The Main Differences Between Walking and Normal Socks?

When comparing socks, at first glance, there is no significant difference. But when you try different socks, the difference is noticeable. Let’s see what the main differences between hiking and normal socks are.

Walking socks are more comfortable, cushioned, absorbent, and warmer than normal cotton socks. They are more comfortable to walk in and prevent blisters caused by the foot rubbing against the shoe. Quality walking socks are durable and will last you a long time.

Here is a detailed comparison between hiking socks and regular socks. And why avoiding wearing normal socks for sporting activities is a good idea.

What is the difference between walking and normal socks?

The main differences between walking and regular socks are in the materials, thickness, durability, comfort, absorbency, and impact on skin health. A direct comparison can be seen in the table below.

What is the difference between walking socks and normal socks?
What is the difference between walking socks and normal socks?
Walking socksNormal socks
MaterialsWalking socks are usually made of a mix of materials. The most common materials found in blends are merino wool, cotton, and synthetic materials (CoolMax and elastane).Ordinary socks, which can be bought in any shop, can be made from a mix of cotton and polyester. Or they can be made of 100% of one of these materials.
ThicknessWalking socks are made of thicker materials than normal socks, so they offer more comfort and are more durable for longer hikes.Regular socks are usually thinner than walking socks but still provide enough comfort for everyday use.
DurabilityThe fibers in walking socks are thicker and more durable to provide comfort and protection against chafing, even after long hikes.Normal socks are not suitable for longer hikes and other sporting activities. Their fibers are thinner and therefore get damaged more quickly and do not offer enough comfort and protection.
ComfortWalking socks are usually fully cushioned. Some socks are cushioned only at the toes, heels, and around the ankles. The thicker material makes the socks more comfortable.Normal socks can also be cushioned, but in most cases, they are not. This makes them less comfortable for more extended and more intense sports activities.
AbsorbencyGood quality walking socks are made from natural materials that absorb a lot of sweat (merino wool). And have thicker fibers, and because of this, they can absorb more sweat than normal socks.Normal socks can also be made of natural sweat-absorbing materials (cotton). Because normal socks are thinner, they can absorb less sweat.
HealthBecause the socks are comfortable and thick, your feet are rested for longer, and blisters do not form. The natural materials make them breathable and absorb and wick away sweat. This keeps the foot dry for longer, making bacteria less likely to develop.If you wear ordinary socks for everyday use, you won’t sweat too much in them. Cotton socks can absorb sweat and keep your feet dry for longer.
PriceA good quality pair of walking socks can cost $20 or more, and this price includes quality materials, durability, and comfort. In the long run, investing in quality walking socks is definitely worth it.Normal cotton socks cost less than $2 per pair if you buy larger packs. These socks are made from lower-quality cotton and should not be expected to last more than a few months.
Differences between walking and normal socks

The materials of socks matter the most

Materials play the most crucial role in the quality of socks, whether it’s walking socks, regular socks, or any other socks.

The best material for walking socks is merino wool. Merino wool absorbs up to 60% of its weight in moisture but stays dry to the touch. Wool is also an excellent heat insulator, so your feet will stay dry longer.

Merino sheep
Merino wool is harvested from Merino sheep

The thickness of the sock, its durability, comfort, absorbency, and impact on foot health depend most on the materials used to make the sock. Merino wool is the material that best fulfills all these properties.

In terms of materials, running socks and walking socks are pretty similar. Therefore, you can wear the same socks for both activities. You can read more about why running socks are also suitable for walking here.

The wool fibers are thick and soft, so the whole sock feels like it is cushioned. Some socks are designed to have extra padding in the most stressed areas – the toes, heels, and around the ankle.

Padded walking socks
Padded walking socks

Thick walking socks make walking more comfortable, which is important when you walk for hours and constantly rub your foot against the shoe. Thick and comfortable socks prevent chafing and blisters that would make walking difficult.

Walking socks last longer

It’s not uncommon for walking socks to last for years. It is challenging to keep normal socks in shape and comfortable enough to wear for more than a year. The main reason why walking socks last longer is that they are made of thick and durable fibers.

Walking socks last longer
Walking socks last longer

I have two pairs of walking socks in my wardrobe, which I only wear when I go hiking in the hills, and wear hiking boots. As I do not go hiking often, I have had these two pairs of socks for over 3 years. The walking socks should last at least a year if you wear them once a week. If you want to keep the socks longer, wear them only for walks and hikes. When you do other activities, wear socks that are suitable for those activities.

You can read more about how to care for your socks and the 9 ways to keep them last for longer here.


My name is Gregor and I'm a sports and fashion enthusiast. Like you, I want my clothes to be good quality and comfortable. I hope my articles will help you choose the right underwear for you.

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