because merino wool is a highly efficient moisture-wicking material, keeping feet warm and dry in winter conditions. Also, wool keeps you warm even when it’s wet. Merino wool is soft, doesn’t itch. and tends to offer a good, flexible fit.
A final word on shopping for warm socks
When it comes to the best warm socks, the key is fit (snug but not tight), material (moisture wicking, and merino wool when it’s an option), and construction (particularly with seaming) for comfort and durability.
Once you buy, keep your super warm socks in super good shape by heeding the manufacturer’s guidance for laundering, which often means inside out, with a wool-friendly cycle and detergent, and air-drying.
Related: 10 Other Things You Need to Stay Warm in a Tree Stand