Cold Weather Socks
If you live in the Northeast or Midwest, you know cold weather. And, if you’re in some other part of the country, but you like to stay extra warm, this information should be helpful as you search for your next winter jacket. When we think about what goes into a high-quality winter sock, we typically put material on the top of our list followed by fit, padding and cost. In most cases, a sock with a high percentage of Merino wool will be superior to a sock that relies primarily on some other material such as cotton or nylon; or even a lower quality wool. And keep in mind that not all Merino wool is equal. A good sock with keep your feet warm on a cold day, a great sock will regulate your temperature (thermoregulate) by helping your feet breathe through the sock material when they are too warm and retain temperature when your feet are cold.
Sock Fit & Liners
A phenomenal sock will do all of the mentioned, but will also fit your foot perfectly so that it doesn’t slip, pile up or cause blisters or discomfort.
Although REI offers an exceptionally helpful guide for selecting socks, this review relied on a host of other criteria. First, we draw on our own use of socks in the Northeast as an outfitter. Second, we did considerable research into lessons learned from those who live in or travel to Antarctica. Third, we identified the types of socks used by the military in cold weather locations and included at least one option that is used by thousands of military personnel in extremely cold weather. After analyzing all of these data, we assembled our list. One of our more significant findings was that people who wear socks in below zero temperatures often rely on high-quality sock liners. We recommend sock liners made by Terramar, FoxRiver or SmartWool.
Of the three, we prefer the SmartWool option because of the color (black) and high Merino wool content. The white FoxRiver Therm-A-Wick sock liner is also a solid choice based on their unisex design, use of Thermolite fibers and high ratings. Please note that based on unfavorable wear patterns, SmartWool did not make our list of top socks below.
Where to Purchase High-End Socks?
Although we’ve pointed you primarily to Amazon and Darn Tough to purchase your cycling socks, you may also want to check out REI’s most recent sock sales since they often offer deals. Last we checked, REI was offering three socks for the price of four. When searching on Amazon, REI or Darn Socks, socks are often categorized based on how you intend on using them. We did our best to point out when our reviewed socks were unisex or gender specific. Darn Socks is one of our favorite companies making socks and the video below allows you to visit their Vermont-based factory.
- Athletic/multisport socks
- Running socks
- Walking socks
- Casual socks
- Lightweight hiking socks
- Midweight backpacking socks
- Mountaineering socks
- Ski and snowboard socks
Our Favorite Winter Socks
For the purposes of this post, we selected the warmest and most utilitarian socks. We assumed that if you’re looking for a sock that will keep you warm in extremely cold environments, you’re also going to periodically use these socks outdoors in demanding environments. To help you find the best option for your specific needs, we’ve included a table at the end of this post that aggregates the post information with ranking criteria. We should also note that not all of our selections are expensive. In some cases, we’ve included socks hovering at or below $10 per pair. In other words, while most high-quality winter socks cost more than $20 per pair, there are some lower cost options that lack in a few features, but are still well made.
1. Darn Tough Mountaineering Over-The-Calf Socks
This is our top choice because of its high Merino wool content (73%), over-the-calf height, extra padding and lifetime quality guarantee that covers you for a single errant thread. Of the nine different padding levels used by Darn Tough, this sock uses the most padding. As stated on their website, extra heavy padding, is the “thickest, burliest and highest density cushioning makes for a big, bad monster of a sock.”
Material: 73% Merino Wool, 25% Nylon, 2% Lycra Spandex
2. FITS Heavy Expedition – Boot: Durable, Cushioned Outdoor Socks
The FITS heavy expedition sock is our second choice for cold weather socks. These have roughly the same Merino Wool content as the Darn Tough Mountaineering sock. The FITS Expedition offers mid calf height and is loaded with 100% Merino Wool on the inside of the sock to improve comfort and warmth. In alignment with our ranking, the Marines are also testing 25,000 pair of FITs socks as part of their effort to improve their readiness for cold weather activities. These are an excellent option if the over-the-calf height of the Darn Tough Mountaineering sock is too high.
Length: Mid calf height
Material: 74% Merino Wool, 13% Nylon, 8% Acrylic, 3% Spandex
3. Giro GE20170 Winter Merino Wool Socks
The Giro GE20170 Winter sock shines in extremely cold weather. It’s made of a winter-weight Merino wool. High-rise 6 inch cuff fits with tights and warmers. These are slightly thicker (and warmer) than any Swiftwick socks, which is why they are such an ideal option for winter. If you’re looking for a sock that will keep your toes warm in the coldest of weather, this is it. These are odor resistant, but don’t forget to dry these on a clothes line to ensure they don’t shrink.
Length: Calf height
4. Showers Pass Crosspoint WP Waterproof Socks
The Showers Pass Crosspoint WP Waterproof sock resembles the Giro 20170, but it’s especially comfortable in very wet weather. This sock relies on a breathable Artex membrane, which covers the interior merino wool lining. The Artex membrane is micro-porous, which allows your feet to breath while performing high endurance activities. Since these socks include an interior and exterior layer, they have amply cushion. These socks fit like any other pair of socks even though you’re essentially wearing a liner covered by a porous membrane. Constructed with three durable layers: a wear resistant knit exterior, a proprietary waterproof/breathable membrane, and a moisture wicking, anti-microbial merino wool lining. You can wash the Crosspoint Wool Crew sock as you would a regular sock. Just tumble dry on low heat.
Length: Calf height
Material: 40% Merino Wool, 40% Acrylic,17% Polyester, 1% Nylon, 2% Spandex (inner); 78% Nylon, 15% Polyester, 7% Spandex (outer)
5. Darn Tough Hiker Boot Sock Cushion
Darn Tough socks makes phenomenal socks that are functionally solid, while casting coolness vibes in every direction. The Hiker Boot sock is not only cool, it’s probably the most practical of all Darn Tough’s socks. Not surprisingly, this sock won the gold medal Editor’s choice from Backpacker magazine. One of the best features of these socks is their lifetime warranty, which covers any and all damage–no questions asked. If you’re considering some Vermont-made Darn Tough socks, you may want to read over their FAQ page where they offer more detailed information about their warranty and topics like sock weights.
Material: 66% merino wool, 32% nylon and 2% Lycra spandex
6. Pearl Izumi Ride Elite Thermal Socks
The Elite Thermal Wool sock is an ultra warm cold-weather sock. It’s made with full Merino wool coverage in the heel and toe areas, but no additional bulk. Cushioning is strategically placed under the foot, and anatomic arch compression give the sock a performance fit that’s perfect for cold-weather cycling. These are good cold weather cycling socks. These are only slightly thinner than standard medium-weight hiking and hunting socks. Like other wool socks, make sure you use a gentle wash and hang dry. They are only slightly thicker than a “summer weight” wool sock, yet they are still thin enough to fit comfortably inside a cycling shoe. The Giro 20170 is warmer than the Pearl Izumi sock based on the higher wool content of the Giro.
Length: Calf height
Material: 54% Merino wool, 44% nylon and 2% spandex
7. Wigwam Merino Comfort Hiker F2322 Socks
Wigwam Merino Comfort Hiker socks are made in Wisconsin and are especially good for very cold weather. You get a lot of sock for the money with the Wigwam Merino Comfort Hiker F23222. Wigwam has been making socks for more than 110 years. These socks won’t shrink or bunch up and the high merino wool content means there is no itchy or scratchy feel. These are excellent socks for hiking, snow shoeing or for any cold outdoor activity.
Material: 67% merino wool, 21% stretch nylon, 7% elastic (rubber) and 5% acrylic
8. Darn Tough Yeti Over-the-Calf Socks
These are excellent four-season socks designed especially for women. These socks come with mid-level cushion density under the foot. If you’re looking for versatility, unbeatable style and a lifetime unconditional guarantee, this sock is hard to beat. For warm or cold weather, these will carry over into just about any outdoor activity and most surely generate conversation as your friends admire them. Darn Socks describes these beauties as a “burly, beast of an all-mountain performance sock.” We agree and are confident this sock will ultimately sit in your sock drawer for much longer than any other lower-quality (and lower-cost) alternative.
Length: Over the calf height
9. CloudLine Merino Wool Ultra Light Socks
The Cloudline Merino Wool Ultra Light socks are made of 59% ultra soft merino wool, 34% nylon and 7% spandex. Like most of our high-end picks, they are made from an ultra-fine micron merino wool and esigned for long-lasting softness. These Cloudline socks have reinforced heels and toe zones for durability and comfort. We own a pair of Cloudline socks and thoroughly enjoy these socks. They are attractive, comfortable socks that can be used for cycling or other outdoor activities. They will not bunch up, hug your leg without slipping and provide excellent heel support. These are an excellent “all around” sock that can be purchased in six different punchy colors.
Length: Over the calf height
Material: 68% merino wool, 28% nylon, 4% Lycra spandex
10. AIvada 80% Merino Wool Hiking Socks
With the Wool Hiking Socks, you get a cushioned foot bed in the bottom of the sock. You’re getting three pair of socks under $25, which is a good deal based on these socks’ high Merino wool content. The cushioning on these unisex socks are ideal for good and skew towards the “thick” side. Designed to be worn with boots, these socks sit at calf height and will stay in place, no matter how long your hike might be. Overall, these are good “daily use” socks that work well under slippers, hiking books, snow shoes or ski boots.
11. Steely Boot Sock Cushion w/ Full Cushion Toe
Another Darn Tough sock that we highly recommend for extremely cold weather. We didn’t place the Steely Boot Sock in the top five since its specialized for boots with its extra toe cushion and mid calf height. But, like all Darn Tough socks, these come with a lifetime guarantee and can be used for at home leisure socks or for outdoor winter activities. And like other Darn Tough socks, these won’t slip, pile or create blisters.
Length: Sits mid-calf for added protection and warmth.