What’s the next most important item of running gear after your shoes?
But if you’re running with blisters on your feet, you’re not going to care whether you’re hydrated or dehydrated! Next to your shoes, you’d better be wearing effective socks for a comfortable run.
This article is a guide on how to choose running socks that work for you. Not all socks are created equal, so learning how to spot good running socks and avoid the bad ones is essential.
Let’s check it out!
How Are Running Socks Different from Other Socks?
Socks aren’t all made equal! Running socks have some specific properties that make them better than normal socks.
Running socks are designed to keep your feet cool, dry, and comfortable. They have specific anti-blister properties, meant to keep you running for long periods of time without hurting or blistering your feet.
They’re made from either synthetic materials or a blend of synthetic and Merino wool.
This combination is meant to keep your feet dry by wicking away moisture, as well as letting air circulate through the socks to allow your feet to breathe and stay cool.
Running socks often feature a seamless toe or flat seams to prevent chafing. They’re designed in such a way that they won’t create hotspots on the foot, so there’s much less chance of blisters popping up.
Unlike everyday socks, many running socks are often designed with a specific left and right sock. This anatomical design is meant to provide a contoured fit and eliminate hotspots that could cause blisters.
What Can the Wrong Socks Do?
Wearing the wrong socks can have an impact on your running performance.
Firstly, choosing socks that don’t fit right or aren’t designed for the type of activity you’ll be doing leaves you open to extreme discomfort.
Nobody wants to be stopping every few minutes on the road to pull up your socks or pull them out of your shoe.
Apart from that, wearing the wrong socks can cause injuries! Blisters, ingrown toenails, infections, and even more serious problems like bursitis.
All of these things, no matter how small they may seem, can compromise your running performance and lead to even worse problems.
When you consider that, can you see why making an effort to choose the right running socks is important?
Running Sock Buying Tips:
Planning on buying new running socks? Here are our top tips to make sure you get the right ones for you!
Cotton and blends containing cotton are extremely absorbent. This isn’t always a bad thing, but it means your feet will be damp and the chance of chafing will be higher.
Socks made from cotton are known to cause blisters. They’re also not very breathable! So your feet will be hot, damp, and prone to blisters.
Go for Blends
Blends (that don’t contain cotton) are the best choice for running socks. Materials like spandex, polyester, or acrylic are stretchy and comfortable, easy to put on and take off, and usually light and airy.
The other fabric should be natural fibers like Merino wool or mohair. These are usually excellent at temperature regulation and moisture-wicking.
Check the Seams
Toe seams can be your worst enemy. If it rubs on your toes as you’re running, blisters are sure to happen!
Your best bet is a seamless sock, but if you can’t find one, then make sure the existing seam is not placed in such a way that it will cause chafing.
Look for a Tighter Midfoot Weave
A tighter weave in the midfoot helps to prevent the socks from slipping down in your shoes. Some people may find a tighter midfoot to be uncomfortable, so this should be at your discretion.
Decide Which Thickness You Prefer
You should have a good idea already of what sock thickness you prefer. Don’t choose a thick sock if you already know that thick socks are uncomfortable for you. This is also why our next tip is important!
Try Them On with Your Running Shoes
When shopping for running socks, try them on with the shoes you’ll be running in. They can feel great while you’re wearing your casual shoes, but they may feel slightly different in your running shoes.
Trying them on while you’re wearing your running shoes will give you the best idea of how they’ll feel while you’re on the road.
Don’t Buy Cheapies
Don’t buy cheap socks! Avoiding the pain and discomfort of blisters and chafing is worth spending a bit more on. Also, nobody wants to miss a few weeks of training while they’re waiting for their feet to heal.
The Main Lengths of Socks
Crew length socks come up to about mid-way up the calf. They’re a popular length for runners, as they protect the ankles and feet from debris as well as keep them warm and dry.
If crew length feels too long to you, mini-crew or micro-crew are slightly shorter. They pass the ankle and end just before the biggest part of the calf muscle.
Quarter or Ankle
As the name suggests, these socks come up to just above the ankle. They’re also a popular length, as they cover enough of the ankle to be protective against debris but not so long as to cause irritation.
Low socks can still be seen, even though they come up to just below the ankle, above the shoe.
These socks fall just below the shoe’s ankle collar. They’re not visible, although some of them do have a heel tab to prevent chafing against the Achilles.
These are the most popular socks for most runners.
Compression socks usually fall into this category. They cover the full calf muscle, and end just below the knee.
The Best Fabrics for Running Socks
Not all types of sock fabric will be right for you. Most of the best running socks will be made from a combination of fabrics, usually synthetic and natural fibers.
Merino wool and mohair are two popular choices. They’re superior to other fibers in terms of temperature regulation, moisture-wicking abilities, antibacterial properties, and breathability.
Polyester and Nylon
In terms of synthetic fibers, polyester and nylon are common. They’re both breathable, stretchable, durable, and wick away sweat. Other acceptable synthetic fibers include spandex and Lycra. Cotton should be avoided.
What to Look for in Running Socks
Ideally, these are the boxes you should be ticking in your search for the best running socks.
Seamless running socks are the best option. There’s no chance of seams causing chafing, providing better safety for your feet, and especially your toes.
If you can’t find seamless socks, try to get socks with flat seams. They’ll minimize the chance of hotspots that could lead to blisters.
This will come down to personal preference. You may even like to switch between the two depending on the weather.
If you like thicker socks, you’ll be looking for a pair with extra padding in the toes and heels and no seams. They may be less breathable and warmer than thin socks, and could be the better choice for colder weather.
Thin socks are lighter, more breathable, and perfect for hot weather. But less cushion means that there could be more friction when running, which could cause blisters.
Many running socks are designed with light compression. This helps to stimulate blood flow to your feet, reducing fatigue and increasing your recovery time.
Generally, knee-high socks offer a good amount of compression. But smaller socks can also have compression properties, usually in the midfoot.
Unless you prefer minimalist socks, choosing ones with extra padding is a good idea to protect your feet from impact. There should be cushioning in the heel, ball of the foot, and toes.
The length will also play a part here. If you want a sock that will protect your ankles and shins from debris, a longer one will work better.
There’s often a stretchy, slightly compressive material in the midfoot to offer some arch support in the sock.
The same stretchy material is used to keep the sock from sliding down, gripping the ankle and providing a bit of extra ankle support at the same time.
Double-check what anti-blister your chosen socks use. Some employ a double-layer system which reduces friction against your toes, by causing friction between the layers instead of your toes.
Sometimes, this technology can be a little less breathable than socks without it. This can cause overheating, so it’s important to weigh this up before choosing what you want out of a running sock.
Obviously, socks aren’t going to be fully waterproof. But they should be somewhat water-repellent to keep your feet as dry as possible.
Many of them will have sweat-wicking properties to keep your feet dry when you get a little sweaty.
Anti-odor properties are important to keep your feet fresh while running. Many socks have odor-repellent properties built into the material to keep you as fresh as possible.
Tips to Care for Your Socks
Want your running socks to keep your feet safe, dry, and blister-free for a long time before wearing out? Here are some things you can do to extend the life of your running socks.
Number one: reserve them for running! Don’t wear the same socks to pop to the store, or go hiking, or keep your feet warm while you’re around the house. Save your running socks for running and they’ll last much longer.
Take care of your socks when washing and drying them too. Follow the manufacturer’s directions when it comes to washing them. Dry them on low if you have to, or let them air dry. It’s a good idea to turn them inside out before washing.
Also, don’t bleach your socks to try and keep them white. Bleaching compromises the material, so your socks will develop holes or begin to unravel far sooner than they would otherwise.