If you have ever spent time browsing the sock aisle at a department store or even just browsing the seemingly endless selection of socks on online marketplaces like Amazon, then there is no doubt you have come across the term “moisture-wicking”. This apparel buzzword is meant to describe garments that keep the body (feet, in this case) feeling dry by pulling sweat away from the skin, and onto the surface of the fabric where it is quickly evaporated, or “wicked away”.
Sweaty feet are a concern of many, particularly when exercising or wearing closed-toe shoes for long periods of time! Nearly all moisture-wicking socks are marketed towards active types, such as athletes, gym-goers, and those who participate in outdoor activities such as hiking. These socks are meant to wick away moisture from the skin during periods of heightened activity when the feet are more prone to producing extra levels of sweat. However, based on our research, none of these are specifically marketed towards people who sweat excessively and all the time, regardless of environmental factors or activity level. Excessively sweaty feet are a medical condition known as plantar hyperhidrosis, which affects nearly 5% of the global population (approximately 365 million people worldwide). Hyperhidrosis is generally ranked according to a severity scale, which classifies the condition as mild, moderate, or severe.
We have previously conducted research on the best socks for sweaty feet (with a focus on material) and compiled a list of the best materials for socks, which included merino wool, bamboo, Coolmax, polyester, and Drymax. Additionally, we documented that copper and silver are popular anti-odor and antimicrobial agents that are weaved into moisture-wicking socks, as odor and sweat often go hand in hand.
After scouring the internet and analyzing countless top moisture-wicking sock lists and reviews, we picked 15 types of socks from 15 different brands and put them to the test. Next, we designed our test protocol and approached our test subjects who all suffer from plantar hyperhidrosis to put these socks to the test. Generally, all of our participants perform Dermadry’s iontophoresis treatments to reduce their excessive sweating, but they all put the treatments on hold for several months prior to the launch of the test so that their feet returned to their sweatiest state. The goal of this test was to determine how well these moisture-wicking sock tests perform for the sweatiest of feet, and if the type of sock could provide day-long comfort and some temporary relief for someone who suffers from hyperhidrosis (in comparison to wearing regular non-moisture-wicking socks, or just going barefoot).
What were we looking for? We were looking for the best socks that can wick away moisture from the skin. Additionally, we were looking for the most comfortable, breathable option that also helped control odor, as sweat and odor often go hand in hand, particularly when it comes to feet. We also wanted to determine whether these socks, which are primarily marketed for active types, could also be useful for those who suffer from hyperhidrosis and sweat all day rather than just a short incremental burst during activity.
Why is this important? Excessively sweaty feet can lead to a range of foot and toenail infections, such as athlete’s foot and ingrown toenails. A damp environment, such as the one created when sweaty feet remain trapped in closed-toe shoes, creates the optimal conditions for bacteria and fungus to grow and multiply. Additionally, the sweat produced by the foot is absorbed into the sock, and if it does not wick it away from the skin, it can lead to maceration (softening) of the skin, which aggravates these problems. And, of course, sweaty feet are extremely uncomfortable and can lead to socially awkward situations when an individual needs to take their shoes off.
Test Subject #1: Male, 29. Severe Hyperhidrosis.
Test Subject #2: Female, 50. Moderate to Severe Hyperhidrosis.
Test Subject #3: Male, 40. Moderate to Severe Hyperhidrosis.
Test Subject #4: Female, 25. Moderate Hyperhidrosis
Test Subject #5: Male, 30. Moderate Hyperhidrosis.
The following protocol was followed in order to evaluate all the socks equally and to ensure that the socks were not aided by nor benefitted from any external factors that would have halted sweat production on feet. The idea was to create a similar, stable environment, and make sure that all our participants tested the socks under similar, comparable conditions and no sock or participant was at an advantage.
(Evaluated on a Scale of 1-10, 1 = Lowest; 10 = Highest)
Below is a chart featuring all the socks we tested. All selected socks were from a different company who listed “moisture-wicking” as one of the sock’s top defining attributes. The socks were selected based on their availability (they are all available for purchase from Amazon.com), and their popularity and rankings (based on an analysis of reviews, and their presence on other “best moisture-wicking socks” lists), and their advertised properties. The overall score takes into consideration the 5 testing categories: moisture-wicking, comfort, breathability, odor control, and fit, with a weighted focus on their moisture-wicking ability.
The following scores are an average of all five testers' scores. While each tester had their own personal preferences regarding what they were looking for in a sock (material, length, etc.), all prioritized the moisture-wicking abilities of the socks and aimed to be as subjective as possible in their quest for dry feet.
The Winner: SmartWool Hiking Light Crew Sock
Honorable Mention: Saucony
These SmartWool Hiking Light Crew Sock socks ranked the highest in all categories, getting a score of 9/10 on the moisture-wicking, breathability, fit, and odor-resistance categories, as well as a perfect 10/10 score on the comfort ranking from most testers. As our test subject #1 suffered from the most severe foot sweating, we paid particularly close attention to what he had to say, and he said that these socks left him feeling “dry and happy” throughout most of the day. He was impressed by the thickness of the material, the length of the sock, and its ability to keep him the driest and most odor-free in comparison to the other test socks.
The Saucony socks were also a favorite among our testers, and the runner up who also achieved a 9/10 score, only scoring less on comfort due to their length. While all our testers had various personal preferences regarding the comfort, length, and material of the socks, all agreed that the most effective one in terms of moisture-wicking were the SmartWool ones. Some were surprised that the thickest socks of the bunch kept their feet the driest and comfortable all day.
Not all socks are created equal. As evidenced in the scores, there was a slight but noticeable difference between the socks. While moisture-wicking socks may help control sweat and odor for most athletes, gym-goers, or those participating in outdoor activities, they will not offer significant relief for those who suffer from plantar hyperhidrosis and have excessively sweaty feet all the time. The longer the socks are kept on, the less the moisture-wicking effects are felt. So, while these socks may be effective for short periods of time, such as when one is doing a workout or an outdoor activity, they aren’t ideal for a long period of time (such as a full workday). It may help for the first couple of hours, but after a full day of closed-toe shoes, these socks were no match for the sweatiest of feet. However, it was unanimous that these socks did help, especially in comparison to regular non-moisture-wicking socks or just being barefoot.
Treat your sweaty feet first! Our test subjects all quickly restarted their Dermadry iontophoresis treatments after the sock testing period ended. It’s crucial that severely sweaty feet receive the proper care and treatment. Once you have treated your feet and achieved your desired dryness, these socks can help you feel your best and wick away minute levels of sweat if you’re exercising, wearing closed-toe shoes and/or in extreme heat. Overall, these socks can offer some relief but are not a replacement for effective treatment.
→ What do you think? Do you have any tips and trick to share or have a favorite pair of socks? Share your experience and trials with moisture-wicking socks garments below!
Disclosure: Some of the above links are affiliate links, which means we may make a small commission if you use our link to make a purchase.