From hiking socks to dress socks, merino wool has made its way into many different and typically pricier socks.
But are they worth the price of admission?
We’ll share what makes merino wool unique, its benefits, and more.
What are the benefits of merino wool socks?
While merino wool is a type of wool, not all wool is merino wool. Merino sheep are native to Spain and have much more abundant coats than other sheep, including the Rambouillet, Blue-Faced Leicester, and Corriedale (source). Aside from the density of the sheep’s coat, the benefits of the wool that the Merino sheep produces are second-to-none. When found in socks, merino wool is naturally odor-resistant, resists bacteria growth, is moisture-wicking, breathable, and insulating.
Whether worn for a strenuous hike or in an office setting, merino wool will keep your feet feeling comfortable as the natural elasticity fabric will always move with your feet.
Lastly, the fiber itself is rather strong, ensuring that the bottom of the soles won’t wear out quickly, even when worn repeatedly.
Won’t the wool cause the heat to build up?
It is true that thermal wool socks were at one point a popular choice, particularly in the late 80s and 90s.
However, companies that make their socks out of finely spun wool fiber provide a more breathable fabric that helps to keep your feet at a comfortable temperature. This comfort is further enhanced by the fact that merino wool is naturally moisture-wicking, meaning that it will pull moisture away from your feet and keep them dry. In fact, you can even wear merino wool socks in the summer without sweat or blistering.
Doesn’t wool itch?
Wool will feel itchy on the skin when the diameter of the fibers is too large. Sock companies know this, and that is why they will often state that their merino wool socks are superfine, with a micron diameter of 18.5 or less (source). If you are purchasing socks from a reputable brand, then you shouldn’t have to worry about the itchiness of the fabric.
How and why merino wool is so expensive
While the features and benefits of merino wool are convincing, the price for a pair of socks is high. Priced at approximately $20 for a single pair of socks, filling up a sock drawer can cost well over $100.
The reason for the steep price of merino wool is that, unlike other fabrics that are manufactured in a factory (polyester, rayon, etc.) or those made from natural fibers like cotton, merino wool must be shaved off of each individual sheep.
Furthermore, the raw merino wool must be then cleaned, processed, and spun to the micron diameter that is desired. The entire process is labor intensive, with each step adding to the cost of what you pay for a pair of socks.
Is the value worth the price?
For value, merino socks are best-in-class. However, the amount one person will want to pay for socks compared to another will inevitably vary. Our recommendation is to get one pair and test them out. If you enjoy how they feel, present, and perform, then purchase more. However, if you don’t like them, then you can either return them or donate them to your local homeless shelter.
Broadly speaking, we believe the value that merino provides compared to other fabrics is far superior in every way. Whether from a durability or environmental perspective, merino wool is the best choice for socks.
Your setting matters when choosing merino wool socks
As we eluded previously, merino is a versatile fiber that is used for intense hikes or for a day at the office. If you are shopping for hiking socks, we recommend Darn Tough or Smart Wool socks. They are reputable brands tested by hikers and hold up exceptionally well. Conversely, for an office setting, Boardroom Socks and Drake’s are terrific options. The former makes its socks here in the USA, and the latter is a British brand that has been making socks since 1977.
Do they require special care?
Despite being a natural, animal-sourced fabric, merino socks don’t require much extra in terms of care. Wash them in cold water with like colors and let them air dry on a drying rack. If you are in a hurry, putting them in the dryer in a low-heat setting is fine.