You can tell a lot about a man by his socks. The inch or two of ankle you see peeking out between pant cuff and shoe speak volumes about his sartorial sensibility.
A sock can first and foremost be judged by the fiber. By the time you’re wearing good denim and getting good haircuts (read: not from Supercuts), you should be well past the cotton tube sock stage. Merino wool is the natural pick for quality, durability, warmth, softness, and style.
We field-tested the best Merino wool socks available in the most variable conditions you can imagine: The challenging terrain and unpredictable weather of a year in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. After enduring the rigors of muddy trails, slushy streets, alternating extremes of heat and cold, sun and rain, and a 6-foot snowdrift that had us tunneling out the door for our lives (true story), these socks have earned their place on The Manual’s “best of” list.
Darn Tough Micro Crew Light Cushion Socks
When I first put these on, my initial thought was, “These are the best socks I’ve ever worn.” Sit with that for a minute. After a year-plus of punishing all-season use, these socks have more than lived up to their name. With virtually no wear on the toes or heel, the only sign that they’ve ever come out of the package is the broken-in softness they now boast. They’re thin, but fit as snug as a fist in a jar, and to this day have never slid down the leg of any of our testers.
Best for: Hiking, outdoor sports, everyday wear
Farm to Feet Medium Weight Crew Socks
Farm to Feet socks just make us feel good. They’re tough, they’re warm, and they make us feel like we’re supporting a good cause, e.g., a farm. (Which is extra good on weekends when we oversleep and miss the farmers’ market.) The outer plaiting texture protects the integrity of the soft inner yarns, providing great feel and reliable insulation. Our first pair has lasted well over a year — our thrifty ancestors would approve.
Best for: General outdoor wear
Neverquit Apparel Merino Wool HexaShock Padded Crew Socks
This Canadian startup claims to have built the best socks ever — and the brand just might be right. With marshmallowy soft hexagonal cushioning and ergonomically tailored construction, Neverquit’s Merino model is our go-to sock when snow begins to fall. They’ll make your heaviest boots feel like a pair of broken-in Clarks, while the hydrophobic custom Merino blend ensures that even if you post-hole up to your knees, your toes will stay dry and toasty. These ultra-technical socks are even infused with zinc oxide to combat odor, so you can prop those feet up by the wood stove with no shame.
Best for: Winter sports
If you’re as tired as we are of dress socks that fray, pill, and — worst of all — constantly slip down your calves, you’re going to swoon over these merino dress socks. Crafted by a North Carolina family who has been in the textile business for seven generations, these socks are not only slip-proof (and shrink-proof!) but deliciously soft and eminently breathable, ensuring dryness and comfort in all seasons. Plus, there’s just something about knowing that pink polka dots are lurking below your work-appropriate khakis.
Best for: Office and street wear
Swiftwick Persuit Zero Socks
We wanted to love Bombas — we really did. But after one too many big toe bust-throughs, we were ecstatic to trade them out for Swiftwick’s tough-as-nails no-show socks. Their Pursuit Zero sock is built for hard use, with bolstered durability in high abrasion areas, a mid-cushion for cloud-soft comfort, an engineered fit that conforms to the contours of your feet, and that magical heel tab that ensures your no-show socks stay put. Who knew socks could be so high-tech?
Best for: Running, high-impact casual wear
Smartwool Hunt Extra Heavy OTC Socks
Another well-deserved brand name for a line of well-engineered Merino socks that just don’t quit. The Smartwool sock catalog is so deep, it even has a Sock Finder feature on its website. Since we’re being pressed to choose just one pair to feature, we offer for your consideration the Hunt Extra Heavy OTC Sock. Its impact-absorbent cushioning, arch/ankle support and flat-knit toe seam keep you dancing along the most punishing terrain.
Best for: Hard wear on the trail
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