Needless to say, we put socks to the test on our AT hike; from Smartwool, to Darn Tough, we tried them all. What makes a sock a great sock? Well for someone who washes clothes once a week (if that) it is important to have a sock that stays soft, comfortable, and keeps your foot dry days on end.
Before the hike, I was probably like most of you, thinking a sock is a sock, and other than material, they don't make that much of a difference. However, I was wrong. I had many Smartwool socks: their classic hiker, PHd, and Adrenaline. The hiker was nice because it was really cushioned and comfortable to wear, but even the midweight was a little on the thick side for me, and if I were to hike in them, my feet would get a little hot (but still stay dry.) These were my camp socks -- something a little softer, warmer, and more comfortable to just relax in. My hiking socks were the PHd and Adrenaline series. I got them because they were the ones left in my size, and I didn't really think there was much of a difference. However, the Adrenaline socks quickly became my favorite. They are cushioned on the heel and ball of the foot which makes them comfortable for hiking, it is slightly tighter around the arch so there isn't any slack, and there are thin parts on the top for breathability. Sounds silly? It's not. It makes a huge difference. The PHd was a great sock as well, but for my slightly wider feet, they were a little on the tight side.
Regardless of how many days we went without washing our socks, they were always soft and comfortable, rarely did they get stiff like normal cotton socks after a day or two of use. To have a nice, well fitted, comfortable sock makes all the difference when you're hiking 20 miles a day for months on end. With the exception of the first day, I never got any blisters. Partially my boot to thank for that, but also the sock. A loose sock wil rub more against the skin which is the reason for blisters.
Spring Summer, Fall or Winter, I now only wear Smartwool socks. I have thinner ones for the warmer months, varying heights for different activities, and even socks that can be dressed up. Only a few of my socks have developed holes in them, but those were the thinner ones that weren't meant for heavy hiking (they actually stopped making them anyway.) Not to mention, if they do develop holes in them, and you feel like they shouldn't have, they will always take them back and send you a new pair. 4 out of 5 for Smartwool socks! And my lifetime business.