Few things are worse than experiencing numb toes on a cold day due to a poor choice in socks. One incident may be enough to drive you to buy dozens of pairs of wool socks for future winter runs or lazy days spent lounging by the fire.
Sourced from the fleece of an animal — typically from sheep, but also goats, alpacas and camels — wool is the textile fiber that comprises the warm, relatively coarse fabric you know and love. The fiber itself is renowned for its insulating and antibacterial qualities.
Contrary to popular belief, wool is suited for both warmer and colder months. "Wool is a thermoregulating fiber, so it's great for year-round wear," sayss Kristen Pandolph, vice president of product engineering and innovation for socks at Bombas. "Not only does it trap heat against the body when it's cold outside to help keep you warm — the natural crimp of the fiber creates air pockets — but also when it's warm out, it provides a cooling effect by pulling moisture away from your body and letting it evaporate quickly." (Related: I've Been Running for Decades, and These Socks Keep My Feet Dry and Comfortable for Miles)
Some wool socks are made with pure wool. For example, "a luxury wool sock would be made from 100 percent Merino wool yarn in the body, or a casual boot/ragg sock may be knit from 100 percent lambswool, which has a larger diameter fiber and can be used for chunkier gauge knits," says Pandolph. (If you're wondering, Merino wool is sourced from Merino sheep, which are known for producing fine wool which lends itself to high-quality fabrics.) Technically, these "all-wool socks" will always still include a percentage of polyester or spandex added for stretch and recovery, according to Pandolph.
Other times, socks are made with a wool blend. "The addition of other fibers can change the handfeel (softness or harshness), performance (pilling rate, moisture-wicking function) and durability of the socks — all of which can have both pros and cons," says Pandolph. "For instance, adding cotton to the wool will reduce the natural stretch of the yarn, or adding nylon to the wool might increase the durability and reduce pilling, but result in a scratchy or stiff fabric that is less breathable." (Related: The Best Running Socks for Women)
All things considered, wool socks deserve their reputation as the ultimate base layer for winter activities, but they also have other use cases. Here, the best wool socks to add to your drawer.
If you're in search of wool socks for cold weather runs, look no further. Designed with running in mind, Smartwool's run targeted cushion ankle socks promise warmth, comfort, and pliability. They're made from Merino wool from ZQ, a wool supplier that ensures all its wool is ethically sourced based on a series of requirements. Targeted cushion allows for comfortable impact, mesh ventilation zones reduce sweating, and a nylon-wool blend ensures quick drying.
It may seem inevitable that your toes will feel the chill on the mountains, but Le Bent designed its core ultra light socks with snow sports in mind. They're made from a blend of Merino wool and rayon from bamboo to keep feet cozy and warm while directing sweat away from the skin for quick evaporation. Oh, and shin cushioning is a bonus for softening the contact with those clunky boots.
You can have the best hiking boots ever designed, but if your socks are crap, your feet won't be happy. Keep your toes warm in the cold or cool in the heat with Darn Tough's hike boot socks. These wool hiking socks have extra cushion underfoot to keep your feet comfortable mile after mile and are also quick-drying and moisture-wicking. Plus, there's no need to worry about blisters, since sewn-in, undetectable seams cut down on chafing.
When it's too cold to leave the house, but you still want to get dressed, snuggly knee-high socks are an obvious choice. They'll complete your WFH or weekend lounge look, whether you decide to roll them up over your favorite pair of leggings or crank up the heat and pair them with fleece shorts. A blend of wool, polyester and spandex, DoSmart's socks are made for warmth and breathability that ensures your feet never get too sweaty (even when they're just inches from the fireplace).
Looking for an alternative to slippers? When that mood strikes, these Loritta vintage socks, also referred to as cabin socks, keep toes toasty. Sold in a variety of bright shades, these socks are made from a mix of wool, cotton, polyester, and elastic, and can add some color to a gloomy winter day. They'll easily layer under your favorite slip-on shoes, just in case you have to perform a last minute errand.
Winter boots vary greatly, with different designs and levels of warmth, and it can be tough to find a sock that feels just right with any given pair. However, these Bombas Merino wool socks are pretty universal. Whether or not your boots are stuffed with insulation of their own, the strong natural fibers of these socks ensure adjustable warmth based on how your body is reacting to the conditions. For example, if that insulation is heating things up quickly, the natural moisture-wicking properties will keep your feet dry (and therefore warm, as the sweat won't turn to a freezing wetness). (Related: The Best Winter Running Shoes, According to Pro Running Coaches)
It can be super tricky trying to pick the perfect sock to wear with your winter dress boots. Most pairs either slip down, cause unnecessary rubbing, are too thick, make your feet too hot, or don't keep your feet warm enough. That's not so with Smartwool everyday cable crew. They're made with Merino and virgin wool, but are still relatively thin, making them the perfect everyday pair.
If you want socks that'll look good with any outfit, look no further than the Lian knee-high wool socks. Available in a variety of neutrals as well as a few pop colors, these wool blend socks will actually stay up to your knees all day thanks to their non-slip grip. (Related: The Best Hiking Socks for Every Type of Trek)
Maybe you want the comfort of wool socks but would prefer a pair that stays hidden. Bombas all-purpose performance no-show socks are the answer. They're designed to provide the perfect amount of insulation to keep heat locked in, while still being breathable enough prevent overheating. Rest assured that they'll stay put despite a low-coverage design, since heel grips ensure that the sock stays snuggly in place.
Famed for their buttery soft, cozy texture, Pangaia cashmere wool socks are a foot hug you never knew you needed. (Cashmere is a luxury fiber from the downy undercoat of the Kashmir goat.) Perfect for any time you're needing a pick-me-up, these socks will likely become the pair you never want to take off. Even better, the company repurposes unused garment waste, incorporating a mix of pre and post-consumer recycled cashmere, in the fabric.