Three Things To Consider When Buying Liner Socks

A good pair of liner socks can make your feet much more comfortable on your next hiking or hunting trip—and that’s a good thing!

Woman hiking on mountaintop
Liner socks help keep your feet warm and can minimize the risk of blisters.Galen Crout via Unsplash

When you’re hiking or hunting in rainy, wet weather, a good pair of liner socks can help you stay comfortable and keep your feet blister-free. Because of their ability to wick moisture away from your feet, some hunters and hikers like to wear a pair underneath their lightweight, midweight or heavyweight socks both for comfort and added protection against blisters. Not all liner socks are created equal, however. To make a good selection when shopping for liner socks, consider three important factors—what they can do for your feet, what materials they are made from and the temperature in which you will be hiking, hunting or doing other outdoor activities.

Purpose

CoolMax liner socks
These CoolMax liner socks are made to wick moisture away from your skin to keep your feet dry and comfortable.Amazon

Hotspots are the precursor to blisters, and blisters often spell the end of your outdoor activity—or at least signal that you're going to have uncomfortable feet for the remainder of your excursion. Liner socks prevent blisters by wicking moisture away from your feet. Good liner socks wick perspiration to the next outer layer of your clothing system and away from the surface of your skin. Such moisture can produce increased friction, which is never a good thing when walking long distances. Liner socks also help you avoid blisters by preventing ill-fitting boots from rubbing your skin and causing a hotspot. Since blisters are the bane of hikers, hunters and others who trek long distances for fun, liner socks remain popular even with the advances in sock technology we see today.

Materials

Navy blue ultralight liner socks
These ultralight liner socks are made from 93% polyester, 6% nylon and 1% spandex.Amazon

Most liner socks are made from manmade materials like nylon, polyester, polypropylene, spandex and a combination of those materials. The reason is simple: Those are the materials that excel at the wicking function mentioned earlier. Regardless of what exterior sock you are wearing, socks made of these materials wick the moisture away from your feet, and that's what keeps them dry. Other liner socks are made of wool, which also has wicking properties, but not as good as the earlier mentioned "smart" materials. When used in a blend with those materials, however, wool can be a good addition to make liner socks that are both functional and comfortable. Also smart wool liner socks, made from treated merino wool, have good wicking qualities and are very warm. Absolutely stay away from any socks made of cotton or with a high amount of cotton in them, since cotton doesn't wick and will hold water next to your skin all day long.

Temperature

smart wool liner socks
These smart wool liner socks come in a 3-pack for convenience and value.Amazon

The temperature where you are hiking or hunting is important to your selection because neither cold feet, nor overly hot feet, are comfortable feet. For synthetic liner socks, ultralight, light, medium or heavy liner varieties are available, and all have appropriate uses depending on temperature. For an all-around synthetic liner sock in most weather conditions, lightweight socks are best because you can use the layers of socks on the outside of the liner sock to add insulation if you like. For very cold weather, smart wool liner socks perform great because of the insulating qualities of wool. Again, other socks can be added over a smart wool liner if more insulation is needed.