As we become more aware of the need to stay active and fit for a healthier life, running is increasingly becoming popular. Unfortunately, a lot of focus is given to the type of running shoes one should wear, the right attire dependent on the type of weather, and for some, the right music playlist to keep you in the ‘zone’.
But when did you last buy a pair of running socks? I bet you have given this some room for thought and is probably the reason you’re reading this article today, right? Great!
For starters, the choice of socks you wear when running determines your level of comfort and foot protection. In this article, we delve more into the importance of running socks for you as an athlete.
So, What Defines a Good Pair of Running Socks?
You could easily get tempted to put on regular socks when going out for a run. However, it is important to understand that running socks have their design deliberately done to address cushioning, which aids in friction reduction. They also pay attention to the fabric that assists to wick away moisture hence keeping your feet dry and hygienic. Regular socks would easily wear out when put under such friction, hence exposing your feet to getting hurt and developing blisters.
Secondly, buy running socks that are tight around the mid-foot and heel while providing space on the toes. This provides a tight grip of your foot in the shoe hence preventing too much movement between the sole of your feet and the shoe pad.
Moreover, your running socks have to be of the same size as your shoes. Socks that are too small or too big will not only negatively affect your comfort, but also expose you to blisters. For example, socks that are too big will reduce the grip of your foot on the shoe thus move a lot when running. This increases friction, which causes blisters.
Similarly, those that are too small will feel so tight on your feet, resulting in blisters on the toes due to increase in friction and sweat.
The length of the socks also matters. While short socks are excellent on a hot day, long socks would be best for unpaved paths to avoid bruises. We will discuss more of this later.
Finally, the material used to design the socks is equally important. For example, light cotton socks with wicking properties are best in warm weather, while those made of thick material are ideal for the cold weather. Let’s delve more into this.
Are Thick or Thin Socks Better for Running?
Choosing whether to go with thick or thin running socks depends on a variety of factors.
A Warming vs. A Cooling effect
Thicker socks have the ability to keep in pockets of warm air, which warms up your feet as you run. Consequently, they are favorable for a run in a cold and chilly weather compared to the thin ones. The opposite is equally true for thin socks since they provide a less constricting fit thus have better ventilation, which is useful in warm weather.
Predisposing Your Feet to Injuries
During a run, your feet induce a lot of friction on the shoe pad. This friction is responsible for the movement and grip of your shoe on your foot as well as on the road. Now, when you wear a pair of socks that doesn’t provide enough cushioning, the friction will induce blisters. In addition, a pair of socks that doesn’t absorb moisture as you sweat encourages the dampness to soften your underfoot skin which makes it prone to blisters.
What About the Shoe?
Another common cause of blisters is wearing shoes that are too small, or those that have a loose grip on your foot. Such shoes encourage too much movement between the foot and the shoe as you run.
While thick socks are ideal for runners with narrow feet seeking to get a better fit in their shoes, they can also make your shoes feel too tight and uncomfortable. On the other hand, thin socks are good for runners who wish to get a better feel of the road as they run. Due to their lightweight design, they are ideal for shoes that fit tightly, like those worn in competitive races.
Why Do Runners Wear Long Socks?
By design, the long running socks worn by runners are more compressed at the lower part of the leg and gradually loosen as you go up, forming a funnel-like shape. So why do we love long socks?
Enhance Injury Recovery
It has been proven that compression attire helps in hastening recovery when one puts them on after a run. Compression socks improve blood circulation in the legs. They can be used for leg injuries such as calf strains, shin splints and Achilles tendonitis.
Increased Blood Flow
Runners prefer long compression socks because they increase blood flow throughout the leg, which helps reduce lactic acid thus reducing soreness. Lactic acid is produced when there is low oxygen in your muscles to break down glucose and glycogen and generate energy. This results in fatigue and post-exercise muscle soreness.
Boost Running Performance
Some studies suggest that compression socks as well as sleeves boost a runner’s performance by sustaining high leg power.
The improved performance is also attributed to firm compression along the ankles and calves, which improves balance. This compression also increases awareness of the body movement. It is also important to note that the runner’s performance can also be solely impacted by the perception that compression socks increase performance.
Long socks are also useful for trail runners i.e. running on unpaved surfaces, because they offer protection from scratches and bruises. They are also viewed as fashionable due to the wide variety of colors they come with. Moreover, they provide warmth hence useful when running during cold weather.
How Long Should You Wear Compression Socks?
Compression socks can be worn for even 24 hours after a hard race. They will help you in recovering and getting rid of any post-exercise soreness due to improved blood and oxygen flow throughout the legs.
However, note that compression socks should be worn for a period of 3-6 months, after which one should consider replacing them. The benefits of replacing worn out socks far outweigh the cost of treating injured or infected feet.
Common Wear And Tear Signs To Be On The Lookout For Are:
After a long time of wearing your running socks, the fabric naturally loosens, which causes your socks to lose their shape. Since they won’t have a firm grip on your feet either, the movements and lack of support on the ankles exposes you to ankle injuries and blisters.
These small holes provide areas of weakness that could expose you to blisters, even if the other parts of the socks are still intact.
Your Level of comfort
When you have the socks on, gauge whether you feel any discomfort that wasn’t there from the start. This should prompt you to have a closer look on any visible wear and tear.
The Key Benefits of Wearing Proper Running Socks
Good running socks are essential for healthy feet. They provide adequate padding to prevent excessive friction hence protect your feet from developing blisters. Another symptom of poor feet health is if they stink. This is normally caused by sweating a lot, when your running socks do not allow your feet to breathe freely as you run. Good quality running socks are designed using materials that have wicking properties. This enables the absorption of sweat through the shoe, hence keeping your feet cool and dry.
They reduce skin friction. As we have discussed earlier, running socks rather than regular ones, prevent skin friction thus lower chances of getting blisters.
They prevent your feet from swelling. This occurs when blood is unable to flow easily from your feet to the other parts of the leg. Compression running socks enhance free blood flow beyond your ankle to the rest of the leg.
They make you feel comfortable. During a run, feeling uncomfortable is the last worry you need to have. Good running socks that fit perfectly on your feet give a natural feel to your feet.
A Quick Buyers Guide to the Right Running Socks for You
Now that we agree a good pair of running socks is essential for you, let’s discuss what you need to look out for in your next shopping spree.
- Avoid any socks made of pure cotton. Cotton does a poor job when it comes to allowing air in to cool your feet and rid of any moisture. Good running socks are made of synthetic fibers such as nylon, acrylic or a mix of natural fibers (cotton or wool) and synthetics.
- Identify if the socks have any anti-blister features such as padding along the crucial areas of impact, which are the toes and heel. This will be helpful in preventing friction from harming your legs.
- A fabric such as Coolmax is designed with wicking properties. And breathability is important to allow air into your feet thus dry any excess sweat and keep your feet cool.
- Measure the size of your feet beforehand in order to buy the right size of socks for you. You could do this by measuring your foot from the heel to the toes in centimeters using a ruler, then matching your size with the socks manufacturer’s size chart.
- If buying in a physical shop, they offer a fitting pair. Try them on to ascertain your size before completing the purchase.
- Avoid ankle socks as they are susceptible to easily slipping under your heel while you’re running. Mid-ankle socks are preferable.
- Choose whether you prefer thin or thick socks based on the criteria given earlier in the article.
Resist the temptation of going too financially economical on the type of socks to buy. A good pair of running is as equally important as any other running attire.
How to take care of your running socks?
Your running socks could speedily wear out based on how you handle them. Some of the ways to look after them is to:
- Use them only for running purposes. Using them as regular socks on top of running speeds their process of wearing out.
- Avoid using too much heat during washing. The fabric used in designing running socks may be weakened by the high temperatures.
- Endeavour to use a sportswear washing detergent to do the washing. Unlike the usual detergents, sportswear detergent is able to get rid of odors through dealing with bacteria deeply stuck in the fabric.
- Do not use fabric softeners. They can clog the fabric, making it less effective in wicking sweat from your feet and thus making your feet stink.
- Do not have your dirty running socks staying unwashed in the laundry basket for more than three days. This makes the odors and stains tougher to get rid of. If you’re too occupied to do the washing immediately, it’s advisable to hang them out after a run, so that they can dry up before throwing them in the basket.
- Finally, always follow the manufacturer’s instructions on how to wash them.
Commonly Asked Questions About Running Socks
Is it normal for my socks to leave marks?
Yes, it’s normal because of the elastic fabric that holds the socks from slipping down. However, it can also be as a result of your socks being a little bit too small, hence overly tight. In that case consider getting a pair that’s best fit.
Can you sleep in compression running socks?
There is no evidence of any negative effects of sleeping in your compression socks. In fact, it is a great way to boost your feet muscle recovery after a run. It also boosts the quality of sleep due to good blood and oxygen circulation. The choice of whether to sleep with them on or not is entirely up to you. However, you need more than one pair so that you can sleep with a pair of clean socks each night.
How to make socks bigger
Begin by washing the socks then tumble dry them. While the fabric is still warm, wear the socks. This stretches the rubberized-bands within the fabric so that they take the shape that is best fit for your legs. Alternatively, hold the top of the socks with both hands. Gently pull sideways in all the directions to loosen the fabric a little bit. This will provide more legroom in the socks but is normally a temporary fix.