Merino Wool vs Cotton: Which Is Best for Performance Socks? - Sockwell

Merino Wool vs Cotton: Which Is Best for Performance Socks?

When choosing performance socks, how do you determine whether wool vs cotton will be a better choice? Let’s look at the differences between these two natural fibers and whether wearing wool socks or cotton socks will be more comfortable and durable. 

Qualities to Look For in a Pair of Performance Socks

Performance socks should offer a snug fit against your feet, ankles, and legs. This not only provides comfort but also:

  • Supports ease of movement when you’re active
  • Ensures minimal bunching and rubbing to avoid blisters
  • Enhances blood circulation in graduated compression sock designs

The material used for performance socks should ideally offer some cushioning. It also needs to efficiently manage moisture, which helps to minimize odors and sogginess or slipperiness that could become a hazard while you’re exercising.

Comparing Merino Wool vs Cotton Socks

With all that in mind, are merino wool or cotton socks a better fit? Both are natural fibers, with cotton fibers coming from plant sources and different types of wool coming from animal sources such as merino sheep. Here’s how cotton vs wool socks stack up.

Moisture and Temperature Control 

You may be used to reaching for cotton clothing instead of wool clothing on a hot summer day. But that doesn’t necessarily mean cotton socks will be more comfortable in your shoes. Cotton actually absorbs moisture and can create a soggy, clammy feeling when trapped in your shoes. 

Wool, on the other hand, is renowned for its sweat-managing properties. It can soak up a remarkable 30% of its weight in moisture before it’ll start to feel damp, according to the American Wool Council. That’s why wool is the preferred choice.

Odor Control

Aside from its superior breathability, wool fabric is also the winner when it comes to keeping bad smells at bay. Per the American Wool Council, “At the microscopic level, wool fibers overlap like shingles on a roof. This keeps dirt and moisture on the surface, making wool easy to clean and odor-resistant.”


Wool is a highly durable material with high tensile strength and a lower likelihood of breaking. The American Wool Council states that wool fibers can bend 20,000 times before they’ll actually break. That means you’ll have the freedom to move around repeatedly in a wool garment or pair of performance socks before they show signs of damage. 

How does wearing cotton compare? Research has shown that cotton’s  range of breaking elongation (i.e., how much it can stretch before breaking) is significantly lower than that of wool fibers. In other words, cotton is less durable than wool and may not last as long. 

Shop Merino Wool Socks Today

Whether you’re on the hunt for running socks, hiking socks, or other performance socks for your active lifestyle, you know they shouldn’t simply look nice. They have an important job to do! 

The right material and design can provide important benefits. Merino wool is the best fabric choice for performance socks. Order high-quality wool performance socks from Sockwell!