The Time of Boots & Boot Socks

Hikers out in fall weather wearing merino wool boot socks by a fireplace

I love boots. Short boots, tall boots, ankle boots, booties, cowgirl boots, duck boots, dress boots, hiking boots… I’ve yet to meet a boot I didn’t like.

If I’m being honest, this love of boots probably stems from my distaste for sneakers. I could list the many cons of sneakers (expensive, weird color choices, tying laces, unpairable with dresses)… but I digress. The point is, when that fall chill hits the air, I’m pulling all the boots out of my closet and leaving the sneakers firmly in the back.

Want to know the clincher that makes a good boot day a GREAT boot day? Boot socks. These guys have a long history. Let me tell you why boot socks are so great, and why, if you have a closet full of boots like I do, you also need a matching drawer full of boot socks.

What Are Boot Socks?

Before I dive into why boot socks are so great, I should define “boot sock.” There are two ways to think about this… 

  1. Boot sock = a sock you wear with boots. Pretty straightforward, but also means depending on your preferences and the boots you’re wearing, pretty much ANY sock could be called a boot sock.
  2. Boot sock = a specific sock height (like crew socks or no show socks), knit to be tall enough to cover your leg above the height of the average boot.

When I say, “boot sock,” I’m thinking about option number 2 (the Number 2 sock isn’t a boot sock by the way… but doesn’t mean I wouldn’t wear it with boots).

Example of darn tough boot socks on woman wearing them with hiking boots

A Darn Tough boot sock averages around 11” tall from heel to cuff, meaning your leg is fully protected from your shoe, whether you’re wearing a 4” hiking boot, 8” combat boot, or any boot height in-between.

A Unique Cushioned Moment

If you’re looking at Darn Tough boot socks, you’re also considering what the best cushion situation we knit may be. You see, most Cushion socks have cushion just underfoot, while Full Cushion socks have cushioning throughout the entire sock. Depending on your preferences, you might find yourself like Goldilocks, too little cushioning, too much…still looking for that just right.

For me, the Boot Socks are just right. Because these socks are designed specifically to pair with boots, they have a unique cushion layout. We knit terry loops underfoot and in the leg around your shin, but not over the top of the foot. The extra cushion around the leg acts as a lace guard, while the lack of cushion over the top of the foot gives that extra breathability. Voilà, cushion perfection. 

For More Than Fall & Winter

Now don’t get me wrong. I wear boot socks the most during fall and winter (aka prime boot season). But in my book, boot socks are a must-own year-round. Here’s a few examples of when that’s true…

  • Hiking. The right boot socks paired with your hiking boots can make or break how your feet feel during and post-hike. Not to mention the extra height can help keep your calves from becoming mud-havens.Hiker wearing hiking boots and van grizzle boot socks with bears on them
  • Dressy days. I’ll admit, when I’m dressing up in warm weather, I tend to gravitate toward sandals. But some looks just beg for dress boots, and when that happens the last thing I need is for those boots to be sticking to my skin in gross, sweat-induced ways. Merino Wool boot socks wick the sweat and keep my feet cool. Plus, a little sock color coordination can take your outfit up a notch. Win-win.
  • Rain days. I once lived in a town nicknamed “Drenchburg” because it rained so much. Unfortunately, I didn’t own rain boots, and I hadn’t yet learned the magical moisture-wicking properties of Merino Wool socks, so I spent a lot of days with wet feet that squished every step, in cotton socks that refused to dry all day long. Lesson learned.Hiker walking through river wearing merino wool boot socks and hiking boots
  • Air-conditioned offices. I have an office job. Sometimes the warmest days outside are the coldest days at work, and a pair of boot socks under your desk can save your toes from out of season frostbite.
  • Work. I may have an office job, but as a telephone lineman my dad is wearing heavy-duty leather boots year-round. Safe to say he knows all about foot-boot comfort in the outdoors. The shortest sock he’ll wear is a boot sock.
  • Horseback riding. Another lesson I learned the hard way. My friend invited me riding, I had my cowgirl boots with me but only ankle height socks…and by the end of the ride my skin was rubbed raw by the boot leather. My cowgirl boots are on the shorter side, making boot socks perfect, but you may want to go with over the calf socks if you’re boots are closer to knee high.

But Also All Winter Long

I rest my case that boot socks are useful year-round…but the cold weather is their time to shine.

Man about to put leather work boots on over brown work socks

I live in New England, where winter takes up half the year, easy. That’s 6 months out of the year I don’t leave the house without socks (except for my annual barefoot snow run, but that doesn’t count). 

Is there a better feeling than snow crunching under your snow boots in temperatures so cold you can see your breath, yet your toes are cozy warm in Merino Wool comfort? I don’t think so. On really cold days I’ll opt for boot socks with full cushion (meaning there’s terry loops throughout the entire sock for extra cush and warmth).

Two campers wearing twisted yarn boot socks seated by a campfire with their dog

Ok, there might be one better feeling. Curling up after a day spent in the cold with a cup of cocoa, good book, and feet swaddled in a fresh pair of super-soft Twisted Yarn boot socks for that extra silky-soft loft. If you have a fireplace, all the better.

Beyond Boots

Boot socks, at their core, are problem-solving socks, good for more than just boots. A poor shoe choice can be saved or at least salvaged with a lovely boot sock. To understand a few ways boot socks can save the day, imagine when…

  • You chose too thin a shoe. You thought your shoe was warm enough, but your toes are freezing…if only you had boot socks to up the warmth factor.
  • Your shoe is too short. And your lower part of your calves are getting covered in mud, scratched by thorns, just generally mistreated. Tough boot socks with a lifetime guarantee have your calves covered (literally).
  • Your shoe is too big. Grab that full cushion boot sock and you’ll go from swimming in your shoes to gently held in place. If the ankle area is too big, my trick is to fold the sock cuff down over itself. Doubles the cushion too.
  • Your shoes malfunction… and you’re stuck wearing just your socks. Sure, any sock might do, but boot socks are probably the closest height to pure shoe replacement.Person seated on deck with boots off, wearing gray boot socks
  • You’re visiting a no-shoe house. It happens. In some places, it’s part of the culture. Regardless, boot socks protect your feet from cold, crumby, or otherwise sketchy floors.

Boot Socks Rock

…And if I haven’t managed to convince you yet, I probably never will. No judgment. I still love my older sister even though she refuses to wear any sock higher than a no show, regardless of footwear.

Do I only wear boot socks with boots? No, I admit I’ve been tempted by the adorable designs of several Micro Crew socks… most recently the Bubble Bunny. For booties, Micro Crew height peaks just the right amount over the top for the design to show.

Feet wearing micro crew socks with hiking boots, walking through autumn leaves

But if push came to shove and I had to choose one sock height to wear with boots from now till the end of time… you know it’d be boot socks.

You just have to be confident in your sock choices (or sock-shoe choices, as it were). But as the weather gets colder, it couldn’t hurt to give pair of boot socks a try. These socks haven’t let me down yet.

About the Author

Jenny Hastings fell in love with hiking from spending hours in the White Mountains with her dad, spending most weekends in the summer and quite a few weekends in the winter out on the trails. She's always looking for a new summit and ways to spend more time outdoors, whether on the trail or reading in her hammock.