8 Best Sock Materials: Which One is Right for You?

We all live complex lives: our schedules are full of different activities. We dress differently for each of these plans - I know I choose my clothes based on factors including, though not limited to: fit, stretch, warmth/coolness, moisture control (if needed), professionalism, and color, just to name a few. So many decision points go into our outfits for a particular time of day.

Yet, many people I know throw one pair of socks on at the beginning of the day and think that’s enough to deal with the demands and stresses of daily life. Then they complain at the end of the day when their feet are stinky, sweaty, cold, achy, or some combination thereof. The simple truth is that socks are a lot like any other article of clothing - not every style and material will be right for every occasion.

That’s where we come in today. After speaking with our resident fellow sock experts here at Tall Order, we’ve come up with what we consider to be the best sock materials:

 Material Best Feature Worst Feature
1. Polyester Blend Get the Best Features of All Materials Synthetic
2. Bamboo Breathability Durability
3. Merino Wool Softness High-Maintenance
4. Silk Smoothness Fragility
5. Cotton Comfort Moisture Retention
6. Alpaca Wool Insulation High Price
7. Olefin Water Resistance Temperature Sensitivity
8. Nylon Flexibility & Stretch Too Light
9. 100% Polyester Durability Moisture Retention

The Elite 8: Analyzing the Best Sock Materials


  • What Is It? - natural material from the fibers of cotton plants 
  • Pros - extremely soft, breathable, good for sensitive skin
  • Cons - holds on to moisture, causes friction and blisters if worn for extended periods
  • Best For - Everyday wear
  • Not Suited For - sports, running, formal wear, professional wear

Merino Wool

  • What Is It? - natural material grown on merino sheep
  • Pros - very soft, great for regulating body temperature, naturally moisture wicking, odor resistant
  • Cons - difficult to maintain, not very durable
  • Best For - sports, running, outdoor activities, lounging
  • Not Suited For - everyday wear

Alpaca Wool

  • What Is It? - natural material grown on alpaca (not to be confused with llamas)
  • Pros - insulating to help keep feet warm, softer than merino wool, better for the environment (more sustainable) than merino wool
  • Cons - more expensive than other natural fabrics
  • Best For - winter/colder weather, lounging
  • Not Suited For - everyday wear, warm weather


  • What Is It? - generalized term for synthetic materials made from a chemical reaction between specific acids and alcohols 
  • Pros - very durable, easy to maintain, holds color well
  • Cons - not naturally breathable, doesn’t repel moisture by itself, needs to be blended with other fabrics to produce quality materials
  • Best For - everyday wear, sports, running (all when combined with other materials)
  • Not Suited For - outdoor activities, wet weather, warm weather


  • What Is It? - generalized term for specific synthetic materials derived from petroleum
  • Pros - very flexible, lightweight, stretches and retains shape, moisture wicking
  • Cons - too light for it to stand on its own, not very breathable
  • Best For - sports, formal wear, professional wear, blending with other fabrics to provide elasticity
  • Not Suited For - warm weather, everyday wear 


  • What Is It? - natural fiber made from the pulp of the bamboo plant (a grass)
  • Pros - breathable, moisture-wicking, soft and comfortable, temperature regulating, lightweight
  • Cons - not the most durable, expensive
  • Best For - everyday wear, sports, running, outdoor activities
  • Not Suited For - formal wear, professional wear


  • What Is It? - natural fiber made from insects and silkworms, who make the material for cocoons
  • Pros - very soft, lightweight, moisture wicking, insulating
  • Cons - not the most durable, difficult to maintain, difficult to clean delicate and fragile
  • Best For - cold weather, warm weather, formal wear, professional wear
  • Not Suited For - sports, running, everyday wear


  • What Is It? - also called polypropylene, a synthetic fiber similar to a plastic
  • Pros - moisture resistant, durability, soft, lightweight
  • Cons - difficult to maintain, doesn’t handle high heat well
  • Best For - wet weather, hiking and outdoor activities 
  • Not Suited For - extreme heat

There's Not Just One "Best" Sock Material

As you can see above, there’s quite a few options available on the market when it comes to socks. And this is just talking about materials and fabric; this blog doesn’t even discuss the different heights that are at your disposal when choosing and purchasing a new pair of socks. Ideally, your top drawer would contain a mix of socks made of different materials for the different activities of your active and busy life.

If you had to choose just one fabric for socks, we recommend it be a polyester blend. Polyester is durable, long-lasting, and integrates well with other synthetic fabrics, such as nylon for stretch and flexibility, and olefin for moisture control. This will be your best bet to cover all sorts of activities - running, outdoors, athletics, everyday wear, formal attire, professional wear, and just lounging around the house. That said, you’re better off having a full sock drawer with lots of different socks made of different materials for different parts of your day.

How to Pick the Best Pair of Socks for You

A lot more than material should go into selecting the best sock for your needs. What else should you look for?

  • Height - a lower sock, such as ankle socks or quarter crew, performs best in times when your foot needs more room to move around, such as during running or athletics. However, a higher sock, such as a crew or over-the-calf, gives you more support and stability when you need it, such as in a professional setting
  • Size - no matter the sock, you need to make sure it fits, especially if you have XL feet, XXL feet, or even XXXL feet. Find a sock that fits your foot size properly. If you’re 6’9” like me, or even taller, you’ll want to make sure you find the right big & tall socks
  • Price - you need to decide for yourself if making the investment in premium socks at a higher price is worth it in the long run (refer to our previous blog on expensive socks)
  • Additional Features - look for features such as built-in arch support, extra cushioned socks, or compression to suit the specific needs of your feet and your lifestyle
  • Brand - how do you identify with the brand on the socks and what do they support? Do they give back to charity? Are they environmentally sustainable?

Our Expert Picks

After talking with our fellow sock fanatics here at Tall Order, here are our consensus top materials for each type of activity.

☐ Sports/Running Socks: Polyester blends, especially those with nylon and olefin, make for the perfect running and hiking sock to wick away moisture and provide durability

☐ Cold Weather Socks: A Merino wool sock will do the best job at regulating and insulating your body temperature from frigid conditions, but a case could also be made for a polyester blend here depending on the circumstances (refer to our previous blog on The Best Socks for Cold Feet)

☐ Warm Weather Socks: anything that is moisture-wicking, such as polyester blends, cotton, or bamboo (also refer to our previous blog on The Best Socks for Sweaty Feet)

☐ Lounging/Everyday Socks: softer fabrics, such as alpaca wool, silk, and cotton are best for lounging around the house, whereas more durable polyester blends are still soft enough to provide comfort during everyday wear

☐ Affordable Choice: cotton socks and polyester blends provide the most value for your hard-earned dollar

Do You Own a Good Pair of Socks?

If you don’t own a good pair of socks to fit a specific need, we recommend starting with Tall Order’s high-quality Extra Cushioned Socks and Ankle Socks. Tall Order socks are made from premium fabrics with a proprietary polyester blend composition. This way, you get all the great features of premium and expensive socks without breaking the bank. Tall Order socks come in a variety of fun colors and prints to match any personality, and come in men’s sizes 9-20 to fit feet of any size.