You probably spent a lot of thought on choosing your running shoes, but what about your socks? They go through just as many miles and footsteps as their more visible sole (ha) mates, and they can make or break your comfort on a run.
Some people never give any thought to their running socks, while others are probably overthinking it. Here are a few considerations that will help you find the right socks for you.
If your current socks are working, stick with them
Do your feet feel great during and after every run? If so, don’t change a thing, even if the guy at the running store insists there is cutting-edge sock technology you’re missing out on.
Just be aware that your needs may change. If you buy cheap cotton socks by the six-pack, and they’ve been fine for short runs in good weather in your favorite shoes, that’s great—for now. But maybe someday you’ll start training for a marathon and get blisters on your long runs. When that happens, reevaluate.
Running socks usually fit better
Regular socks are just kind of a sack you stick your foot into. Running socks, by contrast, are made to fit snugly to your feet. Sometimes they come in pairs, one fitted to your left foot and the other to your right.
They are often thinner than regular socks, and hug your feet so they are less likely to bunch up or get out of place while you’re running.
Running socks reduce chafing
The snug fit of running socks combines with thinner material and flat seams to help you avoid blisters. The fabric is often more slippery than a standard cotton sock, meaning any friction is more likely to come between the sock and shoe than between the sock and your foot. The fabric often helps to wick sweat away, further reducing the chance of blisters.
Winter running socks are warm and thin at the same time
When the weather gets cold, wool or insulated socks can help keep your feet warm. The kind of thick warm socks you wear in snow boots usually won’t fit in your running shoes, but a running sock made for winter can keep you warm while being thin enough to fit.
That’s important because thick socks exacerbate all the sock-related problems we’ve discussed. Running socks meant for winter can be thin or thick, but they’ll always be snug fitting and less blister-prone than an equivalent standard sock.
Once you find your perfect running socks, buy several pairs. The nice thing about wool socks, if you go for those, is that they can be worn several times without stinking up.
If you’re thinking of wool as uncomfortable and scratchy, definitely check out socks like Smartwool’s PhD line. I ran for many years in these socks, and then developed a wool allergy and had to switch to synthetic fabrics. Wool socks made for running are some of the very best socks out there, so if you haven’t used them yet, give them a try. And if you’re looking for a recommendation for non-wool socks, my favorites are a pair of Asics similar to these.