The best running socks: Road, trail and anti-blister socks chosen by our experts

Smart runners are obsessive about socks – here are the best choices
The best socks for runners

The biggest mistake runners make is to underestimate the value of a top quality pair of running socks.

Even those that spend big cash choosing a pair of running shoes will happily plump for sub-standard socks, hampering comfort and risking the agony of blisters.

The good news is that top running socks can be cheap compared to other premium running gear, so you don’t have to spend big money to kit yourself out well.

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

On High Socks

Buy now: On Running (UK) / On Running (US) | $21.99

The best running socks: Road, trail and anti-blister socks chosen by our experts

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.

Stance Run

Buy now: Stance / Amazon | From $9.95

 best 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.

BAM Trainer Socks

Buy now: Bamboo Clothing (UK) | £15

best running 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 options 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

Buy now: Soar (UK + international shipping) | £19.00

The best running 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 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.

Best running socks for durability

Darn Tough Vertex Ultra-Light

Buy now: Darn Tough (US) / Amazon | $16.95

A buyer’s guide to the best 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 Run Lightweight Crew

Buy now: Injinji (US) / Amazon | $16.09

The best 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.

Best two-layer running socks

Runderwear Anti-Blister

Buy now: Runderwear (UK) / Amazon (UK) | £12

A buyer’s guide to the best 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 Sock

Buy now: 1000 Mile Sportswear / Amazon | $15

A buyer’s guide to the best 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.

Best running socks for odour control

Hilly Marathon Fresh

Buy now: Hilly Socks (UK) / Amazon | $12.99

A buyer’s guide to the best 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

Buy now: cep (US) / Amazon | $44.95

A buyer’s guide to the best running 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

Buy now: Compressport | $40

A buyer’s guide to the best running socks

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 for using 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 Super Thin Pro Ankle Socks

Buy now: Sealskinz (UK) / Sealskinz(US) | $37.50

A buyer’s guide to the best 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 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.

Tags:    Running
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