Running Socks 101

The problem with 100% cotton socks is that they absorb sweat, saturate quickly and dry.

written by Katie, Gazelle Sports Northville

If you only remember one thing from this post, just know that cotton is ROTTEN. Cotton socks are the enemy when it comes to those nasty blisters that runners are posting photos about on Strava. Cotton absorbs moisture and holds it next to the skin. This can cause friction and eventually lead to blistering on your feet. Those of us who are blister free know a little secret. Before you head out for your first training run do your feet a favor and invest in some good quality running socks.

Running socks are an investment and with all the options out there I am hoping this blog post helps you narrow down your options. This process may take a bit of trial and error, but once you find what works for you, stick with it and you shouldn’t have much to worry about.

Cotton absorbs moisture and holds it next to the skin.

Let’s break it down:

Material: Merino wool as well as synthetic blends with materials like polyester and nylon are your best bet when choosing a running socks. These materials will pull the sweat away from your skin which helps avoid chafing and blisters. Merino wool is naturally anti-microbial and a safe bet no matter what the season. I wear merino wool all year long. Again, just be sure to stay away from cotton.

Size and length: Sizes are listed on the package based off shoe sizes. Typically you will see a range of sizes like 7-9.5 for size medium. If you have a wider foot and fall in the higher end of that size range, it might be a good idea to size up. As for the length of the sock, if you are prone to blisters near your Achilles, I would suggest wearing a sock that is mid length to prevent any chafing and blistering. In the colder weather I wear tall socks and tuck them into my running tights. In warmer weather I typically go with a low cut sock or mid length.

Cushioning: There is no specific type of cushioning I would recommend. I prefer light weight socks with minimal to no cushion, but there are some runners who prefer a little padding on the ball of their foot and heel. When picking your pair off the shelf I recommend feeling the heel. Brands typically label their socks based off the amount of cushion provided. There may be a little trial and error here when you are first getting started.

Compression: To help reduce muscle fatigue and swelling it might be a good idea to invest in a pair of compression socks. Compression helps the blood in your legs return to your heart faster, making it less likely to pool in your feet. Compression socks and sleeves can be used during exercise and only the socks can be used for recovery after your run.

Brands to try: Smartwool, Balega, Features, CEP