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How To Choose the Best Running Socks

If you’re actively looking for the perfect pair of running socks, your feet will thank you for the search.

The seemingly simple item is one of the most critical yet underrated pieces of gear in your running arsenal. A well-fitting sock can make the difference between a glorious run and utter misery. Thankfully there are loads of options in style, material, and design specific to different running conditions and personal preferences. So, it’s more than worth your time (and budget) to find the right pair—or three. 

In this guide, you'll learn about:

  • Types of Running Socks
  • Pros and Cons of Different Styles
  • Running Sock Materials
  • Design and Features
  • How To Choose the Right Pair

Types of Running Socks 

There are plenty of types and styles of running socks, from no-show to knee-high compression, with many choices in between. Socks are classified by their height, material, and cushion. Get started with a few of the most popular.

Ultralight

Lightweight running socks are the thinnest and most breathable option. They should fit snug and will feel best in a tight-fitting, lightweight shoe. In addition, ultralight socks will wick away moisture and are ideal for warm, humid conditions. 

Light Cushion

These socks provide just enough cushion in all the right places—more than an ultralight sock, but not too much. Runners who want a little more comfort and protection than provided by ultralight socks should start shopping here. 

Cushion

Some runners want cushioning in all the right places. These socks might not be as breathable because of the extra material, but will pay off in maximum comfort and additional protection from shoe abrasion. 

Toe Socks

These socks have dedicated fanatics and are gaining in popularity. Designed just like they sound, with material around each toe, toe socks can be hard to find the perfect fit for your unique feet, but will help prevent blisters since they prevent toes from rubbing against one another. 

Compression Socks

While some athletes wear compression socks to improve circulation for recovery, others like them for running as well. A tight overall fit reduces shock to the calf muscles and, with it, fatigue. Compression socks are also available in calf sleeves that runners can wear with regular socks.

Materials 

Whatever you do, don't wear cotton socks running if you can avoid it. Cotton is not breathable and will cause blisters. Synthetic, wool and material blends are the most popular for comfort and performance. 

Synthetic

Running socks are often a blend of several synthetic materials from nylon and polyester to acrylic. These materials are soft, form-fitting, and durable. Proprietary blends like Coolmax and Drymax both fall under this category. 

Merino Wool and Wool Blends

Wool blends are well-liked for their comfort across seasons and weather conditions. These socks not only help regulate temperature, they also absorb moisture (and odor), which helps feet stay dry in moderate conditions. Merino wool is considered the softest of the fibers. The flip side is that merino is one of the most expensive materials, and prone to breakdown and holes, especially in thinner socks and if not properly laundered and stored.

Natural Fibers

The good news about natural fibers is that they are a renewable resource. Bamboo, beech, coconut, and other fibers are slowly making their way into running socks design. These fibers are increasingly popular because of their eco-friendly components and favorable characteristics as warm, soft, and breathable. 

Design and Features

Within each type of running sock, there are additional considerations to parse according to your preferences.

Height

Available in a range from no-show, ankle and crew to knee-high, sock height is mostly a personal choice. However, socks that cover the ankle offer more protection from your shoes, sticks, rocks, or other obstacles. No-show socks are cooler and help avoid the dreaded sock tan.

Seamless

Running socks constructed with seamless toes are ideal because they reduce a point of friction, making them less likely to cause blisters. 

Arch Support

Some running socks have a tighter weave or compressive fit in the arch. Runners who have arch pain or plantar fasciitis will want to have their shoes appropriately fitted, though they might also like this additional arch support in their socks. 

Anti-Blister Technology

Humid or wet conditions can cause extra friction that causes blisters. Some socks are designed with two layers in high-friction areas as a preventative measure. 

Anti-Microbial

Any sock that is highly moisture-wicking, lightweight, and breathable will help keep the stink down, but odor-repellant or anti-microbial socks use various fibers to help combat the bacteria that causes foul funk. 

How To Choose the Right Pair of Running Socks

Choosing a pair of running socks comes down to fit, weather conditions, and personal preference. You want the socks to feel good on your foot, but also in the shoes. If possible, try them on in the store along with the shoes that you regularly run in. 

All articles are for general informational purposes.  Each individual’s needs, preferences, goals and abilities may vary.  Be sure to obtain all appropriate training, expert supervision and/or medical advice before engaging in strenuous or potentially hazardous activity.