When you’re out on the trail, getting water inside your boot is a surefire way to get a blister.
Once that happens, your day will either be cut short or you’ll spend the rest of it wincing with each step.
Since no boot is completely waterproof, having another layer of protection to shield your feet from water is ideal.
That’s where waterproof hiking socks come in.
The 6 Best Waterproof Hiking Socks Compared Side-by-Side
Choosing the Best Waterproof Hiking Socks
Waterproof socks are usually constructed of three layers:
- an outer layer that looks similar to a standard sock
- an internal membrane that keeps water out but still allows moisture from your foot to escape
- and an inner knit layer that provides some cushioning and wicks water towards the membrane
An alternative to this three-layer design is a sock made from a material that’s impervious to water, like neoprene, which is less comfortable but almost completely waterproof.
When worn in wet environments, waterproof socks will prevent blisters by keeping your feet dry, and will also keep them warm.
However, waterproof socks have with some downsides, like reduced breathability and comfort compared to your standard wool socks.
Choosing the right ones for your specific needs is crucial, because if you don’t enjoy wearing them or they don’t keep your feet warm and dry, you’ll probably just leave them at home.
Will waterproof socks be as comfortable as normal hiking socks?
Nothing is as important for a good hiking trip as comfortable feet. They’re the part of your body that takes the most abuse, and thus are also the part that should receive the most care.
Socks with a waterproof membrane are thicker and less flexible than standard hiking socks. This is something you get used to with time, but know that you’ll need some extra space in your boot to accommodate them.
The comfort of waterproof socks varies depending on what activity they were designed for; the more comfortable ones have thinner inner membranes, are made with softer, less weatherproof external layers, and are better for activities like trail running.
For maximum comfort, you should choose the softest model with the thinnest membrane that’s appropriate for your sport.
How long should my waterproof hiking socks last?
When choosing a pair of socks, you might not consider durability as one of your top criteria.
Socks are normally protected from the environment by your shoes, so they really shouldn’t take a lot of abuse.
Plus, most pairs aren’t so expensive that you’re worried about them lasting forever.
However, waterproof socks cost quite a bit more than regular hiking socks, so you’ll want to make sure the pair you buy will last a long time.
For waterproof socks that use the three-layer design, the outer layer is what provides their durability.
An exterior made from tough nylon will keep them in top shape for years to come, but the downside is that greater durability usually sacrifices comfort.
Tougher fabrics will be less stretchy and won’t fit your foot as well, which could lead to blisters after several hours of hiking.
To keep your waterproof socks functioning, it’s best to not put them in the washer and dryer, but rather gently hand wash them and hang dry.
They take a while to completely dry, so you’ll want to hang them in a warm place with plenty of ventilation.
Can waterproof hiking socks be as breathable and wicking as my regular socks?
There’s no way to avoid it: waterproof socks are just less breathable than regular hiking socks.
It’s the cost of having a waterproof membrane, but some models do a better job than others at transporting the moisture away from your skin and out of the sock.
Wicking starts at the inner layer; the fabric against your skin needs to move moisture away.
Wool has excellent wicking properties, making it the ideal fabric for an inner layer. Certain synthetics can also work well, but they have the downside of breeding bacteria, leading to smelly socks.
One thing you’ll want to consider is that any moisture that gets in the top of the sock will wick down to the soles of your feet.
If you’re trudging through deep powder, you’ll want to wear gaiters to prevent any snow from contacting the top cuff and getting everything wet.
This helpful video will give you an idea of how effective a good pair of waterproof socks can be.
Do I want waterproof socks that are warm?
Many hikers use waterproof socks in the winter because snow can enter your boot much more easily than rain or trail water, but also because a wet foot is more dangerous when the temperature is below freezing.
For winter hikes, you’ll definitely want the most waterproof sock possible.
How warm your hiking socks are is directly related to how breathable they are; less breathable socks are warmer.
A completely impermeable membrane prevents moisture from getting out, but it also traps heat in.
Neoprene socks are some of the least breathable, and they’re also the warmest.
For summer hikes, you’ll want to choose a more breathable sock and accept that they won’t be as waterproof. In the summer, socks that don’t breathe will make your feet too hot and thus sweaty, a sure path to blisters.
On the other hand, the best insulated socks for winter will hold onto the heat from your feet, while wicking away moisture that would cause blisters.
The Seven Best Waterproof Socks for Hiking Reviewed
As with most waterproof socks, Dexshell’s Hyptherm Pros are constructed in three layers. The outermost layer is nearly 100% nylon, which is durable, windproof, and abrasion-resistant.
These socks are not going to wear out anytime soon. The waterproofing middle layer is made from Porelle, a one-way polyurethane membrane that is one of the most breathable and water-resistant fabrics out there right now.
Finally, an inner layer made from a blend of merino wool, acrylic, and nylon provides excellent comfort and odor protection.
The Hyptherms don’t have many problems that aren’t an issue with all waterproof socks. As with most models, they can take some time to dry out, and after hanging them out to dry for a while, they’ll need to be turned inside out to dry the interior, too.
The membrane is also not 100% effective, but it’s a trade off, as socks with better waterproofing are hotter, less breathable, and not as comfortable.
The Dexshell’s Hyptherms are a good middle-of-the-road choice when it comes to getting the best waterproof hiking socks.
They’re breathable, relatively waterproof, and quite comfortable, which means you might actually wear them on your next hike instead of wondering whether the conditions are bad enough to warrant them.
If you’re looking for the most comfortable sock that functions in even the worst conditions, the Seal Skins should be your first choice.
They are the most waterproof three-layer sock on this list, and their comfort-conscious design means you won’t be getting blisters or chafing, even after a whole day of hiking.
The Seal Skin’s biggest problem is that they work too well.
In addition to fending off the moisture from the environment, they hold on to all of your foot’s excess heat.
The Seal Skinz are best worn on winter hikes or at least days when the temperature isn’t too far above freezing.
The breathable membrane is only capable of transporting so much sweat and heat out, so save them for cooler weather.
Dexshell’s Ultralite Bamboo socks are almost the polar opposite of their Hyptherm model. Short, soft, and super breathable, the Ultralites are some of the best waterproof socks for summer.
Their bamboo interiors are even softer than merino wool, feeling similar to cotton, which makes this pair of socks the most comfortable on the list.
They’re also quite thin and highly breathable, so they’re a good choice for high-intensity activities that involve a lot of sweating.
However, these aren’t a great pick for winter hiking, as the ultra-thin design means they’re not very warm.
They’re also too short to be worn with anything taller than ankle-high boots, as taller footwear could cause chaffing.
You should also be aware that the bamboo fabric can get pretty smelly, as it doesn’t have any of the odor-fighting capabilities of wool.
Dexshell’s Ultralite Bamboos are an excellent choice if you do a lot of trail running and your shoes’ waterproofing isn’t enough to fend off the puddles.
NRS has made a name for themselves with great kayaking and rafting gear, so it shouldn’t be surprising that their Hyrdroskins are some of the best neoprene socks for hiking.
As they’re made from neoprene, they’re both incredibly warm and almost completely impermeable to water.
They’re also quite a bit less expensive than the models that use the three-layer design.
One thing that must be taken into consideration is that, because it keeps water completely out, neoprene does not breathe.
The sweat that forms inside the sock will stay there, and if you’re using these as a winter hiking sock, that sweat can freeze when you stop moving and ultimately cause frostbite.
They also have some problems with fit due to their less flexible nature.
They can feel a bit tight at first, but with time, they’ll stretch out which could cause some blisters.
The NRS Hyrdroskins have a very specific purpose - keeping water out at all costs - so they’re a good choice for hiking socks if most of your time will be spent in or adjacent to a river.
The Crosspoints from Showers Pass are some of the best socks when it comes to waterproofing, providing excellent protection against moisture.
What sets these socks apart from some of the others is their soft, anti-bacterial inner layer.
While many waterproof socks smell like a swamp after just one day, the Crosspoints don’t even start to stink after a few days of use (though they’ll feel more comfortable if you rinse them out each day).
Their biggest downside is that, though they look like regular socks, they don’t feel much like them. Instead, they’re rubbery and too tight at the cuffs, and feel too technical for all but the wettest trails.
Unfortunately, they’re not a very good winter sock, as the outer layer isn’t particularly windproof.
This might not matter if you’re hiking in knee-deep snow with heavy insulated boots, but if you’re hiking the shoulder season in New England when everything is wet and the wind is biting, you won’t have a very good time.
A pair of Showers Pass Crosspoint socks will work great if you need superior waterproofing and cushioning, but are less worried about comfort and warmth.
If you’re looking for a budget pair of waterproof socks, the Waterfly ankle socks might fit the bill perfectly: moderately waterproof, warm, and as inexpensive as they come for a three-layer sock.
Like most of the three-layer socks on this list, the Waterflys have an outer layer of nylon, a breathable middle layer, and a merino wool interior.
The middle layer isn’t as breathable or waterproof as Goretex or Dexshell’s Porelle layer, but it’s still fairly effective and is a fraction of the price.
That lack of breathability does add some warmth, too, which can be useful during late season hikes.
These aren’t the most durable socks, wearing out fairly quickly with heavy use. However, if you only need them a couple times per year, they’re fantastic.
The Waterflys are great for hikers who don’t need the very best in waterproofing, but want an inexpensive pair of socks that will do the job in most situations.
These differ somewhat from the other socks on this list in that they’re designed to be worn with a good pair of wool socks underneath.
The Goretex is a single layer, and all of the wicking is taken care of by your normal hiking socks.
This is actually a really good design when it comes to durability because the Goretex acts like the membrane layer on regular waterproof socks, and isn’t the part that wears out - it’s the outer and inner layers.
With these, you can continue using your regular socks and when they wear out, swap them for another pair. It also means the Rockys dry out a lot quicker because you’re only drying one layer.
Additionally, these socks are pretty comfortable, with a snug fit over your regular socks preventing any blisters.
However, they’re not particularly warm and aren’t suitable for winter hikes.
The Rockys are a great choice for hikers who don’t need waterproof socks very often, but want to have them available when needed.
What Are The Best Waterproof Socks?
When it comes to choosing great all-around waterproof socks, the Dexshell Hyptherms are the clear winner.
They are breathable, comfortable, and highly durable. The type of sock that will work in almost any environment where they might be needed.
The only downside is that they dry slowly. Like all waterproof socks, you’ll want to get them off as soon as possible when you reach camp, giving them time to dry before you start hiking again the next morning.
A close second to the Dexshells Hyptherms was the Showers Pass Crosspoint. They are just as waterproof and are actually a little more comfortable, but we had to rate them lower due to their inferior windproofing.
If you’re looking for something a little less bulky and don’t need as much waterproofing, the Dexshell Bamboos make for a great summer waterproof hiking sock. Sometimes you just need a little extra protection, and the Bamboos combine that with excellent breathability.
Whether you’re hiking, cycling, or just working in the yard, you want to keep your feet dry.
Wet feet breed fungal infections, blister easily, and get frostbitten in colder temperatures.
While many boots are at least somewhat waterproof, a pair of waterproof socks is your last line of defense in keeping moisture away from your feet.