When athletes gear up for training, running sneakers tend to get all the attention, but it’s about time to shine a spotlight on running socks. As running accessories go, they’re just as important for comfort and foot health. If you’ve been on the fence about whether to invest in quality athletic socks or to just keep wearing your regular ones, trust us: The best running socks make a huge difference. Some are designed with padding in the heel and toe areas to provide extra cushion and support when you hit the ground. Others are made with synthetic materials that wick moisture and keep feet cool and dry. From long sport socks to short toe socks—and many more styles in-between—check out this handy…er, footsy…guide to the best running socks for every season.
- Best cooling socks: ASICS Unisex Cooling Single Tab
- Best Smartwool socks men: Smartwool Men’s PhD Run Cold Weather Socks
- Best Smartwool socks women: Smartwool Women’s PhD Run Cold Weather Socks
- Most comfortable socks: Nike Spark Cushioned No-Show Running Socks
- Best compression socks for running: Physix Gear Sport Compression Socks for Men & Women
What to look for when shopping for the best running socks
If you’re in the market for finding the best running socks, there are a few key factors to consider, including where you run, the type of running you do, and your preferred running season. After nailing down those specifics, there are some other features to think about, such as style, comfort, and price point.
What climate do you live in?
Where you live will help to determine the types of running socks you need. Naturally, warmer climates require different materials and lengths than colder ones. And if your hometown experiences all four seasons, you’ll want a variety of sock styles, from crew socks to long socks. From cooling socks to the best wool socks designed to keep your feet warm, there’s a sock for every runner in all types of weather.
What kind of runner are you?
Are you a jogger? A sprinter? A marathoner? Your running practice will help narrow down the best running socks for your needs. Cushioning in the toe and heel provides support for your feet when you hit the pavement while jogging, whereas a marathoner who runs long distances might need compression socks.
Do you run marathons?
Marathoners often wear long socks, which are typically compression socks to help prevent swelling and cramping. These doctor-recommended socks reduce extra movement in your calf muscles, which in turn reduces fatigue and other unwanted side effects of distance running.
Where do you run?
Most good running socks have some degree of padding, but you may want to add more or less of a cushion depending on where you run. Running on grass or sand is better for your body, but most people have to make do with pavement or cement paths. To support your knees and joints, consider running socks that have an extra layer of padding in the heel and toe. That said, beware of socks that are too thick and cause uncomfortable crowding in your shoes.
Do you care about how fashionable your socks look?
If you’re an avid runner or even just dabbling, you’ll probably still desire a certain amount of style in your choice of running socks. Whether you prefer the look of ankle socks, crew socks, or lock socks, just be sure the pair you choose are designed with features to support your feet and enhance your run. Additionally, some socks have safety add-ons like a reflective strap for early morning or late night runs.
Is price point a priority?
If you’re on a budget when it comes to running equipment, there are still plenty of affordable running sock options. They may not have all the bells and whistles of more expensive pairs, but that may not be necessary for your running needs. Know your body and find the right pair that fits comfortably within your price range.
The best running socks
Now that you’ve reviewed your specific needs, here are our suggestions to help find you the perfect pair of running socks (or pairs) to check all the boxes.
The best cooling socks: ASICS Unisex Cooling Single Tab
Lightweight materials and thoughtful design allow for breathability and comfort.
When the weather heats up, the last thing you want to worry about during your run is sweaty feet. Enter the ASICS Unisex Cooling Socks, made with breeze yarn, a simple two-ply yarn that blends 65-percent silk and 35-percent linen, to keep your feet cool. The moisture management fabric absorbs humidity, while the honeycomb mesh allows for ventilation. In addition to the cooling properties, the seamless toe and single tab ankle fit make these socks a game-changer for runners.
The best men’s cold weather socks: Smartwool Men’s PhD Run Cold Weather Socks
These high-quality men’s socks are designed with warm insulation for cold-weather runs.
Designed to keep your feet warm yet airy, these Smartwool socks for cold-weater running use “indestructawool” technology crafted from a blend of Merino wool, nylon, and elastane. In case you’re worried your feet might get too hot, these socks feature body-mapped mesh zones to enhance breathability. They also provide lightweight cushioning for comfort during your run and two elastics for stretch that ensure your socks stay in place with every step.
The best women’s cold weather socks: Smartwool Women’s PhD Run Cold Weather Socks
These socks’ 200-needle construction offers high knit density to keep your feet warm, yet they remain super lightweight.
These Smartwool running socks keep your feet warm so you can run longer, comfortably. With 55-percent Merino wool used as a key material, these socks will help to regulate your body temperature, move moisture away from your skin, and resist odor. The mesh zones help reduce the temperature so you won’t have to worry about overheating, while the minimal cushioning allows for maximum comfort without adding bulk.
The best comfort socks: Nike Spark Cushioned No-Show Socks
Just Feels Good
Strategic cushioning allows for targeted impact absorption.
Comfort when running is key, and a trusted brand like Nike always delivers quality. The polyester, nylon, and spandex-blend Nike Spark Cushioned Running Socks can be worn by both men and women. Underfoot cushioning offers comfort, while the spandex on the heel creates a stretchy and secure feel to provide support when your foot hits the ground. For optimal breathability and safety, there is mesh fabric at the top of the sock, as well as a reflective stripe around the ankle.
Best compression socks for running: Physix Gear Sport Compression Socks for Men & Women
Run, Recover, Repeat
Graduated compression leads to increased performance and faster recovery.
Physix Gear Sport
At $16 per pair, the Physix Gear Sport Compression Socks may be inexpensive in comparison to other compression socks but they won’t disappoint. With nine colors to choose from, they’re both stylish and effective. These socks are engineered with new arch-to-calf compression technology that provides targeted foot-to-calf muscle support, resulting in a circulation boost that increases oxygen blood flow so you can run longer and recover faster. The moisture-wicking Lycra fabric is breathable and stretchy enough to pull on, yet durable enough so they won’t slip down.
Q: Are thick or thin socks better for running?
There are benefits to both thick and thin socks. Thick socks typically have padding in the foot and toe areas to provide extra cushioning and support, as well as blister protection. During colder months, thick socks are ideal for warmth but make sure they’re not too thick to fit comfortably in your running sneakers. During warmer months, thinner socks are better, plus they’re lighter and may give you a more grounded feel. Ultimately, thick or thin socks are a matter of preference, but all good running socks should feature a degree of padding to offer you foot support.
Q: Do running socks make a difference?
Yes, running socks do make a difference, and they can be just as important as running shoes. Running socks are specifically designed to provide support and comfort, reduce blistering, and wick moisture to keep your feet cool. While thickness varies, running socks offer padding in the heel and toe areas for cushioning and underfoot support. Additionally, many pairs are made with seamless toes to prevent bunching or rubbing. Running socks are typically made with synthetic materials, often mesh fabrics, designed to promote breathability and keep your feet dry.
Q: Are cotton socks good for running?
While cotton is a great material for many articles of clothing, running socks are not one of them. Cotton absorbs moisture which means when your feet get wet, no matter the reason, they’ll stay wet. This can lead to bacteria growth, blisters, and overall discomfort. The best running socks are made from synthetic materials, such as acrylic or polyester, that have sweat-wicking properties.
The final word on shopping for the best running socks
Similar to finding the best running sneakers, the best running socks are specific to your needs as a runner. Once you find socks that fit, your feet will feel more supported and you should experience better temperature control. If you’re shopping for specific weather, keep in mind which materials work best: synthetic, breeze yarns, and Merino wool all work well for different scenarios. Most importantly, you want socks that cushion, support, breathe, prevent rubbing and blisters, and if necessary, compress. It’s not a short order, but with so many great options available, the perfect pair is out there and ready for a test run.>