Socks are an important consideration when choosing your hiking apparel, as it is necessary to protect your feet. There isn’t much worse than sore or blistered feet, so many hikers wonder if they should be wearing two pairs of socks while hiking.
You should wear two pairs of socks while hiking if you tend to suffer from blisters, plan on taking a long hike, or want more warmth and protection. You want a tight, thin sock paired with a thicker, outer sock to best protect your feet. Two pairs of socks provide extra padding and insulation.
There are several benefits to wearing two pairs of socks when hiking. There are other things to consider, including what kind of socks are best, how many you should pack, and why two pairs offer better protection. We go more into detail on all of this below.
Should You Wear One Or Two Pairs Of Socks When Hiking?
You should wear two pairs of socks while hiking if you have a history of suffering from blisters. If you usually hike wearing a single pair without issue, then two pairs are unnecessary unless you’re addressing a specific need, such as additional insulation in cold weather.
Two pairs of socks may help protect your feet against blisters, keep your feet drier and warmer, and offer more protection from bugs. Two pairs of socks can also provide more comfort, particularly when wearing new boots or boots that may rub against your feet.
If you are new to hiking you may consider wearing two pairs of socks, and if this doesn’t feel comfortable you can remove the thinner, inner sock to see if wearing a single pair of hiking socks is more suitable for you.
Does Wearing Two Pairs Of Socks Prevent Blisters?
Wearing two pairs of socks does help to prevent blisters while hiking. The second sock means there is an additional layer between the foot and the inside of the hiking boot. The first sock tends to be thinner and sits tightly against the foot while the second sock is thicker to aid cushioning.
A blister is a raised area of the skin filled with liquid and is often caused by friction. For hikers this is when the foot rubs against the sock. By adding a second sock, most of the friction is transferred to being between the two socks rather than the foot and the sock.
Less direct friction on the foot means a reduced risk of blistering. No sock system will completely reduce the chance of getting blisters, but if you are vulnerable to blisters then wearing two socks could be beneficial and provide more comfortable hiking conditions for your feet.
An additional sock also helps combat moisture. When your feet are wet the skin is softer and more prone to injuries and blisters. The inner sock helps wick away moisture from sweat, while the outer sock will absorb moisture from light rain, puddles, or stream crossings. Any excess moisture increases friction between the sock and boot and increases the chance of blisters.
Advances in fabrics and clothing means you can buy a single pair of hiking socks designed to reduce blistering. However, they can be expensive, and you may still find two pairs of socks are better at wicking away moisture and preventing friction.
Is It Bad To Wear Two Pairs Of Socks When Hiking?
It is not bad to wear two pairs of socks when hiking as this is a completely personal choice. If two pairs of socks help provide a more comfortable hike, then you should wear two pairs of socks. Choosing how many pairs of socks you wear should be based on what makes you most comfortable.
Some hikers have always worn a single pair of socks without any issues and will rightly continue to hike in that fashion. However, for someone who regularly blisters when wearing one pair of socks, an additional pair of socks is not just sensible, but advised to help prevent blisters and allow them to enjoy hiking again.
Advantages Of Wearing Two Pairs Of Socks Hiking
This is the main reason someone may prefer to wear an additional pair of socks when hiking. Blisters are the nemesis to enjoyable hiking, not only a continuous, nagging pain each time they rub, but a potential health hazard out in the wilderness if they burst and become infected.
With two pairs of socks, the friction is between the socks rather than between the foot and a single sock. The inner sock needs to sit tightly on the foot to limit movement, while the outer sock adds cushioning to prevent excess rubbing on the foot.
Heat and moisture are two further causes of blister-inducing friction when hiking. With two socks, the inner sock will wick away moisture from sweat into the outer sock, which also absorbs moisture from external sources. Moisture increases the risk of friction, and therefore an inner sock that wicks this moisture away helps reduce friction.
Another key reason hikers may wear two pairs of socks is for the extra insulation. Whether you are hiking in colder conditions or someone who quickly feels the cold through their extremities, this extra insulation provides warmth. Two pairs of socks can keep your feet drier too, which helps keep them warmer.
The weather may not be cold when you start your hike, but as the evening begins to fall or if you are on an ascent, temperatures can drop, and it would be beneficial to wear an extra pair of socks. Some hikers may wear boots a size or two larger than normal on particularly cold hikes to accommodate an extra pair of socks.
Remember, it is important not to wear the socks so tight that they constrict blood flow. You want to keep your feet warm, but having the socks so tight that the blood flow is constricted will instead make them even colder.
Two pairs of socks mean more padding than just a single pair. Additional padding can help prevent your feet from becoming sore. Two pairs of socks provide an additional layer of cushioning, which makes for a more comfortable hike.
Two pairs of socks can also make your boots feel tighter if they are too big. It can be hard for some people to find perfectly fitting boots, so an additional pair of socks may help provide more comfort when wearing improperly sized hiking boots.
Wearing two pairs of socks makes it easier to keep your feet drier. Wet feet and socks are unpleasant and increase the risk of blisters. The job of the inner sock layer is to wick away moisture caused by sweating, while the outer sock absorbs moisture from external sources.
You will likely have wet hiking boots from rain, walking through puddles and long grass, or by crossing streams. Wet feet are more vulnerable as the skin softens and becomes more easily injured or blistered. Two pairs of socks can keep your feet drier and reduce some of the risk associated with wet feet.
Extra Level Of Protection
You can encounter all sorts of bugs and assorted critters out in the wilderness, most of which you won’t see and will only notice once they have bitten you. Having a second pair of socks offers an extra layer of protection from bugs such as mosquitoes and ticks.
Two pairs of socks can also add more protection from stones or grit in your boot, as well as adding extra padding when you move over rockier terrain in general. Having an additional layer of protection is also useful against sharp plants and bushes that may stick out across trails.
Disadvantages Of Wearing Two Pairs Of Socks Hiking
They May Squeeze Your Feet
While two pairs of socks can make improperly sized hiking boots more comfortable to wear, the opposite may be true when wearing perfectly sized boots. In this case, your feet may already be snug within the boots and additional socks could squeeze your feet.
You can try wearing your hiking boots with two pairs of socks around your home to gauge how comfortable they feel. If you prefer to wear two pairs of socks, take an additional pair of socks when you are trying on new boots in a store. If your feet tend to swell on long hikes, you may find snug-fitting boots start to squeeze your feet when wearing two pairs of socks.
You May Sweat More
Although the inner sock will help wick away sweat when wearing two pair of socks, the extra insulation qualities of doubling up can make your feet sweat more. This is particularly relevant when hiking on warmer days.
How much someone sweats will differ from person to person, but if you do find your feet getting wet through excess sweat, you will need to change your socks more often to help prevent blisters.
Your Feet Will Smell Quicker
Having the extra protective layer from an additional sock can take away some ventilation and breathability. Poor ventilation and breathability can cause you to sweat more, usually resulting in odor.
This may not be an issue when hiking on cooler days, but as the temperature rises your feet may start to emit some odors. If this is an issue, you could look for more breathable socks and hiking boots or use a spray to combat the worst of the aroma wafting up.
Your Feet Can Still Slide
Although wearing two pairs of socks can help prevent blisters by reducing direct friction on the foot, some friction can still take place. Friction may occur between the two socks and can sometimes cause sliding issues.
While this should not lead to blisters, it is possible if the socks do not fit well, and the sliding causes the inner sock to bunch or wrinkle. If the socks slide down, they can leave your ankles more exposed to rubbing from your hiking boots.
Additional Weight To Carry
It may not seem too much hassle to carry additional socks, but when you are looking to hike light, packing any additional weight is relevant. If you are packing with a certain weight limit in mind, carrying additional socks may mean having to forego taking something else.
When you wear two pairs of socks, one pair can double up as your overnight socks if still dry, or both pairs if it is really cold. This can save on some weight. The duration of your hiking trip may also be relevant when you consider how many socks you may want to pack and carry.
What Kind Of Socks Should You Wear Hiking?
The kind of socks you should wear when hiking should consist of a pair of tight, moisture wicking socks and a thick, cushioned pair to protect your feet. Getting the right combination of socks is crucial for comfortable, successful hiking.
The first sock should be a thin sock liner, one that fits your foot perfectly and will not move and slide around as you hike. You can find liner socks made specifically for this job at outdoor pursuit stores. Liner socks are thin and largely made from three materials:
- Synthetics such as nylon or polyester, which are durable and reduce friction. They can be less breathable if sweating is an issue.
- Silk, which may lack the durability of synthetic material but adds more comfort. These liners are usually blended with synthetic material.
- Wool, which will be thicker and could make them too snug for some people. It’s often more expensive and less breathable.
You can also find good liner socks that use a blend of all three materials. One fabric to avoid is cotton, as it can be quite heavy and will only get heavier when wet. Cotton acts like a sponge with moisture. Make sure the length of the liner socks is appropriate for the hiking shoes or boots you are wearing, and that they aren’t shorter than the sock worn as the second outer layer.
The sock forming the outer layer of the two will be thicker and breathable. Wool socks are a good option for this second layer, once again avoiding cotton. Remember, the purpose of this second sock is to provide padding, better protect the foot, and keep your feet warmer.
The size of the outer sock is just as important to ensure it is suitable for the footwear worn and to work effectively with the liner sock. You may need to try on a few different socks before you find the combination that works best for you.
How Many Pairs Of Socks Should You Bring Hiking?
How many pairs of socks you should bring hiking depends on the duration of your hike, whether you are hiking light or not, the type of weather you are hiking in, and what your personal preference is. Each time you hike, you may wear a different number or different type of socks.
Choosing how many socks to take hiking is not a perfect science and will come with a little experience. While the duration of the hike may be a factor in your decision, for many hikers, weight will also be a big factor. Most hikers will want to pack only essential gear to minimize the weight of the backpack they have to carry.
You likely will not be looking to pack two pairs of socks per foot for each hiking day. Even for longer hikes you may only need three or four pairs. The trick is to make sure they are properly ventilated when not worn. Once a pair starts to smell more than the others, carry them attached to the outside of your backpack and hang them overnight to give them a good airing.
You should wear two pairs of socks when hiking if you want to prevent blisters and keep your feet warm and dry. Doubling up on socks provides extra padding and insulation, while also helping to keep feet drier. Whether to wear one or two pairs of socks largely comes down to personal preference.