Updated October 2017
Toasty toes are what we're after. To get yours ready for ski season, we revisited this review to bring you the latest updates and product developments. The best-wicking model from Icebreaker got a new name (Lite changed to Light) and colors, but otherwise, it's the same sock. The Darn Tough model also got a new name while switching up their blended materials, adding new colors, and bumping the price up one dollar. Find more details in the individual reviews. The SmartWool pair is still our go-to model for days on the mountain.
Best Overall Ski Socks
SmartWool PhD Ski Medium
Warm and comfy
Lacks a lifetime guarantee
The SmartWool PhD Ski Medium
was the tester favorite, hands-down. SmartWool has created a sock that perfectly blends warmth, comfort, and wicking ability to create the all-around best ski sock we tested. The medium padding on the shin and foot is 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.
Read review: SmartWool PhD Ski Medium
Best Bang for the Buck
Fox River Wilmot
Very warm (when dry)
Bad at wicking moisture
Doesn't insulate well when wet
We recommend the Fox River Wilmot
for anyone concerned with value. This pair performed 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. One of our testers has been wearing this sock for four years, and it is still hanging tough.
Read review: Fox River Wilmot
Top Pick for Wicking Ability
Icebreaker Ski+ Light
The Icebreaker Ski+ Light
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 construction that sets it apart from any other sock, the Ski+ Light 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.
Read review: Icebreaker Ski+ Light
Analysis and Test Results
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 a great value. Socks are the cheapest way to improve your comfort level while skiing, and knowing how to pair the right sock with your particular style and preference optimizes 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 best meet your needs.
Types of Socks
What is so special about a sock? Do you 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 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 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.
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 are much more durable than your average sock. These models are also usually taller and reach to 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.
are also designed to fit snugly, stretch and stay in place, and wick away sweat. They are usually 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.
Criteria for Evaluation
The contenders at the end of a long review: (L to R) Wigwam Sirocco, Icebreaker Ski+ Lite, Darn Tough Ultralight, Fox River Boyne, and Smartwool Phd.
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 a few important factors set each model apart. Our Editors' Choice winner 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 alongside our Best Buy award winner, the Fox River Wilmot
. We enjoyed how those socks reached up and over the knee on most testers.
A close second in this metric is the Icebreaker Ski+ Light, 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 receive a construction that is unmatched by any other we tested: socks explicitly designed for the right and left feet. If more durable, the Icebreaker would be parallel to the SmartWool for ultimate comfort.
The Editors' Choice winner, the SmartWool PhD Ski Medium (right) up against the much shorter Wigwam Snow Sirocco. The Smartwool wins for being the most comfortable sock tested, in part because of its extra height.
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
. 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.
The warm and tall SmartWool PhD about to drop into a classic run in the Mammoth Lakes Basin.
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+ Light
to outperform the field in this category, consistently delivering dry feet when other socks are bringing home prunes.
While our Editors' Choice winner, the SmartWool PhD, is an adequate performer in this category, it was not among 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.
The Icebreaker Ski+ Lite (left) compared with the taller and thinner Darn Tough Over-the-Calf Ultralight (right). The Icebreaker model wins for best wicking capability.
Ski Boot Fit
Once inside the boot, the fit of your sock determines 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 accommodates the slightly thicker SmartWool PhD. The PhD has excellent padding and stretch to keep the sock in place while you're out moving around, preventing blisters and keeping your mind on what is essential.
Using two elastics to keep the sock in place, the Smartwool PhD never suffers from bunching or scrunching and ensures a blister free experience that is paramount to happy feet.
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+Light, 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, and our Editors' Choice winner, the SmartWool PhD, felt and fit the same the day we started our testing as the day we finished.
Having a comfortable ski sock can make your break your day. Here the well-fitting and durable SmartWool PhD is put to the test on an all-day spring ski traverse of the San Joaquin Ridge, from June Mountain to Mammoth Mountain, CA.
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 challenging 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.