What makes a great ski sock? Are your feet wet and wrinkly after a day on the slopes? Are you constantly suffering from cold feet? Over this past ski season, we set out to find which socks could stand up to the brutal demands of life in a ski boot. We tested 5 of the industry’s top models and sent them on a gauntlet of skiing demands. After skiing over 50 days in our selection of socks through the gamut of what mother nature had to offer, we found some impressive performers and a few that distinguished themselves from the rest.
Best Overall Ski Socks: SmartWool PhD Ski Medium
The SmartWool PhD Ski Medium is our favorite, hands-down. SmartWool has created a sock that perfectly blends warmth, comfort, and wicking ability to create the all-around best ski sock. The medium padding on the shin and foot is just perfect for cushioning the foot inside a ski boot and the slight stretch prevents the sock from sliding around. The only downside to this sock is that it does not come with a lifetime guarantee like some of the other models tested. However, it is the most durable model that we tested, so it will take longer for this pair to wear out than any of the others anyway.
Best Value: Fox River Telluride Medium
We recommend the Fox River for anyone concerned with value. This pair performs well across the board and retails for $15 and under. If you find it hard to justify throwing down $20+ on one pair of socks, this model is for you. Another option, if you want the absolute most user days for your dollar, is the Wigwam Snow Sirocco. This pair is not as high performance as the Fox River, but will last forever and has a lot of cushion. My friends has been wearing this sock for 4 years and it is still hanging tough.
Top Pick for Wicking Ability: Icebreaker Ski+ Lite
The Icebreaker Ski+ Lite is the crowned king of performance. It wicks away vapor better than any other model and takes a long time to get thoroughly damp. With a rich blend of merino wool and a construction that sets it apart from any other sock, the Ski+ Lite is just as ready for a hardcore ski mountaineering objective as it is for a ski vacation at your favorite resort. Though we did have issues with it deteriorating quickly, this sock comes with a lifetime guarantee, no questions asked.
Choosing the best ski socks
Ski socks are not traditionally thought of as a “quiver” tool, but with the variety of designs and materials that top manufacturers are developing, that tradition is changing. We have socks that are fit for high performance when nothing can be compromised and comfort is the least of your worries. Likewise, we have outlined the socks that are best for all-around use as well as socks that are just a great value. Socks are about the cheapest way to improve your comfort level while skiing, and knowing how to pair the right sock with your particular style and preference will optimize this improvement.
We evaluated each pair in the areas of comfort, warmth, drying speed, ski boot fit, and durability. Not all socks are created equal, so read on to find out which ones will best meet your needs.
Types of Socks
What is so special about a sock? Do you really need a sock for every different sport and activity? We say yes. Socks are the interface between your foot and your technical footwear, and having an appropriate fit makes you more comfortable and increases your performance. The right sock can even affect the fit of your footwear. Socks can be designed specifically with certain motions and a particular fit in mind, and choosing the right kind can make your day more enjoyable. Here are a few different kinds of specialized socks that we think are worth adding to your wardrobe:
Ski & Snowboarding Socks
Ski socks are taller than the average sock, reaching to the top of the calf, and sometimes all the way to the bottom of the knee. They are designed to fit well inside ski boots and come in varying thicknesses so that you can customize the fit. Usually, they range from thick to ultralight. Ultralight models are most comfortable in very tight, high-performance ski boots. They are designed to wick away moisture and dry quickly. Good models have a bit of stretch to keep them in place inside your boot all day. Socks designed for skiing and snowboarding also usually have a little bit of cushion in strategic places, such as the front of the shin, to make leaning into the front of your boots more comfortable.
Hiking socks are similar to ski socks in that they also tend to stretch, fit snugly, and wick away moisture. Good ones prevent blisters. They are known for drying quickly and will be much more durable than your average sock. These models are also usually taller and reach to about mid-calf. Also like a sock for skiing, hiking socks come in a range of thicknesses, from thick to liner-thin, so that you can select the appropriate thickness for the perfect fit with your boot.
Running socks are also designed to fit snugly, stretch and stay in place, and wick away sweat. They are usually very short and reach to just above the ankle. They are usually thinner than a sock for hiking but also come in a range of thicknesses. Some running socks have padding along the bottom of the foot for added shock absorption.
How We Chose
The comfort of socks is noticeable from the second you put them on your feet. Padding, stretch, and movement are important factors when considering your choice, and we decided to also consider the cozy factor. This metric of comfort was the most important when determining our award winners, and just a few important factors set each model apart. Our best sock choice and the most comfortable sock is the SmartWool PhD Ski Medium. It’s made with cozy Merino wool and has medium padding to cushion your feet.
The PhD is the tallest sock that we tested, right alongside our Best Value, the Fox River. We enjoyed how those socks reached up and over the knee. A close second in this metric is the Icebreaker Ski+ Lite, which is less comfortable due to a shorter build and the fit around the foot being too constricting. Those lucky enough to fit the Icebreaker sock will find a construction that is unmatched by any other pair of sock: socks designed specifically for the right and left feet. If more durable, the Icebreaker would be right alongside the SmartWool for ultimate comfort.
Nothing is worse than having cold feet when out for a day of skiing. We looked to find the warmest sock, both when wet and dry and found most socks did a great job at keeping testers’ feet warm when dry, but a few different variables determined a sock’s ability to be the warmest. Intuitively, the thicker models proved to be warmer. These are the SmartWool PhD, which came back dry and warm when other socks like the Wigwam Snow Sirocco were being wrung out immediately after removal. The Darn Tough Over-the-Calf Ultralight is the thinnest sock we tested, and despite its lack of padding and thick wool, the tightly woven Merino in this sock kept testers who preferred the tightest fitting performance ski boots as dry and warm as the PhD did but with far less material. We found the Wigwam Snow Sirocco to suffer most in wet environments, leaving feet cold, wrinkled, and unhappy.
Wicking Ability & Drying Speed
In any given ski day, it is possible for your feet to freeze, soak, and re-freeze, all within a matter of hours, sometimes on a regular basis. We understand that most normal skiing days do not require high-end performance in this category, but we also found that wet feet can send you home faster than you can say “Slap the Mule.” If this is a problem for you, we have the solution. We found the Icebreaker Ski+ Lite to outperform the field in this category, consistently delivering dry feet when other socks are bringing home prunes. While our best overall pick, the SmartWool PhD, is an adequate performer in this category, it was not the best. The Darn Tough Over-the-Calf Ultralight revealed its strengths here, and beat out even the SmartWool PhD in a foot-to-foot sweat fest.
Ski Boot Fit
Once inside the boot, the fit of your sock will determine how well it is able to perform its duties. This metric is again variable depending on your style and preference of ski boot fit. We had trouble with some socks moving around a lot inside boots, such as the Wigwam Snow Sirocco, which made things uncomfortable quickly. For skiers who require a thin sock to fit into tight boots, and cannot compromise on anything, we found the Darn Tough Over-the-Calf Ultralight to slip into the tightest of situations and deliver a warm, dry foot. For the average skier, a snug fitting boot will accommodate the slightly thicker SmartWool PhD. The PhD has great padding and stretch to keep the sock in place while you’re out moving around, preventing blisters and keeping your mind on what is important.
An important factor when buying any sock is its ability to withstand the demands required of it. If your socks wear out, the performance decreases dramatically, which we found to be the case with some of our subjects. In particular, the Icebreaker Ski+Lite, an otherwise high performing sock, was the first to wear out, and its performance plummeted. Luckily, this model is backed by a lifetime guarantee by the manufacturer. Our most durable sock, the SmartWool PhD, felt and fit the same on the day we started our testing and as on the day we finished.
A pair of great socks is an easy way to improve your skiing experience. With features like warmth, drying speed, and fit in a ski boot, it can be difficult to narrow down your choices. We hope that you can use our side-by-side comparisons to do just that, finding the best pair for inside your boots.