Not just for hiking. Merino wool socks are great walking and travel socks too

Here’s why the Merino wool socks I bought for a 250 km pilgrimage became my favourite travel socks, walking socks and everyday socks.

By Annie André ⦿ updated March 5, 2024  
Merino wool socks are the best travel socks, walking socks, and hiking socks money can buy.
Merino wool socks are the best travel socks, walking socks, and hiking socks money can buy.

Why I Wear Merino Wool Socks Almost Everyday For Everything

I had never owned a pair of Merino wool socks until I began researching trail shoes, gear, and clothing to bring on the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage from Porto, Portugal, to Compostella, Spain.

To my surprise, a really hot topic that kept coming up was “What are the best hiking socks to wear?

Most of the experienced thru-hikers and pilgrimers recommended avoiding cotton socks and instead, opting for moisture-wicking socks to keep your feet dry and comfortable. Of course, polyester and nylon hiking socks were mentioned however people were also raving about Merino wool socks for their durability, ability to control foot odour, keep your feet dry and other magical abilities.

As someone who has always worn cotton or synthetic workout socks, the idea of wearing wool socks for backpacking, hiking, or walking long distances, especially in hot weather, sounded like a hot nightmare. 

Darn Tough: Women's Micro Crew Lightweight Merino Wool Socks

54% Nylon, 43% Merino Wool, 3% Lycra Spande

Shop Now
03/04/2024 07:08 pm GMT

I decided the best way to determine if Merino socks were the way to go “for me” was to test them out personally (before my thru-hiking pilgrimage started).

So I bought a couple of pairs of socks from a company called “Darn Tough” because that was a name that kept popping up over and over again on various online hiking sides and guides.

Then I wore them to do everything from walking, exercising at the gym, around the house, and other normal everyday activities like taking out the trash. 

What I discovered was that Merino wool is not only the best material for hiking socks, but they also make the best travel socks, workout socks, and walking socks.

I can’t recommend them enough, and here’s why.

What are Merino wool socks?

Merino wool socks made with merino sheep wool

Merino wool socks are made from merino sheep wool, a breed of sheep domesticated initially in Spain.

Merino wool socks can be made of either 100% merino wool or a blend of merino wool and other materials such as cotton, lycra, and nylon.

Are Merino Wool socks itchy?

When I think of wool, I think of itchy sweaters. Nobody wants itchy feet.

But merino wool is special. My Merino wool socks don’t feel itchy or prickly because Merino is much finer and softer than other types of wool, making it a great material for walking socks and travel socks. 

Are merino wool socks too hot to wear in the summer?

It sounds counterintuitive, but you can comfortably wear merino wool socks all year round, even in the summer.

Merino wool is a unique material. It has tiny air pockets that work like insulation to help regulate your body temperature. It works by trapping hot or cool air in the tiny pockets within its fibres. This means that in winter, it helps to prevent heat from escaping, and in summer, it helps to prevent heat from entering.

Merino wool socks keep your feet drier, which helps prevent blisters.

Farm to Feet Men's Damascus Lightweight 1/4 Crew Merino Wool Socks

61% Merino Wool/34% Nylon/5% Spandex

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03/04/2024 07:14 pm GMT

I read horror stories of people getting blisters while walking the camino de Compostela pilgrimage so naturally It became one of my biggest fears.

Many things can cause blister on feet but Merino wool socks can help prevent blisters by reducing friction and moisture. 

First, Merino wool is a natural moisture-wicking material, which means it helps draw sweat and moisture away from your skin into the tiny pockets of space between the fibres, where it is then able to evaporate more quickly than cotton. This wicking effect helps keep your feet dryer even in hot temperatures, which helps prevent blisters, chafing, and other issues that can occur when your feet are wet while exercising, walking, or hiking.

Because Merino wool socks are soft and often designed with a snug fit, they can help reduce friction and rubbing that can cause blisters.

Merino wool is antibacterial and helps eliminate foot odour

Foot odour is caused by a bacteria called “Brevibacterium linens” that grows in warm, moist environments such as shoes and socks where moisture can get trapped.

The bacteria then break down the sweat and dead skin cells on your feet by feeding on the proteins and fatty acids, creating that unpleasant, stinky foot smell. 

Merino wool is naturally antibacterial and helps prevent the growth of bacteria and other microbes that cause foot odour, so it doesn’t need to be washed as often as other socks. They can be worn for extended periods without developing unpleasant smells, making them perfect for camping and hiking trips. Simply air dry them overnight and they’re good to go the next day.

As gross as this sounds, I wore my Darn Tough Socks for 10 days straight without washing them. All I did was let them air dry overnight. They did not smell stinky the next day. I was blown away. 

Merino socks are super durable.

Merino wool is extremely durable and can maintain its shape and softness even after multiple uses. This makes it an excellent choice for socks that need to withstand frequent use day after day.

Wrapping Up Why Merino socks are great travel socks and walking socks

best hiking socks for pilgrimage thru hiking

If you’re looking for a great pair of durable socks that can withstand frequent use, Merino wool socks are the way to go.

The same qualities that make merino wools socks a great hiking sock such as moisture-wicking and temperature regulation, also make them great walking socks, travel socks, and even athletic socks. 

Because of their antibacterial properties, you can wear them for multiple days without getting that unpleasant stinky foot odour, which means you can pack lighter because you don’t have to pack as many pairs. 

However, keep in mind that there are a few cons.

  • They usually cost more than other types of socks, but they tend to last longer and offer superior comfort.
  • They usually need special washing in cool or warm water on the gentle cycle and should be tumble-dried on low heat or air-dried to prevent them from shrinking or losing their shape. 

Lastly, not all Merino wool socks are created equal. Here are some brands I recommend.

  • Darn Tough
  • Farm To Feet
  • Danish Endurance
  • Ice Breakers
  • Smart Wool

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, meaning I get a 'petite commission' at no extra cost to you if you make a purchase through my links. It helps me buy more wine and cheese. Please read my disclosure for more info.

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Annie André

Annie André

About the author

I'm Annie André, a bilingual North American with Thai and French Canadian roots. I've lived in France since 2011. When I'm not eating cheese, drinking wine or hanging out with my husband and children, I write articles on my personal blog for intellectually curious people interested in all things France: Life in France, travel to France, French culture, French language, travel and more.

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