How To Choose Running Socks

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Socks are easily overlooked, but they are probably the second-most important piece of kit for runners, right after your shoes.

Poor sock choice can lead to all kinds of foot conditions.   Some common issues caused by incorrect sock choice include: blisters due to friction, moisture, heat and toes rubbing.  Getting a good pair of socks is essential for your comfort during your run, and the socks have to be suited to both the runner and the conditions.

Some runner’s feet sweat more than others, and some runners prefer thicker – or double layered socks.  Furthermore, heat, humidity and water crossings all lead to wetter socks – which you have to account for when choosing your running socks.  

How To Avoid Blisters

Blisters need three things to propagate – heat, friction and moisture.  You can minimise moisture by using socks designed to ‘wick’ away sweat, and you can avoid friction by buying socks that fit your feet well, stopping them from folding or clumping up then rubbing.  

If you’re especially blister-prone, another tip for avoiding friction is to coat the blister-prone part of your feet with a lubricant like Bodyglide.  Vaseline does work too, but tends to stick in gooey clumps that can attract dirt and sand.

Toe Socks

Toe socks (such as the Injinji brand) have become increasingly popular in ultra-running circles – they’re the socks that are kinda like gloves, with a separate little section for each of your toes.  By isolating each individual toe, they eliminate the risk of toes rubbing together and creating blisters in that region.  It’s a fairly simple solution that has worked very well for me in all my long distance races.  Not everyone loves toe socks, and they are more expensive than regular socks, so I’d recommend buying a pair well in advance of your race and trying them out before committing to them.


Double Layers

Double-layered socks can reduce friction between the sock and the foot, thereby reducing the chances of blisters.  Double layered socks are obviously thicker than regular socks, which leads to more sweating and heat which some people dislike – but these are still very popular in stage races.  If you don’t use them already, I’d only recommend trying double-layered socks if you are having ongoing blister issues which are not resolved by using lubricant / getting properly fitting shoes and socks.

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Thomas Watson is an ultra-runner, UESCA-certified running coach, and the founder of MarathonHandbook.com. His work has been featured in Runner's World, Livestrong.com, MapMyRun, and many other running publications. He likes running interesting races and playing with his two tiny kids. More at his bio.

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