10 Best Running Socks Tested for Performance
Running is a sport that not only requires open space, a great pair of running shoes, and enough will to go out and hit the miles. Activity trackers, GPS devices and accessories are also a big part of the sport, but some things are just that, “accessories”. There are other things such as proper socks that are more or less critical, especially for serious runners as they mark the difference between a comfortable run and an average one. Anyone who knows how it is to run in just any old pair of socks knows the pain, and the substantial relief when they made the switch to running-specific socks.
Some new runners are unfamiliar with running socks or don’t even know they exist. With the increasing popularity of quality sockless running shoes, this is no surprise. Some runners may even think running socks are a useless investment—they’re not. Proper socks will not only help increase your performance, but keep you comfortable through the miles. An infographic Published on Runnerclick shows that there many important factors to consider before buying.
“But they’re not necessary!” Well, running shoes aren’t necessary either, but that depends on who you ask. You could as well go beach running and never have to invest in any piece of equipment. But if you’re a dedicated runner looking to optimize their performance, these socks can become a great tool. Plus, it’s not like we’re talking about an investment in next generation technology. Believe or not, something as simple as a pair of socks can enhance your aerobic experience.
- Balega No-Show Hidden Comfort
- Reinforced Heel
- Extra-cushioned toes
- Thorlo Running Thick Cushion Crew
- Clinically-tested padding
- Patented fabrics
- Saucony No-Show Performance
- Moisture Control
- Arch Compression
This list compiles quality socks that specifically aim for running performance. Some of their functions include maintaining your feet warmth during winter training. They also protect your feet from suffering friction irritation with the inner materials.
You’re probably wondering how something as basic as a pair of socks could make you a better runner. Well, you would be surprised at the amount of features in running socks that are beneficial to your practice.
10 Best Rated Running Socks
1. Saucony No-Show Performance
RunDry Moisture Management delivers great moisture transport thanks to its construction of super-wicking fibers around the whole sock. This allows feet to stay fresh and dry, avoiding internal slipping and development of bad scents.
A cushioned sole reduces impact during intensity aerobic training. Thanks to this, you can perform longer without any discomfort. The cushioning design increases efficiency without adding bulk in the inner build of the shoe.
This is the best price of our top 10 list. Saucony delivers a six-pack of performance socks for the average price of a single pair of other brands on this list. While offering the best price, these performance socks don’t stop to deliver quality. Most recommended the purchase of this list.
- Targeted arch compression
- Air mesh ventilation
- Sole cushioning
- Thin and comfortable
- Don’t wash well
The DryNamix polyester technology prevents moisture from becoming an obstacle to your performance. The moisture-wicking material prevents excessive sweating with a breathable approach and stops the foot from slipping internally around the insole. This prevents the accumulation of heat, irritation, and the generation on undesired odors.
Reinforced heel and toe
The toe structure is reinforced by a seamless hand-linked closure, preventing internal slipping and friction around the upper foot. The heel zone counts with plush under-sole cushioning for extra protection, diminishing impact and providing utter comfort.
The cost of this price is average in comparison to other items in this list. Though, performance is outstanding, offering an efficient performance to cost ratio. Taking into consideration the modern fabrics and design, this item is a smart purchase.
- Seamless toe closure
- DryNamix polyester
- Moisture wicking build
- Breathable materials
- The tab on the back is low
3. Thorlo Running Thick Cushion Crew
The clinically-tested padding delivers protection for long activities and intense exercising. Its shock absorbing qualities dispel sheering forces, preventing heel bruises, reducing blisters, foot pain, and pressure on the heel. The fabrics are specially selected based on their moisture-wicking properties.
THOR•LON fibers deliver specific qualities aimed at the high-intensity runners and other athletes. These materials keep your feet dry and deliver superior resilience, comfortability, softness, and protection. The fibers are included around the toes to prevent runner’s toe or black toe.
Thorlo’s thick running socks are under the average price of our guide. However, their value is more remarkable considering that they’re full size and feature thick cushioning. These performers are durable, efficient, and affordable.
- Easy wash
- Supreme comfort and softness
- Thick padding for protection
- Patented premium fabrics
- Considerably thick, not for small shoes
4. Darn Tough No-Show Light Cushion
An unconditional lifetime guarantee helps you make sure your investment goes in a long, long term. These socks are made in Vermont; the perfect place to test them in skiing, snowboarding, hiking and running. Endurance comes at its finest with this pair.
The build of the Darn Tough No-Show Light Cushion delivers moist-repelling materials that protect your feet from sweat. Run, cycle, or hike as far as you want without having the slightest sense of bad feet smells.
A bit more expensive than other items on this list, but still as efficient (if not better) as most of the other socks. The all-weather performance design delivers functionality on multiple circumstances, replacing up to three pairs in just one design.
- Merino wool build
- Thin, no-bulk design
- Supports all weathers
- Great comfort
- The ankle collar is small
- Back tab is short
5. Thorlo Experia Thin Low-Cut
Padding around the Achilles-tendon area prevents heel irritation caused by rubbing friction. By reducing blistering, these socks endure the most intense of sports and mixed training. The design also works as a heel lock that stops the sock from sliding into the shoe.
This pair is ideal for competitive athletes with no issues or pains around the foot area. The light padding offers ultimate comfort and a lightweight approach in disciplines where less weight makes the difference. Amongst its materials, a Thorwick Wool extreme performance fiber makes this pair suitable for any circumstance.
Thorlo’s maintain their affordable price on quality socks. These are more expensive than conventional socks, of course, but are much superior when it comes to performance. The Experia running socks match the average price of our list.
- Thin, lightweight frame
- Multi-sports performance
- Heel lock and all-around padding
- Ultra-lightweight design
- The thin cushioning doesn’t support foot conditions
6. Darn Tough Vermont Crew
With a thicker build comes thicker cushioning, thus thicker protection. The heel and underfoot padding reduce stress caused by intensity sport and keep comfort at its maximum. Protection includes moisture wicking properties and odor prevention.
All circumstances durability
Thanks to a merino wool fabric, the Vermont model offers warmth during winter and breathability during summer. No matter how much you sweat, your feet stay dry and odor-free inside merino wool. Hike on sunny days with no heat accumulation, and run during winter without cold feet.
Considerably more costly than other thick socks on this list, yet extremely efficient for aerobic activities. The thick design and cushioning involve more fabrics and density. Thus the price is understandable. The materials are full quality, guaranteeing long lasting performance.
- All around protection
- Multi-environment performance
- Utterly comfortable
- No itching or compression
- Particularly thick around the toes
- Seem is not smooth
7. The 2XU Large Compression
The full-size model delivers protection up to the knee. The super lightweight compression build protects your feet from moisture and prevents the generation of feet stinks. Additionally, they count with antibacterial features and SPF 50 sun protection.
Thanks to the Invista Lycra delivering certified gradient compression, these socks reduce fatigue around the lower legs due to the decrease of muscle oscillation. High-density fabrics deliver ankle, heel, calve, and shin support.
2XU’s compression model is by far the most expensive item on this list, worth approximately four times as much as the average product. Compression socks aim more to the competitive side, offering full benefits of compression clothing for world-class athletes. Arguably one of the best products on this list.
- Benefits of compression clothing
- SPF 50 sun protection
- Invista Lycra fabric
- Tough to put on
- Considerably expensive
8. Drymax Run Hyper Thin
A Dual Layer Moisture Removal System takes moisture away from the skin. This is due to an internal Drymax layer to the external absorbing layer in a matter of a second. You could even get splashed at a water station while running and maintain dry feet.
Instead of incorporating thick padding, this model uses density cushioning along the sole and around the heel and ankle. This way, comfortability, and performance are increased without paying the cost of bulking. The back tab also counts with comfortable fabrics to prevent friction between the Achilles tendon and the shoe’s collar.
Drymax’s runner design makes good use and distribution of their materials and technologies. This pair offers superior comfort and quality for a considerably acceptable price, which matches the average value. Density padding and smart design make them worth the investment.
- Keeps your feet dry at all times
- Blisters and odors prevention
- Thin build and density padding
- Tend to form holes easily
9. Injinji 2.0 Trail Midweight
Thanks to strategically located panels, the 2.0 trail deliver breathability where you need it the most. By preventing hotspots and concentration of heat around the foot, comfort is increased, and sweating reduces. Moist-wicking properties keep your feet dry and safe from sweat blisters, as well as odors.
Trail oriented design
The Injinji 2.0 aims at trail runners with all-around protection through thick materials. The midweight approach includes double cuff for a secure ankle lock and proper toe alignment for greater running comfort. These five-fingers include a mesh top lock for an even more secure fit, preventing sock slipping and the entry of trail rubble.
While they’re a little costlier than most products on this list, Injinji’s trail runner socks remain in the affordable zone. Keep in mind these socks deliver extra protection and comfort for trail performance while maintaining a price similar to regular performance socks.
- Thick cushioning
- Off-road performance
- Excellent breathabilty
- The pinky toe fit is odd
10. Feetures! Elite No-Show Light Cushion
This sock delivers adequate cushioning without adding any bulk and maintaining a super slim build. The areas that suffer the most during intense aerobic activities are covered with high-density cushioning for extra protection. These high impact areas, such as the heel, are protected with density instead of thickness.
This model aims at both recreational and competitive running activities, having the necessary features to optimize performance. The back tab works in combination with the collar to generate a firm lock, preventing the sock from slipping into the shoe. The breathable materials fight against the concentration of heat and excessive sweating.
Not cheap, nor expensive. The Feetures Elite display light cushioned engagement with premium fabrics for an affordable price. Despite being a little over the regular price of this list, its quality still stands up to the price tag.
- Thin, ultra-lightweight sock
- Slim cushioning that doesn't add bulk
- Moisture-wicking fabrics
- The elastic collar isn't durable
- They might deteriorate with hot water washing
How to Choose the Best Socks for Running
Running socks have a lot to offer to runners, whether it’s summer, winter, trail running, or just walking. When running, comfort is not a luxury; it’s a must. However, these socks are not all about comfortability. The designs listed in this guide feature highly functional qualities that improve running as a whole. These features alone might seem insignificant, but combined, it’s a whole different story. We know a pair of socks is not something you want to spend $30 on. Thus, we compiled this list keeping in mind the economic factor.
The purpose of this guide is not entirely to help you find the best running socks. If you’re not buying them, we want to make sure you don’t use bad ones either. As simple as they might seem, socks can become an element that decreases comfort and performance. Some socks contribute to irritation due to impractical sewing and materials. On the other hand, the socks on this list were carefully selected based on their suitability for aerobic practices.
There’s a wide variety of ways in which runners can benefit from having specialized socks. We’ve developed a list of the criteria we’ve used for this research. Hopefully, this gives you runner’s further insight on what qualities tell quality socks apart from cheap ones.
Criteria Used to Evaluate the Best Running Socks
For both casual and competitive runners, protection is a must have for every single element of their equipment. Just like shoes, socks can determine how protected your feet are. While socks don’t deliver as much physical protection from external elements, they protect your feet from internal ones. Shoes might keep you safe from the ground, but they often don’t protect you from sweat, odors, and friction. Because of this, running socks must deliver protective qualities to keep your feet in good condition during and after training.
Something as simple as humidity cause by sweat can mess up the performance of even world-class athletes. Believe it or not, running socks do have a role in the protection of your feet. In fact, multiple features of running socks work together to deliver a much more protective design around places where you didn’t know were unprotected. Some full-size socks, for example, offer UV protection from below your knee to the ankles.
Related factors: Sole cushioning, materials, incorporated technology
Sole cushioning: Most athletes are unaware that cushioned socks exist. Depending on the type of sock (thin, midweight, trail, etc.) cushioning and padding varies in density and thickness. Sock cushioning is similar in design to that of shoe cushioning; they’re often placed in points of the feet that receive the most stress. However, they work in a completely different way. While a shoe cushioning looks to stop impact, sock cushioning aims to reduce the remaining vibration that gets through the shoe.
While it might look silly and unnecessary at first hand, reducing these vibrations and increasing comfort do relieve the foot. Especially when it comes the zones that suffer the most, such as the heel and the forefoot.
Materials: Running sock materials can get to be very varied; there’s a wide list of materials that are optimal for performance socks. While they’re different fabrics, most of them share the same (or very similar) qualities. For instance, a critical quality of sock materials is moisture-wicking properties. Materials that prevent humidity and moisture have a huge positive impact on performance. It also leads to better post-performance results, such as the prevention of athlete’s foot and black toe.
Additionally, by maintaining dry feet, internal slipping and friction that causes irritation decreases. The presence of humidity and friction lead to the generation of bad-smelling bacteria and blisters.
Incorporated technologies: The use of technology aimed at greater protection makes the running design much more effective. These additional features add the last layer of protection, which comes in the form of heel tabs, Double-layer cushioning, and so on. Heel tabs, for example, prevent the Achilles tendon from entering in friction against the shoe’s collar. This is a very common cause of blisters and irritations in that zone, due to socks being too low. Patented fabrics such as the THOR•LON fabric and the acrylic DryNamix are considered part of the sock’s technology.
Technology is used to enhance almost every aspect of the sock; from cushioning to lightness, comfortability, and vibration management. In combination with premium materials, they generate an outstanding result.
The socks sole cushioning can be the difference between a bruised heel and a healthy one. When the shoe’s insole isn’t enough to administrate the amount of stress placed on the heel, the socks come in. The sole cushioning also works as a comfortability factor, making contact with the internal shoe much smoother. This cushioning is placed along the socks’ sole, but it often includes a more pronounced padding around the heel are. However, the cushioning’s function is not limited to providing comfort.
Any professional runner or athletic performer can confirm that muscular and bone oscillation has an impact on the performance. By reducing vibrations, cushioning can considerably slow down muscular fatigue. This helps athletes perform more efficiently for longer periods of time. Sole cushioning also prevents the insole from hitting the underfoot abruptly while practicing aerobic disciplines. Padding should never interfere with the natural fit of a shoe, which is why the development of density padding has replaced thickness on thin socks.
Related factors: Materials, incorporated technology
Materials: The materials arguably play the most important role in the sole cushioning. The qualities of the materials such as density, softness, adaptability, and responsiveness determine the quality of the cushioning. However, the arrangement and distribution of such also play a decisive role. A sock can feature the most cushioning and efficient materials ever, but using them at an incorrect density or thickness can ruin performance. Usually, cushioning and paddings are strategically distributed amongst regions which are more common to suffer.
The density of the materials has a big role on the quality of the cushioning. The thickness has also become an important factor in modern day manufacturing of sports socks. Just like many other sports equipment, thinner builds have proven to be more popular amongst athletes. Just like with shoes, running socks should deliver efficiency with a slim build that offers lightness and sensitivity.
Incorporated technology: Sometimes materials alone aren’t enough. Don’t get us wrong; they can sure provide a wide variety of benefits. But, when we’re talking about the most optimal results, it’s impossible for technology not to fit in the discussion. At the end of the day, just like in athletic shoes, these technologies are specially engineered. Their design is no coincidence; they’re developed to work in combination with the rest of the elements in the build. This goes for running socks, shoes, and pretty much any piece of athletic gear.
An example of cushioning technology is the Thorwick Wool extreme performance fiber. As you can probably guess, it’s not a conventional wool padding. The compound has been chemically modified and fortified with other components to deliver cushioning on extreme circumstances. Thanks to this, socks can endure tougher activities such as skiing, hiking, and trail running.
Comfort is often the most underrated factor of sports gear. A lot of athletes often prefer fashion rather than comfort. Some others don’t mind uncomfortable shoes as long as they offer excellent performance qualities. This is a huge mistake, as comfort should be considered one of the performance factors of your gear. What most of these athletes don’t know, is that comfort can improve your abilities just as much as it can affect them. To obtain your best results, your execution must be comfortable.
That being said, comfort is an element that should be present in every performance item, not just socks. As for the socks, discomfortability can crash your development. Some of the main aspects of comfort in a sock include breathability, padding, softness, and sensitiveness. For the case of plantar symptoms, special socks can provide comfort and alleviate the symptoms which a specific design.
Related factors: Materials, cushioning, weather performance, feet protection
Materials: This is one of the most important factors of comfort. Specific materials should compose the build of a sock; the most comfortable being wool, polyester, nylon, and spandex. However, their softness is not the only factor affecting comfort. The materials are also responsible for the previously mentioned factor, breathability, which protects feet against hotspots and irritation. The smoothness of the fabric has an impact on the amount of friction they generate. If they rub against your feet while training, you’re almost guaranteed to develop irritation.
Cushioning: Cushioning can deliver comfort in multiple ways. It directly affects comfort by providing softer textures and support on high impact areas, like the heel. This makes each motion much more comfortable and less stressful, allowing athletes to remain comfortable for longer. Sock cushioning also offer shock-absorbing qualities, which are not as efficient as the one in the shoes but stack up. Also, sock cushioning is more centered on reducing muscular vibration rather than actual shock absorption.
Weather performance: The ability of the sock materials to adapt to different weather conditions make them a superior product. Just like with shoes, socks should be according to the season and weather conditions where you’ll be exercising. Full-size thick socks, for example, are not suitable for summer conditions at all (or hot conditions for that matter). While they might still prevent moisture, overheating will be unavoidable, and irritation might become a consequence.
The functionality of your socks in relation to the weather conditions can become an influencing factor in comfortability. Thin socks in winter are as useful as thick socks in summer. The most optimal design for multi-weather performance is a medium design that is dense rather than thick, and not too slim.
Feet protection: It goes without saying that protection is a must in every aspect of a performance sock, including comfort. Protective elements prevent your feet, and thus your performance, from being affected by both internal and external elements. For instance, the no-show heel tab prevents irritation caused by friction between the shoe and the foot. Another remarkable protective element is the moist-wicking property of materials that prevent moisturized socks and internal slipping.
By maintaining your feet dry and fresh, these humidity-killing properties increase performance comfort. All of these factors add up and allow athletes to perform comfortably for longer.
The materials that compose the socks are unquestionably the most important element. It’s true that the material alone doesn’t make a quality performance sock. However, it’s impossible to build a quality sock with materials that deliver poor aerobic qualities. There are very specific materials that must be used in a sock build to offer the maximum result. At the same time, these materials have to contain qualities that enhance performance and reduce obstacles. For example, socks contain spandex to fit bigger sizes and provide some of the benefits of compression.
Natural materials include some of the qualities needed for aerobic execution, such as comfort and breathability. However, technology and synthesis will always take the lead when it comes to the development of suitable materials. The materials for a running sock should be expandable, moist-repelling, smooth-textured, and capable of enduring intensity training. The way in which materials are employed also partake in their quality. The compounds distribute in a way where they’re the most suitable; such as the compressing band that composes the collar.
Related factors: Breathability, durability, comfort
Breathability: The capacity of a material to allow the flow of air is a determining factor to their quality. Materials that are not breathable simply become an obstacle to performance, especially in hot environments. By blocking the flow of air, the feet are open to risks of irritation, overheating, and excessive sweating. This would at the same time affect the moisture-eliminating properties sock. There’s also a much simpler reason why breathability is important; overheating feet are uncomfortable and will decrease performance.
However, the breathable qualities of a sock must work in combination with the ones present in your shoe. There’s no point in buying breathable socks to use them inside completely locked shoes. It would defeat the purpose of breathability in the first place.
Durability: The main factor that can be used to judge the quality of the material is its durability. Though it ultimately relies on other factors such as density and thickness, materials must feature certain resistance. Durability is a much more complex subject in sports socks than conventional ones. This is because in running, factors such as abrasion, friction, and expansion degrade the socks much faster. Thus, the materials should be specifically (and often synthesized) to endure these activities.
For materials to be durable, they should contain elastic qualities that can freely stretch during aerobic exercise. Socks that can’t keep up with intense training rip open or develop holes.
Like we previously mentioned, not all types of socks are suitable for all types of activities. This is why socks are very varied; going from thin ankle designs to full-length thick builds. But, sock designs aren’t specially engineered just to support specific weathers, but also specific activities. Thin no-show light cushioned socks may be a good option for walking, but that’s not the case with hiking, for example. This is what we call specific performance. The entire build and features of the sock will depend on the activity in which it’s the most functional at.
In the case of this guide, running, multiple types of socks are suitable for the activity. While they offer different approaches, they all aim at similar benefits. For a sock to be running-specific, it must deliver certain functions. The main functions to be present in a running sock are breathability, protection, comfort, and elasticity.
Related factors: Cushioning, aerobic materials, comfort, protection
Cushioning: Padding and shock absorption are features that decide the type of activity the sock suits the most. The ability of the materials and incorporated technologies to reduce impact stress and oscillation makes a quality running sock. Traditional running is often preferred by athletes to perform with thinner socks for weight and comfort purposes. Trail running, on the other hand, requires a thicker layer of materials to increase support and deliver even more protection. Impact and intensity tend to be greater when trail running. Thus paddings are denser and more consistent.
Aerobic materials: To qualify as a running sock, materials should be according to the needed feats for running. Some of the principal qualities present in running sock materials are repelling of humidity, stretchable fibers, lightness, breathability, and comfort. Though they vary depending on the use, you’ll give them. For sprinting, the materials should be as light as possible; aiming at a short and intense performance rather than an extended one. For long distance running, compression materials are more efficient; though compression clothing tends to be expensive.
This doesn’t mean that you can’t use compression socks for trail or thick socks for sprinting. Nor does it mean that you need a pair for every specific purpose. We’re making recommendations in case you’re targeting a specific one.
Comfort: Thicker socks tend to be more comfortable, as they use a greater amount of materials and thus result in better cushioning. However, this might not be the ideal choice if your shoe fit is tight, as a thick layer could make the inside fit uncomfortable. While some minimalist shoes offer barefoot use, we still recommend the use of running socks. Internal factors can provoke irritation, as opposed when wearing socks. For the minimalist fit shoes, thinner socks are a much better choice to help you remain minimalist.
Protection: As intensity increases, you should be looking for something more versatile. The heavier you go, the more cushioning and protection you’ll need. In the case of trail running, for example, thicker padding and cushioning are much more effective. This is because trails tend to be irregular in intensity and can tend to generate more shock and muscular vibration. For minimalist running, the most important protection a sock can offer is against moisture. While the shoe does the job protecting the feet from external factors, sweat and bacteria can mess up the inside.
Protection also varies based on the climatic circumstances of your training. If it’s considerably hot, your best shot is unquestionable slimmer socks. It’s important to remain protected from the elements as well. Thick socks make a huge difference under circumstances where retaining heat is important.
Q: What are no-show socks?
A: No-show socks include a kind of tab behind the Achilles tendon. This tab is made from a different material and prevents irritation caused by friction with the back of the shoe. Most socks are low, though they don’t cover this portion.
Q: How do I choose running socks?
A: Based on the activity you’re performing, you’ll want more or fewer cushioning. The heavier the activity, the more cushioning you need. The more versatile you want to go, the thinner you should get.
Q: What’s the thickest kind of socks?
A: The trail midweight provides the thickest build of them all. For regular running, the midweight ones are the thickest, though they’re slimmer and lighter than trail ones.
Q: Why should I wear running socks?
A: Running socks prevent friction between the inner shoe materials and your feet, which would otherwise result in irritation. They also help reduce moisture and increase comfort, especially on the heel.
Q: What is the difference between normal and compression socks?
A: Compression clothing offers a variety of benefits that regular socks don’t. One of them is that compression improves the flow of blood to the muscles, reducing fatigue and enhancing endurance.
Q: Where to buy running socks?
A: Online sales platforms such as Amazon offer comfortable return policies and guarantees similar to retail stores, and are often much cheaper. Though, you can get to try the socks at retail stores.
Q: What’s the best type of socks for walking?
A: Light-cushioned socks are a very good option for walking. Since there’s not much impact involved, you won’t be needing cushioning that thick.
Q: How high should compression socks be?
A: Knee-high. Compression socks are made to compress the muscles involved in running, though covering everything below the knee is important.
Q: What size should my running socks be?
A: They should fit accordingly to your size, and stretch up to half a size. You shouldn’t go any smaller than that; the fact they stretch doesn’t mean it’s good for them.