What Are the Best Ski Socks to Keep You Comfortable?Published on 06/29/2023 · 10 min readStay cozy on the slopes with our Expert guide to the best ski socks. Understand features like warmth, comfort, and moisture-wicking to find your perfect pair!
Tall ski socks worn with ski boots on a spring day. Photo by Allie Staffen
Tl;dr: When buying a pair of ski socks, consider the following factors: Cushion (different levels of padding are available to tailor to your needs), material (Merino wool versus polyester offer different benefits), fit (ski socks that are too big or too small will create discomfort in your ski boot), and additional features (such as heated or compression socks). Getting the correct ski socks is essential to having warm, comfortable feet in your ski boots.
Ski socks are an essential piece of equipment for any skier. Wearing a proper ski sock can significantly impact your comfort on the mountain and the fit of your ski boot. The skier is prone to blisters, pressure points in the boots, and cold, wet feet without a proper ski sock. That is not a fun way to spend your day on the mountain! The best ski socks are designed to provide warmth, cushioning, moisture-wicking properties, and a snug fit within your ski boots.
In this article, I'm going to give you a comprehensive rundown of the importance of ski socks, how to choose the correct fit, the right cushioning and materials for you, top brands, specialty socks like compression and heated options, ski versus snowboard socks, and warranty information.
To give you a little background about myself before we dive in here, I grew up skiing from age 3 in New England, where I skied and snowboarded all over the icy East. I found myself working in outdoor retail when I graduated college and after a few years, moved to Colorado to pursue a career in the ski industry.
Here in Colorado, I managed ski shops for over 10 years for some of the biggest retailers in the industry and was fortunate to work alongside some of the best boot fitters in the country. I became certified as a master boot fitter myself by Masterfit along the way, with a lot of passion for the craft. In 2020, I began working with Curated.com and fell in love with the direct Expert connection our service offers so that anyone can access expert knowledge right at their fingertips. I've been working on translating my expertise here into an online environment ever since!
The Importance of Ski Socks
A proper ski sock is key to a proper boot fit. Skiers who have had to cut their day short on the mountain because their feet hurt know that if your boots don't feel good, the rest doesn't matter. So why would we ignore what we wear inside our ski boots to dial in our fit? A good pair of ski socks is an essential piece of ski gear.
A proper ski sock comes up out of the boot's cuff to right below the knee, and your ski sock should be the only material inside your boot. It fits snugly to the leg without extra material bunching at the heel, arch, or toes, so having the correct size is important. The idea is that a pair of ski socks create a seamless layer between your leg and your boot that won’t change position and compromise your fit while moving around and jamming your way down the mountain.
Adding other materials, like stuffing your base layers in your snow pants into the boots, can create uneven surfaces that can create pressure points on your skin and compromise your circulation. For this reason, boot fitters like myself will often recommend that you opt for a 3/4 length base layer.
It's a common misconception that thicker socks will keep you warmer! The main purpose of a pair of ski socks is to wick away moisture keeping your feet dry because they will be cold if your feet are wet. Breathability is a key feature of ski socks so that your sweat and snow can evaporate throughout the day. In addition, you never want to wear two pairs of socks because it prevents them from staying properly dry.
The keys to warm, happy feet are staying dry and having good circulation. This will reduce the risk of injury and enhance your performance whenever you're out on the mountain!
Choosing the Right Fit
It's important to have the right size ski sock. If the sock is too big, it can bunch up, giving you rubs, blisters, and pressure points in places you definitely don't want them. If the sock is too small, it can compromise your circulation or fail to cover your feet properly. Additionally, it's important to check the size charts of the brand you're buying because they're not all the same. You can find size charts by brands online, on the product's packaging, or ask a Curated Skiing Expert!
There are 29 muscles in the human foot and six in the lower leg, all working together to propel you through space. A well-constructed performance ski sock from a premium brand such as Smartwool or Darn Tough Socks will have support in the ankle, calf, and arch constructed using specific fibers and weaving techniques to add additional compression, stability, and durability. These also focus on the seamless toe and heel pockets so you're not affected by seams in those vulnerable areas. Correctly sizing your ski socks is important; otherwise, these features won't be positioned correctly.
Materials Used in Ski Socks
The main fabrics in ski socks are polyester or Merino wool blend with stretch nylon, Elastane, and Lycra Spandex to create stretchiness and compression. Both Merino wool and polyester have their benefits that we will dive into.
Cotton Ski Socks
Cotton socks are a recipe for cold feet and a poor fit, so ditch the Nike crew cuts. Premium performance ski socks blend natural and synthetic materials to provide antimicrobial, moisture-wicking, stretchy, supportive, and durable performance.
Merino Wool Ski Socks
Merino wool socks have amazing natural properties! The material is naturally odor resistant and antimicrobial, reducing any funky smells from building up over time, and naturally moisture-wicking. Merino wool blends better regulate temperature, helping you sweat less and stay comfortable in both warm and cold weather. Merino wool manufacturers in the ski industry strongly emphasize sustainably sourcing their wool and committing to the longevity of their products so that they can count on brands like Smartwool, Icebreaker, and Darn Tough Socks to each have an excellent lifetime guarantee.
Polyester Ski Socks
Polyester makes durable, lightweight socks that dry quickly and withstand frequent wear and washing. They're great for people who are more sensitive to natural fibers and tend to be less expensive, though they typically don't offer a lifetime guarantee which could lead to spending more over time. For quality brands that make polyester blends check out Stance and Fox River.
Cushioning Levels for Ski Socks
You'll notice that ski socks come in various thicknesses and cushioning configurations. The typical hierarchy goes ultralight, targeted padding, lightweight, medium, and heavy cushioning. As mentioned earlier in the article, a thick ski sock is often less desirable. It is more prone to making your feet sweat and adds unnecessary pressure inside your boots, especially brand-new ones. That's why boot fitters recommend a targeted or ultralight sock for breaking in a new pair of boots. It takes about 5-10 good ski days for a new boot to break in properly and settle.
After you've reached that point or a year or two into your boots, you might find that transitioning to a lightweight ski sock offers your best feel. I rarely want to add more cushion than that to a performance-fit boot. However, it's common for people to end up in boots with too much space! Unfortunately, this often leads to shin bang, so a midweight sock can help fill up some space and offer more padding. So if you're struggling to get that perfect feel in your boots, consider what's happening with your socks!
Ski Socks Vs. Snowboard Socks
Ski and snowboard boots are, of course, different breeds of footwear; as such, there are differences in the socks we want to use for skiing versus snowboarding. The differences in how we pressure the boot to maneuver our skis and boards affect where we want the padding in our socks to be focused.
Ski socks have padding more focused on the shins and the toes of the boot since we drive our weight forward when skiing. Snowboard socks have more padding on the ankles and sides of the feet for driving the board sideways. Snowboarding socks tend to be thicker with more padding overall, while ski socks tend to be low profile with more targeted padding. That being said, many people are generally fine going back and forth between ski and snowboard socks, so don't worry too much if you can only get your hands on one or the other.
Specialty Ski Socks to Consider
Heated Ski Socks
Heated socks are powered by removable batteries that snap into the cuff of the sock. They are low profile, so you don't have to worry about bulk, and they can be an advantage over other boot heating systems like Hotronics. Those weight savings really make a difference on the uphill! The batteries have multiple heat settings, so you can turn them up higher or keep the heat lower and conserve the battery. You can control the heat level on the battery itself or use a Bluetooth app on your phone! The socks themselves are machine washable and ultrasoft, breathable, and moisture-wicking.
Compression Ski Socks
Compression socks have proven benefits, especially for high-impact and endurance activities. Compression can promote better blood circulation and extra support for the muscles in your feet and legs. Thanks to the extra blood flow, your feet will likely feel warmer, and the compressed fit can help ensure a seamless fit inside your ski boot.
Compression socks offer accelerated recovery and reduce soreness which can be super helpful for getting in as many runs as possible on your once-a-year five-day ski trip or an 8+ mile backcountry ski excursion. The reduction in fatigue and increased support compression socks go a long way to preventing injury, which can be especially helpful if you're recovering from a prior injury and still have tenderness. They even work well off the slopes to stay cozy in the chalet and reduce swelling on your flight home. The only real downside to compression socks is that they can be so tight, so they might not feel great for extended periods or for those with large calves or sensory sensitivities.
How Much Does a Pair of Good Ski Socks Cost?
A good Merino wool ski sock can easily cost $20-30+. I personally have a pair of race-quality Merino wool socks that retail for over $60! That might seem outrageous but consider the context of how much your other performance gear costs and the fact that good quality pairs come with lifetime guarantees. A good pair of socks can be a buy-it-for-life investment, and anyone who’s suffered from frostbite will tell you good socks are priceless!
Warranty and Return Policies
You may be surprised that premium-performance ski socks have a lifetime guarantee. Smartwool offers a 100% satisfaction "Go Far. Feel Good. Guarantee." If, for any reason, you aren't completely happy with your Smartwool within two years of purchase, they will get you into a new pair. Plus, they offer a sock recycling program to increase sustainability. Darn Tough Socks from Vermont have an unconditional lifetime guarantee, and any sock that doesn't meet your demands can be exchanged for a new pair, no receipt, no problem!
Returns, however, are always subject to the retailer, so if you're looking to return an unworn sock for a refund, be sure to check in with the retailer you bought it from. Curated makes returns easier than ever; text your Expert or our dedicated support to get you taken care of!
Finding the Best Ski Socks for You
In conclusion, ski socks are a critical piece of equipment for any skier or snowboarder. As mentioned, they provide warmth, cushioning, and moisture-wicking properties and contribute significantly to the comfort and performance of a day on the slopes. Choosing the right size, fit, materials, and cushioning levels is crucial. Some socks come with compression or heating features and/or lifetime warranties.
Invest in quality ski socks to enjoy a comfortable and successful day on the mountain! If you found this information helpful and want to dive into free personalized gear recommendations, connect with me or another Skiing Expert on Curated.com, and we'll get you set up for success!