Running is convenient and easy to perform, and can be done just about anywhere. However, your running gear can have a significant impact on your overall performance and comfort.
I was interested to know if running socks made any difference to my running, so I did my research and tried running with various socks.
So are running socks important?
One of the most crucial pieces of running gear that is often overlooked by new runners is running socks. A good running sock can make a huge difference in your overall experience when running and will ultimately save your feet from many issues.
Running, especially trail running, can put a lot of stress on your feet so it’s advisable to do your research on the best socks for your needs.
Why do You Need a Good Running Sock?
A high quality running sock has the ability to manage moisture, avoid blisters, and ultimately offer more comfort for the runner.
Just remember, a good sock and the right running shoe are the perfect match for any runner. One won’t necessarily work well without the other. You could have the best running shoe in the world, but if you have a sub-standard sock then you won’t be getting the full benefits the shoe has to offer. Likewise with a good sock and poor shoes.
What Makes a Good Running Sock?
Running socks are made of specially designed fibers that help to wick moisture away from your feet allow them to dry quickly. They also help keep your feet comfortable while running, thus reducing the risk of blistering. Running socks are built from the ground up with the runner in mind. They are equipped with amazing features that make them ideal for running. Some of these features include:
- Increased breathability
- Smaller size bracket for a better fit
- Higher elastin retention for better fit and shape retention
- More padding under the heel and ball of the foot and thinner on the top of the foot increase comfort
- Flat link seams on the toes that prevent blistering
- Incredible ability to wick moisture and transfer it to the running shoes
What’s the Difference Between Running Socks and Cotton Sports Socks?
One of the key differences between running socks and sport socks is their ability to wick moisture away from your feet.
Running socks are made from unique materials designed with the runner in mind, whereas a cotton sock will make your feet sweat and probably blister. A good running sock will normally be made up of one of the following materials:
Merino Wool – a hugely popular material among a lot of serious runners. Although quite expensive compared to some other materials, merino wool has properties that are sweat-wicking, highly breathable, and also naturally anti-bacterial (keeps the smell away). This is definitely a sock that you should consider in your collection.
Polyester and Nylon – These man-made materials are generally cheaper to make than the wool, but also have excellent properties that make the sock very breathable, sweat-wicking, and tend to be very durable which is a big plus on long runs.
Other Key Features of a Running Sock
They are Seamless – Want to avoid blisters? Make sure your socks are a seamless construction. Have you ever worn a sock that has a seam at the base of the toes? Remember that feeling when it all starts to bunch up? Don’t go there!
Material Thickness – Depending on your preference, you can buy a running sock in different thickness of material. If I am running for less than an hour over reasonable terrain on a warm day then I would probably go for a more lightweight sock. If I’m planning a longer run, a race, or a trail run then I would go for a sock with a more medium weight construction due to the fact it has more cushioning. As I said before though, make sure your shoe works with your sock – it’s all about preference to me.
Compression – The great thing about compression style socks is that they can improve the blood circulation around the foot which can not only aid recovery, but can also help to reduce tiredness, which in turn will ultimately allow you to run longer and further. Great for distances of a marathon and beyond. A compression sock can also come in various lengths too. You might often see runners with socks worn up to their knees – these are normally compression socks that also help the blood flow around the calves. I have worn this type of sock when recovering from a calf strain.
Extra Padding – A lot of work goes into a running sock when the manufacturer is designing. Having that extra padding around your toes, arch, and heel can make all the difference when it comes to comfort and avoiding blisters in those hot spot areas.
Arch and Ankle Support – When running long distances, or being out on the trails, one of the things you need to complement what the running shoe has to offer is good arch and ankle support from your sock. A good sock will have elasticated materials around these regions in order to secure the foot and offer the best comfort possible. Generally a material such as Lycra will be used to perform this task.
Anti Blister Tech – For me, the single biggest concern I have during a marathon or ultra is blisters. There is nothing more annoying and irritating than a blister with miles to go. I ran an ultra a couple of years ago where I had to ensure serious blisters for the last 20 miles of an ultra and it was all my own fault – because I made poor sock choices during the race.
To combat blisters, manufacturers often use 2 layers of material. By doing this, the idea is that the 2 layers run against each other rather that your skin rubbing against the material. It does work for sure, but the downside is that the sock can be thicker, so check it against your current shoe, and it can take away some of the breathable properties of the sock. I have heard of runners that wear 2 pairs of socks to give them the dual layer feel.
Dedicated Socks – You will find that some manufacturers make socks dedicated to the left and right foot. The idea being that they are specific to the foot and therefore more comfortable to wear. I personally like this option and have many socks like this.
What Are The Different Types of Running Sock?
I have tried many types of sock from a lot of manufacturers over the years. Below are the type of sock I buy time and time again.
Toe socks are designed to splay your toes and align them properly without compressing them. This not only provides greater stability but also allows your entire foot to be engaged when running. They promote balance, allow natural movements, increase mobility, and prevent foot injuries like toe blisters.
This type of sock certainly complements a shoe that has a wider toe-box due to the fact your toes can splay out more naturally. They compliment my Altra running shoes perfectly as they have a wide toe-box and the comfort during a run is second to none.
Compression socks are specially designed to put pressure on your legs in the right way. This helps to boost blood circulation, which in turn reduces swelling and discomfort while running. Compression socks help to reduce the diameter of crucial veins, thus increasing velocity and volume of blood. This helps to prevent the blood from refluxing downwards to the foot.
They are also a good option for post run and injury recovery.
Trail socks are specially designed for running off-road in rutted, rocky, and uneven surfaces. This type of sock has excellent moisture-wicking properties and protects your feet against shifting and twisting, which is common in trail running. If you love trail running, then this is the right type of sock for you. They provide maximum comfort and protection against injuries.
Hopefully, this post has helped you to realise that running socks are as important as a pair of running shoes. They are designed to enhance your safety and comfort while running and are equipped with a wide array of features that make them ideal for running.
Whether you are planning to go for a short jog within your neighborhood or preparing for the upcoming marathon, a good pair of running socks can help improve your performance and keep you injury-free.
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