If you are at least curious about running socks, whether its asking yourself if you are running in the right pairs or if you have chosen the best pair to help with your blister problem, this is the right post for you. Socks can be an afterthought for a lot of runners, but once you have had issues with blisters, rubbing and socks disappearing down into your shoe you know the right socks can be invaluable.
As with everything else in the world of running, what works for one runner may not work for all. You can use this as a guide to try and test out a few different pairs to see what works best for you.
Types of Socks
There are primarily three types of socks: cotton, synthetic, and wool. Each has their pro’s/cons each and can vary further based on brand.
Cotton socks seem to be most common and likely already account for the majority of pairs in your drawer. They are cheap, comfortable, and can even have extra cushioning to help absorb any impact caused by running.
The biggest downfall of cotton is its inability to wick away moisture. Wicking essentially is the act of a fabric pulling moisture/wetness away from the skin. Cotton absorbs and retains moisture causing the foot to stay wet and damp. Moisture combined with constant contact or rubbing from running shoes can lead to blisters. If you have issues with blisters you should look into picking up a few synthetic socks.
Synthetic socks have wicking abilities; can vary in thickness, have more special features and typically have a lot of color options. They are almost as common as cotton socks, however they are generally more expensive, but well worth the extra amount.
Synthetic socks tend to consist of polyester, nylon, acrylic and/or spandex fabrics. I prefer my synthetic socks to be a mix of polyester and nylon, as they typically seem more durable and fit my foot more securely.
Wool running socks blend the benefits of cotton and synthetic types. While they are a lot more expensive, they offer amazing comfort, various thicknesses, great wicking ability and will hold warmth even when wet.
Some people may be concerned with itchiness typically associated with wool, but most modern companies have worked around that issue. Smartwool for example: uses merino wool, which is a finer, no itch variant that is shorn from a unique species of sheep. Merino wool is also anti-microbial, which means it will not hold odors, and should stay fresh longer than synthetic and cotton socks.
Once you have the fabric picked out, it’s time to think about any reoccurring issues you typically have with running socks. Issues such as sock slippage, rubbing and blisters are all common issues that have simple fixes. Socks can even use compression to enhance recovery and help provide less downtime between runs.
Heel tabs help prevent your sock from sliding down into the shoe, but they can also help with chaffing on the back of the foot where the shoe collar may rub the heel. Special knits or designs on the sock, such as the classic “X” design, can provide enhanced fit and also may help prevent slippage.
As mentioned earlier, if you battle blisters, check out synthetic socks or even wool since they both have better moisture control than cotton styles. If you find that your outer smaller toes blister easy from being squished and/or rubbed together constantly, then try Injinji toe socks.
Socks can also provide compression, which may increase blood flow, leading to faster recovery. Compression socks are generally more expensive that regular ones and mostly consist of either synthetic or wool fabrics. Some runners use compression socks during their runs, while others, such as myself, prefer to wear them only after runs for recovery.
Closing out, I’ll provide some information on some of my favorite brands and what helps them stand out.
Brands To Look Out For
- Smartwool- Merino wool socks that have an awesome fit, many different variations and generally a long product life. These guys don’t stay in my drawer long and I run a ton of trails in my Smartwools, so they can withstand just about anything running related.
- Injinji- Toe socks that are mostly made up of synthetic materials, but have a few merino wool models. They allow your toes to wiggle with a sense of freedom and can help prevent blisters on/near your toes. They’re amazing and duke it out with Smartwool for my top trail sock.
- Nike- Offers an insane amount of styles but their line of Elite Running socks are one of my favorite synthetic styles. They have a really great fit and look even better.
- Smartwick- Mostly synthetic styles that add a touch of compression that can help increase blood flow and muscle recovery time. This brand fits really tight on purpose and are generally pretty thin. Smartwick does offer merino wool models as well.
- Asics or Brooks- Can’t go wrong with these brands if you are looking for simple, cheaper synthetic models.
- Thorlo- If you prefer a lot of cushioning wherever you can get it, this is the brand for you. Most models focus on providing a ton of extra cushion, while some have select spots of cushion on the forefoot and heel. Not a favorite of mine due to the thickness, but they are still really popular.
- Other worth while brands that I don’t have a lot of experience with but hear good things about include Darn Tough, Drymax and Feetures.
Do you have a favorite brand or style? Which features do you look for most in a sock?