If you have a good pair of running socks, you can feel the difference as you running for several miles. A regular sock works fine for a while but doesn’t provide the protection that a running sock can provide. That’s why runners are serious about getting a sock that provides all the features they need.
The reasons to wear a running sock are:
- They prevent rubbing.
- They stay in place and help with blood circulation.
- They have cushioning for high impact areas.
- They have seamless toes.
- They Use high quality materials.
- Some running socks are left and right specific.
- They are layered.
- Many have arch support.
- Many use antimicrobial materials.
- Most running socks are designed with mesh.
Runners love running socks for many reasons, but one reason most of all, they help prevent rubbing and blisters. You can’t run comfortably when rubbing occurs, so this moisture management feature of running socks makes all the difference.
10 Reasons to Wear Running Socks
As shown in the list above, there are many reasons to use running socks. The following numbered headings will go into more detail about each of these items.
Terms to Know
- Wicking – The ability of a sock to absorb sweat from the foot.
- Breathability – The ability of a sock to let air circulate to the foot.
- Evaporativeness – The ability of a sock to let go of moisture (sweat).
1. Running Socks Prevent Rubbing
Our feet need to remain relatively dry to prevent rubbing from occurring while we run. That’s why those who run longer distances will take special precautions to prevent rubbing.
Socks are one of the first defenses against rubbing, along with taping and using anti-chaffing balm (article link). Getting your shoes and socks right will help considerably when running long distances.
Choosing a natural fiber like wool for your running sock can help greatly with wicking. It can go a long way toward removing and releasing sweat and providing a dryer environment for your feet.
Of course, the longer you run, the more likely rubbing will occur. So, runners will want to consider how thin or thick their sock is. A thicker sock will provide a more rubbing prevention barrier for heels and the area around the ball of your foot.
A thinner sock will help with breathability and air circulation. This is also dependent on how much air naturally flows through your shoe. Most running shoes provide a decent level of air circulation, but each shoe is different.
2. Running Socks Stay Put and Help Blood Circulation
If you’ve ever had socks that slide down and start to scrunch up in your shoe, you know how annoying this can be. I have regular cotton socks that worked well for a while but then lost their elasticity and started to slide down.
Eventually, all socks wear out but running socks are designed to stay in place better. Many of them used rubber or spandex (article link) to help them remain on their foot without moving much.
Additionally, running socks generally have more compression around your foot, which can aid in preventing blood from pooling in your foot and help control swelling that may occur on long runs.
Each sock is different. Some are much less compressive but fit well, and add cushioning where rubbing may occur.
To get more compression for circulation, many runners use compression socks or sleeves (article link). These can benefit runners with circulation and in other ways.
3. Running Socks Have Cushion
Many running socks have a thinker sock sole to aid in cushioning feet when running. This thicker material helps prevent rubbing and may secure the foot a bit better than a thin sock.
Hikers often use two layers of socks because they provide rubbing protection. I have found that having two socks while hiking also secures my foot, so it does really have a chance to move much, further preventing rubbing.
You’ll likely find many ankle-high running socks have a padding tab on the heel area. This heel tab helps the sock stay up and may help with rubbing around the heel.
4. Running Socks Have Seamless Toes
Running socks do have a seam but it’s placed in a different area than a normal sock.
They call it seamless because your toes won’t feel the seam of the sock as you run since it’s placed on top of the toes, not in front of them.
This helps runners prevent the rubbing and friction that a normal toe seam would cause.
5. Running Socks Use High-Quality Materials
Running Socks use a mix of different types of materials. They use materials that are good at wicking, like polyester, as the main material.
If you see Coolmax or Drynamix, and some others, they are primarily made with polyester and have special features to help wick moisture.
If you see Drymax or olefin, then it is made with polypropylene, and it resists moisture, helping keep feet dry.
Many use nylon as the second main material to help with wicking and durability.
Then, they use rubber and or spandex to aid in keeping socks in place.
Running sock fabrics do an excellent job of helping socks perform well during running. Here are some of the benefits of using high-quality materials:
- They usually last longer
- They can wick moisture better
- They can help prevent rubbing
- They can add additional support for your arch
- They can add compression to your foot, which may help support your arch and aid in blood circulation
- They can prevent your socks from sliding down into your shoe.
Using higher-cost materials does bring the price up, but there’s a lot of competition in the sock market, so the prices I’ve seen have stayed relatively low.
6. Running Socks are Left and Right Specific
There are not many, but some running socks are for the left and right feet. Having a specific sock for the left and right foot may help you get a better-fitting sock.
Some socks may be marked as left and right to differentiate themselves from other sock brands. Unless the sock has a design that is meant for one foot or the other, these marks don’t have much functional purpose.
You may want to get left and right socks to keep track of the way you are running, though. This can give you insight into where rubbing may be occurring on each foot and if it’s normal or requires a change.
7. Running Socks are Layered
Most running socks have a decent amount of padding on the bottom of the sock, which may act as layers. Sometimes, there are different stitch patterns on the inside of the sock versus the outer layer of the sock.
In some instances, these layers can use different types of material to help with wicking and releasing moisture.
Having a sock with a different layer may aid runners by helping them receive fewer blisters. The inside layer may allow the foot to move a bit while the outer layer remains in place.
If a sock can work in this manner, it may help prevent rubbing from occurring. Although most socks don’t claim to do this, a thicker running sock can help by padding blister-prone areas.
If you do want two layers while you run, and your shoes have enough room, use a compression sock as a base layer and a runner sock over them.
That way, you have two layers, and the inside sock can move a bit against the outside sock, preventing rubbing against the shoe from occurring.
8. Running Sock Have Arch Support
Many running socks have a special area on the sock that is designed to provide the arch with additional support. Whether this helps the arch or not may be up for debate.
One way that it may help is to provide a good grip on the foot so the sock has less of a chance of moving around in the shoe. It could also help the sock fit snugly, so it provides good wicking.
In my own opinion, a compression sock is the best way to get arch support. It all depends on if the sock has enough firmness to help support the muscles and ligaments. A very firm sock, similar to a knee brace, may help the arch better avoid injury.
9. Running Socks are Antimicrobial
Some running socks are made with materials that are anti-odor or antimicrobial. Wool is naturally antimicrobial and other socks have added materials to help prevent odor, like silver (Amazon.com link), copper, and titanium.
These types of socks may help cut down on odors for your socks. Some natural fabrics, including bamboo and wool, tend to help with odor. Some man-made materials, such as acrylic, olefin, and Coolmax, can also help with odor.
If you need to cut down on foot, sock, and shoe odor, you’ll want to get a sock with some antimicrobial features.
10. Running Socks Have Mesh
The mesh top of most running socks helps dissipate moisture into the air and gives feet more air to breathe.
Look at the materials (article link) used in the fabric to see if they are good at getting rid of moisture. For example, polyester running socks can both breathe well and many tend to wick well.
Having a mesh sock may not be necessary to keep feet cool while running. A good wicking sock should help your feet remain relatively dry and cool. It depends on how well the fabric traps heat and how thin the sock is.
Thicker socks with wool and other materials help your feet stay warm. Look for winter running socks if you need to have a warmer sock while running.
Do I Really Need Running Socks?
In some circumstances, you may not need a running sock. However, if you look online, you will see there are many inexpensive running socks to choose from.
That being said, if you are like me and only run for about 30 minutes each time you go out, a regular sports sock will probably work fine.
If money is the issue, you don’t have to limit yourself too much because there are lots of good running socks for relatively low prices. I think you will feel the difference when wearing them, as I have with my bamboo socks.
I personally don’t have any running socks, but I do have athletic bamboo socks that have some of the features of running socks. I can see how valuable running socks are to those who use them every day.
As I run for about 30 minutes a couple of times a week, my bamboo socks provide compression and wicking ability, so I always feel comfortable and never have any rubbing that occurs.
My socks are antimicrobial, so I don’t have to worry about smells and they are thin enough to provide some air circulation to my feet.
The two features that I have noticed that have been the most helpful about these socks are they don’t scrunch up and they compress well, so I don’t have any rubbing.
If I were running, longer distances would definitely bring me to buy running socks because my bamboo socks don’t release moisture that well, which might be a problem with a longer run.
I know that running socks are better designed to help my feet under more extreme conditions. So, let’s talk about the benefits that running can have for those who use them when running each week.
Don’t Buy Regular Socks for Running
If you’ve purchased ankle-high socks and used them for your routine each day, they’ve probably worked fine. But don’t mistake them for athletic socks or running socks because they will soon show that they are not made to handle these high-energy situations.
While you’re running, your foot is constantly moving in your shoe, even if it is just a small amount. The fiction of hitting the ground puts pressure on the sock and it will start to move around a bit. Your sock may start to fall and get pulled into your shoe if it’s not a running sock.
If you have a sock that is made to hold in place well, then it will work better when running. The best ankle-high sock that will stay in place is likely a running sock because it is specifically designed for that purpose.
A good running sock can be worth its weight in gold. Thankfully, there are many options to choose from. If it’s your first time buying running socks, you may want to talk to a fellow runner or go to a running shoe store and talk to a worker.
Having some personalized help to get the right running socks for your needs can be helpful. Hopefully, you can find the right sock for running and have many great running experiences. Happy running.
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