Hiking with friends

Hiking & Backpacking Socks 101


Keeping Your Feet Happy on the Trail


Forward is the best direction to go. We’ve been helping you put one foot in front of the other for more than 25 years, since we first introduced high-performance Merino wool hiking socks and forever changed how outdoor enthusiasts look at their feet. Our Classic Hike sock is one of the best-selling apparel items in the outdoor industry, but we didn’t stop there. Since 1994, we’ve focused on relentless innovation in comfort, fit, and durability—and we’re now proud to offer our third generation of PhD® performance socks.

Think about it: You wouldn’t prepare for an afternoon stroll in the park the same way you would prepare to thru-hike the Pacific Crest Trail. Each activity deserves to be treated differently. For this reason, we offer a complete line of men’s and women’s Merino wool hiking and backpacking socks from the traditional Classic Hike to the hyper-technical PhD® Hike.

But first, let’s dive into why we use Merino wool in all of our products.

Hiking socks


The Wonders of Merino Wool

Merino wool is of a different caliber than the rough, scratchy traditional wool your grandmother used to knit those sweaters. Merino is a bit of a magician. We take the mystery out of its tricks with a little science.

Breathability and Moisture Management

Breathability is the ability of a fabric or fiber to transport moisture in the vapor state from an area of higher humidity to an area of lower humidity. In other words, the more breathable a product is the better it is at removing moisture from the space between your skin and your sock. As your body heats up, the moisture vapors are absorbed by the wool fiber and released to the drier environment outside of the fabric.

Temperature Regulation

Merino helps regulate body temperature, working to keep you cool in warm weather and warm in cold weather. Wool has the ability to store moisture within the structure of the fiber. As your body warms up, the moisture stored within the fiber begins to evaporate, cooling the air between your skin and the fabric. The warmer you get, the more evaporation takes place and the larger the cooling effect. For chilly weather, wool has a natural crimp to it that helps it trap dead air. When the temperature drops, dead air is a fantastic insulator and provides a great buffer against the cold.

Odor Resistance

Believe it or not, you can wear those Merino wool socks several days (or weeks) without needing to throw them in the wash. They stay fresh! The chemical structure of our Merino wool allows it to transfer 30% of its own weight in moisture vapor, at high humidity, without feeling wet. Because of wool’s ability to effectively manage moisture, odor-causing bacteria doesn’t stand a chance without a wet environment to thrive. You can wear Merino wool during intense activity and over extended periods of time without having to worry about stinky socks.

Hiking with friends


Not all Merino Wool is Created Equal

We go the extra mile with sustainability, animal welfare and U.S.A.-made socks, because it's not only the right thing to do, it yields a better product for you to enjoy.

ZQ Accredited

We believe the best products are made through fair, sustainable and mutually rewarding practices. Our main raw material—wool—is natural and renewable. We partner with the New Zealand Merino Company, which proudly developed ZQ, the world’s first Merino wool accreditation program. This program ensures environmental, social and economic sustainability and safeguards animal welfare. Our Merino sheep roam freely in some of the most spectacular landscapes. The environment our sheep enjoy directly contributes to the high quality of the fiber we use. We work with our sheep farmers to ensure they’re always using best practices, and in turn, we always endeavor to pay them a fair price.

Keeping it Local

Our socks are made in the U.S.A. using the finest Merino wool from around the world. Skilled craftsmanship is passed down from generation to generation through the hardworking men and women in our factories. With Smartwool® socks, you are getting a quality product made with the utmost attention and care, right here in the U.S.A.

Socks made in the USA


Legacy and Innovation

With decades of experience, we bring you the best socks for hiking. Finding that perfect pair has never been easier. Need durable backpacking socks for a multi-day journey? Looking for the ultimate cushion and warmth for an ice climbing trip? Want lightweight, low profile socks for getting the dog out on a post-work walk? No matter where you’re going, we’ll help you get there in comfort.

Here’s the difference between our Classic hiking socks and PhD Hike socks.

Classic Hike Socks

Some things stand the test of time; our Classic Hike sock is a bit of a legend. With it, we launched the Merino wool hiking sock industry back in 1994. Today, the Classic Hike sock continues to be one of our best-sellers, and for good reason. For more than two decades, its tried-and-true design has carried thousands of happy hikers to their destinations and back.

The Classic Hike comes in a variety of cushions, depending on where and how far your journey takes you. Different terrain and duration require different cushion.


Hike Cushioning Chart
girl pulling on hiking socks


PhD® Hike Socks

You could say we don’t like to sit still much. We continue to push the boundaries of innovation in comfort and performance with our PhD® Hike (performance of the highest degree) sock. These Merino wool socks are chock-full of smart features, advanced technologies and dialed fit systems. They’re hiking socks that help enable you to focus on the trail, soak in the views, beat your personal best—whatever your goal may be—these socks are there to support you without being noticed. Think of them as your ghostwriter, allowing you to take all the credit for your accomplishments.

Indestructawool™ Technology

A patent-pending, Merino wool-based durability construction made to outlast your greatest adventures. It brings durability to high wear zones, like the heel, toe and ball of the foot—without sacrificing comfort. Our socks are tested by athletes in some of the most extreme conditions. Once approved at 19,308 feet on the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro to mile 3,015 on the Continental Divide Trail, we bring the best socks for hiking to you.  

4-Degree™ Elite System

This four-way elastic stretch creates a fully supported, ultra-wrapped feeling. The fit system is designed to avoid slipping, bunching or binding—so while you’re moving, your socks stay put. Plus, a Virtually SeamlessTM toe helps eliminate chafing for the ultimate, comfortable hiking socks. These socks actually make your hiking shoes fit better.

Activity-Specific Mesh Zones

Unique mesh zones on the top of the foot increase breathability. While you’re working up a sweat climbing that ridgeline, these mesh zones are helping your feet stay cool and dry.

Gender Specific Fit

Men’s and women’s feet have anatomical differences. Our shoes feature distinct fits, so why wouldn’t our socks? We developed a specific fit for each, with our women’s socks featuring a slimmer heel pocket, narrower profile, and women-specific mesh ventilation zones.



Stay Out There Longer


Many of us know too well once your feet are feeling beat, the exhaustion quickly spreads. Merino wool socks work just as hard as you do to provide maximum comfort while you’re on the trail. See the sunrise and catch the sunset with Smartwool® Classic Hike and PhD® Hike socks.

Sunset Hiking