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Gold Toe Dress Socks for Hiking

Gold Toes Socks are Great for Hiking and Trail Running
Gold Toes Socks are Great for Hiking and Trail Running

I have a dresser drawer full of black synthetic Gold Toe Dress Socks that I never use. I got them back when I was a salary man and had to wear a suit to work everyday. But, I recently read that the famous ultralight backpacking guru, Ray Jardine, recommends using dress socks for hiking instead of more expensive, specialized hiking socks. I decided to give this test at the SectionHiker gear testing lab. If true, it’d be a great way for me to use clothing I already own.

Hiking sock wear and tear is actually an expensive issue for me, since the SmartWool Merino sock liners I use today wear out so quickly. I only use liners and not an outer sock when I wear trail runners, which is pretty much all of the time, these days. The problem with SmartWool liners is that they only last about 5 days (75 miles) before they start to develop holes under the ball of my foot. My guess is that sand and grit leaks through the mesh sides of my trail runners and chews them up.

I also develop heat rashes on my calves when it’s very hot because I wear long hiking pants to prevent tick bites and Lyme disease. Still, of the different specialized hiking socks I’ve tried, including ones from Bridgedale, REI,  EMS, Thorlo, Lorpen, and Coolmax, I like the SmartWool merino liners the best because they’re very thin, they dry quickly, and my toes like the extra space that wearing a thin sock provides.

Comparison Tests

I’ve been wearing my Gold Toe dress socks for the past few years now and they’ve helding great with minimal wear. I hike about 30 miles a week near my house in Boston or up in New Hampshire in the White Mountains, so I’m giving them a good workout. All the terrain I hike is mixed-forest or alpine, with a fair amount of sand and gravel..

I’ve also found that the synthetic dress socks are a lot cooler than the SmartWool merino liners and they also wick moisture away from my skin a lot more effectively. This is a big issue for me since my feet and calves gush with sweat when I do any kind of aerobic exercise, and it’s exacerbated by my long hiking pants.

The dress socks also feel a lot more slippery in my trail runners than wool socks. I don’t know if this is good or bad in terms of reducing wear, but they feel more comfortable than wool socks. Blister-wise, this slipperiness has had no impact on me because the skin on my feet is so tough, but even so, better moisture management is more important for blister prevention.

They smell less vile after a few days of hiking too.

Better Economics

Cost-wise, Gold Toe synthetic dress socks cost about one-third to one-fourth the price of specialized hiking socks. That’s huge. Of course I doubt I’ll need to buy any new dress socks for a while, since I already own 30 pairs. Still if you’re looking to trim gear expenses and use your clothing for multiple purposes, your sock drawer might be a good place to start!

Disclosure: The author owns this product and purchased it using their own funds.

Written 2011. Updated 2015.

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  1. I have tried this, too. Everything you have said holds true for me as well, I really like them, as you do. My only problem is that all of my gold toes are long, and I generally hike in short socks. I tried folding them down, but that was less comfortable. I may work on a new solution with them this summer, though.

  2. My liners are finally wearing out, and I can't find the same style (crew top non elasticized), so I may try the gold-toes. However, one thing I tried might be worthwhile for Aaron.

    After searching in vain for non elasticized top liners, I finally just bought some with the elasticized top, and cut the top off. It works fine, though looks a little unfinished.

  3. God, I thought I was the only person that did this.

    I show up to work every day in dress socks and one day decided to go hiking after. I had a change of clothes (I don't recommended slacks on the trail) but no hiking socks. I ended up using my dress socks (not gold-toe but similar materials) and found them to be comfortable, breathable, and have gone out of my way to choose them several times since my initial discovery.

    When it comes to specialized hiking socks it triggered a shift towards thin socks over the standard heavy padded ones I'd preferred before. I've noted a slight increase in blisters with them though, especially backpacking (then again, I'm not a UL backpacker).

    And yes indeed, the odors are "less" severe than with a thick sock.

  4. Ive transitioned to a sock-less approach with a pair of Merrel trail gloves. I've been using them for about 5 months now. I use them daily running and at the gym. So far in the field I have used them in a 5 mile road race and a few 20+ mile days with 3-4k feet in elevation on rocky, wet and muddy trails. No blisters to speak of yet. I transition from a pair of Gortex Merrel Chameleons, best gear upgrade I have made in a while. In terms of weight savings, performance and functionality. They dry fast and don't need to worry about your socks getting wet. My Skin-out weight with the shoes, including consumables puts me just above 10 lbs, not sure how they would fair with a heavy load.

  5. I like a toe kick. I'm clumsy enough that I'd destroy my feet (on roots and rocks) without it. But I think it's fascinating how many people like the minimalist shoes. One of these days, I guess I'll try them. Thanks for the comment.

  6. I was the same way at first. If you do give them a try I would suggest using them around town first. I run/walk all over newton and they take a while to adjust to.

    You train your feet and lower leg muscles in a much different way then traditionally heavy heal padded shoes. At first it will make you sore, but it will quickly realize that traditional shoes are compensating for poor walking/running form. The Merrel's reinforce good form.

    For me it increased my leg strength and stability and they don't look as goofy as the Vibram 5 Fingers.

    Also Ive been stalking your blog for a while, Not sure why this topic made me comment but thanks. Like the blog.

  7. For most of my life I have used the same wool socks in the summer that I use in the winter. Even in 100 degree heat they have remained pretty comfy. The idea of wearing dress socks hiking sounds worth a shot though. After all dress socks look and feel a lot like sock liners.

  8. All I buy these days are hiking socks in particular Merino wool as those last- I wear nothing else summer through winter. I guess you do a helluva lot of hiking to make holes in those socks- a good testament to your fitness. I wish I could keep up with you!

  9. All synthetics are not created equal. You are going to want nylon or polyester or some mix of nylon/polyester. I think many synthetic dress socks are probably acrylic which takes much longer to dry.

    Walmart has women's polyester socks. They are 1/4 height and very thin. I think they are Hanes brand. 3 pairs for about $5.

    I think wearing 2 pairs of thin socks is better than one pair of thicker socks. The two layers prevent blisters better plus the thinner fabric dries faster when you hang them up.

  10. I had a pair of synthetics dry overnight this weekend on a hike and I was shocked. My wool socks never dry that fast.

    Good point of pairing thin women's socks. I don't get blisters since switching to trail runners, but others might find this idea useful.

  11. I heard this a few years back, but in combination with exterior socks. It was recommended to stop blistering. I do carry a couple pairs of dress socks on trips now. Even if I do look silly with shorts and black socks!

  12. Guys , being I wear mens Gold Toe Support socks for work everyday I decided a long time ago they were perfect for hiking. They are a bit cheaper than compression socks runners are wearing and look exactly the same.On close label inspection they are mostly all made by the same company. The Gold Toes come in white beige blue and black. I think they look pretty good with hiking boots and cargo shorts. Not to mention the benefits!

  13. I recently tried this suggestion, though in my case it was a pair of Goldtoe acrylic “Fluffies”, as they were all that was handy. . Wearing them under a pair of wool socks worked like a charm. I was able to hike 7 miles blister free in a pair of Vasque boots that have alwaysed caused problems.

  14. I purchase 100% polyester dress socks at the dollar store. I have used them as linerrs in the winter… Perfect. I will now try them as a solo sock. Thanks for the great tip.

  15. I tried wearing gold tow socks and found out that they do not try as quickly as I would like. Instead, I use the cheap blue liners from REI.

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