Do You Wear Socks With Hiking Sandals (Tips, Pros and Cons)

As long-time hikers who have navigated varied terrains and climates, we’ve encountered numerous debates and quandaries on the trail. One of the most recurring and controversial topics in our hiking community is hiking footwear – specifically if one should wear socks with hiking sandals.

It’s a reasonable query. After all, most hiking sandals are designed to offer comfort, support, and breathability. But, can or should you pair them with socks?

The answer isn’t as straightforward as you might think. Let’s delve into this topic, examining different factors and scenarios that might influence your decision to don, or forgo, socks with your hiking sandals. 

Quick Summary

  • The decision to wear socks with hiking sandals depends on personal preference and specific hiking conditions.
  • Wearing socks with hiking sandals can offer benefits like enhanced comfort, foot protection against debris, and easy adjustments for varying temperatures.
  • However, there are also several reasons not to wear socks with hiking sandals, including reduced ventilation, poor moisture management, and personal comfort preferences. 

Do You Wear Socks With Your Hiking Sandals?

Some hikers choose to wear moisture-wicking socks with sandals for added comfort, protection from debris, and to prevent blisters. This combination can also be suitable in cooler weather when you want to keep your feet warm.

However, others prefer the freedom of going sockless during hot conditions. Ultimately, it depends on your comfort and the specific terrain and weather you’ll encounter during your hike.

Reasons for Wearing Socks with Hiking Sandals

a closeup of a person wearing socks with outdoor sandals in the forest

As unconventional as it may sound, wearing socks with sandals can significantly enhance your hiking experience.

Whether you’re a fan of minimalist footwear or prefer the classic closed-toe sandals with thicker rubber soles, adding socks to your hiking shoes can offer a multitude of benefits. 

Enhanced Comfort

One of the main reasons trail runners wear socks with their sandals is for increased comfort. We’ve seen many times how wearing socks can reduce friction between the foot and the sandal, especially around the big toe straps, resulting in fewer blisters and sores.

This can be especially beneficial on long hiking trips where comfort is key. 

More Warmth on Chillier Moments of the Day

Merino wool hiking socks can keep your feet warm during those chilly early morning hikes or when the temperature drops in the evening. Wool hiking socks, particularly those made from merino wool, provide excellent insulation and can help maintain a comfortable temperature for your feet. 

Foot Protection against Debris

Wearing sandals with socks can offer added protection against debris on the trail. This is particularly true for toe socks, which can prevent little pebbles and twigs from getting between your toes and causing discomfort.

Recent scientific inquiries suggest that wearing technical socks during low-intensity, brief sporting activities minimizes the risk of developing lesions from 36.4% to 6.6%.

Easy to Dry Out

Most hiking socks are made from synthetic materials or merino wool, which are known for their quick-drying properties.

This is a crucial feature in the event of wet feet or sudden rain during your hike. Your feet will dry faster, reducing the chance of developing blisters or discomfort. 

Footwear Versatility

Perhaps the greatest advantage of wearing hiking socks with sandals is the versatility it offers. It allows you to easily transition from a hot summer hike to a cooler evening stroll simply by putting on or taking off your socks.

Reasons for Not Wearing Socks with Hiking Sandals

person wearing hiking sandals on a trail without socks

While the subject may be controversial, many adventurers decide not to wear socks with their sandals.

There are several reasons why they might choose this path, and after testing both options, we are now able to list down these reasons in detail: 


Wearing hiking sandals without socks gives your feet a chance to breathe. This is particularly important on hot days or during long hikes, where sweaty feet and hot spots can become an issue.

Durable straps and rugged soles on most sandals are designed to ensure maximum comfort without the need for socks.

Weight and Bulk

Minimalist sandals pack down well, and this is one of the reasons many runners (us included) choose them. But wearing socks adds to the amount of weight and bulk in your pack. This can be a bother, especially for minimalist hikers who prefer to carry sandals as light as possible. 

Aesthetic Reasons

While fashion may not be a primary concern when hiking, some people consider wearing socks with sandals a fashion faux pas. For these people, socks only work with hiking boots or hiking shoes.

Personal Preference

Ultimately, the decision to wear or not wear sandals with hiking socks often comes down to personal preference. Some outdoor enthusiasts swear by their merino wool hiking socks, while others prefer the feel of sandal straps directly against their skin. 

When Do You Wear Socks with Hiking Sandals?

While some outdoor explorers would not wear socks with their hiking sandals or even regular sandals, there are some situations where this accessory can prove useful.

Cold Weather

Many hikers opt for wearing socks with closed-toe hiking sandals during colder weather. The additional layer helps keep feet warm and adds some extra cushioning on rough terrain.

For example, we found that some of the most popular toe socks, like those produced by Darn Tough, offer excellent big-toe protection, keeping your feet dry and cozy even when the temperature drops.

Preventing Blisters

According to this study, wearing protection socks, particularly those with minimal friction against the skin, can help decrease the likelihood of developing blisters and ulcers caused by shear forces when walking barefoot in developing areas.

Wearing the right socks can help prevent blisters and keep your feet comfortable. Remember, it’s crucial to choose socks that offer sufficient padding without causing your feet to sweat excessively. 

Dusty or Sandy Terrain

On dusty or sandy trails, socks can provide a barrier protecting your feet from irritants. They also help keep your hiking sandal straps clean, prolonging their lifespan.

However, when hiking in these environments, we noticed that the sand gathers at the surface of the socks, preventing ventilation, so in this situation, socks may increas heat in your feet.

Protection from Sun and Insects

Socks offer shielding from sunburns and insect bites. Outdoor adventurers might encounter a thorny bush or insects; having socks on can spare your feet from such unpleasant surprises.

Most open-toe sandals paired with thinner socks can offer this protection without compromising the cooling advantage of sandals. 

Foot Sensitivity

For hikers with sensitive feet, socks provide an additional layer of comfort with all types of hiking shoes. They can prevent toe stubs and provide padding for long hikes on uneven terrain.

This is especially true if you opt for socks that come with individual toe compartments to go with your toe-strap sandals.


Wearing socks with hiking sandals can offer a hygiene advantage. Socks absorb sweat, reducing the chance of developing unpleasant odors. This becomes crucial when hiking for long distances or in hot weather conditions. 

How to Choose the Right Socks for Hiking Sandals

hiking socks on a trail

Choosing the best hiking socks for your sandals is essential to ensure comfort and performance on the trail.

Here’s a list of criteria to consider when selecting socks for your hiking sandals:

  • Material: Materials are an important factor when choosing hiking socks. Wool, for instance, is a popular choice due to its warmth and breathability. Synthetic materials like nylon provide durability and moisture management.
  • Thickness: Sock thickness can vary based on personal preference and weather conditions. For a hot day, thin socks offer more breathability, keeping your feet cool. Thicker socks provide extra cushioning and added warmth for morning and evening endeavors. 
  • Cushioning: Good cushioning can prevent blisters and provide extra comfort during long hikes. Socks with more material in the heel and ball of the foot provide more support. Also, some socks come with built-in arch support, which can be beneficial for those with flat feet or high arches. 
  • Height: The height of your socks should match your hiking sandal to avoid discomfort. Crew-height socks can protect against thorny bushes and poisonous plants. 
  • Fit: A well-fitted sock is essential. Loose socks can slide and cause blisters. Always try on socks with your hiking sandals to ensure a good fit. 
  • Odor Control: Materials like merino wool are known for their natural odor-control properties. This can be a plus if you’re planning multi-day hikes. 
  • Activity-Specific Features: Think about the type of hiking you’ll be doing. If you’ll be doing water crossings, consider quick-drying socks. For rocky trails, opt for socks with more protection. 
  • Sock Color: Color isn’t just about fashion, it can also play a practical role. Light-colored socks, for instance, can aid in spotting ticks and other insects more readily. 

Are Wool Socks Good for Hiking?

Wool socks are a top choice among hikers for many reasons. They offer excellent insulation, wick away feet’ sweat, and provide ideal cushioning for a long hike.

However, after testing more than a dozen wool sock pairs, we can conclude that the effectiveness somewhat depends on the type of shoes you use. For instance, when wearing heavy boots or trail shoes, wool socks might be an excellent choice.

But, when hiking in sandals, you may want to reconsider. 

Wearing wool socks with hiking sandals can lead to an uncomfortable experience as your feet might overheat.

This, however, is not the case for everyone. Some hikers find that wool socks provide the right amount of warmth and protection, even when worn with a new pair of hiking sandals.

So, Should You Wear Socks with Hiking Sandals?

After testing the best outdoor sandals, both with and without socks, our recommendation is to look into factors like the weather, terrain, and distance of your hike when making your decision. 

For instance, if you’re planning a hike in chilly weather, wearing socks can provide extra warmth. However, in warmer conditions, socks might cause hot spots and make your feet sweat excessively. 

To wrap up, the choice to wear hiking socks is a personal one, highly dependent on your comfort and the conditions of your hike. Experiment and find out what works best for you!


Catalin Geangos

Catalin Geangos

Catalin is a writer and outdoor specialist who has been traveling in over 35 countries so far. He loves spending time in nature, enjoying mountains and nature adventures, and ultimately inspiring people to travel more. In his time off, he is testing, analyzes, and reviews hiking and other outdoor gear and accessories.

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