We hope that you love our articles and find them useful and informative! In full transparency, we may collect a small commission (at no cost to you!) when you click on some of the links in this post. These funds allow us to keep the site up and continue to write great articles.

Best Athletic Socks in 2021

 

Socks may seem like a small and inconsequential item, but choosing the wrong ones can have some negative consequences when you’re working out or playing sports.

On the other hand, choosing the best athletic socks for what you’ll be doing can make a huge positive difference. Nobody wants to be focusing on sore, damp, or uncomfortable feet while they run or exercise. Athletic socks are made to remove those annoyances.

We recommend the Feetures Elite Max Cushion No-Show Tab. They hug the foot comfortably, have reinforced cushioning, and use moisture-wicking material to keep you dry and comfy.

But socks are a personal thing, in terms of cushion, length, and even color!

Browse through the full list and see which sock looks like it’s the one for you.

Top 3 Best and Favorites

 

Feetures Elite Max Cushion No Show Tab

 

  • Foot-hugging fit
  • Reinforced cushioning
  • Moisture-wicking material
CHECK MEN’S PRICECHECK WOMEN’S PRICE

 

Balega Silver No Show

 

  • Antimicrobial silver layer
  • Full mesh panel
  • Extra-deep heel pocket
CHECK PRICE

 

Balega Enduro Quarter

 

  • Microfiber mesh panels
  • Reinforced heel and toe
  • Cushioned running sock
CHECK PRICE

Best Cushion No-Show

1. Feetures Elite Max Cushion No-Show Tab

No-show socks are a firm favorite amongst runners and other athletes for their lightweight, unobtrusive design. The Feetures Elite Max Cushion No-Show Tab socks are our first choice if you’re looking for top-quality short socks.

These have a comfortable foot-hugging fit without being tight. They’re also anatomically designed, so there’s a specific left and right-footed sock for a better fit.

Made mostly of nylon with a touch of spandex in there for stretchability, it’s moisture-wicking and keeps your feet dry and cool. This also goes a long way towards preventing chafing, which can lead to painful blisters.

Throughout the sock, different densities are placed in strategic places to allow for maximum ventilation.

There’s a nicely padded Achilles tab, as well as extra cushioning under the toes and heel. Even though it’s labeled as “light cushion”, it makes a difference to your comfort. In the midfoot, you’ll find a slightly tighter fit for subtle arch support.

Nylon is also known to be more durable than polyester, which gives this sock extra points. You can expect them to last you a good long time if you treat them right.

They’re available in a variety of funky colors to suit any running outfit! Just be careful when ordering, as they run slightly small.

PROS:

  • Foot-hugging fit
  • Slightly padded Achilles tab
  • Reinforced cushioning
  • Moisture-wicking material

CONS:

  • Run slightly small
 

Top Antibacterial No-Show

2. Balega Silver No-Show

Nobody wants funky-smelling feet, or to risk letting bacteria make their home in your socks. The Balega Silver No-Show socks are ideal for keeping your feet fresh and healthy.

They’re fortified with an innovative antimicrobial treatment. The fibers of the socks include silver ions, which are known to prevent odor and keep your feet fresh.

Apart from their superior odor-prevention and freshening properties, they’re also extremely breathable. They contain Drynamix moisture-wicking fibers and reinforced mesh panels for increased ventilation.

These socks are fairly decently cushioned. They feature a seamless toe for reduced chance of chafing, a reinforced toe for a bit of padding, and a deep heel cup for keeping your foot in place within the sock.

Take note that the thicker material may cause the sock to run a touch warm in summer weather!

A high heel tab provides comfort and reduces rubbing at the back of your heel. For added support, there’s a compressive arch band that stimulates circulation, increases comfort, and provides light support.

Although the majority of this sock is made from polyester, it’s almost ¼ nylon, which adds to the durability.

PROS:

  • Antimicrobial silver layer
  • Compressive arch support bands
  • Full mesh panel
  • Extra-deep heel pocket

CONS:

  • May be a bit warm in hot weather
 

Best Quarter-Length

3. Balega Enduro Quarter

If quarter-length is more your style, these are the ones we’d choose. Designed to contour to your foot and facilitate natural flexibility, they provide both support and comfort.

Balega’s Drynamix fibers wick away sweat and help to keep your feet dry. Mesh panels across the sock keep you well ventilated, and they’re reinforced to ensure there’s still a high level of durability.

It’s important to note that these socks don’t come with the silver antimicrobial technology that the above pair does.

Their V-Tech Arch Support System offers light compression in the arch for better structural support. These also help keep the sock in place and prevent it from slipping down your foot, helped by the thick cuff.

A seamless toe makes a lot of difference to prevent blisters. Extra comfort is provided by a deep heel pocket and soft cushion underfoot, which provides a touch more impact resistance to add to what you get from your shoe.

PROS:

  • Microfiber mesh panels
  • V-Tech Arch Support System
  • Reinforced heel and toe
  • Cushioned running sock

CONS:

  • No antimicrobial treatment
 

Top Crew-Length

4. Darn Tough Prism Crew Lightweight Athletic Socks

Is crew-length your favorite type of sock? You can’t go wrong with the Darn Tough Prism Crew Lightweight Athletic Socks.

The Prism features a specific design and color scheme. A rainbow stripe around the lower calf and on the bridge of the foot stands out pleasingly on the black or white background. Fun, funky, and eye-catching!

Apart from its cool design, the sock is made for athletic performance. Performance Fit technology prevents the sock from bunching or slipping, keeping it from rubbing and causing blisters.

It’s crafted from fine-gauge knit Merino wool, durable and sleek. Merino wool also has some wonderful qualities that make it an enviable choice of material for an athletic sock.

These socks are perfectly suitable for any weather. Hot or cold, Merino wool regulates the body’s temperature so you stay warm in winter and cool in summer.

It’s also moisture-wicking, fast-drying, and has natural antimicrobial properties that repel odor and prevent bacteria from settling in.

Light, comfortable cushion and a True Seamless toe add to the comfort of these socks. The toe and heel (including the ankle and Achilles) are a little more padded than the rest of the sock.

They seem to run a touch tight, but it comes down to personal preference as to whether you want to order true to size or go half a size up.

As a bonus, Darn Tough socks are backed by a no-strings-attached lifetime guarantee.

PROS:

  • Undetectable seam
  • Made from fast-drying Merino wool
  • Cushioning along base of foot
  • Repels bacteria and odor

CONS:

  • May run slightly tight
 

Best For Cold Weather

5. Smartwool PhD Run Cold Weather Mid Merino Crew Socks

Crew-length socks are also ideal for cold weather. They’re long enough to provide great coverage underneath sweatpants or over tights, so there’s no strip of exposed skin that could be open to wind or icy air.

The PhD in the name of this sock stands for “Performance in the Highest Degree”, so you know these socks mean business. A 4-Degree Elite Fit System provides the ideal amount of stretch to mold to the foot and provides perfect comfort.

They’re designed specifically with running in mind, offering light but effective cushioning at the heel and ball of the foot. A flex zone at the ankle joint encourages maximum flexibility.

Made from Merino wool, this sock is your best companion for cold weather but performs equally well in the heat. Wool insulates the feet, providing thermal comfort and keeping circulation going so you can run your best in the cold.

It’s also odor-resistant, so there’s no need to worry about strange odors or bacteria. Optimal ventilation is provided by mesh panels across the sock.

Indestructawool technology increases the durability of the socks. There’s also a seamless toe for minimal chafing.

PROS:

  • Thermal comfort
  • Targeted cushioning
  • Moisture-wicking fabric
  • Flex zone at ankle joint

CONS:

  • May run slightly tight on large calves
 

Top Low-Cut 3-Pack

6. Smartwool PhD Run Light Elite Low-Cut

More than no-show but less than crew-length, these low-cut socks come in a handy 3-pack so you’re covered for half the week.

Like the socks above, they’re made from Merino wool, which has a ton of fantastic properties. Their temperature-regulating properties are second to none, allowing you to run in equal comfort in both summer and winter.

Indestructawool technology makes them highly durable, and you’ll also never have to worry about odor thanks to their natural antimicrobial properties.

Smartwool’s 4-Degree Elite Fit System offers a precise fit with no bunching or slipping. Built for performance and aimed specifically at runners, the excellent fit is complemented by a seamless toe and light, comfortable cushioning.

Body-mapped mesh zones keep you keep and breezy, as well as helping the material to wick away any moisture.

PROS:

  • Cushioning in the ball and heel of the foot
  • Body-mapped mesh zones
  • 4 Degree Elite Fit System
  • Virtually Seamless toe

CONS:

  • Slightly more pricey than some others, even in a 3-pack
 

Best Quarter-Length 3-Pack

7. Nike Everyday Essential Ankle Socks

Fans of Nike or quarter-length socks will appreciate this handy 3-pack. Full ankle coverage is provided, but there’s no extra, unnecessary material, and the sock is made for comfort.

Maximum comfort is provided by the terry sole, which is decently padded and absorbs any shock not absorbed by your shoe. Both the heel and toe are reinforced with extra cushion, protecting you in your most vulnerable spots.

The material is also sweat-wicking, keeping your feet dry. This helps immensely to prevent blistering.

A slight compression fit in the arch offers added support. To prevent the socks slipping down or causing discomfort around the calf, the hems are wide and ribbed.

PROS:

  • Thick terry sole
  • Reinforced toe and heel
  • Built-in arch support
  • Ribbed hems

CONS:

  • May be slightly too thick for some
 

Top Crew-Length 3-Pack

8. Swiftwick ASPIRE Four

These crew-length socks offer compression properties, which can be helpful for some and uncomfortable for others. Firm, managed compression provides support for the muscles and the joint, as well as improving circulation.

A four-inch ankle covers everything you need to be covered. It’s got a double-welt cuff, providing a snug fit and preventing slipping. On the other end, Linked-Toe technology reduces bunching and lowers the chance of chafing and blisters.

The upper is thin and channeled, keeping air flowing through it for breathability and sweat-wicking. Underneath, the footbed is made of Olefin, a strong and comfortable synthetic fiber.

PROS:

  • Firm compression
  • Double-cuff construction
  • Channeled upper
  • Linked-Toe technology

CONS:

  • Some may find the firm compression to be too tight on their feet
 

Best Merino Crew-Length 3-Pack

9. Smartwool Walk Light Crew Socks

Once you go Merino, you’ll never want to go back. These are the perfect choice if you want a crew-length sock that offers a full range of features.

Coming up to the low calf, these socks are just long enough to provide optimal coverage. Featuring waffle-knit flex zones across the sock, it encourages a full range of motion, while ankle and arch braces deliver excellent support for the foot.

You’ll get the full benefit of Merino wool, including temperature regulation, moisture management, and unparalleled softness and comfort. Light underfoot padding provides a touch more comfort without increasing the volume of the sock too much.

For a lower risk of blisters on the toes and heels, there’s a flat knit seam, a reinforced sole, and an elastic arch to prevent bunching up.

PROS:

  • Waffle-knit flex zone
  • Light cushioning underfoot
  • Ankle and arch braces
  • Reinforced sole

CONS:

  • Some may find the calf band to be a little tight
 

Top Knee-High Compression

10. Rockay Vigor

Rockay is one of the biggest emerging names, and they’re well-known for being a sustainable brand. If you’re looking for a sock that will help the planet, Rockays are for you. These are a top option if you want a proper compression sock that’s around knee height.

They’re available in a range of cool colors, so you can find something to suit your favorite running outfits.

They’re snug and comfy, providing graduated compression of between 16 and 23mmHg. It helps lower the effect of vibrations on the muscles, as well as increasing circulation, providing oxygen-rich blood to the muscles.

Extra padding in the heel and toe provide protection and comfort where you need it most. A seamless toe also aids in comfort and blister-free use.

One of Rockay’s best features is their Polygiene Stay Fresh technology. It helps your socks stay odor-free, and you only need to wash them every few wears! It sounds strange, but it’s true.

They’re breathable and moisture-wicking, increasing their comfort and wearability. Breathable mesh zones across the feet promote good airflow.

Even better, you’ll get a lifetime guarantee on every pair.

PROS:

  • 16 to 23mmHg graduated compression
  • Polygiene Stay Fresh Technology
  • Sturdy cushioning in the toe and heel
  • Breathable mesh zones

CONS:

  • Tend to run small
 

FAQs

Wondering about the differences between the best athletic socks and your average, everyday socks? We’ve got answers for you.

What’s the Difference Between Sports Socks and Normal Socks?

Sports socks are specifically built for comfort and performance. Your normal socks aren’t quite – they’re more of just a foot covering.

Athletic socks are designed with certain features that keep your feet safe and comfortable while you’re doing intense, high-energy activities.

They come in varying thicknesses, often with reinforcement at the toe and heel area for better cushioning and a reduced risk of chafing. Most sports socks also include some kind of moisture-wicking technology so your feet don’t get sweaty, as well as antimicrobial tech to prevent odor.

You can find athletic socks designed specifically for summer, which promote breathability and coolness. Similarly, you can find ones designed for winter wear, which keep you warm without compromising movement.

Normal socks don’t usually have these kinds of technology built-in. That’s not really a problem for everyday use (especially if you’re wearing great, well-cushioned shoes), but when it comes to running or doing other sports, athletic socks are highly recommended.

What’s the Difference Between Thicker and Thin Athletic Socks?

Thicker athletic socks are either winter-specific socks or they have extra padding for shock absorption and comfort. They’re ideal for those who need extra cushion in the heel or toe, but they do take up some more space in your shoe than thin ones.

Although the space difference really isn’t huge, it can be the difference between your shoes fitting snugly or feeling slightly too tight on your feet. Thinner socks usually don’t have as much padding in them, but they’re lightweight and fit better into already-snug footwear.

Ultimately, it comes down to personal preference as to which is best!

What Other Features Should Good Athletic Socks Have?

If you’re after socks that will keep your feet super comfy and improve your performance, there are certain features they should have in order to fulfill those criteria.

The socks you choose should be a good fit. Too long or loose will mean there’s an extra bit on the end, which leaves you open to chafing and discomfort. Too short or tight means your circulation will be cut off if you can get them on in the first place!

You should definitely make sure the socks are breathable and have quick-drying technology built-in. Antimicrobial technology is also an excellent feature to keep your feet fresh and healthy.

Flat seams will significantly lower your chances of chafing and blisters. Explore your options and find socks that are padded in all the right places.

If you need more heel padding, look for socks that are reinforced in the heel. If your toes need extra protection, you can find socks with that too.

The Wired Runner