For most of us, socks are just an ordinary part of life.
When you get dressed in the morning, they’re one of the last things you put on before heading out the door. But they’re not just the final piece of your outfit—they’re also a critical component in being properly dressed for the task at hand that day.
In this post, I’m going to take a deep dive into a solid handful of the many types of socks to choose from, looking at what their unique purposes are and offering a recommendation of the best of each sock type.
By the end of this post, you’ll have a drawer (or two) filled with all the socks you need to get through your life properly dressed for comfort in all your daily activities.
Let’s dive right in and look at each type of sock, what they’re useful for, and which will serve you best.
Jump to a category…
Crew socks are pretty much your standard, “everyday” pair of socks. They’re designed to be long enough to come part-way up your calf, usually high enough to be suitable for any boot (with a 6 or even 8-inch upper). Typically, they’re made using thicker, sturdier fabrics, often a blend of cotton, wool, and synthetic materials that offer decent insulation and comfort without being too thick.
The more synthetic fabric-heavy crew socks will offer good moisture-wicking and quick-drying properties, but the cotton options tend to be the cheapest and most widely available.
Simple and sturdy: that’s what these socks by Arvin Goods promises, and delivers in abundance. The socks are made from a blend of cotton and polyester that makes them suitable for everyday wear as well as athletic use. They offer good moisture-wicking properties, a padded footbed compatible with urban shoes and hiking boots, and the classic ribbed design that keeps them securely in place on your ankles without feeling constrictive or uncomfortable. They’re just a great pair of socks all-around.
Compression socks are more than just a sock; they’re a sport-friendly and medically recommended addition to your wardrobe.
Compression socks get their name because they’re made using stretchy material cut in a very snug-fitting design, which applies pressure (compression) to your feet, ankles, and calves. The compression helps to increase circulation in your lower extremities, preventing swelling and pain as a result of hardcore training as well as medical conditions that impair circulation.
They’re also good at preventing Deep Vein Thrombosis (a type of blood clot), can speed up post-surgery healing, and are even used by pilots and those who spend a lot of time sitting or lying in bed.
These compression socks are built for your comfort and circulation. The fabric is a wonderfully comfortable, sturdy, and soft blend of Merino wool, Rayon, Spandex, and nylon, which together will do an amazing job of keeping your feet warm while also improving circulation.
They’re great for air travelers, nurses, or anyone who spends long hours on their feet, and can even be worn by runners and athletes who want to improve circulation.
The sock features four zones of compression featuring 20 to 30 mmHg of compression (graded as “Medical Class 1”), and also offer natural moisture regulation, thermoregulation, and even odor control.
Winter hiking takes everything a step further by adding a tough challenge: sub-zero temperatures. When you’re tramping through deep snow, the cold is constantly seeping into your boots. A good pair of winter boots are an absolute must for winter hikers, but so are winter hiking socks.
Winter hiking socks provide the usual cushioning and moisture-control offered by regular hiking socks, but they’re usually thicker, sturdier, and better at keeping your feet warm. They’ll often use insulating fabrics like Merino wool or cotton in addition to synthetic fibers (like Spandex or nylon) to keep your feet warm and comfortable on your hike.
You never want to hike with an ultra-heavyweight sock, no matter how cold you’re afraid your feet will be. Instead, combine a good pair of winter boots (insulated against sub-zero temperatures) with these midweight hiking socks by Darn Tough.
The socks are made with a blend of Merino wool, nylon, and Lycra, and come with integrated cushioning to increase the support to your foot and keep you comfortable even over hours of walking.
The 11-inch length means they’ll be more than long enough to pair with any hiking boots, offering protection for your heels, ankles, and calves to reduce friction and chafing. The performance fit ensures the socks stay firmly in place—you’ll never have to worry about bunching or blisters.
Summer hiking socks should be, in many ways, the polar opposite of winter hiking socks. Winter requires a lot of insulation against the cold, but summer demands breathability, good ventilation, and moisture-wicking properties to keep your feet dry and cool.
Trust me: a good pair of hiking boots will already trap a lot of heat in, so the right socks will be an absolute game-changer to keep your feet from overheating and soaking your socks with sweat while hiking.
Again, Darn Tough makes a darn good pair of hiking socks, though these are “lightweight” with a higher nylon-to-Merino ratio. The increased synthetic fibers in the fabric offer amazing breathability while the multi-zone mesh panels improves ventilation, and the socks have excellent moisture-wicking and quick-drying properties to keep sweat from clinging to your feet.
Add to that an 8.5-inch length that is more than long enough to pair with any hiking boot and a performance fit, and you’ve got yourself a winner for any summer hike.
Heated socks are a gift from the gods during a cold winter. They’re already built tough and versatile enough to wear with your favorite winter boots, but they take warmth a divine step further by adding in a battery-powered heating element and heating “threads” that infuse warmth directly into your feet.
You’ll usually get anywhere from 3-8 hours of run time (it varies from model to model), but while the heating element is on, your feet will stay toasty warm (or even roasty hot, on Max heat) in even the coldest winter.
The heating isn’t just for comfort; it can also improve circulation, combat chronically cold feet, and ease the joint pain and stiffness caused by arthritis.
If you want to treat your hands to the same pampering as your feet, consider our list of the best heated gloves.
Get ready for snug, warm toes through even the bitterest winter cold. These heated socks come with an integrated 7.4V 2200 mAh rechargeable Li-ion battery that offers up to 7 hours of run-time on “Low”, and around 2 hours on “High”.
With three heat settings, you can raise or lower the heat output according to the chill in your feet. The socks themselves are comfortable and offer good insulation even without the heating activated, and the material is thick, sturdy, and reliable—guaranteed to deliver all-day comfort in any pair of boots or shoes.
No-show socks have become extremely popular thanks to their minimalist design. They’re ultra-light, totally invisible for anyone who likes the “barefoot” look, and hyper-stylish. They work well with many shoe styles including casual sneakers, oxfords, boat shoes and loafers and are by far the safest bet when choosing a sock to pair with summer shorts.
These popular unisex socks are light, slim, and super comfortable, thanks to the combination of polyester, nylon, and spandex used in their fabrication. They have just a hint of cushioning on the bottom of your foot and the back of your ankle, perfect for reducing impact as you run and jump this summer.
The “Drynamix” synthetic blend fabric is both moisture-wicking and quick-drying, and the reinforced microfiber mesh ventilation helps to keep your feet cool no matter how hot the day is. Thanks to the heel tab and extra-deep heel pocket, your socks will never slide down your feet, but stay securely in place through any activity.
Wool is the ideal fabric choice for cold-weather socks, thanks to its excellent insulating properties, thermal regulation, and natural moisture-wicking abilities. Unlike cotton socks, they don’t lose their warmth if/when they get wet (from sweaty feet), but are able to breathe enough that they’ll stay warm in cold weather and cool in hot weather.
A good pair of woolen socks is a must-have whether you’re lounging around your home, hitting the ski slopes, or heading out to work in the snow.
These socks use a combination of Merino wool with elastane for stretchiness and nylon (including recycled nylon) for durability and enhanced breathability. Their crew height makes them compatible even with ski and snowboarding boots, and they’ve got just enough cushioning that they’ll be comfortable for walking around in house slippers or work boots. The comfort welt offers a secure fit that won’t slip or slide around on your feet no matter what you’re doing.
Dress socks come in all manner of colors, textures and styles–true dress socks, though, typically hit at or above your calf,. That way, your ankles aren’t exposed as your pants move while you sit down.
You’ll find most dress socks are made from cotton or cotton blends with added stretch via nylon or polyester, the better to make them lighter and more breathable. Merino can also be incorporated in socks thanks to its anti-microbial, moisture-wicking properties.
For the guy that wants maximum coverage, over-the-calf dress socks are the way to go, and you might say that nobody does it better than the aptly named sock purveyors at Boardroom Socks.
The USA-made construction is a mark of premium quality, while plentiful color options should suit every palette and style. Bonus points for the fact that they’re made from soft, durable, highly useful merino wool for all-day comfort, day after day at the office and beyond.
What sets Merino wool apart from “regular” wool? Simple: Merino wool is thinner and softer, but with all the same moisture-regulating, odor-killing, insulating, and breathability properties of regular wool.
Merino wool socks are becoming incredibly popular with every passing year, thanks to their sturdiness and amazing comfort. They’re also versatile enough to use with any type of shoes—from running shoes to work boots to indoor slippers—and they have wool’s amazing ability to stay warm in the winter and cool in the summer.
These socks are built for action and adventure, using a blend of Merino wool with nylon, Spandex, and acrylic Spandex that will stretch, bend, and flex with your every step.
The terry knit interior not only adds padding and comfort, but also increases insulation so your feet stay warmer in the cold. The socks are just thick enough that they’ll fill out your boots and keep your feet from sliding around, but won’t be so thick that they’ll feel stifling or prevent heat and moisture from escaping as needed. Best of all, they’re made using American-sourced Merino.
Winter boot socks are slightly different from winter hiking socks, in that they are woven to be thicker than hiking socks, with less padding on the bottom of your feet but more insulation overall.
They’re largely made using wool, IsoWool, shearling fleece, and other warmth-retaining fabrics, with a tighter knit and thicker weave. They’re also taller, designed to reach your mid-calf, so they’re compatible with taller boots.
This pair by Darn Tough delivers everything you need for a good pair of winter boot socks: padding, insulation (courtesy of its thick knit), no-rub seams, an “invisible” feel, mid-calf height, breathability and ventilation, moisture-wicking and quick-drying properties, and even a lifetime guarantee. The socks are US-made (in Vermont) and are as tough and reliable as you could hope for in a good pair of winter socks.
Running socks are almost entirely made using synthetic fabrics (such as polyester, nylon, Lycra, and Spandex, though some use wool and more “advanced” wool-like fabrics) that pull moisture away from the feet and offer breathable comfort.
They’re usually slimmer and lighter-weight than your standard sock, usually lower-profile, too (ankle socks or no-show socks just tall enough to keep your shoes from rubbing your feet).
They will be pricier than your standard crew sock, but they’re built tougher and capable of withstanding a lot more use—not only more frequent wears, but longer hours of friction against your shoes while you run.
I LOVE these running socks. Not only are they incredibly comfortable and soft on your feet, but the durable mohair fabric regulates temperature well enough to be compatible with both cold and hot-weather running.
The Dynamix fabric wicks moisture away from your skin so your feet stay dry and cool even after hours of running. The high heel tab protects against heel blisters, while the seamless toe box does an amazing job of protecting your toes. The high-volume cushioning will stay comfortable all day long.
Waterproof socks are an interesting addition to your outdoor gear. Typically, they’re constructed in a three-layer design:
This multi-layer construction means they’ll be thicker and heavier than your average sock, but when you’re running, working, or hiking in wet and rainy conditions, you’ll be more than happy to accept a bit more weight in exchange for keeping your feet dry.
No matter how heavy the downpour or muddy the terrain, these socks will never leak or get soggy. The triple-layered construction ensures that water stays outside your socks, but the breathable Merino wool incorporated into the knit interior offers good ventilation so your feet won’t overheat.
During the winter, these socks have excellent insulating properties to keep you warm on the job site, on a run, or around town. The close fit and four-way stretch will adapt to any foot shape and ensure the socks stay firmly in place no matter what you’re doing.
Athletic socks are thicker and heavier than running socks, because they’re going to have to withstand the high-impact, high-intensity activity of team sports and gym training. They’re made using breathable synthetic fabrics that won’t get soggy when wet, and will often feature moisture-wicking and quick-drying properties to ensure your feet stay dry and cool no matter how hard you run, jump, and play.
Whether you’re racing down the soccer field, taking a full-court sprint, or barreling through a football scrimmage line, you’ll be glad to have these socks on your feet.
The no-show socks are low profile and compatible with pretty much any sport shoe, and the heel tab makes them easy to pull on/off and protects your feet from blisters. You’ll buy this 3-pack over and over again because of how sturdy, reliable, and versatile they are.
Golfing requires the right attire, and that includes not just the slacks, polo shirt, and obligatory visor/cap, but also the right golf shoes and socks.
Golf socks are made using temperature-regulating fabrics (including wool, cotton, and synthetic fabrics), are designed to keep your feet from blistering as you walk from hole to hole, and are thin enough that you can twist and pivot easily with your swing. Many even include reinforced, extra-padded heels and forefeet that help to support you over the long hours.
These are designed as “training socks” (compatible with all athletic activities), but we found them particularly useful for wearing with golf shoes.
The low profile and no-show design pairs perfectly with your stylish golfing clothes, but the high heel tab protects against blisters over hours of golfing. Thanks to the 3D-knit Performaheel, you’ll get a better fit and more cushioning for your feet, plus 360-degree arch support. The blend of nylon and elastane offers amazing breathability so you’ll never overheat even while spending the day under the hot sun on the open golf links.