Is Merino Wool Socks Better than Cotton?

When buying a new pair of socks, or if you have one, the most common sock materials that you will look for are merino wool or cotton. Merino wool and cotton are made of natural fibers, which offers four-season versatility. Both of these materials will offer comfort and protection; however, you may be thinking which one is better, merino wool or cotton.

Merino wool is better than cotton due to its moisture-wicking capacity. In comparison to cotton, it absorbs more moisture which keeps your feet dry. Both merino wool and cotton show the best overall composition and performance due to their softness and comfort. However, Merino wool is considered better due to its durability.

There are more facts to consider why merino is a better choice. I am not saying that cotton is not a good choice; both are good choices. However, wearing merino wool has more advantages than cotton. I want to break down the reasons; please read more below.


It is best to consider using merino wool socks in any weather or climate conditions. You may be going on an extreme adventure, and you are considering what sock materials you will use. It is best to use merino wool socks because it has a natural insulator the keeps your feet cool in hot seasons and warm during cold seasons.

Darn Tough Hike-Trek Merino Wool Micro Crew Cushion Sock (Pair) - L Olive

Merino wool is hydrophobic, which means it is water-resistant. If you are working outside or going trekking or hiking, these socks are best used since you may encounter waters in your path. The fibers of the merino wool have lanolin making the water less to be sipped in.

In contrast to wool, cotton quickly absorbs water. If you are hiking in cold or foggy terrain, cotton socks will quickly get soaked after minutes of being exposed to water vapor.

Enerwear 6P Pack Men's Merino Wool Blended Outdoor Walking Socks (US 10-13, Navy Blue)

Wet cotton will make you feel heavy; moreover, it will make your body temperature drop down low. If you are in a mountainous area, it may cause hypothermia or even lead to death in the worst conditions.


The fibers of merino wool are solid and resilient. Merino wool can be bent 20,000 times before it breaks compared to cotton; it only takes 3,000 bends to start breaking up. With proper care, wool can last longer.

Moreover, wool is a natural flame retardant since it can absorb moisture and prevent it from catching fire.

In comparison, cotton will turn yellow once exposed to 248 degrees Fahrenheit; then, it gets damaged when the temperature rises to 464 degrees Fahrenheit above.

3 Pairs Thermal 80% Merino Wool Socks Thermal Hiking Crew Black/Brown/Grey Medium Men's 5-8.5,Women's 6-10.5

Though we may consider that both cotton and merino wool provides comfort in the feet, it is considerable to say that wool has an edge for durability.

Fabric Care

You may be uncertain which one is easy to care for, cotton or merino wool. Well, both are easy to care for. Wool is not easily stained, and it hardly maintains odor. So you need not worry about washing them. You may need to hand wash them in mild water with a minimal amount of detergent.

On the other hand, cotton can withstand harsh detergents and higher water temperatures. You may clean cotton socks inside the washing machine. Moreover, you need to clean and wash cotton socks after every use.

Less Stink

Merino wool has a natural moisture-wicking feature, working all day long or when you are traveling, your feet will inevitably become moist. When your feet are moist, they may develop a stinky odor. However, when you are using merino wool socks, it will keep your feet dry and keep your feet from getting stinky.

Darn Tough (Style 2013) Hunter Heavyweight w/ Full Cushion Sock - Charcoal, Large

Compared to wool, cotton may wick moisture too, but once you use it once or twice, it will start to get stinky. So it is highly recommended to use merino wool when traveling on an adventure. It can wick moisture and you can use your socks multiple times without worrying about having a stinky smell.

Quick Dry

The fibers in the merino wool are inherently porous making it easy to dry. Merino wool socks have a breathable feature that makes them easier to dry compared to cotton. When you travel or do adventure, you want your clothes and socks to dry quickly since you brought a limited number only.

Smartwool Hunt Crew Socks -  Men’s Heavy Cushioned Wool Performance Sock Loden L Unisex

Aside from your clothes you want to bring fast-drying socks so that it will be easy for you to carry your things and you don't need to bring extra. Merino wool socks are best to carry once you are sweating on your trails or in a hotel room with minimal access to washing your things.

Environmental Impact

Merino wool socks are from the Merino sheep, while cotton comes from cotton plants. Both of them are naturally made, and fewer chemicals are used in the process of sock production. Since they are naturally made, there is less pollution compared to other synthetic materials.

Darn Tough (Style 1715) Men's Athletic Sock - Charcoal, Medium

However, if you are to compare wool and cotton, it is considered that wool is more environmentally friendly. Merino wools come from merino sheep, and animals naturally grow their hair. In this case, it is just naturally shoved to become wool material. Unlike cotton, you need to plant cotton plants to have cotton production which needs more water consumption.

Nonetheless, it is the natural cause of nature, and that is how things should be; cotton needs to be planted to produce cotton products. The only consideration is the amount of water used in the production of cotton.


Typically merino wools come from merino sheep wherein it keeps the sheep warm during the cold season. Same as to humans, merino wool is best used for insulation. Though cotton may be made of tightly wound fibers, it has a much smoother surface.

Woolrich Hiking Socks for Men - Lightweight Merino Wool Socks (10 Mile Hiker) (Coffee Brown, Large)

On the other hand, wool is suitable for providing warmth. In dry conditions, when both cotton and wool are wet, wool offers better insulation. Wool offers better insulation because its scally fabric allows more air pockets to remain within the fabric.


Both the cotton and merino wool provide comfort and protection to your feet. Both are good for keeping your feet dry; however, wool has more advantages than cotton.

Merino wool socks are versatile and can be used in all weather conditions. In addition to that, merino wool is easier dried than cotton, making it more practical to use in vacations and adventures.

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