How to pick running socks

Running tips: how to pick the right socks for running

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We spend plenty of time and money looking for the perfect pair of running shoes, only to throw on any old pair of cotton socks. Here’s why it’s time to care more about the kinds of socks you run in.  

There can’t be a runner in the land who hasn’t picked up a blister or two in their time. There you are, flying through the miles, when a familiar burn starts to kick in around the ball of your feet. Before you know it, you’re having to treat a blister that leaves you hobbling around for days. 

It’s not your trainers that are necessarily the problem, especially if you’ve had your feet properly fitted and your gait analysed. The issue may be with the kinds of socks you’re wearing.

That’s right: running socks are important. We’re often so focused on trainers and sports bras that we end up totally neglecting the small things. When you’re running for an hour or over, it’s those small things that can make the biggest impact on comfort and performance.

So, why can poor sock choice leave us blistered and bruised, and what should we be looking for when picking a pair to wear? “There are three main causes of blisters: heat, friction, and moisture,” explains Marthe Solberg, technical representative at On Running. She claims that wearing the right socks can reduce all three.

How to pick the perfect pair of running socks

Solberg says that there are seven key pillars to sock shopping. As with anything, everyone’s going to have different preferences and it’s always better to try stuff on as far in advance as possible. You’re not going to know how a pair of socks feel until you’re out on the road in them.

1. Go for technical running socks. Every single one of your favourite running brands will offer a technical sock in their range. If you run in Lululemon, then why not grab a pair of Power Stride Crew socks (£18). Got a pair of On trainers? Take a look at On’s High Sock (£20).

2. Get the right fit. Solberg recommends buying socks that are well fitted to your feet, with no sagging or sliding down the back of your heel. “This is where technical running socks usually have a fitted band around the ankle, and may also feature an additional lip at the back of the Achilles.”

3. Materials matter. It might sound counterintuitive but perhaps the biggest rule when it comes to running socks is to avoid cotton. That’s because cotton soaks up all the moisture from the foot, keeping your feet wet throughout your run. “Opt for socks with polyester/polyamide blends with elastane for added comfort and stretch,” says Solberg.

4. Technicality looks great. Ever wondered why some socks have groovy patterns that seem to be embossed? Solberg explains that socks which are woven in a mesh pattern have better breathability – keeping your foot temperature in perfect balance.

5. Shape up. Forget those cheap trainer socks; you want to look out for pairs that have fitted heel pieces and which hold around the arch of the foot. Reinforcement at the heel and toes will increase the durability in hard wearing areas.

6. Size it right. Go for a pair that is too big and that extra material may cause friction. Squeeze into something too small and you could find the circulation to your feet around the ankle becoming restricted.

7. Pick your thickness. How thick you like your socks is a matter of personal preference. “If the steps above are met, thickness of the materials will depend on preference and time of year. Some people may prefer a slightly more cushioned or warmer sock and others may opt for the thinner second-skin like feel,” Solberg concludes. “The most important thing is that there is no excess material around the foot to cause friction.”

Now you’ve found the right socks, it’s time to try out our four-week Strength Training for Runners programme

Images: Getty

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Miranda Larbi

Miranda Larbi is the editor of Strong Women and Strong Women Training Club. A qualified personal trainer and vegan runner, she can usually be found training for the next marathon, seeking out vegan treats or cycling across London on a pond-green Tokyo bike.