Beginner Running

Running Socks Explained

Jeremiah Gould

Lots of runners and walkers spend a lot of time in our stores finding the right shoe, but often don’t give a second thought about finding the best running socks. A great pair of running socks can make or break your running experience. Choose the right pair and forget about your feet. Choose the wrong pair and every step can be agony (ever experience a blister, hot spot, bunching or slipping and know you have miles left on your run?).

If you get excited every time you pull out one particular pair of socks – congratulations: you’ve found a great pair! Time to stock up. If you don’t know that feeling, here’s what makes a good running sock.


The Best Running Sock is Moisture Wicking

One of the biggest benefits of good running socks over cheap socks is the ability to wick moisture. Moving moisture away from the foot keeps your feet dry and comfortable as well as less prone to blister causing friction from sliding and rubbing.

The combination of materials in great running socks differ, but usually include Polyester, Nylon, Drynamix and/or Merino wool. These natural and/or synthetic materials work together to pull moisture away from your skin to keep you feeling comfortable even in cold or wet conditions (think of how it felt the last time you stepped in a cold puddle in a pair of cotton socks; EWW).

Moisture wicking becomes important when running long distances. The repetition amplifies every bit of friction on long runs, so make sure you’re paying attention about what’s on your feet. Also, not all wicking materials are created equal – the best contain fibers that will continue to pull moisture long after lower quality materials are swamped.

Considering running in the winter? Make sure to look for natural Merino Wool from our friends at Darn Tough make for great winter running socks as they keep from getting too cold when wet.

Make Sure Your Running Socks Stay in Place

Cheap socks move around on your feet and are often the cause of black toenails, blisters, and callouses. By improving the fit of a running sock, you can reduce friction and fix a lot of foot related injuries.

Great running socks have a well-constructed fit around the heel and toe. A great running sock will have a deep constructed heel to keep from working down into the shoe and to help stabilize your foot in a shoe. Believe it or not, the heel of a sock is the most time consuming and expensive part of the sock to make, so this is where a lot of companies skimp on seam depth.

Great running socks have flatlock or seamless toes. Flatlock seams are the machined seams that keep the rise of the seam to a minimum. To keep away black toenails and ingrown toenails, a structured toe without raised seams will allow toes to move freely and reduce blisters. If you’re in need of a bit more toe protection or are prone to get blisters even in seamless socks, check out toe socks from Injinji that keep toes from being compressed.

Good Running Socks Have to Fit Your Feet…

It is important to note that socks are sized for a reason – getting the right fit ensures that your help will be properly cupped and your toes won’t be crushed (or have to deal with bunched fabric). With gender specific fits tailored to the size of your running shoe and often anatomical left and right cuts, you can get a sock that hugs your foot perfectly.

In order to tell if a sock is sized properly, place the sock on your foot and check the positioning of the toes. Your toes should be able to flex without straining too much against the sock.

Once you have your toes positioned, check the fit of the heel. The seam should bisect your heal without too much adjustment or extra material bunched by your arch or your ankle.

…and your Shoes

Believe it or not, there is such a thing as too thick (or too thin) of a sock. Because everyone has different needs and personal preferences, it is best to come to one of our locations to dial in the right fit.

The bottom line is if the sock is too thick, it can cause some of the problems that you’d expect in the wrong fitting running shoe: ingrown toenails, blisters, perhaps even numbness or a neuroma. This is especially important in the frigid winter months as people sometimes try to double up on socks to gain extra warmth. Likewise, if socks are too thin, they can feel unsecured in a running shoe that felt great in a slightly more cushioned sock.

Keep Your Activity Top of Mind

Just like running shoes, it’s best to have a number of different running socks based on activity. The more varied your running surfaces and conditions, the more you can fine tune your sock selection.

For example; if you’re looking for great trail running socks or great winter running socks, sock height matters. Choose a quarter length or Micro Crew length sock to keep your ankles safe from accumulating dirt or a sharp winter wind.

When running through the summer, (or living in the gym) lighter weight socks won’t become heavy or cumbersome on the foot even when saturated, and a no show will keep your ankles from feeling the heat.

The more options you have, the better prepared you are for whatever you throw at your feet.

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