Put Your Coziest Foot Forward with These 8 Best Travel Socks
Socks. You wear them almost every day, but probably never give them too much thought.
But when you’re traveling, suddenly every item on your packing list counts.
You can only take a limited wardrobe to go backpacking around Europe or wobbling across glaciers in Argentina, because you’ll be the one lugging round every extra pound you pack.
So you’d better start thinking about socks.
Traveling usually involves a lot of walking. This is your socks’ time to strut their stuff.
What should you look for in travel socks?
Depending on what you’ll be doing on your trip, you’ll need specific things in a sock.
Will you be hopping on and off long-haul flights?
Walking around sweltering Eastern European cities this summer seeing the sights?
Snuggling up by the fire after a long day of skiing with a book or language learning app?
Or trekking through mountains in Peru at high altitudes?
Think about your destination’s conditions and what activities you’ll be doing. Once you know what you need, you can look out for the following features when you shop for travel socks:
- Quick-dry material
- Antibacterial material
Put Your Coziest Foot Forward with These 8 Best Travel Socks
1. Compression socks for flying
There’s a lot to worry about when you get on a plane. Do you have your passport? Did you pack your toothbrush?
Most people don’t even think about the risks to your body when you’re in the air. But when you board a long-haul flight, there are health aspects to think about. And socks could actually be the answer.
When you spend a long time sitting still, such as when you’re on a flight, you have a higher risk of developing Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT), a dangerous blood clot that typically develops in veins in the legs. Don’t worry, it isn’t a common condition—but compression socks boost circulation in your legs, reducing the risk and keeping your mind at rest.
So if you have a long flight planned, why not grab yourself a pair to keep in your carry-on backpack? Try the unisex Physix Gear compression socks, which are made with antibacterial fabric.
Stand up and walk around every hour or so and keep your toes moving on flights as extra steps to combat DVT.
2. Hiking socks for walking trails
When you’re traveling, you never know when someone might suggest you all hike up to that viewpoint tomorrow. Or say, “I heard about this great three-day trek. Do you want to go?”
It’s fun to be spontaneous when you travel. But don’t make your feet pay for it.
Hiking requires thicker, more comfortable socks. Standard day socks can lead to rubbing and uncomfortable blisters. They also don’t always provide the support you need, so you’re more likely to fall down. Throw a pair of hiking socks into your luggage to be prepared for any extended outdoor walk.
Merino wool and polyester are both popular choices, as they’re both insulating, lightweight and quick-drying. They’re also more comfortable than traditional wool while still providing the warmth you need.
Check out the DG Hill 80% Merino wool socks, which are designed for warmth and comfort.
3. Slipper socks for cold weather
When we think about going on vacation, we often think of white sand beaches and blazing sunshine.
But people go away in winter, too. Or to cold weather destinations. And a pair of slipper socks can greatly increase your comfort on these trips. You can find wool, acrylic or fleecy versions, some with built-in soles for grip and protection from water and dirt.
My pair of slipper socks was great for evenings in unheated lodges when I was trekking in the Himalayas and I couldn’t face another minute in my walking boots.
Slipper socks are great for hostels, too. You don’t want to keep on your shoes all night, but you also probably don’t quite trust the cleanliness of the common room floor. A pair of slipper socks keeps you both protected and comfortable. They also keep your toes toasty if you’re traveling off-season.
Try the fleece-lined, acrylic-knit Panda Bros fluffy slipper socks. They have a non-slip sole and pack compactly, which is convenient for backpackers with limited space.
4. Odor-fighting socks for backpackers
If you’ve ever slept in a hostel dorm room, then you probably know as well as I do that backpackers often have stinky feet.
And if you think about backpackers’ lifestyles, it doesn’t come as much of a surprise. They walk around all day, lug a huge backpack from place to place and have limited access to washing machines.
But if you want to avoid being that person who makes everyone’s nose wrinkle as you take off your shoes at the end of the day, you may want to invest in some odor-fighting socks.
Many of these socks have built-in antibacterial properties. They can reduce sweating, kill bacteria and combat foot odor.
These Kodal Copper antibacterial athletic ankle quarter socks use nanoparticles of copper to kill bacteria and viruses. They’ll keep your feet smelling fresh as daisies!
5. Ski socks for winter sports
Heading off on a skiing holiday? Fancy trying your hand at snowboarding the slopes? Make sure you pack some proper ski socks.
Good ski socks should be warm… but not too thick. Light, quick-drying fabrics with moisture-wicking properties like merino wool and nylon are usually a good choice. They keep your feet at their natural temperature without getting too sweaty.
Seamless options reduce rubbing. And make sure you choose elasticated socks that won’t fall down inside your ski boots.
Some also come with arch or ankle support to maintain your foot’s form inside your boots.
This pair of Pure Athlete wool ski socks uses special knitting techniques to provide extra comfort inside ski boots.
6. Invisible liner socks for flats or sneakers
Big, comfortable socks are great for traveling. But they aren’t always the prettiest. Sometimes you just want to wear a nice pair of flats or sneakers to walk around a city, go out to dinner or hit the night clubs.
That’s why it is a good idea for all travelers to have a pair of liner socks on hand. These thin ankle socks are invisible in low slung shoes but stop your feet from the dreaded no-sock sweats. Many pairs also have moisture-wicking technology to keep your feet fragrant and dry.
The women’s polyester HeyUU Bamboo low-cut liner socks even have extra silicon grips to stop the socks from slipping off your feet. Or try The Sock Crew extra-low liner socks for men.
7. Padded socks for sightseeing
Sightseeing usually means a lot of walking. It can leave your feet tired and achy, which isn’t great when you have to do it all again tomorrow.
Socks with built-in cushioning over the toes and arches can keep your feet comfortable during long days of walking around.
Often used for running and sports, padded socks are specially designed to reduce rubbing and pressure and to stop you from getting blisters. And they’re super durable. Perfect for the traveler!
The Thorlos padded ankle socks have low profile seams that won’t rub after a long day of walking.
8. Quick-drying socks for home (hostel) washing
One downside of backpacking is that it can be hard to find a time and place to do your laundry. If you’re a backpacker, I’m sure you’ve reached into the depths of your bag only to discover you’re completely out of clean socks and have to re-wear a dirty pair. (Come on, we’ve all done it!)
To avoid emergency laundry situations, many travelers carry detergent so they can hand-wash any essential items.
And that’s why socks made from quick-dry, acrylic materials can be a space-saving and hygienic staple for your next trip. Wash them in the hostel sink, and they’ll be dry in the morning. This means you can pack fewer pairs of socks, which will save you room in your bag.
Quick-dry and moisture-wicking socks also dry quickly on your feet, no matter how much you sweat.
The polyester-nylon-spandex mix of the FoxRiver moisture-wicking socks will keep your feet dry on the move and will dry quickly after washing.
So there you have it. Eight different socks for eight different traveling situations.
It’s time to pay back your feet for all those years of carting you around. Which of these pairs will keep your toes the happiest?
Hanna Greeman is a language lover and global traveler. After graduating in Spanish and Italian from the University of Bristol, she has lived in Colombia, Peru, Italy, Australia and Thailand, and traveled across four continents. When not working as a freelance writer, catch her salsa dancing, reading or seeing live music.