In this post I want to help you find the best travel socks for your upcoming trip.
High quality, durable socks are essential when you’re traveling and exploring somewhere new every day.
It’s not surprising that those cheap, poor quality cotton socks that most travelers wear lead to blisters, sweaty feet, and other foot problems.
Let’s take a look at why quality socks for travel are important and what some options are for great travel socks.
Why Good Travel Socks Are Worth It
How long are you spending on your feet when you’re traveling abroad?
I’m going to guess at least 8-10 hours, depending on how much walking you’re doing.
Your feet are going to take the brunt of this stress on your body so you’re going to want to treat them as best as possible.
Once your feet get wet and start hurting with blisters there’s no going back.
Thankfully, most of these problems can be avoided with a good pair of socks.
Good travel socks will keep your feet dry, prevent any blisters from forming, and combat odors.
Any socks that are worth it aren’t going to be cheap.
Think about them as an investment in your health and a necessary travel expense.
The benefit of high-quality, “expensive” socks is that they’re designed to last years of regular use saving you money in the long run.
Before you start your search, keep in mind that the best socks are made from wool, synthetic materials, or a blend of the two.
You want to avoid cotton socks and never rely on them for traveling.
Benefits of Quality Travel Socks
Is it worth it to buy expensive socks just for traveling with?
Take a look at some of the benefits of better quality foot gear and decide for yourself:
Most good quality travel socks will dry completely from wet in a few hours.
In direct sunlight they would dry in under an hour!
This is in contrast to cotton socks which take days to air dry, especially in humid climates.
This feature means you can hand-wash your socks at night for them to be ready in the morning.
Keep Your Feet Dry
Wool and synthetic socks are designed to wick moisture away from your feet.
This keeps your feet comfortable and dry during the day when you’re walking around, even in the summer.
Cotton doesn’t dry and will absorb moisture instead.
The wet cotton rubs against your feet causing blisters and unpleasant odors.
Wool and synthetic materials are naturally odor resistant.
Some socks designed from synthetics come with antibacterial coatings for even better order protection.
After a few hours of wear cotton can get stinky.
It’s possible to go a day or two with synthetic or wool socks before they smell enough for you to worry about it.
The Best Socks for Travel
Smartwool Hiking Ultra Light Mini Socks
My personal favorite pair of socks for traveling are the Smartwool Hiking Ultra Light Mini Socks.
These are great for the summer months when the temperatures are soaring and I don’t feel like wearing flip flops or sandals.
They’re made from a blend of 69% merino wool, nylon, and elastane.
The material is lightweight without much cushioning resulting in better airflow for your feet.
There is even a “ventilation zone” running along the top of the socks for immediate ventilation when you take off your shoes.
If your feet do get too sweaty, you can leave these in direct sunlight to dry in under an hour.
These are some of the best travel socks for most people and they’re what I recommend using for your next trip.
Smartwool PhD Outdoor Medium Crew Socks
For cold weather and winter travel the best socks for most people are the Smartwool PhD Outdoor Medium Crew Socks.
They’re made from a blend of 58% Merino wool, nylon, and elastane.
Thanks to the seamless toe box the sock material doesn’t bunch up or get bulky near the toes.
This is a necessary feature when you’re wearing boots for winter travel.
To help keep the socks in place there are 2 elastics that keep the material sturdy and prevents too much stretching
There is some light cushioning on the bottom that helps to keep your feet comfortable when you’re out walking around.
As for ventilation, there is a mesh ventilation zone that really helps with breathability but during the winter I don’t find that my feet get nearly as sweaty so I’m very thankful for the warm Merino wool.
I usually wear the dark ones but there are a few different colors to choose from depending on your preferences are.
There’s also a few different sizes to choose from so I recommend checking the sizing as well.
Darn Tough Men’s Wool Hiker Boot Full Cushion Socks
I typically wear shorter socks during the summer if I’m not wearing sandals but during the fall, winter, and spring I like wearing long socks and such as the Darn Tough Men’s Merino Wool Hiker Boot Sock Full Cushion Socks.
These are made with a blend of Merino wool as well as nylon and spandex.
They’re made in the USA, which is quite rare with products these days, and one of the things that I love most about them is that they come with an unconditional lifetime guarantee.
They’re comfortable, designed for regular use, and help to keep my feet warm even on those cold winter days.
There is dense cushioning around the foot and even around the shin that helps for protective comfort and there’s surprisingly elastics in the arches that really help with foot support as well.
They fit my feet quite nicely without sliding around whether I’m wearing boots or running shoes and they come equipped with a ring toe construction that helps to prevent any bunching around the toes.
Depending on your preferences there are a few different colors and sizes to choose from
Check the sizing to avoid buying a pair that don’t fit properly.
Darn Tough Vermont Men’s 1/4 Merino Wool Cushion Hiking Socks
Another pair of the socks that I like wearing when I’m traveling are the Darn Tough Vermont Men’s 1/4 Merino Wool Cushion Hiking Socks.
I typically prefer ankle socks because they’re lighter and I find them more comfortable to wear.
These ones are lightweight and are made from a blend of Merino wool, nylon, and spandex.
They’re actually made in the United States and they even come with an unconditional lifetime guarantee that should put your mind at ease if you’re on the fence about these socks.
For traveling I like them because they help to keep my feet dry and because they’re short I can even wear them in the summer without having to worry about soggy feet like I get with cotton.
I also find them quite easy to wash and they also dry very quickly as well, especially if left in direct sunlight.
There are a few different sizes to choose from as well as a few different colors depending on your preferences.
New Balance Men’s Performance Ankle Socks
Although it might seem counterintuitive to recommend a pair of socks that aren’t made from some fancy material it’s the New Balance Men’s Performance Ankle Socks that I use for summer and warm weather travel.
Most of the year I wear something made from Merino wool.
When it’s too warm and I’m not going to be doing too much walking I always toss on these cotton socks.
I like them because they’re lightweight and it’s easy to bring a few pairs to switch out during the day.
These New Balance socks are made from 98% polyester, which is much better than cotton, and they’re moisture wicking which helps to keep your feet dryer throughout the day.
There are these unique mesh panels that gives even more breathability as well as a seamless toe design so there’s less friction and irritation when it comes to blisters.
These come in a 3-pack so you can easily bring a few extra pairs with you when you’re heading out on your trip.
I would recommend checking them out if you’re looking for something lightweight and comfortable to wear on those really hot days.
Physix Gear Sport Compression Socks
When it comes to the best compression socks for travel it’s the Physix Gear Sport Compression Socks that I would recommend checking out.
I don’t personally wear compression socks but if you’re someone that needs them then these are a great choice and are well designed for traveling with.
What I like about the Physix Gear Sport Compression Socks is that they actually look pretty decent and they’re not as ugly as some of the other options out there to choose from so you can get away with wearing them on the plane without looking like a total dork.
The compression design helps to keep these compressed around your legs for hours on end and I don’t have any weird stitching so you don’t have to worry about blisters as much.
The material has been double-stitched for better durability and the socks are designed using an anti-bacterial and no-slip fabric to keep them smelling fresh and to prevent you from stumbling around on a flat surface if you’re not wearing your shoes.
I would definitely recommend taking a look at the Physix Gear Sport Compression Socks if you’re looking for lightweight and comfortable compression socks for traveling with.
Tips for Choosing the Right Travel Socks
If you’re looking for a sock that’s geared more towards winter hiking and backpacking you’ll definitely want to find a pair with the most padding and insulation possible.
When you finally decide on a pair you want you have a great selection online and in camping/hiking stores to choose from.
I personally use the Smartwool brand but there are plenty of other companies that are selling high quality wool socks that are great for travel.
None of the socks you can find are made completely of merino wool and the pair I’m wearing now are about one-quarter nylon.
Anything about 50% is fine and the higher percentage you find the better.
There really is a great selection available and you can find everything from sporty/flashy pairs to ones more suitable for an office/casual travel setting.
The two pairs I use are grey and black which means I don’t look like a total dork when I’m wearing shorts or take my shoes off at the airport.
What Is Merino Wool?
Merino wool is the material that’s taken from a Merino sheep after it gets shorn.
Most of the merino products you find are from sheep living in Australia and New Zealand but there is a growing number of people trying to raise these sheep across the planet.
The fabric that you can get from these sheep is typically used in backpacking and travel gear for the many beneficial properties it has.
A lot of people have a misconception that merino wool is scratchy and rough but I find that it’s actually one of the softest and most comfortable materials that I’m wearing on a regular basis.
Why Is Merino Wool So Awesome?
There are quite a few reasons why merino wool is my fabric of choice and I recommend it for people who like to travel or spend a lot of time walking around exploring new cities.
I don’t think that cotton and polyester simply can hold up when paired against the benefits that merino provides.
The benefits of merino wool include:
- It’s one of the best insulating fabrics. Many types of clothing made from merino wool are designed to keep you cool and dry in the summer and cozy in the winter.
- Compared to cotton it can absorb and wick away a lot of moisture. The fibres hold a lot more moisture before becoming saturated. This results in a dry feeling as opposed to sloppy wet cotton that almost immediately becomes full of any moisture it encounters.
- It will keep you warm even when it’s full of moisture. Cotton and other fabrics lose their heat retaining capabilities but wool will continue work well even if you’re stuck in a rain storm or step in a puddle.
- Merino wool is quick drying. Even when compared to polyester it dries in a surprising amount of time. For any type of gear you can fully dry a merino product in less than 30 minutes of direct sunlight.
- The composition of wool fabric means it’s very anti-bacterial. It’s not a very welcoming environment for stinky bacteria.
- The odor caused from excess bacteria is not as consistently present. This means your gear won’t becoming smelly as quickly and you’re able to go longer between washes.
- Cotton actually gets scratchy and rough after a few uses while wool remains soft and comfortable.
There are very few fabrics that can compete with the many benefits of Merino wool.
All these positive factors make it the ideal choice for travel clothing and especially travel socks.
It doesn’t matter if you’re wearing heavy hiking boots or lightweight running shoes, you don’t have to worry as much about your feet getting too sweaty or stinky because of all of the moisture wicking capabilities and other features of merino.
It’s also super quick to dry so if you do step in a puddle or sweat too much you can take your shoes off for a few moments and air out your socks hopefully without offending people nearby with stinky feet.
Besides all these incredible aspects about merino wool one of the best reasons you’ll want to use them as your travel socks is the fact that they really help to prevent blisters from forming.
Cotton tends to rub your skin and move around a lot while soaking your feet from sweat and this results in the perfect environment for blisters.
Merino wool retains its tight fit and helps to keep your feet dry and comfortable.
Since I started wearing them I haven’t got a blister and I wish I knew about them before.
During a 6-week backpacking trip in Western Europe I counted over 15 blisters on one foot all from a pair of shoes that didn’t fit too well and sweaty cotton socks.
Are They Really The Best Travel Socks?
In my opinion, YES, Merino wool really makes for the best travel socks.
If you’re backpacking or even travelling long term you sometimes won’t be able to easily do laundry and you’ll probably have to put up with some smelly clothes. However, if you’re wearing merino wool, you won’t have to worry about this problem as much and you can go longer between washes.
The anti-bacterial properties of merino wool means you don’t have to wash your socks, or any other type of gear, every single day if you don’t want to.
I can’t imagine going one or two days without washing my cotton gear but when it comes to merino I’m easily able go a week without smelling anything.
When you’re just trying to see all you can in a few short days you don’t want to worry about washing your clothes and waiting for them to dry. Washing merino socks can be quickly done in a sink or shower and you can just lay them out to dry while you put on your next pair.
Since this is the case you can find many long term hikers doing the Appalachian or Pacific Crest Trail donning 100% merino wool gear. They don’t have time to wash anything and at the end of the day who really wants to spend another hour cleaning your clothes just so they can get dirty again.
The quality of this gear and the fact that it stays fresh for a longer period of time makes it not only a suitable choice for backpackers and short term travellers but long term travellers and hikers as well.
These features are especially important for minimalist backpackers and travellers who count the weight of every piece of gear they bring.
If you’re going to be away from home for months at a time you’re not going to want to bring something different for all the types of weather you’re going to experience. By keeping you cool in the summer and warm in the winter merino wool socks are truly a catch-all and this extends to all types of merino gear.
It may seem totally random that a pair of socks could really make such a difference but until you start using them it can be hard to understand why merino wool makes for the best travel socks.
I know that in my case after trying them for the first time I can guarantee I’ll never go back to wearing cotton and I hope you feel the same way.
Why You Should Avoid Cotton, Polyester, and Any Other Material
There really isn’t any other fabric available that’s as good or effective as merino wool.
Unless you’re into some serious technical activity or you have some specific sock preference you shouldn’t ever consider cotton, polyester, or any other fabric again.
When it comes to keeping your feet dry, warm, and fresh, nothing is superior to the countless benefits of merino.
A lot of cotton and polyester socks come with all these guarantees from being anti-odor to boasting about super fast drying abilities.
When your foot is sweating inside your hiking boots or travel shoes all day you might be able to swing it with something polyester or nylon but you’ll still end up with a sticky and sweaty shoe at the end of the day.
Any merino wool sock will absorb all the moisture within reason and allow you to enjoy your day without having to feel your foot squish with every step.
To conclude, if you’re looking for the best travel socks your search stops here. Merino wool socks are superior to every other fabric you’ll find on footwear and your shoes and foot health will thank you for making such a great choice.
After a day of walking around the city you’ll wonder why you haven’t been wearing them your whole life. If you want to make one of the biggest and most positive changes in your travel wardrobe be sure to pick up a pair of merino wool socks today.