Almost every sock knit at Darn Tough’s Vermont-based mills is made with Merino Wool (they do knit some vegan synthetic styles). As a company dedicated to knitting the absolute best socks out there, it’s probably no surprise they view socks as all-season wardrobe essentials - yes, even in summer.
- Merino Wool thermoregulates to cool feet when it's hot
- It absorbs moisture, dries fast, and controls odor
- Multiple Merino weights mean customizable comfort
- It needs to be washed less frequently
- It can help reduce waste
Why It's Cool to Wear Merino Wool Socks in Summer
#1 Merino Wool keeps you cool when it’s hot
You’ve probably heard that Merino Wool keeps you warm when it’s cold, but did you know it also keeps you cool when it’s hot? It’s not magic that it can do both…it’s thermoregulation, or keeping something at a consistent temperature when the surrounding temperature is very different.
Merino is a master thermoregulator. The more heat around your feet, the more the wool fibers cool to keep the climate inside the sock steady and comfortable.
Does that mean you should be wearing Merino Wool socks with your sandals this summer? That is 100% your own personal style choice! If your feet have access to the open air they can do a pretty good job cooling themselves (although they won’t naturally control odor like wool socks do).
But when you’re wearing closed footwear - like hiking boots or running sneakers or cute canvas kicks - pairing them with socks that are breathable, quick-drying, odor-controlling, and temperature-regulating is going to feel more comfortable.
BTW: Darn Tough has a collection of no show Merino Wool socks that let you reap all the benefits of wool and keep it on the down-low.
#2a Merino Wool manages moisture...
The core of every wool fiber can absorb moisture (up to 30% of its weight) without feeling wet, creating a pocket of dry air around your feet.
Your socks’ ability to manage moisture sounds even more awesome when you consider that the soles of human feet produce up to half a pint of sweat daily. So, what happens to all that sweat? Unlike with cotton which hangs onto moisture and gets gross, wool actively moves it away so it can evaporate.
Ever heard of evaporative cooling? If you paid attention in biology class, you might remember that when water (the main ingredient in sweat) leaves the surface of our skin by turning to vapor, it takes heat with it and we are able to cool down. Wool's natural fibers have evolved to do something quite similar - to move moisture and release heat to maintain a more comfortable temperature. By wearing Merino Wool in the summer, your feet stay cooler and dryer.
Side note: wet feet and socks can lead to blisters. Do your feet a favor and wear wool socks for summer activities to reduce friction and prevent blisters.
#2b ...and controls odor
Another benefit and reason why wool socks are great for hot, sweaty feet is because they control odor. Our sweat is naturally broken down by bacteria, and more sweat = more bacteria.
When left to build up in socks (or shoes), sweaty feet get funky fast. But when sweat is absorbed by Merino fibers, two awesome things happen:
- Feet end up with less sweat on them so fewer bacteria grow
- Wool’s chemical makeup actually traps bacteria and stops their growth
Less bacteria = less smell.
And, if you’re wondering whether more wool fibers = more sweat absorbing/odor controlling/thermoregulating awesomeness… it totally works that way. In fact, many folks like wearing midweight wool socks for hot weather hiking, because they have more fibers absorbing more sweat and stopping odor in its tracks - and they’re suuuuuuuper cushy for long days on the trail.
#3 Merino is comfortable through thick and thin
Darn Tough knits socks ranging from Ultra-Lightweight to Heavyweight - the thickness of the Merino Wool yarn used to knit a sock determines its weight. And while you’d think the obvious recommendation would be to wear thin wool socks in summer, sock weight has a direct correlation to how much moisture a sock can manage. Let’s break it down.
Thin wool socks (e.g., lightweight and ultra-lightweight) knit with the finest Merino yarns are super silky, airy, and breathable. Because they have fewer wool fibers throughout, these socks are best at managing moisture and thermoregulating during light activity where you’re not sweating a lot.
There are more Merino Wool fibers in midweight and heavyweight socks, which means they have a greater capacity for thermoregulation, moisture management, and odor resistance. If you’re planning some extra-sweaty summer activities like hiking and trail running, thick wool socks might be the right choice for you.
#4 Merino socks don’t need daily washing
Pro Tip: Two-ish pairs of wool socks can get you through a week away. Switch back and forth between pairs, letting them air inside-out on their off days.
When wash day arrives, here’s everything you need to know about how to wash Merino Wool socks.
#5 Wearing Merino can help reduce waste
How can wearing wool socks in summer reduce waste? Well, this is more of a year-round thing actually. Whatever the season, buying quality, wearing it wisely, and using it up is one way we can all reduce waste headed to landfills.
Wearing clothes more and washing them less reduces the amount of water we use. And when it comes to something like choosing wool socks, the potential for impact may seem kinda small until you consider all the sock-wearing folks out there in the world. Taking small steps together can make a pretty big difference!
DYK: Darn Tough is taking aim at reducing waste with The Overstock Project - knitting one-of-a-kind socks using up leftover Merino Wool yarns that didn’t have a future. It’s always a good time to be more responsible with our natural resources.
Merino Socks That Make for the Best Summer
Ok, we discussed why you should wear wool socks in summer months (we like other wool clothing year-round too). They feel great on, keep feet cool, wick moisture, dry fast, control odor, and can reduce washing & waste.
If you’re ready to grab a pair, here are a few of my summer favorites (I’m in the light wool sock camp):
Lightweight Hiking Socks
Women's Her Spur Boot / Men's Spur Boot - it’s a little taller than the micro crew sock styles and I like how thin and airy the top of the socks are, but with a little added cushion under the foot to make my hiking boots feel that much more comfortable.
Women’s Light Hiker Quarter / Men's Light Hiker Quarter - it’s just tall enough to cover my ankle bone, which I tend to clip with my shoe sometimes. The minimal height lets my leg breathe and keeps the grit out while I’m out walking the trails or dirt roads.
Lightweight Lifestyle Socks
Women’s Pixie Crew / Men's Oxford Crew - I own these thin Merino Wool socks in every colorway because they’re fun and super light - I wear them with my approach shoes, which feel best with a thin, no cushion sock.
Ultra-lightweight Running Socks
Women’s Glide Micro Crew / Men's Bolt Micro Crew - I’m not into running, but that didn’t stop me from buying these gorgeous, jewel-toned socks. They’re actually great to wear biking in hot weather - super light, snug, and puts some cushion between my foot and the pedal.
TL;DR — Merino Wool IS for Summer (RECAP)
Are wool socks good for summer? Yes! Wearing Merino Wool socks in summer can keep your feet cooler, dryer, and less stinky.
Do wool socks keep your feet cool? Yes! Merino Wool is great at thermoregulation or keeping you cool when it’s hot out (and warm when it’s cool out).
Are wool socks good for sweaty feet? Yes! Merino wool fibers absorb sweat and have the ability to control the odor-causing bacteria that break sweat down.
How often should wool socks be washed? No matter the season, Merino Wool socks can be worn multiple times between washings. Here’s more about how (and how often) to wash Merino Wool socks.
Can wool socks help prevent blisters? Yes! Wet socks lead to blisters. Merino Wool socks absorb sweat and dry fast to keep feet comfortable and blister-free.
Is Merino Wool less stinky than cotton? Yes! Merino Wool has the natural ability to stop the build up of odor-causing bacteria.
Is there an ideal wool weight for summer activities? The general rule is: more Merino fibers = more Merino benefits. If you’re sweating a lot, a heavier weight wool sock can do more to keep feet cool, dry, and fresh. If you prefer an airy, barely-there feel, then thinner, lightweight/ultra-lightweight, no cushion wool socks might be for you. You can always increase weight if you feel like you need more Merino benefits.
Do Merino Wool socks reduce waste? Because they last longer and require less frequent washing, yes, wearing Darn Tough's Merino Wool socks can help you keep waste out of landfills and save water.
Should I wear wool socks with my sandals? This is 100% a personal style choice, but it’s not a terrible idea.
About the Author
Sarah Nocito is a writer, editor, and content creator. She lives in the foothills of the Green Mountains with her family of three. Loves include: family, friends, adventures, chickadees, wood-fired pizza, her home, and the camp (oh, and wool socks).