When I first started running, I didn’t give much thought to my socks. Then I bought socks made for running rather than the generic “athletic” tube socks. I legitimately remember the first time I slipped them on: all at once I could feel more support on my instep, cushioning on my heel, and firm but comfortable compression all over.
A good pair of performance socks helps to absorb impact, wick away moisture, support your arches, and reduce the friction that can cause blisters. Because I tend to run in a variety of different conditions, from the streets to the trail and from summer heat to winter’s chill, I use a variety of different socks for running. These are my five favorites.
Best all-around running socks
If these socks weren’t $17 per pair, I would own a half-dozen pairs. More often than not, these are the socks I choose for my daily run. Along with all the compression and support you’d expect from a good running sock, they also feature a specifically anatomical design tailored to each foot. You wear the L sock on your left foot, in other words, and the slight difference in targeted compression zones and curved shape not only offers superior support but also greatly reduces friction. And the long, soft merino-wool fibers used to weave the socks keep my feet cool and dry, even when it’s humid out and my body temperature is up. [Editor’s note: We’ve written about a similar Feetures pair as our favorites, also.]
Best odor-preventing running socks
Trail runs tend to be longer than jogs through the city or the burbs, so I appreciate that my Scentlok socks prevent foot odor, thanks to the silver alloy spun right into the fabric. By inhibiting bacterial growth, these socks not only prevent odor but actually keep feet healthier and in better condition to log more miles. A broad arch-support band offers, well, arch support, while the lightweight and breathable fabric keeps feet cool, even during those long-distance runs.
Best affordable running socks
Before I discovered Feetures or Scentlok socks, I almost exclusively used Bering running socks. Why? Well, because they’re good running socks, sure, but mostly because you can get six pairs of them for $18 (so, yeah, the Feetures cost six times as much). And while I haven’t bought any Bering socks in years, I still have four pairs in the mix because the darn things just won’t wear out. When the fancier socks are in the wash, on these go. For shorter jogs around my neighborhood, they work just fine. A blend of polyester, spandex, nylon, and rubber, they have plenty of stretch and offer good compression underfoot. Their bit of added cushioning under the heel is always welcome when I’m running on concrete, and the venting along the top of the sock helps release excess heat. And that price.
Best knee-length compression running socks
While ordinarily I wouldn’t be caught dead wearing socks this high, when logging extra-long mileage or stomping down rough, rocky terrain shortly before a long race or multiday hike, I sometimes strap on a pair of taller socks that give added compression and support not just to my feet but also to my ankles, shins, and calves. Not only will the SB SOX Compression Athletic Socks help prevent shin splints, joint injury, and swelling so that you feel better after your runs, but they can even reduce the buildup of lactic acid in muscles during exercise, actively keeping you feeling better and going longer. (Also they’re good for anyone at risk of deep-vein-thrombosis issues, especially during travel.)
Best cold-weather running socks
Running in cold weather is always a tricky balancing act. Out the door, your body is cold and you want to be wearing the proper layers, but you also want to avoid becoming overheated and uncomfortable. That’s why I usually wear this pair of Duluth Trading Company Midweight Fast-Drying Merino Wool Crew Socks. They keep my feet warm even before my heart rate is up, but wick away sweat and are breathable enough not to overheat my feet once I’m peeling off my upper outerwear and hat. The blend of wool, acrylic, and spandex keeps them taut and in place, and I also love how they can serve as fine hiking socks or for casual wear, too.
If you’re looking for a different style of running sock, here are some highly reviewed options from Amazon, according to hyperenthusiastic runners.
Best ankle compression running socks for mud runs
“Got these socks the day before a 2.5-hour run, the 2017 F3 Polar Bear. The event is 2.5 hours of running, obstacles, and boot camp–style workout with teams running to locations to do exercises for points. And it was 25 degrees Fahrenheit outside, and we jumped in a lake and did squats at the end for extra points. Even at 25 to 30 degrees Fahrenheit, my feet never felt cold at all. Until the 55 degrees Fahrenheit lake, of course. Good fit, size large for my size-ten feet was perfect. Good snug fit, no sliding, no chaffing, no blisters. Will be my ‘go to’ sock for workouts. I put the ‘Ankle Compression’ to the test. I think the ankle band is plenty tight by design to keep debris out of your sock and keep it from sliding down. Overall, very satisfied. Best workout sock I currently own, and I’ve tried lots of UA and Thorlo.”
Best blister-preventing running socks
“I think these are the best running socks around. Snug fit, but not too tight. These are expensive, but worth the price. I am blister-prone and I haven’t had any since using Feetures. For leisure or distance runners, buy these. The sizing is true and fits as expected. I would like to see them come up with a value pack of different colors, as I’d like to have seven to ten pairs, as I run each day. Great product, Feetures!”
Best thin running socks
“Large is a perfect fit for 11 to 11.5 feet. Very comfortable. Especially like the material, which provides some cushioning without taking up excess room inside the shoe or being overly fuzzy to pick up bits of debris. Best of all, this sock is tall enough to show that you are wearing socks, but not so tall that they add extra weight or heat. Ran ten miles, no issues, while other brands have slipped back into my shoe. Will pick up a few more pairs for cycling and casual days.”
Best running toe socks
“I have purchased four different brands of toe socks through Amazon, but I have to say that Injinji’s brand of lightweight socks beats the competition and is definitely worth the price. I was skeptical of the $30 price tag for a three-pack, but these pairs are amazingly comfortable to workout in. The socks are lightweight and breathable while still providing enough of a barrier to keep my Vibram FiveFinger toe shoes from becoming a stink tank (and that is an impossible task). Wearing these socks did not impact the fit of the shoes whatsoever and didn’t cause any discomfort in my toes like other toe-sock brands.”
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