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Tested: REI Merino Wool Hiking Socks

rei merino wool hiking socks chocolate

Being a huge fan (and longtime member) of REI, as well as an avid wearer of wool socks, it only made sense for me to purchase some REI brand wool socks.

So last year, I got myself some REI Merino Wool Hiking Crew Socks for $12.50. These are your standard, everyday wool hiking socks, suitable for a variety of activities in moderate conditions.

I got size Large (for men’s shoe sizes 9-12,) and they’re a perfect fit on my size 11.5 feet.

I first wore these on 1/25/2013, and I wore them heavily throughout that winter and spring. I wore them occasionally this past summer and fall, and I’ve worn them at least 3x/week for the past four months.

I’ve had these just over one year now, but they were my “go to” wool sock over that period, so I put a beating on them.

Let’s rewind to that first day I wore these…

These were oh so comfortable and they fit perfectly! I wore them for three days straight!

(Keep in mind, though, these socks were essentially a replacement for the more expensive Wigwam 40 Below socks which were a huge disappointment.)

They were snug on my feet and the whole way up my calves, and did not droop down one bit. All while still maintaining a lightweight feel. The sock would be right against my foot, but it felt so light. It’s deceiving! They weren’t loose, but the fit would make me want to pull them tighter when they’re already positioned just right.

Being a mid-weight sock, they were fun to wear around the house, and they fit perfectly inside all my boots. They fit my running shoes as well, though they’re just a tad too thick to fit well in my cycling shoes.

(For extreme conditions, you can get the Expedition version of these socks. They seem to be the same sock, just thicker.)

After one season…

After wearing these socks a couple months and washing them a few times, I realized something… I don’t think these socks are that great.

They had potential. All the features were nice – the soft material against my skin, the arch support band, the seamless toe closure, and the reinforced heel for extra durability.

So what went wrong?

They just weren’t tight enough! They would slide down my legs. Even straight out of the washing machine. Heck, I even sent them through the dryer once to see if that would help. (It didn’t.)

It wasn’t bad enough that I quit wearing them, but it was a disappointment, considering it’s an otherwise good sock.

I began wearing them around the house with the tops rolled down, to avoid the sagging and bunching.

rolled down rei socks

One year later…

Now that it’s been a year, I can say the durability has been excellent. They show no signs of wear! And they’re still super soft! I expect them to last at least a few more years.

But, with the lack of stretchiness, causing them to bunch up all the time, I’m thrilled to be replacing them with some new socks!

It’s not just me. Looking at the reviews on the REI.com product page, one of the popular Cons is “bunches up.” That sounds like what I’m experiencing. Not only does the top slide down and bunch up at my ankle, the foot will even bunch up under my arch and heel if I don’t pull it tight before putting my shoes on. It’s very annoying, but if I don’t do it, I then have to take my shoes off and do it then.

If I wore a size 9 shoe, I might not be so critical here, but I wear an 11.5. So a sock that fits shoe sizes 9-12 should not be loose on me!

REI socks are often said to be just as nice as SmartWool, but more durable and cheaper. Well, that could be true. But if the comfort isn’t there, I don’t care about price or durability!

From now on I’ll pay more attention to the fabric composition. These socks are 78% wool, 20% nylon, and 2% Lycra spandex. That’s not enough spandex!

This makes me wonder about the SmartWool hiking socks, which are only 1% spandex. The might be the same sort of feel (and the same sort of disappointment.)

However, my favorite Patagonia socks are a mere 3% spandex, and they feel great! So who knows!

The tall version of the DeFeet Woolie Boolie, for comparison, is 70% merino wool, 15% spandex, 8% nylon, and 7% elastic. Less nylon, more spandex!

The Woolie Boolie is only $16 and well worth the extra cash. And just the other day, I saw some great deals on Patagonia and Darn Tough socks on the shelves of my local REI store.

So I’ll happily continue to shop at REI, but I won’t be looking at REI’s house brand wool sock collection.

My final verdict is…

These are not a bad wool sock. They’re soft, durable, good looking, and mostly comfortable. But the fit just isn’t quite right (either that or they need more spandex in them.)

I wouldn’t recommend these at the $12.50 I paid; certainly not at the current $14.50. There are much better socks out there in the same price range, so I have to recommend you look at some of those other brands (such as Darn Tough, Patagonia, and DeFeet, which can also be purchased in REI stores.)

Official website: www.REI.com

Product Review Details
Company: REI
Product: REI Merino Wool Hiking Socks
Reviewed by: Coach Levi
My Rating: 3.0 out of 5
Date last updated: 2014-03-02
Obtained Product: Purchased at retailer.
CoachLevi.com Advertiser: Yes; paid affiliate.

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2 Comments
  1. Did you try the smaller size?

  2. @Sam

    I did not. I think the size of the sock is fine. It lines up with my foot (judging by the heel,) so I’m pretty sure it’s not a sizing thing. With the size medium sock being for shoe sizes 5.5-8.5, going down to that might be a bit of a stretch (pun intended.)

    I’m pretty sure it’s a fit issue, not a size issue. The fit just isn’t how I like it. I’d try the smaller size, but with so many great socks out there from Darn Tough, Balega, and DeFeet, why bother?

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coach levi
Hi, I'm Coach Levi. I'm a USA Cycling Certified Level 3 Coach as well as Level 1 Certified with Precision Nutrition. Want to feel better, ride faster, and look great? Let's work together!

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Coach Levi is my favorite child and favorite cycling coach. I'd choose him over Christoper McCarmikael even. Did I mention that Levi can coach you to a healthier lifestyle where you look and feel your best?
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