Runners are weirdly obsessed with their socks. Sure, the right shoes are important and we’re happy to share our thoughts on the best fitness trackers, but ask us about socks? Well, you’d better settle in. Compression liners, blister tabs, foot beds and toe boxes are music to our headphone-filled ears—and for good reason.
“A lot of foot problems that stem from running are actually a result of shearing forces occurring in the shoes, which can in fact be prevented by wearing a proper sock,” Donna Robertson, Head of Training and Chief Pedorthist at Foot Solutions tells us. These shearing forces can occur anywhere on your foot, including your arch, insole, heel and toes. A good pair of socks will help minimize blisters and skin irritations, but a great pair can do so much more. “Sock technology has improved the awareness and importance of socks designed specifically for the left or right foot,” she says. “With the constant improvement in fabrics, sock qualities have been enhanced over time with improvements of athletic performance.” And while they might not make you run faster or farther, there’s no doubt that the right socks can help decrease injuries and improve your overall recovery time.
If you’re new to running, there are a few key factors to keep in mind when sock shopping: material, cushioning, cut and special features. Socks can come in all different materials, including spandex, nylon, wool, polyester and so much more. A wool blend is great for the colder months and will keep your feet warm and dry when you need it most (like during that last mile of your town’s local Turkey Trot). A synthetic material, like polyester, will be supportive, sweat-wicking and durable enough to stand up to multiple wears and washes. Cotton, however, will hold on to moisture, which can lead to fungal infections like athlete’s foot (yuck). Cushioning and cut are both based on personal preference, so they might take some trial and error to figure out. Some people swear by a no-show, ultra-light compression sock while others can’t bear the thought of running without a thicker mid-calf. And if you really want to geek out on socks, special features like reinforced heel durability and a dual-layer sweat removal system take things to a whole other level.
Luckily, PureWow is full of runners who won’t shut up about their socks (seriously). So if you’re just starting out or are looking to try something new, we’ve done the sweaty work for you. Here are the 12 best running socks we’ve ever tried, according to people who love to run.