One of the most common mistakes runners make is to underrate the value of a 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‚Äôt 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
Stance‚Äôs range of socks is extensive and covers all kinds of different sports as well as offering lifestyle options, and within the running section you‚Äôll find tab, ankle and crew-length socks in a variety of terrific designs.
The success of the socks doesn‚Äôt just rest on the design, however, with Stance‚Äôs FEEL360 fabric having exceptional moisture-management properties. We‚Äôve taken these socks out for 20-mile runs and by the time we‚Äôve 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‚Äôs running socks also have padded areas around the heel and toe and have proven very durable in our experience ‚Äď we‚Äôve 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
The material used for these short socks isn‚Äôt 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‚Äôll 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‚Äôs 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
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‚Äôd 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 of each size, but the blue, white and red crew sock is definitely our favourite.
Best running socks for durability
Darn Tough Vertex Ultra-Light
We‚Äôre not sure that we‚Äôve ever come across a more confident lifetime guarantee than the one offered by Darn Tough, which states that if you don‚Äôt find its socks to be ‚Äúthe most comfortable, durable and best fitting socks you have ever owned,‚ÄĚ you can send them back for a replacement.
The Vermont-based company‚Äôs 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‚Äôs 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 pair of Stances.
Best toesocks for running
Injinji Run Lightweight Crew
Toesocks are not for everyone, we know. Even if they‚Äôre hidden away in your shoes some people will feel just a little odd when wearing them, but there‚Äôs really no reason to ‚Äď 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 made its name by making running underwear (see what they did there?) that‚Äôs renowned for anti-chafing properties ‚Äď so it's no great surprise that the socks the company has added to its line-up. 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‚Äôre running. This twin skin system reduced the chances of getting blisters, so will be of interest to lovers of longer distances. Reducing movement is the key ‚Äď 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‚Äôs 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
There‚Äôs another great guarantee here, even if it‚Äôs 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‚Äôve 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 any irritation to the skin during your run. There‚Äôs 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‚Äôs still not quite as lightweight as some of the single-layer options on this list.
Best running socks for odour control
Hilly Marathon Fresh
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‚Äôll 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 ‚Äď and trust us, we‚Äôve checked on that front.
If the idea of re-using your running socks doesn‚Äôt appeal, the odour-control properties in the Hilly Marathon Fresh are of benefit in that there‚Äôs no unpleasant stench after a run ‚Äď a particular bonus if you finish that run in the company of others.
The Polygiene-treated fabric also doesn‚Äôt 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‚Äôs only one design available but you can pick between three heights ‚Äď socket, anklet and a knee-length compression sock that has also been Polygiene-treated.
Best compression running socks
CEP Achilles Support Short Socks
If you want the benefits of compression, but don‚Äôt 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‚Äôre 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 option.
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
Compressport divides its range of compression socks up based on whether they‚Äôre best suited for racing or recovery, with the latter being lighter so you don‚Äôt 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‚Äôre probably going to want to switch sets directly after a run.
The distinctive 3D dots on the socks both help grip the skin to keep the socks positioned correctly on the leg and foot and support your achilles tendon. The material used also contains fibres that provide a micro massage with every step you take. That‚Äôs right, you‚Äôre 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
Waterproof running socks aren‚Äôt 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‚Äôre still impressively lightweight and don‚Äôt feel as plasticky as some waterproof socks. The waterproof and windproof material has a bamboo fabric inner layer, which is comfortable, odour-resistant and wicks sweat away well.
The cuff of the sock has Sealskinz‚Äôs Hydrostop band, which prevents water getting in at the socks‚Äô main weak point. However, this band can rub against the skin and become uncomfortable if worn for too long. That said, you probably won‚Äôt want to be running too far if the weather is bad enough to don waterproof socks anyway.