Running is such an individualized sport. Each runner has their own foibles and preferences on any number of topics. Footwear is a source of especially strong opinions. Some runners like to run with minimal running shoes or even barefoot, while others like super-cushioned models. And still others like to run without socks!
In this article, we’ll cover everything that you need to know about running without socks. While there are some benefits to running without socks, most runners will be more comfortable with. By the end of this article, you’ll discover what camp you fall in!
Reasons to Run Without Socks
There are several reasons why you might consider running without socks, even if you’ve never done it before.
Potentially Able to Run Faster
Some track athletes and sprinters opt to forego the socks because they don’t want extra material weighing them down.
There isn’t clear research out there to confirm or deny this belief, but you can always try it out for yourself. Are you faster with or without socks?
Cooler Feet in the Summer
Anyone who has run in the summer knows how uncomfortable it is. Everything is super hot, and getting a little relief for your feet might help a lot. Running without socks will make your feet feel cooler in hot weather.
Better Shoe Fit
Some running shoes are designed for bare feet, so you’re definitely going to get a better shoe fit in those instances. For other shoes, not having the extra material of the sock might make your shoes more comfortable. But again, this is based on personal preference.
Faster Transition for Triathletes
Running without socks is probably most common for triathletes. Transitioning as quickly as possible between biking and running is critical. If you don’t have to put on a pair of socks, you can save valuable time.
Reasons to Run Wearing Socks
While the pros of running without socks are interesting, most runners think of all the reasons why they want to wear socks.
Protect Feet By Keeping Them Dry
When you’re running, your feet sweat. Without socks, you are significantly more likely to develop blisters because your damp feet will be rubbing up against material. By contrast, if you wear wicking socks, your feet are more likely to stay dry.
The last thing any runner (or anyone in general) wants to experience is blisters on their feet. It will make walking and running extremely uncomfortable.
Additionally, you’ll likely get calluses if you run without socks due to toughening of the skin. If you don’t want calluses on your feet, wear socks!
Add an Extra Layer of Cushioning
Running can sometimes be uncomfortable, especially as fatigue sets in. Making your shoes as comfy and cushioned as possible can help mitigate this.
Although you might not have thought about it that way, running with socks gives you an extra layer of cushioning, making your runs more enjoyable.
Provide Warmth in Cold and Rainy Weather
While going sockless in the summer can be really refreshing as it cools your feet down, that’s the last thing that you want in the winter or when it’s raining.
Having an extra layer will give you some extra warmth in the winter. And since you already don’t want to be outside, knowing that your feet are nice and toasty should help!
Less Smelly Running Shoes
As mentioned before, your feet sweat when you run. Since socks help to keep your feet dry, especially if you have anti-wicking socks, there won’t be as much sweat in your shoes.
However, if you run without socks, more sweat will get into your shoes, and your running shoes will smell more. You can correct this to a certain degree by washing them, but it will be hard to fight odors, especially in the summer when you already sweat a lot.
Less Bacterial Growth
In line with sweating less if you wear socks, you’ll experience less bacterial growth in your shoes. Bacteria thrive in warm and moist environments, which is exactly what your running shoe will be after a nice, long, sweaty run.
As a result, you’re going to have more bacteria in your running shoes if you decide to go without socks. One European study found that wearing shoes without socks results in three times the amount of bacteria as wearing shoes with socks. If you don’t believe me, check out these pictures!
Less Irritation on Your Feet
Since we’re so used to wearing socks, there’s a good chance that going sockless will irritate your feet some because you won’t be used to what the inside of your shoe feels like without socks.
This is especially true if the shoe is older. As shoes age, the inside lining tends to become rougher due to wear.
Less Fading of Shoe Color
This reason for wearing socks might be more important to some people than to others, but your shoe color can fade faster if you don’t wear socks(!). Because socks help to collect particles from your feet, the inside and outside of your running shoes stay cleaner.
Without socks to keep dirt, sand, and other terrestrial elements on your feet, they will all end up in and on your shoe, changing the color of your shoes. Especially if you’re someone who loves bright colors, you definitely don’t want that.
Tips for Running Without Socks
If you’ve decided after considering the pros and cons that you’d like to run without socks at least every so often, you should consider these tips.
Start Off Slowly
This is common sense, but you shouldn’t try to run a marathon the first day you try running without socks. Just like you have to break in running shoes, you’ll have to break in running without socks.
Typically, runners who don’t wear socks do so for shorter runs. Say, less than five miles. Definitely start off slowly and see how everything feels doing runs of this length. This will help you prevent blisters and help you see if you want to continue running without socks.
If you absolutely adore it, then by all means graduate to longer runs, but be sure to do so slowly so that your feet get used to running without socks.
Use Powder to Keep Feet Dry
A good way to help prevent blisters and smelly shoes is to use powder to keep your feet dry. You’ll want to experiment to see how much talcum powder you need to use based on how far you’re running.
Obviously, the more you sweat, the less effective the powder will be, but it could be an especially great option when it’s still not super hot outside.
Use Jelly or Glide to Prevent Blisters
If you’re particularly trying to avoid blisters, use jelly or bodyglide or any spots that you think are likely to rub in the wrong way and cause blisters.
Typically, runners put jelly on the top of their foot where it touches the shoe’s tongue, and on the heel. For the latter, however, remember that jelly will make your feet more slippery, so you want to make sure that the shoe won’t come off mid-run.
Wash Your Shoes Regularly
If you decide to run without socks, you’ll have to wash your shoes more frequently to keep the bacteria at bay. This will help with preventing mold and keeping the smell of your shoes more pleasant.
This is especially true for the inserts, since that’s obviously the part of the shoe that is in most contact with your sock-less foot.
Practice Transitioning from Bike to Run
Finally, if you’re a triathlete, you should practice transitioning from bike to run without socks so that you can see how it feels and if it’s something that you want to do to save time during transition 2.
Obviously, you’ll want to practice with a short run before moving up to longer distances. Otherwise, you’re in store for blisters and general discomfort.
Depending on your personal preferences, you may choose to run without socks. If you’re a triathlete, it definitely makes a lot of sense, and some people who sweat a lot might like to run without socks in the summer.
However, if you decide to run without socks, make sure that you’re prepared so that you don’t deal with uncomfortable situations like blisters, bacteria-filled shoes, and overall stinky shoes.