Wool is becoming more commonly known as a fiber for all seasons, but it’s during the cold and wet months that the performance aspects of this powerhouse fabric are truly appreciated. Our fall sock roundup this year features a collection of wool options and one model that’s also inspired by a wooly beast.
Swiftwick Vision Five Winter ($20)
Fabric composition: 54% merino wool, 38% nylon, 8% spandex
Swiftwick continues its recent tradition of releasing seasonal winter designs of this wool-dominant sock that provides strong insulation in cool or wet conditions. This year, there are six designs to choose from featuring snowflake designs, frosty mountains or a festive “pawlidays” pattern. The socks are up to the performance demands of winter, with rapid-wicking nylon fibers to manage moisture and prevent hot spots and a ventilated midfoot channel to further enhance breathability. A contoured overall fit with arch band support and moderate compression stays in place well when wet or when covering moderately technical terrain, and medium cushioning underfoot provides an additional measure of comfort. Available at www.swiftwick.com.
Darn Tough Stride Micro Crew Ultra-Lightweight ($20)
Fabric composition: 52% nylon, 42% merino wool, 6% lycra spandex
This updated design on the successful Stride sock is noticeably lighter and smoother than the previous version due to fine gauge knitting, and has the best combination of lightweight and high performance in our group this season. The micro crew height is versatile in both warm and cold weather, and a performance fit combines uniform light compression, seamless construction to eliminate chafing and mild arch support to prevent slippage. Flex windows lessen the thickness of material in zones where your foot bends the most, and overall breathability is outstanding. Historically, Darn Tough lives up to their name of producing some of the most durable socks we’ve tested, and their products are also backed by a lifetime guarantee. This model has proven tough despite its ultra-lightweight construction. We also dig the fun stripes. Available at www.darntough.com.
Paka Apparel Crew Socks ($18)
Fabric composition: 41% alpaca fiber, 8% tencel, 50% recycled nylon, 1% spandex
It’s almost impossible to match the exquisite softness of alpaca wool, which is lighter than sheep’s wool and has a lower water retention rate. Paka’s crew socks feel almost like wearing a dress sock against the skin, but they resist abrasion well throughout, and have held up well to our heavy running mileage and all-day hiking use. Triple-sole padding provides comfortable cushioning and a light arch support gently hugs the foot, but the overall fit of these socks is not particularly snug and have a tendency to move around slightly as intensity picks up. Paka is a Certified B Corporation, and these socks continue the company’s dedication to sustainable sourcing and manufacturing. They also have a lifetime guarantee, so if you happen to wear them out, Paka will replace them. Available at www.pakaapparel.com.
Definite Articles Crew Socks ($17)
Fabric composition: 51% sustainable nylon, 23% BCI cotton, 23% sustainable recycled polyester, 3% spandex
Definite Articles have the most compelling value premise of any socks we’ve tested: they are completely microplastic-free and rapidly biodegradable. This is done with a natural additive called ciclo, which allows the socks to biodegrade within 3-4 years after they arrive in a landfill. But don’t worry, they won’t degrade in your sock drawer. The company launched this year and has plans for a full apparel line with an abundance of sustainable construction methods. Definite Articles has also been doing a lot of grassroots outreach at trail races. The socks have performed well for us in a variety of conditions including wet and technical terrain, and have shown good abrasion resistance at the medial ankle areas where socks often get scuffed. A cushioned sole and 360-degree arch support improve the overall comfort and fit, and the socks stay put in most conditions. Five solid-color options are available at www.definitearticles.com.
Smartwool Run Targeted Cushion Mid-Crew ($23)
Fabric composition: 55% merino wool, 40% nylon, 2% recycled nylon, 3% elastane
This has been our favorite “one sock does it all” for long trail runs as well as speedwork on the road or track for both the performance features and versatile mid-crew height. The ZQ-certified merino wool is crafted with Indestructawool technology that fortifies the yarn with nylon filaments for increased strength and durability. Targeted cushioned zones in the forefoot and heel are just enough to add a bit of comfort on impact without adding bulk, and mesh ventilation zones provide outstanding moisture transfer and breathability. Elastic fibers in an X-shaped pattern across the top of the sock provide natural flex channels, and a slightly compressed fit wraps the contours of the foot effectively to keep the sock securely in place. Available at www.smartwool.com.
Minus33 Mountain Heritage Crew Wool Socks ($17)
Fabric composition: 60% merino wool, 25% nylon, 14% stretch nylon, 1% spandex
The highest wool content in our test group comes from Minus33, who offer numerous options to choose from in their performance sock lineup: six different height options, four thicknesses and three different cushioning levels. Once you find your match, the socks are very soft and comfortable, particularly with this full-cushioned option that adds comfort without sacrificing wicking or breathability. This additional thickness across the entire footbed provides impact durability, and the overall fit of these socks is dialed in through three elastic zones as well as a Y-Heel pocket to keep the entire sock in place. The micro-weight thickness sock is insulated with temps into the 30s and the thicker options would be great for more frigid conditions. Available at www.minus33.com.
Brooks Sasquatch Tempo Knit Crew Socks ($17)
Fabric composition: 52% DriLayer nylon, 46% Dri-Stitch polyester, 2% spandex
These limited-edition socks are part of a larger Sasquatch collection born from a collaboration between Brooks and artist Louie Gong, a lifelong runner and member of the Nooksack Tribe. The collection illustrates interpretations of Sasquatch through art and culture of the Pacific Northwest. This crew-height sock is form-fitting with light compression throughout. Minimal cushioning across the bottom of the foot maintains a natural feel and the entire sock does a great job wicking moisture off the foot. Although these socks don’t include an actual depiction of Sasquatch, there are hat and shirt options in the same collection that do. Available at brooksrunning.com.