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Ask any runner what the key to running success is and they will tell you: happy feet. Alright, perhaps there is a bit more to the sport of running, but comfortable feet can truly make or break your running experience. As any seasoned runner will tell you, having the appropriate running socks is as vital as having proper fitting sneakers. Unfortunately the importance of choosing the right socks is often (and understandably) overlooked by new or inexperienced runners, who may view socks as a second-thought accessory. But wearing the wrong socks can trouble a runner with a wide variety of ailments, from minimal discomfort to painful blisters. Keeping the following tips in mind while choosing running socks will help keep your feet comfortable, and help ensure continued running success.
A common, sometimes painful mistake often made by inexperienced runners is wearing 100 percent cotton clothing, including socks. Chances are you have tons of these socks in your drawer already, so it’s easy to understand why one would reach for a pair of cotton socks first. Cotton clothing tends to absorb and hold moisture, and wet socks may result in painful blisters. When choosing a running sock, look for synthetic materials, such as acrylic, polyester, or other quick drying, sweat absorbing, technical materials. These materials will help wick sweat and moisture away from your skin, keeping your feet comfortable and helping to prevent blisters. For cool weather runners, or simply those looking to go a more natural route, running specific wool blend socks, such as those from SmartWool or Darn Tough will also help wick away moisture while keeping the feet warm.
If you take nothing else away from this post, remember this: cotton is not a runners friend.
The thickness of your running sock is often a personal preference. While some may prefer a thin, minimal sock, others may prefer to have a significant amount of cushion. Some socks, such as the brand Wright Sock offer double walled thickness to, in theory, help prevent blisters. When deciding on what thickness you would like, consider the sort of activity you will be participating in. Some longer distance runners prefer to have some added cushion in their sock, while shorter distance athletes prefer a light weight sock. If you are running in a colder climate, having a thicker sock may help keep your feet warm. Lastly, it is important you consider what sneakers you will be wearing with the socks. Try the socks on with your current pair of sneakers to ensure that the thickness does not compromise the proper fit of your sneaker.
While the style and length of a running sock again may boil down to a personal preference, there are a few points to consider. If you are running on trails with thick vegetation, you may want to consider crew length, or even knee high socks, to help prevent debris entering your shoe, scratches from shrubs, or even dangerous insect bites. Consider the fit of the sneaker you will be wearing, and if there are any parts of the shoe that will be rubbing against your heel that you may want to protect with a taller sock. Have constant issue with blistering between toes? Try toe socks, like the popular Injinji brand.
Size & Fit
Running specific socks are typically measured in shoe size. It is imperative that you wear a properly fitting sock. Wearing socks that are too big may lead to friction issues, which may lead to painful hot spots and blisters. However, wearing socks that are too small may be equally as damaging, by constricting blood flow, toe movement, and potentially changing your running bio-mechanics. A local running store will be able to help suggest the right size sock based on your foot and your needs, and likely even let you try a pair on.
Compression socks are currently all the rage in the endurance community, and for good reason: the increased blood flow due to graduated compression may help with recovery or preventing issues such as muscle cramps and shin splints. However, compression socks may also become uncomfortable over time if the compression they provide causes the sock to become too tight. If you choose to run in compression socks, be sure to wear the correct size (see above) and test them out over shorter distances before completing long runs, as your feet may swell over the longer miles.
While socks may seem like a small part of the running apparel equation, experiencing pain from uncomfortable feet might ruin an otherwise enjoyable run or race. Wearing the proper socks while running will help keep your feet dry and cool, help prevent blisters, and help prevent buildup of unwanted bacteria. Be sure to keep the above tips in mind when shopping for running socks, to keep your feet happy and healthy.
Have a favorite running sock brand, or any other tips to add to this article? Please comment below!