The best running socks 2021 | Essential picks for road, trail and fending off blisters

Our updated guide to one of the most important running accessories
The best socks for runners 2021

Whether you're an ultra runner or a short distance track athlete, the importance of getting the right pair of running socks should never be underestimated – and we're not just talking about getting ones with the most eye-catching designs.

Runners will often attribute comfort – or lack of it – on the run to their shoes, but getting a good pair of socks can have a big impact as well. From fending off blisters to ensuring that your feet stay as cool as possible, picking up a top-quality pair of running socks can make all those miles seem considerably more enjoyable.

Luckily, running socks are significantly cheaper than what you can expect to pay for the best performance shoes out there, with many options being surprisingly affordable but still offering an impressive range of benefits.

Jump to the socks you want:

Materials, compression and wicking

Central to the success of a pair of running socks is the material used. Cotton should be avoided because it will get damp and cause blisters. Instead look for technical synthetic fabrics that wick sweat away from the foot and dry quickly, or natural materials like merino wool that offer the same benefits. Merino wool also has the bonus feature of naturally resisting odours, though there are synthetic fabrics that are designed to do the same.

Running socks should also have some extra padding around the toes, heel and ball of the foot, which are blister hotspots and also the areas of the sock that wear out more rapidly. Some socks are also made up of two layers, which can help prevent blisters but can also get hot at times.

You also have to consider whether you want to run in compression socks. These have a tight fit and are usually knee-length, though you can find ankle length options. Compression socks are designed to improve circulation and potentially boost performance, although the evidence is inconclusive on that front. However, they can make you feel more confident when trying to avoid injuries like shin splints and they can also help with recovery if you wear them after a run.

Best all-round running socks

Stance Run Feel360 Running Socks

Stance Run Feel360 Running Socks

Stance’s range of socks is extensive and covers all kinds of different sports as well as offering lifestyle options, and within the running section, you’ll find tab, ankle and crew-length socks in a variety of terrific designs.

The success of the socks doesn’t just rest on the design, however, with Stance’s FEEL360 fabric having exceptional moisture-management properties. We’ve taken these socks out for 20-mile runs and by the time we’ve unlaced our shoes afterwards, the socks are bone dry. That means that no matter how much your feet sweat while running the socks will keep them dry and comfortable, reducing the risk of blisters.

Stance’s running socks also have padded areas around the heel and toe and have proven very durable in our experience – we’ve not yet had to test our darning skills, even in socks that have been used for weekly runs over a couple of years.

On High Socks

On High Socks

The first time we ran in these we nabbed a half marathon PB, so they’ve immediately become our lucky socks of choice, but their merits do extend well beyond baseless superstition. The On High Socks provide a combination of style and substance, with temperature-moderating technical details and patterns that will help you stand out on the start line.

Mesh sections on the sock keep your foot cool over any distance, and the sweat-wicking fabric dries in a flash. On also say the pattern around the arch triggers sensory receptors in the foot to prime it for your run. Now, we’re not really sure what that involves, but it’s certainly exciting to think about, isn’t it?

You can also get low and mid versions of the socks as well, but if you’re going to invest in these beauties, we don’t know why you’d want to hide them away, so for us, it’s the high socks all the way.

Hoka One One Performance Crew Socks

Hoka One One Performance Crew Socks

Hoka One One doesn't tend to make many accessories for runners but the items it does make often have a great deal of design work put into them. Perhaps our favourite of those accessories is the Performance Crew Sock – a refreshingly simple piece of kit that ticks a lot of boxes for road and trail runners.

The material strikes a balance between being lightweight and comfortable, whilst still feeling cushioned and durable enough for those who like to feel they're supported on the run. The anatomically designed shape fits nicely without feeling tight or restrictive, and there's a subtle level of engineered arch support that ensures that cradles the foot.

Our favourite aspect of the Performance Crew Sock is its durability. We've used these socks over hundreds of miles of running in a variety of different shoes and found the appearance and structure of the fabric looks and feels as good as when we first took them out of the pack.


BAM Trainer Socks

BAM Trainer Socks

The material used for these short socks isn’t filled with trademarked technology, instead, relying on the natural qualities of bamboo fabric to be a great option for runners and indeed anyone intent on getting sweaty.

The first thing you’ll notice about bamboo fabric is how soft and comfortable it is on the skin, and we were impressed that the feeling stayed more or less the same even after several washes. The BAMs have extra padding around the heel and toes to increase comfort and durability, plus they support your arches, which is something all runners can enjoy.

However, perhaps the most impressive quality of bamboo fabric appears once your run is finished: it’s naturally odour-resistant. We've even used the socks more than once between washes (don't judge us), but be warned, they do take longer to dry than synthetic socks.


Soar Crew Socks

Soar Crew Socks

A perfect fit is often underrated with socks, but if the fabric on them is not positioned correctly throughout your run you can end up with an uncomfortable bunching of fabric around your toes or midfoot. The Soar Crew socks ensure this annoyance is a thing of the past thanks to a light compression band that sits around the arch of the foot to hold the material of the sock in exactly the right place.

The fabric used is sweat-wicking and fast to dry, and the sock is divided into different panels where the material is tweaked to suit that part of the foot better. So mesh is used on the top of the foot to increase breathability, and there is ribbing on the back of the cuff to provide structure and support for the achilles.

As you’d expect, there are also reinforced sections around the toes and heel; the areas where socks tend to wear out quickest.

The Soar socks also come in ankle length and there are two colours available for each size, but the blue, white and red crew sock is definitely our favourite.


Inov-8 Speed Socks

Inov-8 Speed Socks

As all-round running socks go, you can't really beat the inov-8 Speed Sock. Not only is it lightweight (yes, the weight of your socks is a thing), but it packs in a host of nice technical features to make your sessions as foot-pleasing as possible. Not only that, but you also get two pairs in a pack which makes it a great value option.

As well as a noticeably level of underfoot padding to help minimize the risk of things like blisters or sore spots, there's a light level of compression to help promote circulation and reduce swelling.

Made with materials that are both fast-wicking and supportive, it'll keep your feet dry whilst holding fast in your shoe, preventing any annoying movement and chaffing.


CEP Ultralight Low Cut Socks

CEP Ultralight Low Cut Socks

If you're looking for all the features of a great pair of technical running socks in a tiny lightweight package then this offering from CEP is well worth a look.

As well as a minimally padded foot section that helps to keep the foot secure whilst fending off blisters, they also include a level of medi-compression to apply pressure to the metatarsals for added stabilization. The result is a noticeably light and breathable sock that also manages to feel extremely supportive across the whole foot.

We've been using them for multiple race distances and they've quickly become our go-to socks for races due to their ability to keep the feet feeling cool in the sweatiest conditions.

Best running socks for durability

Darn Tough Ultra-Light Running Socks

Darn Tough Ultra-Light Running Socks

We’re not sure that we’ve ever come across a more confident lifetime guarantee than the one offered by Darn Tough, which states that if you don’t find its socks to be “the most comfortable, durable and best fitting socks you have ever owned,” you can send them back for a replacement.

The Vermont-based company’s confidence is well-founded. The material used for its socks contains a mix of merino wool and nylon that excels at temperature regulation, odour control and sweat-wicking. The socks are also lightweight and seamless, which minimises the chances of rubbing hotspots.

There’s a good range of designs and lengths to pick from as well, and in the unlikely event that you do take against the socks, you always have that lifetime guarantee to fall back on. You will pay for it, however, and a pair will cost you double that of a set of Stances.


Best toesocks for running

Injinji Trail Crew Running Socks

Injinji Trail Crew Running Socks

Toesocks are not for everyone, we know. Even if they’re hidden away in your shoes some people will feel just a little odd when wearing them, but there’s really no reason to – you wear whatever socks you like! And if you constantly suffer from blisters around your toes, toesocks might just be the solution you need, because each toe having its own little pocket of fabric removes the risk of the skin-on-skin rubbing that can cause blisters.

Injinji is the biggest name in toesocks, and it offers a massive variety of running-specific socks with all lengths and design preferences catered for. We rather fancy the more outlandish designs in the range, but rest assured more subtle socks are available.


Soar Super Crew Running Socks

Soar Super Crew Running Socks

The Super Crew Sock may look like it's cut from the same cloth as the standard crew design, however, this version has been specifically created to be used during hot summer months. Made from temperature-regulating Softair yarn, the fabric features an all-over mesh cuff to help make it one of the most breathable options you'll find out there.

Despite the incredibly lights and thin feel of the sock, it still incorporates Soar's targetted compression across key areas of the foot to offer support when you're clocking up the miles in the heat.

The most surprising aspect of the Super Crew Sock is its durability, something which we didn't expect from such a lean design. We've found it holds up to many miles of running without losing any of its structure or – and this one is very important – lessening the sock's slick appearance through multiple washes.


Best running socks for blisters

Runderwear Anti-Blister Running Socks

Runderwear Anti-Blister Running Socks

Runderwear made its name by making running underwear (see what they did there?) that’s renowned for anti-chafing properties – so it's no great surprise that the socks the company has added to its line-up offer the same selling point. And the good news is that these are similarly impressive.

The anti-blister socks contain two sweat-wicking layers that rub against each other, rather than your skin when you’re running. This twin skin system reduces the chances of getting blisters, so will be of interest to lovers of longer distances. Reducing movement is the key – and the Runderwears have extra grip around the midfoot to keep the sock in place.

Both layers are lightweight and breathable to avoid overheating issues, and there’s extra padding around the heel and the toe, again to reduce the risk of hotspots. You can opt for low rise or ankle-length versions of the socks, but the range of colours is pretty minimal at black, white and pink, or white and blue.


1000 Mile Fusion Sport Running Socks

1000 Mile Fusion Sport Running Socks

There’s another great guarantee here, even if it’s not quite the no-quibbles lifetime warranty on offer from Darn Tough. 1000 Mile, appropriately enough, will give your money back or a replacement if the socks wear out before you’ve run 1000 miles in them (within a year of purchase). Better yet, the same return or replace offer is available if you get any blisters while wearing the socks, again in the first year.

The blister-free guarantee in particular is based on the two-layer construction of the sock, which reduces irritation to the skin during your run. There’s a whole load of extra padding on the sock as well, both around the toes and ball of the foot and on the ankle, achilles and heel to provide more stability around the ankle while you run.

Despite the two-layer design and all that extra padding, the Fusion Sports Sock is still breathable, something aided by the mesh on top of the sock, though it’s still not quite as lightweight as some of the single-layer options on this list.


Balega Blister Resistant Running Socks

Balega Blister Resistant Running Socks

These clever foot protectors use a combination of mohair and Balega's own Drynamix moisture-wicking fibers to offer an impressive level of protection against sweaty feet and blisters. Not only that, but they also feature specially reinforced microfiber mesh panels to allow additional airflow.

The result is an incredibly comfortable and breathable sock that feels pleasingly soft to the touch without skimping on durability. They work so well at dealing with moisture that they'll do you proud even on wet runs when the sweat from your feet is the least of your worries.

They also feature a wide arch support design, a high heel tab – to help stop them from slipping down as you run, and an extra deep heel pocket for comfort.


Rockay Accelerate Anti-Blister Running Socks

Rockay Accelerate Anti-Blister Running Socks

Before we talk about the technical design that goes into making these socks so impressive, the first thing you should know is that they come with a lifetime guarantee. Yes, if anything goes wrong with them, whether you use them for 2km jogs or 5-day ultras, Rockay will replace them for free.

That's a testament to the hard-rearing and durable design of the socks, which is even more impressive when you find out that they're made from 100% recycled materials that includes Econyl – a Nylon yarn created using ocean waste and landfill fabrics. What's more, they're also coated with a Polygiene treatment that means you don't have to wash them as much.

The technical features of these awesome socks include an anti-blister design due to special ventilation zones, padding in the toe and heel areas from comfort, compression in the arch and tighter elastic at the top to keep out dirt.

Best running socks for odour control

Hilly Marathon Fresh Running Socks

Hilly Marathon Fresh Running Socks

When you peel off your socks after a tough run, your first and probably only thought about what do to with them is to get them in the laundry basket as soon as possible. However, if you hang the Hilly Marathon Fresh socks up for an hour or so, you’ll find them dry and completely odour-free, so you can wear them again should you so desire.

We can also reassure you that that's still the case if you chuck them on the floor and forget about them until your next run – and trust us, we’ve checked on that front.

If the idea of re-using your running socks doesn’t appeal, the odour-control properties in the Hilly Marathon Fresh are still of benefit in that there’s no unpleasant stench after a run – a particular bonus if you finish that run in the company of others.

The Polygiene-treated fabric also doesn’t lose its odour resistance over time, no matter how often you stick these socks in the wash.

On to comfort, and these socks have padding in key areas plus the area under the toes is free of seams to avoid chafing. There’s only one design available but you can pick between three heights – socket, anklet and a knee-length compression sock that has also been Polygiene-treated.

Best compression running socks

CEP Achilles Support Short Socks

CEP Achilles Support Short Socks

If you want the benefits of compression, but don’t enjoy running in full knee-length socks, then these shorter socks from CEP might be the ticket. Targeted compression around the ankle improves blood flow in the foot and lower leg, but perhaps the key feature is the support offered to your achilles tendon.

This support comes from two memory foam pads that adapt to fit you perfectly and take some of the pressure of running off your achilles tendon, which is a hotspot for running injures. In the long run you’re going to want to do enough strength and conditioning that your achilles has the strength to stand up to your training, but for a short term option that can help you through a few runs while lessening the risk of achilles pain, these socks are a great choice.

CEP also offers knee-length compression socks with these achilles-supporting pads, along with a range of other compression garments to help you during and after your training.


Compressport Full Socks Race And Recovery

Compressport Full Socks Race And Recovery

Compressport divides its range of compression socks up based on whether they’re best suited for racing or recovery, with the former being lighter so you don’t overheat or find them uncomfortable on the run. However, the range also includes these socks designed to be used for both running and recovery, though ideally not on the same day, because no matter how breathable and quick-drying a pair of socks are you’re probably going to want to switch sets directly after a run.

The distinctive 3D dots on the socks help grip the skin to keep the socks positioned correctly on the leg and foot, plus support your achilles tendon. The material used also contains fibres that provide a micro massage with every step you take. That’s right, you’re getting massaged on the move.

A seamless design helps to reduce any risk of chafing and the fabric is soft and comfortable despite the compression, which lessens at the top of the sock compared to the foot and lower calf.


Best waterproof running socks

Sealskinz All Weather Ankle Running Socks

Sealskinz All Weather Ankle Running Socks

Waterproof running socks aren’t too common, because they can become quite hot and sweaty while you run due to the waterproofing, but there are occasions when the benefits of the extra protection from the elements outweigh the risk of overheating.

On those occasions these Sealskinz socks will become your new best friends. They’re still impressively lightweight and don’t feel as plasticky as some waterproof socks. The waterproof and windproof material has a bamboo fabric inner layer, which is comfortable and odour-resistant and wicks sweat away well.

The cuff of the sock has Sealskinz’s Hydrostop band, which prevents water from getting in at the socks’ main weak point. However, this band can rub against the skin and become uncomfortable if worn for too long. That said, you probably won’t want to be running too far if the weather is bad enough to don waterproof socks anyway.


Showers Pass Crosspoint Waterproof Socks

Showers Pass Crosspoint Waterproof Socks

Like Sealskinz, Showers Pass is a company that focusses primarily on supplying kit for athletes training in bad weather. As a result, that focus has gone into producing an impressive waterproof sock in the form of the Crosspoint.

As well as being designed to keep your feet dry, even if you've stepped into a deep puddle, they manage to have the appearance of a normal pair of comfy winter socks, offering a high level of comfort and warmth whether you're running, hiking or cycling through the winter months.

The design utilizes a 3-layer construction combining a knit exterior, a waterproof and breathable Artex membrane, and a Coolmax FX moisture wicking anti-bacterial lining. So not only will they keep you dry and warm but they'll help to battle the sweaty feet – although you wouldn't want to wear them in the summer. They also have a reinforced toe and heel to help make them one of the most comfortable and supportive options as well.


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