The difference between a great run and a terrible slog is usually down just to you. But sometimes your gear can really change a great day into something painful and horrible. Bad socks can chafe and give you blisters and sores that can keep you off your feet for weeks. If you are serious about your training this will be a real kick in the kidneys.
On the other hand, nice gear, like good shoes and comfortable socks can support you on long distances and help you focus on more important things, like your pace in the home stretch.
But what makes for a good running sock? How do you choose the best pairs to keep your feet happy while they carry you across another finish line? Well there are a few things to consider, and we will highlight the most important things to look for when you need a good running sock.
What is a good running sock?
For a sock to work for running it needs to do a few things well. It can be just as an important part of your kit as your shoes. There is no point in spending a ton of money on the best pair of shoes and still have painful feet because your socks are trouble makers.
You want your socks to keep your feet comfortable, supported, and free from blisters, but also ventilated so you don’t trudge along in sweaty feet. A good price tag is a plus. The type of running you do (road, trail, 5k or ultra-marathon) will also influence your choice.
Most quality running socks these days are a combination of different types of fibers and synthetics. Wool and cotton are no longer the staples, although they can still work well depending on what you choose them for. Cotton will not be a good idea for long distances or wet weather, but for shorter runs in dry climates they offer a cheap easy choice.
There will be socks with different technical designs for comfort, support and ventilation each with a slightly different combination of materials. Usually polyester, elastics and so on. If you run in harsh cold weather a little wool in the system will also help with thermal comfort. The key thing is moisture wicking so your feet stay dry and blister free.
The best socks will be comfortable, padded and well ventilated so your feet will feel good for the entire distance you plan on running. Higher socks can also help with comfort by compressing your muscles for better circulation and recovery or simply by keeping scratches away on the trail. If you have weak arches a sock with added arch support can also help your comfort levels.
Take a look at how the sock is made, if it has a big seam on the toe or heel, it can cause irritation. A toe box that is too tight or too wide can also rub you up the wrong way. Some socks can have tags or labels that can also cause irritation.
Fit and ventilation
Blisters are the top annoyance that almost all runners have dealt with in their running careers. It is unpleasant and can hurt quite a lot. They are caused by three basic things (as you may know) heat, movement and moisture. If you wear the wrong socks they can make a perfect storm that actually creates the possibility of blisters.
A well ventilated, good fitting sock that doesn’t move around will prevent blisters. A comfortable run can be just a pair of socks away. Make sure the socks you buy are snug and don’t slip or bundle. You can even get socks with separate toes (like gloves) to keep your toes from rubbing as well.
There are many different types of socks you can pair up with your shoes from hidden socks to ankle, to compression socks that rise to your knee. When you choose the sock you want to run with, decide what you want from it.
Do you need the support and recovery help that a compression sock will give you? A compression sock can keep swelling down and will really help your comfort levels on marathons and ultras.
Do you need something thick and warm for cold weather? Do you need a thin breathable sock that will help keep blisters away? All of these elements will help determine what type of sock you need. Some might be able to do everything you need at the same time.
But the distances you do, the climate and the shoes you use will all play a role. A nice thick trail running sock in merino wool will keep you warm and comfortable even on long trails, for shorter runs a thin sock can keep you well ventilated, cool, calm and collected.
Durability and price
If you need a good pair of running socks but also have a wallet that needs some care and attention the price and durability is very important. Some socks are really cheap but they will end up costing you in time and blisters if they aren’t good quality. Rather save up and buy good quality socks in durable materials (especially for long distances). The better the material, the longer life of your socks will be.
Across the finish
Hopefully we have cleared things up when it comes to good running socks. If you are going to buy a new pair or two, or five, keep in mind what you need from them.
Check the size, ventilation, material and what they were designed for and you should be well on your way. Don’t give yourself an unnecessary disadvantage because you think a sock can’t make a difference. Choose a good pair of socks and you will be able to say goodbye to blisters.
We used to think the best socks for a run are just the clean ones in the top drawer. But we have been converted to using the best sock for the job. Hopefully you will be able to test this out on your next run or race. Take a look and test it against your personal best!