Best Running Socks Reviewed & Tested for Performance
Everyone knows how important a good running shoe is to protect your feet from the elements on the hard concrete and the trail. But what will protect your feet from your shoes? Choosing improper running socks can cause all sorts of problems you wouldn’t naturally think about. Sweaty feet could be the least of your worries; hammertoes, shin splints, ankle injuries, and athletes’ foot, can all be caused from wearing the wrong kind of running socks. This can seem overwhelming at first, but don’t worry! We’re here to provide you with all the proper information so you can understand the importance of choosing the right sock and prevent future problems or injuries that could potentially occur.
A good athletic sock can come in a variety of forms and styles. Some people swear by compression socks for better circulation, while others prefer thinner ankle socks designed for keeping your feet cool and preventing swampy running shoes. There are also thicker, cushioned socks for those who prefer more padding and support on the heels and toes. Some of these features are more vital than others. For instance, almost all running socks are made out of moisture wicking material that will keep sweat from building up in your socks. Most companies now days will combine similar features like these when creating their running socks, so finding and choosing a type that’s right for each individual has become a lot easier.
- Physix Gear Sport
- Durable Compression
- Balega Hidden Comfort
- Mesh Construction
- Saucony Performance No Show
- Arch Support
Unfortunately, the one downside about all good running socks is that they usually come with a hefty price tag. Athletic socks can range anywhere from ten dollars to thirty dollars for a single pair. When spending more money for a single item, we all want to make sure we’re making an investment that’s going to last and make our lives better. This is why we’ve gone ahead and selected the best running socks that will give you only the highest quality performance with the best value.
20 Best Rated Running Socks
1. Physix Gear Sport
Lightweight Anti-Bacterial Fabric The lightweight fabric will keep your legs cool in the summer as it wicks away moisture. The fabric is also anti-bacterial, which will prevent odors from building up in your shoes after a tough day on the trail.
Cost and Value
Reasonably priced compression socks. These are a great value for a high quality product. If you’re going to get compression socks, you should really consider purchasing these.
- Prescription grade compression
- Machine washable
- Stylish design
- Anti-Bacterial fabric
- Foot can be a little too long
2. SB Sox
These socks utilize graduated compression to help promote blood and oxygen flow in your legs while also preventing a buildup of lactic acids and muscle fatigue during a harder run.
Just because you ran a marathon, that doesn't mean your feet need to smell like it. The anti-odor fabric wicks away moisture while preventing the buildup of bacteria and fungus on your feet.
Cost and Value
These are less expensive than some compression socks. If you're looking for a good compression sock for a relatively low price, this is a good one to look into.
- Cushioned heel and toe
- Reduce swelling
- Medical grade compression
- True to size
May be a little difficult to put on
The extra-plush sole along with the reinforced heel and toe make for an extremely comfortable running sock. These are great for people who want to wear something comfortable while also enjoying the protection of a good running sock.
An improved Elastane formula allows these socks to fit closer and offer more protection than ever before. Along with the non-slip tab, this should ensure they stay right where you want them during your run.
Cost and Value
The cost is low for such a high quality running sock. Good if you want a solid and reliable sock for a lower price than some of the more expensive competitors.
- Reinforced Heel and Toe
- Plush sole
- No toe seam
- Well fitting
- The XL is a little small
4. Injinji Run 2.0
A dual welt band with extra compression, this extra durable cuff helps keep your sock from slipping and your shoe from rubbing against your heel.
Five Toe Fit System Technology
Each toe is seamless, allowing for extra comfort while also allowing your toes to align more naturally. The anatomical design helps ensure a closer fit and prevent blisters.
Cost and Value
The range in price may startle you, but the higher prices are for packs of multiple socks. These are very reasonably priced. If you buy a single pair and like them, investing in a three pack may be a good idea.
- Arch support
- Mesh instep
- Specialty cuff keeps it from slipping
- Designed to fit your foot as closely as possible
- Prevents interdigital blisters
- Too thin for colder weather
- Some people have trouble wearing toe socks
5. Saucony Performance No Show
The top of the sock is embedded with mesh ventilation technology. This helps to create air-flow in the socks , allowing for your foot to stay dry and cool even during your most physical activities.
The flexible material comes with light cushioning and targeted arch compression for extra comfort and support. The socks will form to any foot shape while providing a soft grip so they won't move around in your shoe when you do.
Cost and Value
These socks come in packs of 6 and are one of the best deals you can find on the market. This is a purchase you'll feel really good about after you make it. Definitely worth every penny.
Light cushioning where it counts
Material doesn't take well to hard use
6. Mudgear Compression
The graduated compression helps foster blood flow in the legs. It's great for anyone with circulation problems, not just runners. It also helps reduce swelling and muscle fatigue after a hard run.
The moisture wicking material is supplemented by an extraordinary quick drainage design that will shed water and sweat away quickly, keeping your feet light and dry through even the muddiest of mud runs.
Cost and Value
These are definitely one of the more expensive options on this list. However, if you’re looking for a quality compression sock that can take a beating, these are an excellent option.
- Excellent drainage and moisture wicking
- Good padding
- Graduated Compression
- Extra protection on the back of the calf
- Machine Washable
Heels wear through quickly
7. Balega Blister Resist
The blend of mohair and Drynamix fibers allows for excess moisture to be wicked away while keeping your feet warm during the more frigid months.
High Tab Heel
The specially designed heel tab and extra deep pocket help keep the sock in place. This helps prevent blisters, and worse having to stop to adjust your socks every few feet.
Cost and Value
These socks are an excellent value. They can get a little pricey, but given the quality of the product the few extra dollars you would spend are well worth it.
- Keep your feet warm
- No toe seam
- Moisture wicking
- Medium weight sock
- Available in larger sizes
- Not as blister resistant as the name might suggest
8. Thorlo XJ-Crew
These socks are created with 88% Thorlon acrylic fibers, an exclusive material that you can only find from this brand. The material keeps thick, soft socks still able to stay dry and breathable while also providing comfort with cushioning.
Low profile seams and padding over the toes keep your toes cushioned, protecting against friction and irritation. The cushioned heel and ball of the sock allows for better support and less pressure on the foot. The cushioning is so soft and comfortable it also makes for a great winter-time layering sock.
Cost and Value
Averagely priced, these socks are made for long-term reliability and versatile wear. You can expect these socks to last a long time and this makes them worth the cost.
Thick, soft material
Cushion in all the important areas
May not always stay up on their own
9. Vitalsox VT-1211
These socks were designed to increase fresh blood to your damaged tissues, allowing for better enhanced athletic performance. Since your feet are the furthest away from your heart, it's important to stimulate proper circulation during exercise.
Prevents Bacterial Growth
This is a feature that isn't found as often in other socks. Silver drystat material allows moisture to evaporate and replaces it with an air-flow that provides optimum foot health. Less sweat build-up in the sock means less odor, bacteria and blisters.
Cost and Value
An average cost for high-length compression socks. These types of socks can be very expensive, however this brand offers a very reasonable price for the quality care provided.
Fights bacteria growth
Comes in a variety of colors
Made in Italy
Only use during exercise
10. Thorlos Experia
These thin sculpted pads on the heel and instep give your feet the same protection and cushioning as thicker socks without all of the bulk.
Lightweight Mesh Frame
The Lycra mesh frame cuts keeps these socks light and breathable for maximum comfort. The mesh also wicks moisture well enough to keep your feet cool and dry throughout your entire run.
Cost and Value
The price is about average for a running sock. Given the comfort level of the socks, I'd say it's a fair bargain. One of the best non-compression socks on this list.
- Lightweight design
- Extra cushioning on problem areas
- Moisture wicking
- Mesh frame helps keep feet cool
- Sizes ranging from XS to XL
Can slide down the foot
11. Thirty 48
If you're looking to keep your feet dry during your workouts, this is the sock for you. The coolmax fabric and moisture wick stitching combine to create maximum air-flow great for keeping your feet dry.
Reinforced and Reliable
These socks are created with a tear-resistant flexible spandex that eliminates friction and prevents blisters. The middle of the sock is also reinforced with elastic arch support to help form better to your foot and ease tension.
Cost and Value
Ranging in the average cost for running socks, these socks are a good choice for amateur athletes and those looking for some extra comfort. Coming in a variety of colors for both men and women, these highly versatile socks can also be bought in single pairs, three and six packs.
Extra cushion and padding
Great companion for medical legwear
12. Feetures! Elite Max Cushion
This specially designed sock provides extra compression around your arches. The socks are designed to fit your feet without slipping or sliding during your run, so you never have to break stride.
These special fibers were designed both for maximum comfort and protection. They are softer and provide more cushioning than even the other Feetures! Elite socks.
Cost and Value
These socks are very reasonably priced for the comfort and protection they provide. If you're planning on investing the money in running socks these will be a solid choice.
- Seamless toe
- Lifetime guarantee
- Extremely soft with extra cushioning where it counts
- Specially fitted for extra blister protection
- Come in a variety of colors
- Can be difficult to find the right size
- Compression is a little lax
13. Huso Athletic Quarter
Featuring a deep heel pocket and arch support, these socks form to the shape of your foot, helping to keep your sock in place during movement. Also coming with a seamless toe and padding in the heel and toe areas, these socks were design for comfort so you can keep your focus on the track.
Coming equipped with mesh construction on the top of the sock, the air circulation provided will allow your skin to breath and your foot to stay cool. Created with a custom fabric blend, these socks will help evaporate moisture and keep your feet dry.
Cost and Value
Priced a little cheaper than the rest, you won't be disappointed with these socks. You can find them in a variety of color combination and numbered pairs making them a great choice for purchase.
Variety of color combinations
Moisture wicking and breathable
Extra padding for comfort
Sizing runs small
14. Asics Intensity
Thick padding on the heels and toes provide extra comfort and support where you need it the most. They protect your feet from the perils of a difficult run.
The light mesh keeps these socks light and provides a little extra ventilation. The Hydrology yarn wicks away moisture for a perfectly cool and dry run.
Cost and Value
Unlike other running socks on this list, these socks come in a pack of three. These are easily the best deal for people who want to try out a pair of running socks without breaking the bank.
- Center bands for extra arch support
- Targeted cushioning on the heel and toe
- Hydrology yarn
- Heel tab prevents slipping
- The bottom of the socks pill
15. Balega Enduro V-Tech
Balega's specially engineered fibers are produced right here in the United States. They keep your feet dry and cool during even the most intense workouts.
Extra Deep Heel Pocket
These extra deep heel pockets were designed to give your sock an even better fit. They keep your sock from sliding down while you're out pounding the pavement.
Cost and Value
The price of these socks is relatively low for running socks. A good bargain for somebody who wants to try specialty running socks without breaking the bank.
- Mesh on the top for better ventilation
- Compression bands around the arches
- Extra cushioned heel
- Medium Volume
- Can be a little short lived
16. Thorlo Running Mini-Crew
The fibers used in these socks are specially made by and for Thorlo socks. These fibers wick moisture with ease and are extra soft and durable for a comfortable run.
Toe Area Cushioning
The toe cushioning is designed to protect your sensitive toes from injury. The extra padding here protects your toes from scraping against the top and sides of your running shoe.
Cost and Value
You can find these mini-crew socks in the low-to-middle price range. Thorlo offers a money back guarantee on all of their products, so this great sock is worth a try.
- THOR-LON Fibers
- Toe Area Cushioning
- Flat Knit In-Step
- Arch Cushioning
- Low Profile Toe Seam
- Shrinks in washing machine
- No arch compression
DryNamix is Balega’s patented moisture management technology which is built into their socks. Balega’s DryNamix temperature and moisture management technology protects your feet from blisters and your shoes from odors.
Sometimes short socks slide down into your shoes as you run. Balega’s solution is a thick tab on the back of the sock designed to keep it from sliding down.
Cost and Value
Balega’s Hidden Contour socks can be found in the low-to-middle price range, which is a great deal. They come in a variety of stylish colors and with many great features.
- DryNamix Moisture Management
- Heel Tab
- Reinforced Heel and Toe
- Mesh Construction
- Plush Undersole
- Extra Deep Heel Pocket
- No arch support
- Very thick
18. 2XU Compression Performance
2XU’s PWD Flex fabric is designed to provide support for your entire foot and leg. The most support can be found in the shins and calves for a comfortable run.
Power Comfort Band
Like regular running socks, some compression socks slide down sometimes, but not the 2XU Compression Performance Run. It sports a powerful band that hugs the calf for a secure fit.
Cost and Value
The 2XU Compression Performance Run sock can be found in the middle-to-high price range.
This sock comes with excellent features, such as antibacterial and UPF50+ fabric with built-in sun protection.
- PWD Flex
- Power Comfort Band
- Flatlock Seams
- Graduated Compression
- High Filament Yarn
- Invista LYCRA
- Runs long
- Hard to put on
19. Darn Tough Double Cross
Darn Tough’s Merino wool fabric comes with naturally occurring antibacterial and antimicrobial properties. This wool reduces the likelihood of you developing athlete’s foot and odors in your socks from bacteria.
This unique all-weather sock keeps your feet cool in the summer and warm in the winter. It also dries quickly, so you can run in rain and snow without discomfort.
Cost and Value
You can find this sock in the low-to-middle price range. It’s affordable and comes with an unconditional lifetime guarantee. That makes it a great deal for a comfortable, high-quality sock.
- Merino Wool
- All Weather Sock
- Light Cushioning
- Seamless Construction
- Fast Drying
- Smooth Fit
- Runs small
- May be tight around the ankle
20. Drymax Run Hyper Thin
These socks boast a dual layer moisture removal system that moves moisture through the Drymax inner lining to the outer absorbing layer. This keeps your feet dry on your run.
Made with Blended Materials
These socks are made with four materials which work together to wick moisture and flex with your foot. The materials used in these socks are olefin, polyester, nylon, and elastane.
Cost and Value
The Drymax Run Hyper Thin can be found in the low-to-high price range. These are ultra light socks designed for running and are well worth the price for their quality.
- Dual Layer Moisture Removal System
- Made with Blended Materials
- No Sliding
- No Bunching
- Not washer/dryer friendly
- Ankle elastic may wear down
Socks are the unsung heroes of all our running escapades. They act as a shield against the friction of our shoes rubbing against our feet as we run, consistently cushioning our footfalls. Aside from simply protecting your feet from blisters, running socks can drastically help prevent the development of serious health problems, such as bacterial growth or hammertoes. In the case of compression socks, they can even help ease circulatory problems like DTV (deep vein thrombosis) and prevent blood clots. While they do tend to run on the more expensive side, a serious runner cannot afford to forgo the proper equipment. The investment is worth preventing the injuries.
There is a world of difference between a regular old sock and a performance sock designed specifically to protect and support your feet during a long periods of movement. Given how vital they are to maintaining your health while training, it is important to give a lot of thought as to what kind of running sock would be best for you. Your feet will thank you for it.
Criteria Used to Evaluate the Best Running Socks
Your feet are the farthest body part away from your heart. This means that it takes longer for the blood in your veins to fight against gravity and travel to the heart. For people who have bad circulation or are recovering from leg and foot injuries, compression socks and stockings are a great way to help replenish oxygen in the veins. When your blood is able to flow better in your body, recovery and healing time is able to occur much quicker than normal.
People with poor circulation can be at risk for potential blood clots, leg swelling and fatigue. The use of compression socks can help to prevent these health issues from occurring in the future. Those also diagnosed with DVT, varicose veins or leg ulcers commonly use this type of product to help keep their blood flowing better in the body and ease symptoms.
The tightly (but not too tight) woven material is specially designed to help squeeze walls of the veins and leg tissues, allowing for blood to be pushed back upwards to the heart. For athletes, and runners especially, this feature is great for keeping your legs and feet at top performance during movement. This better circulation allows runners to maximize their full potential instead of having their legs tire out too early in their exercise.
Cooling down from a workout is extremely important too. You never want to get your heart rate pumping and blood flow increasing, then just stop and take a sit down for a few hours. Compression socks are great for after a long run or workout. As you begin cooling down, your blood flow can stay consistent in your body and allow your body to ease into relaxation. You only want to wear these type of socks for short amounts of time though when inactive.
Benefits of Compression in Running Socks
- Improved circulation
Compression in running socks improves your circulation, which not only helps to re-energize your feet and legs but also helps prevent blood clots and vein disease.
- Reduced swelling
No one wants to have swollen legs, feet, and ankles. Generally, it’s uncomfortable; there’s pressure where there’s swelling. Also, excessively swollen feet could make wearing shoes uncomfortable.
- Reduced recovery time after a run
The compression in some running socks can reduce the amount of time it takes for you to recover from a hard run or marathon. Recovering faster means that you can get back to your daily activities faster and allow you to run more often.
- Reduced leg and foot fatigue from running
Running takes a toll on your feet and legs. Every footfall exerts a lot of force on your feet, which means that each impact batters and wears at your legs and feet. This makes you tired and can cause pain. Compression in a running sock can reduce the amount of pain and fatigue from running.
- Arch support
Some compression running socks come with an extra elastic band around the arch of your foot to provide support. This stabilizes your run and reduces discomfort from conditions such as plantar fasciitis.
One of the most uncomfortable feelings in a sock can be having your feet soaking in your own sweat. Not to mention, the odor that comes from your feet not being able to properly air out. That little squeak you may hear in your shoes every time you take a step is because your socks are too wet; but don’t worry this can be completely avoided.
Physical exercise takes its toll on the body and of course when pushing ourselves to work harder, we’re all going to sweat. For runners especially, who are constantly relying on their feet to help them perform, wearing a sock that keeps your feet dry and comfortable is extremely important. You want to progress not focus on an irritating sock!
Almost all sock companies have created fabrics that are specially designed to help ‘wick’ away moisture and keep your feet cool. These fabrics help to evaporate moisture instead of allowing it to soak inside the material. On top of that, a lot of them are also equipped with other features like mesh ventilation inserts for breathability and air circulation.
If your feet stay consistently wet, your skin becomes more soft and vulnerable to potential health concerns. When your feet are able to stay dry inside your socks, you’ll almost never have to worry about getting blisters or dealing with bacterial infections. Every living thing in life needs to breathe, including your feet! You can’t expect to trap them inside an enclosed area and not have problems occur if you’re not wearing the correct gear and taking the right precautions.
Benefits of Moisture Management
- Preventing Fungal Growth
Moisture Wicking materials and moisture-managing socks prevent the growth of fungi in your socks, on your feet, and in your shoes. No one wants to think about having a foot fungus. Athlete’s foot is an uncomfortable, itchy, smelly foot condition that plagues many athletes. An effective moisture-managing sock could prevent you from developing a foot fungus.
- Preventing Bacterial Growth
“Why does my sock need to be antibacterial?” Good question! Here’s why: bacterial growth in your socks from hot, wet feet produce smelly odors. While it’s impossible to completely prevent smelly feet, it is possible to reduce the amount of smell and keep your shoes fresh longer. Sometimes, the bacterial growth and odors get so bad that they cling to your socks, too, so you would benefit from antibacterial socks!
- Blister Prevention
Running is a great pastime. It gets your heart pumping, helps you manage your weight, and there’s nothing like the freedom of the wind blowing through your hair. Unfortunately, sweaty feet after a hard run is unavoidable. Your feet will sweat and wet feet and socks cause painful blisters. Anyone who has ever developed a blister anywhere on their person knows how painful and uncomfortable a blister is: they burn and sting. A blister on your foot, however, is probably the worst kind of blister. Think about it: you have to walk to get around. Every step that presses on a painful blister will increase your discomfort and increase the likelihood of it bursting and becoming even more painful.
Anyone who has had the misfortune of going on a run or a hike in the woods and had to cross a creek or had it start to rain on them knows that wet shoes and socks are horribly uncomfortable. Your feet squelch with each step. Your feet become hot and clammy in warm weather and cold and clammy in cooler weather. Moisture-managing running socks and shoes can prevent most of that discomfort and give you a happier run.
Importance of Support
Many running and athletic shoe companies have released what they call “stabilizing shoes.” These shoes have maximum levels of support built into them from the sole to the frame. What many people don’t realize is that socks can provide support, as well. Most of the time, elastic bands, specialized compression zones, and ridging are used around the arch of the foot and around the ankle to support you when you run and prevent running-related injury.
- Ankle support
Running socks and shoes which provide ankle support can prevent injuries from rolling an ankle while you’re running. They also provide a sort of exoskeleton for weak ankles to support them and keep you running safely.
- Arch Support
Those suffering with plantar fasciitis know arch support is vital in more areas than just shoes, but socks as well. The lack of an arch in footwear can cause health issues, swelling and high amounts of discomfort. If you’re wearing shoes and socks with the proper amount of support, these are concerns you’ll never have to worry about.
Socks and shoes without archs create extra pressure on the ball and heel of the foot. This excess pressure can cause stress and make your feet feel hot. The potential for calluses and blisters also rises with the flatness of the arch.
When an arch is provided, your foot is able to use all available space instead of putting pressure on those two ball points. Your arch can then be used to aid in the flow movement during running and prevent fatigue on the foot. This is just another way for athletes to maximize their performance.
A lot of running socks now days come with some form of ridging or elastic around the middle of the sock to provide a flexible arch support. This feature is great for fitting as the flexible material has the ability to form to the users foot. No longer do you have to stress about loose fitting socks.
This arch support is also great for keeping your socks in the same place without moving around in your shoes. The firm fit of the sock creates a very light and pleasant feel on the foot. It almost feels like the socks aren’t even there sometimes; they’re that comfortable!
What Running Socks are Made of
Some people don’t realize that this can be the factor that completely changes the feel and protection of the sock. It is important to know what kinds of materials provide the types of features you’re looking for during your run.
The most common material for socks is usually cotton. Do everything you can to avoid these types of socks at all costs. They’re usually soft and thin but they’ll turn your feet into a swamp by soaking in all the moisture from your foot. When cotton gets wet, it stays wet. I know, it doesn’t sound pleasant does it? Good news is most regular, everyday socks are made with cotton and the athletic brands that create running socks tend to completely steer clear of this material.
Surprisingly enough, synthetic materials are actually the best for providing total moisture and air circulation. Common materials like polyester and and acrylic are great for wicking away moisture upon direct contact. These materials allow moisture to evaporate and for your foot to stay cool.
A lot of companies also create a custom blend of their own materials, this is something that makes the design brand-specifically unique. These blends are commonly composed of materials that aid in moisture management and providing air circulation.
Another type of fabric that’s commonly used is some form of a mesh insert or mesh woven into the actual material itself. This great feature is usually flexible and provides the proper air circulation needed to keep your feet dry and cool. The better air-flow created in the socks also allows for less bacteria growth and an overall healthier foot.
When choosing the socks for our best list we made sure to provide a variety of socks made from different materials. You’ll be able to find some thicker materials made for keeping your feet warm during winter as well as thinner, formfitting materials made for managing moisture. Here is a list of materials found commonly in running socks:
Commonly found in compression socks, Lycra is a material which is stretch-resistant. It squeezes on your feet and legs for the medical benefits of compression and returns to its original shape after being worn and washed. Lycra- also known as Spandex and Elastane- is one of the best compression sock materials.
- Merino Wool
This type of wool comes from the Merino sheep and it is an excellent temperature-regulating sock material. Merino Wool has natural antibacterial and moisture-wicking properties to keep your feet dry and reduce odors. This material is especially breathable and perfect for a run in any weather.
This material is a great moisture-wicking material, as it is very absorbent and moves moisture away from the foot. It’s also easy to clean. However, it’s usually not the sole material found in a running sock.
Polyester can be found in many garments and it’s also a great running sock material. This fiber is more breathable and absorbs less water than Nylon. It sheds the water wicked from your feet easily. It doesn’t wrinkle easily and it’s easy to clean and maintain. It isn’t as strong as Nylon, though.
Another synthetic fiber like most of the materials running socks are made of, Acrylic fibers are lightweight, dry quickly, and warm. This material is also known for its softness. It’s a comfortable material to wear and its moisture-wicking properties help it manage temperature and keep your feet comfortable on a run.
This material is a synthetic polymer. Olefin is durable and water-resistant. It’s an excellent moisture-wicking material, as well.
Many manufacturers have found that each of the above-listed materials has their benefits, but also has weaknesses. Some of these materials are less durable or have poorer temperature regulating properties. To counteract the weaknesses in individual materials, manufacturers generally combine two or more of the many materials used in socks to create the best temperature-regulating, moisture-wicking effects. Blends improve the quality of your running socks, which improves the comfort of your run.
Cushion and Padding
This simple feature can provide so many benefits to your feet and also help to prevent injuries from occurring in the future. Whether you’re looking to keep warm or ease pressure during running, cushioned socks are a necessary choice.
Some socks materials naturally provide a thick cushioning affect. This is good choice for a light run or during cold winter months. Other socks come equipped with padding specifically on the ball and heel of the foot to ease pressure and help to avoid friction caused during movement.
The more padding between your foot and the shoe is good for avoiding all types of injuries, even small ones like blisters. Blisters are caused from soft skin rubbing against materials too often and is usually very uncomfortable. Some socks also come with a padded ankle tab so when you’re running, the movement of your shoe won’t rub up against your ankles. This is a great solution for blisters as well as redness and irritation of the heels and ankle.
The padded ankle tab is great for those who like to wear low-cut socks but not everyone likes this style. Crew-cut and knee socks are usually also equipped with all around cushioning which is great for the runners who prefer high-top running shoes. The taller cushioning helps to increase circulation in similar ways to a compression sock while also providing padding around the leg to keep you warm and comfortable.
You don’t have to sacrifice cushion for moisture control either; almost all running socks with cushioning are also made with moisture wicking materials. Socks created with padding on the ball and heel of the foot will a lot of the time provide mesh lining to the middle of the sock, so even if your socks are thick from padding, your feet can still stay dry and prevent odors.
Thickness & Weight
Why the thickness and weight matter
Many runners have heard about the debate over minimalist and maximalist shoes. Minimalist shoes are the lightest, slimmest shoes designed to reduce the effort involved in running and other athletic pursuits. Maximalist shoes have the most cushioning, support, and other great features built in for the most comfortable and stabilized run.
The heavier you and your feet are, the more Newtons- the unit in which force is measured- are exerted on your feet as you run. Many runners wish to reduce the force of impact between their feet and the ground by reducing their weight as much as possible via thin clothing and lightweight shoes. Others prefer to rely on extra padding, cushioning, and supportive materials to reduce the impact between their feet and the ground. It all boils down to personal preference.
So why do the weight and thickness of your running socks matter? What’s the point of wearing the lightest shoes if you’re going to wear the thickest, heaviest socks? Sure, even the heaviest and thickest socks don’t weight all that much, but they still impact your run in a number of important ways.
Lightweight vs. Heavier socks
Lightweight socks are generally thinner and made of materials that are designed specifically to produce the most benefits – such as moisture-management and breathability – while also reducing how much the final product weighs. Lightweight socks are often built with a mesh design so that it covers your foot with a flexible, breathable material while also offering your foot protection from painful rubbing against your shoe.
However, lightweight socks can be less durable than heavier socks. Heavier socks weight more, but they offer more protection than their thinner, lightweight counterparts. Heavier socks may not be able to wick moisture as easily, but they keep your feet warmer, making them an excellent choice for a run on a cold winter day.
Thick vs. Thin socks
Thick socks are generally heavier, but this isn’t always the case. Some thick socks are also lightweight, depending on what materials were used in their construction. Thick socks provide extra cushion and more durability than thin socks, but that isn’t to say that thin socks cannot be durable.
Thin socks tend to be more breathable and cooler than thick socks, but they don’t have as much cushioning between your foot and your shoe. If you have a well-cushioned shoe, then that won’t be a big deal, but if you have a minimalist shoe with the absolute least amount of cushioning built in, you need all the cushioning you need.
Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide which kind of sock is the best for you and your run. Some people prefer the lightweight coolness of a thin sock while others prefer the extra warmth and absorption found in thicker, heavier socks.
Believe it or not, the design of the forefoot toe area of your sock can make or break the effectiveness of your running sock. Running socks, like running shoes, come in a variety of styles and builds. Most running socks are built with no-seam toes, toe pockets, or low profile toe seams. Each has benefits.
- No-Seam Toe
Consider this: you’re out on a run and you’ve been running for some time, but your toes are starting to get sore and irritated. The culprit? The toe seam is rubbing against the top or front of your toes and it’s starting to hurt and itch. Manufacturers know that abrasive toe seams are uncomfortable, so many have adopted a no-seam toe design in their running and athletic socks. Say goodbye to painful rubbing against the seam of your sock and say hello to a smooth, comfortable run.
- Toe socks
Besides being a unique fashion statement for sleepovers, toe socks have benefits, just like toe shoes. I would especially recommend using toe socks with toe shoes, as your toes will be separated from each other by the borders of the toes built into the shoes. Imagine trying to wear a traditional sock which fits more like a foot mitten than like a foot glove with shoes that are shaped like foot gloves instead of foot mittens. It would be uncomfortable to wear traditional style socks with toe shoes, because the beginning of the toe area of the toe shoes would push away from the front of the shoe, creating tightness and forcing the sock to become a sort of pseudo-toe sock. Unless you have especially flexible and stretchy socks (and maybe even socks that are too long in the foot), toe socks would be your best bet for toe shoes.
Toe socks would be just fine to wear in a traditionally shaped shoe, as the traditionally shaped shoe wouldn’t force the toe socks to mold itself into a totally different shape. Toe socks would be cooler than traditionally shaped running socks, too, just like gloves are cooler than mittens. Traditionally shaped socks press your toes against each other and therefore each digit helps keep the others warm. Toe socks, like gloves, separate the toes, which gives them more space and keeps them a little cooler.
- Low Profile Toe Seam
Some manufacturers opt to simply lower the toe seam so that it doesn’t rub painfully against the top or front of your toes. This can be effective for reducing discomfort and make your run more comfortable than normal toe seams.
When choosing your running sock, you must consider the length of sock you want to wear. Some people prefer long socks and others prefer the shortest socks possible. The length should be considered because longer socks offer more protection to your legs if you’re going to be obstacle course racing or running in a cold environment. If you’re running in a hot environment, you probably want to have shorter socks to help keep you cool, even if the socks have built-in temperature management properties.
- No Show
No show socks are socks that usually cannot be seen above the top of your shoe. They may come just above the top of your shoe, but they will never come above your ankle. Running no show socks are cooler, but they may slide down into your shoe and off your foot as you run. If you are going to wear no show socks, make sure you pick a pair that won’t slide down and fits properly.
- Micro Crew
These socks are a little longer than the no show socks. They reach just above the shoe but don’t reach the ankle.
- Mini Crew
Mini Crew Socks come up just above the ankle. They come up higher than no show socks, but they don’t reach farther up the leg like a crew sock.
- Quarter crew
Quarter Crew socks climb one-quarter of the way up your shins.
- Three Quarters Crew
Three Quarters Crew socks reach three-quarters of the way up your shins.
Crew socks reach across your shins. This is beneficial for added protection for your ankles and shins from the elements and any bumps or scrapes as you run.
- Mid-Calf Sleeve
These reach halfway up the calves. They’re warmer, as they cover more of your legs, but they can also offer additional protection and padding. Most compression running socks are mid-calf sleeves or knee-high socks.
- Knee high
These socks, as the name implies, reach just above the knee. Some regular running socks are this long, but most running socks that reach this high are compression running socks.
Hot, sweaty feet are uncomfortable and prone to blistering and the development of odors and foot fungi. Choosing a running sock requires considering the temperature managing properties the sock comes with, if any. Manufacturers have developed many types of synthetic and natural fibers which come with natural temperature management properties. The way that the sock is constructed, such as with a mesh body, can make the sock better at temperature management. The thickness of your running sock can also make it hotter, but thicker socks offer more cushioning. Ultimately, you must decide if you want cooler socks or more cushioning, but many manufacturers have created cooler cushioned socks, as well.
Care & Upkeep Requirements
If you invest ten dollars or more in a pair of running socks, you want those socks to last you for a good, long while. However, if you don’t properly care for your socks, you can sabotage yourself and wear your socks down faster. When you are shopping for socks, you likely want a sock that is easy to clean and dry.
Depending on the materials used in the sock, you may have to wash them by hand every time you wear them! Who has time to do that between running and work and other responsibilities? That’s why you need a sock you can toss in the wash with your other laundry and go back to your other responsibilities.
Once you have washed your socks, be it in the washing machine or by hand, you probably want to toss them in the dryer so it would be faster to dry them. For your own convenience, you should look for a pair of running socks which are dryer safe, so you can throw them in the dryer for a little while and do whatever you need or want to do while you wait for them to dry.
Some people don’t mind having to hand wash and air dry their running socks, but it can be pretty inconvenient. If the other features of the sock are worth having to hand wash and air dry the socks, then that’s great! However, there are great alternatives to socks which must be hand washed and they can have just as many benefits.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q. Are running socks the same as athletic socks?
A. No. Athletic socks are a good all-around choice for basic exercise but running socks are specifically designed for the long periods of pressure put on your feet due to constant movement. Running socks have much better moisture control which is great because the more you move, the more your feet are going to sweat. The fabric used for running socks is extremely breathable, usually flexible and helps keep your feet dry.
Q. Is it better to wear thin or thick socks?
A. This is more of a personal preference, however each type of sock targets different features. Thicker socks can be better for cooler winter months or for those who like extra padding around the foot. Thinner socks are good for those who like a little extra room in their shoes or those who have tend to have sweaty feet. Thin socks tend to provide a little less padding than thicker socks but again, it’s all really just a comfort preference.
Q. What makes a ‘good’ running sock?
A. Many things can contribute to making a good quality running sock. For those who like low-cut socks, having a padded ankle tab is necessary for keeping the sock from falling down and preventing blisters. For those who like thin socks, having padding around the heel and ball areas of the foot is essential for providing support and preventing friction. Other features that make a good quality running sock are moisture management, seamless toe, arch support and breathability.
Q: When should I buy new running socks?
A: This will vary by sock, but generally the following conditions would mean it’s time to invest in new running socks:
- The socks no longer fit properly. Generally, this means they’ve become loose. This isn’t limited to compression socks. Non-compression socks also wear out and the fit changes.
- The padding and cushioning in the sock have worn out.
- There are holes, rips, or tears in the sock.
Q: How long do running socks tend to last?
A: It varies depending on how much you run, the materials in the socks, and how well you take care of them.
Q: How can I extend the life of my running socks?
A: Only use them for running. This isn’t because the socks aren’t good for other purposes, it just means that your running socks will wear down more slowly because you’re wearing them less. You can also extend the lifespan of your running socks by taking good care of them. This means cleaning and drying them according to manufacturer specifications.
Q: How tight of a fit should I get?
A: Your running socks, especially compression socks, should never cause pain. If your sock is so tight that it hurts, you need to remove it immediately and get a larger size. You want the fit to be tight and secure enough, however, to reduce slipping and bunching up at the heel and toe. Socks that slip and bunch up are uncomfortable and can cause blistering and pain.
Q: How do I wash my running socks?
A: Some running socks have special care instructions which can be found on the manufacturer’s website and possibly in the packaging materials. Some socks are washing machine friendly but others are not, so it would be a good idea to do some research before you toss your new running socks in the washer.
- Never bleach them.
- Turn them inside out before you put them in the washing machine.
Q: Can I dry my running socks in the dryer?
A: You can, but depending on the type of sock, it may not be recommended. Always check the manufacturer’s website or the packaging the socks came in so you can make sure your socks are dryer safe. If they are not, air dry them, but if they are dryer safe, use low heat.
Q: Can I use my running socks to participate in other sports?
A: Yes, but it is recommended for the longevity of your socks to only use your running socks for running.
Q: How do I prevent odor development in my socks?
A: There are a couple of ways you can prevent odor development in your running socks.
- Wash them between runs.
- Wear running shoes with high breathability.
- Wear running shoes which have excellent moisture wicking properties.
Q: Can I wear my running socks to work?
A: Yes, you can, but it is recommended to only use your running socks for running so they will last longer. Generally, people don’t see the socks you’re wearing when you’re out working unless you’re wearing shorts, a dress, a skirt, or dress shoes. So, if you’re wearing long pants and shoes that completely cover your socks, you can wear them to work in any work environment. Some careers lend themselves to running socks, such as being a physical education teacher and being a personal trainer.
Q. Are synthetic materials better than cotton?
A: Cotton is usually used in your everyday regular, thin type of sock. Cotton is not recommended for those whose feet tend to sweat; once cotton becomes wet it tends to hold moisture. Synthetic materials like acrylic and polyester are great for helping to evaporate moisture and provide a proper air-flow in the sock. Athletic sock companies also create custom blended materials which are also a great choice for those looking to eliminate foot odors and bacterial growth. Overall, it’s always better to choose a synthetic material for socks rather than cotton.
Q. Can running socks prevent foot injuries?
A: YES! This is like wearing regular boots for snowboarding; you’ll probably end up getting injured. Running socks are designed to protect the runner’s feet and legs during workouts. Socks with cushion or padding can help prevent blisters while compression socks can help with circulation and aiding in recovery time. Socks that hold in too much moisture can cause bacterial growth which can lead to a number of other no-so-fun foot issues, so it’s important to choose a sock that maximizes your health benefits.
Q: Should I buy running socks or running compression socks?
A: That depends on your personal preference and needs. If you have been prescribed compression socks or stockings by a medical professional, you should look for a running compression sock with the appropriate amount of compression built in.
- If you have no medical reason to choose compression socks, then it’s completely up to you. Compression socks are reported to provide many health benefits, even for people who don’t have vein disease, diabetes, or other health conditions that require wearing compression socks. If you want to cash in on those health benefits, then go for the compression socks.
- However, many people prefer shorter socks or don’t like the squeezing feeling that compression socks give them. If you’re one of those people, you’d be better off investing in non-compression running socks.
Q. Which is better for running: long or short socks?
A: Again, this one is more of a personal preference. For those in colder areas or those who like to layer, long socks are probably a better choice. Long socks help increase circulation and you’ll never really have to worry about your ankles rubbing against your shoes. Short socks are better for those who like to bring more attention to the shoe or those who don’t really like their socks to show. A downside is that your socks have more of a chance of falling down and your ankles can rub; this is why it’s important to find low-cut socks have a padded ankle tab.
Q. How necessary is a reinforced heel and toe?
A: It’s not urgent, however it is highly recommended. These reinforcements can help to better protect your feet as well as the material of the socks. Socks that aren’t reinforced in these areas will usually end up with some sort of hole after long-term wear. This makes the socks have a longer life, also making them more reliable and durable. The reinforced heel is good for preventing friction and preventing your feet from feeling hot. Overall it is a great feature and something you want to keep your eye out for when buying new socks.
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