Most runners know how important running shoes are, but new runners often overlook the importance of running socks. You probably know it’s important to get fitted properly for the correct pair of shoes (and, remember, my favorite running shoes aren’t necessarily the best shoes for you), so once you’ve picked out your shoes, the next most important item is socks.
If you’re going to spend a good chunk of money on good running shoes (let’s be honest, they’re expensive!), you don’t want blisters. And the right socks go a long way in preventing them. You can’t just run in cotton socks! Cotton holds on to sweat and moisture, which leads to blisters. Additionally, since cotton slides more easily, they may rub and create hot spots, which will lead to blisters. No thanks.
Running socks can affect your running performance more than you’d think, so it’s important to choose socks that keep your feet dry and blister-free. The WORST thing is getting a few miles into a run and realizing you have to run back home with a budding blister. You’ll likely adjust your gait to compensate for the pain and that can lead to bigger injuries.
Running socks come in different fabrics, ankle heights, thickness, and sizes. You might like no-show socks, ankle socks, quarter socks or calf socks. Additionally, you’ll need to decide how much compression you like and if you want additional arch support in your socks. (Yes, even socks can provide arch support like shoes!).
It’s also important to look for socks with the right material. Again, this means no cotton socks. While some athletic socks are made with cotton, running socks aren’t. Running socks are made with synthetic material which wicks sweat away from your foot which keep them dry and prevents blisters.
As a note: most running socks are made for both men’s and women’s running, and most aren’t unisex. Always check the sizing chart to figure out which size you should buy. For more essential running gear for beginners, check out this post.
Today I’m dedicating this post to what socks are best for new and seasoned runners. Because it doesn’t matter how long you’ve been running – we all need good socks!
What Socks to Wear for Running
My favorite budget pick: Zella
I used to be very loyal to the Lululemon Power Stride Tab Socks, but I’ve recently become obsessed with this Zella pair. They’re stretchy and thin socks (amazing for my post-pregnancy feet that are a little bigger than before). They’re moisture wicking, which is essential for running sock, and priced really well at $25 for a 3 pack. I like that they’re no-shows and come in lots of colors. They’re also great for riding the Peloton. However, I haven’t run more than 6 miles in these since I’m still working on returning to regular running in my postpartum phase.
Easiest to find: Lululemon
These are my second favorite pair and very easy to find if you have a Lululemon store in town. I tend to like thinner socks than some runners. My feet get really warm, especially in the hot humid summers in North Carolina, so thinner socks like these help keep them cool. The Power Stride Tab socks are $14 per pair, which is a significantly more than the Zella socks, but they last forever and they have passed the long run test. They also come in a 3-pack for $38. They have a seamless toe construction which I love. I did a lot of my marathon training in them! The downside is I feel like she started to wear out more quickly than others I’ve had in the past.
I have a lot of running friends who like Smartwool socks. They have lots of options, but all of them are made with a merino blend and body-mapped mesh zones for breathability. I like that the Ultra Light socks are incredibly soft and thin. These are the socks my mom swears by and she’s been running for 40+ years!
Belega socks are super popular for runners who want super cushioned thicker socks. In fact, they were the first “real” running socks I bought about 18 years ago! I remember them being quite thick, but they do now have thinner options. The most popular type of Balega socks among my friends are the Hidden Comforts. These have extra features like knit-in mesh ventilation and extra cushioning under the sole. They’re around $14 a pair.
Bombas are another runner favorite – my mom likes these too! They are very soft with great cushion, but aren’t as thick as some other brands I’ve tried. (I’ve found every pair of Swiftwick far too thick and hot.) They’re around $16 a pair, but you can save money by buying a pack of them.
These hug the heel and have great cushion. They don’t slide around in running shoes which helps keep the foot blister free. They are known for their compression too. These are worn by so many of my followers on Instagram. When I polled my followers on Instagram about what running socks they love and why, Feetures were among the top choices, but I personally found Feetures sock got stiff after a while.
Drymax Trail Run 1/4 Crew Turndown Socks
These socks are made for trail runners. The higher shaft helps protect your feet and ankles from whatever terrain you’re running on. They are made with fibers that are sweat wicking and fight off odors. I love that you can roll down the top of the sock if you don’t want them as high. I wear these when we go hiking in Boone.
These socks are known for their sweat wicking wool material. They make all sorts of socks, but the most populare are the Aspire Zero which are thin, no-show socks. They hug the inside of your foot for arch support. Swiftwick also makes my favorite compression socks — more on those below. While I tend to prefer no show socks, I think ankle socks are the most practical for outdoor running or long runs, and Swiftwick makes good ones.
Many people think of compression socks as only knee highs but they actually different length socks like no-show and ankle height compression socks! Have you ever wondered what they really do? Compression socks are designed to help your legs fight the effects of gravity by pushing blood back up to the heart. They even help with soreness! Don’t believe me? Read this article! I’m a huge believer in the knee high version. I think they feel great and definitely help my legs feel fresher. And they’re a great option for chilly race days when you need just a little bit more coverage but don’t want pants!
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