There was a time when people did not really think too much about athletic socks. They would spend hours researching which running or basketball shoes to buy and then grab a pack of whatever socks were on sale. However, a lot has changed in recent years.
In fact, today’s athletic socks are designed to improve performance as well as add a touch of style. They are also made out of space-age materials that can keep feet dry in hot weather, warm in cold weather and prevent injuries. This article will provide a rundown of the type of athletic socks available so you can make smart buying decisions and get the most out of your workouts.
The Pros and Cons of Running without Socks
You may think that you don’t even need to wear athletic socks. After all, Abebe Bikila won Olympic medals and Zola Budd broke a world record without wearing any shoes. If you are thinking of running without socks, here are some pros and cons for you to ponder.
- Speed: Socks don’t weigh very much, but they do weigh something. That is why some athletes eschew them in pursuit of speed.
- Comfort: Your running shoes can feel like a sauna when you train in hot weather. Forgoing socks could make your summer runs more comfortable.
- Quick changes: If you compete in events like triathlons that require you to change frequently, not having to take off your socks could save some valuable time.
- Blisters: Socks prevent your feet from rubbing against your shoes. Without them, you will get more blisters. This is especially true if you are breaking in a new pair of athletic shoes.
- Odor: Your shoes will smell a lot worse and bacteria will start to grow in them if you don't wear socks to soak up your sweat.
- Wear and tear: Socks reduce rubbing, which cuts down on wear and tear. If you run without them, expect the cushioning in your shoes to wear out more quickly.
At the end of the day, the choice is yours. Just remember that there are good reasons why Bikila and Budd are the exceptions rather than the rule.
Materials Best Suited for Running
Virtually all athletic socks used to be made out of cotton, but that was a long time ago. Modern socks made out of advanced synthetic blends are lighter and longer-lasting, and they have also been engineered to provide a competitive edge.
If you want to know what type of socks you should wear with running shoes, you should first decide what they should be made out of. Here are some of the materials you should be aware of:
- Cotton: Cotton is a great fabric, but it has its disadvantages. Cotton socks lose their shape quickly and hold onto moisture, which creates the perfect environment for blisters to develop and fungus to grow.
- Wool: When you think of athletic socks, wool is probably not the first material that comes to mind. While the kind of socks your mom once knitted may not be suitable for extreme sports, some of the latest Merino wool can keep your feet warm and dry when temperatures dip. They are also machine washable and do not itch.
- Nylon: Nylon has become a fashion industry staple because it is so durable and resists pulling and stretching. It also absorbs a lot of moisture. A little nylon to improve toughness is good in athletic socks, but too much is something to avoid.
- Polyester: This material is almost as durable as nylon but without the drawbacks. Polyester breathes better than nylon, and it also wicks sweat away from the skin.
- Spandex: Also known as Lycra and Elastane, spandex is used in most performance socks because it is almost impossible to stretch out of shape.
- Polypropylene: Sock liners are often made out of polypropylene because the material is extremely warm and has excellent wicking properties.
- Olefin: Sold under the brand name Coolmax, Olefin is a high-tech moisture-wicking material that repels water.
Different Types of Running Socks
Now that you know a little more about what athletic socks are made out of, it’s time for you to decide what type of socks to buy. Once again, you will have a lot of choices. You could choose socks that prioritize comfort or performance, or you could look for socks that offer a little of both.
Hidden Comfort Running Socks
Hidden comfort running socks are invisible when shoes are worn, and they are a great choice if you want comfort and support that does not show. Look for hidden comfort socks that feature arch bands to keep them in place and heel tabs to prevent rubbing.
If you want to take support to the next level, seek out hidden comfort socks that provide mild compression. Studies have shown that this kind of sock can improve performance and prevent injuries.
Ultralight Running Socks
Runners used to prefer thicker socks because they made their shoes fit better and feel more comfortable, but lightness is what they look for now. While saving a few grams in weight may not provide much in the way of performance returns, it could make long runs just a little less tiring.
Ultralight socks are often made with a moisture-wicking bottom layer and a mesh upper layer to provide comfort while saving weight. However, all of this comes at a price. Automakers charge tens of thousands of dollars more for their stripped-down lightweight models, and you can expect to pay a premium for ultralight athletic socks.
Performance Running Ankle Socks
If you are looking for the ultimate athletic sock or compete in extreme sports, performance hosiery made out of exotic synthetic blends that feature materials like Gore-Tex or Kevlar might be just what you are looking for. You could seek out something with extra cushioning to make long runs a little less punishing, or look for socks that have been designed to keep your feet dry even if you run through water. You will have to be careful when you put them on though as performance socks are often left and right foot specific.
Thin Cushion Running Socks
Thinner socks that still provide some cushioning are a good choice if you like your shoes to have a snug fit. These socks are designed with moisture-wicking and comfort rather than warmth in mind, so they may not be the best choice for training in sub-zero temperatures.
To keep weight down, these socks sometimes only provide cushioning in areas like the ball of the foot and heel, but that is where it's actually needed. Look for cushioning that extends to the top of the heel if you want to avoid blisters, and choose socks that also provide compression if you would like arch support as well.
Let Your Socks Be the Star
The socks you wear when you train do not have to be dull and uninspiring. You can stick to plain black or white if you want, but you can also choose socks in just about any color under the sun. If you are looking for the latest word in technology and want to be a stand out, consider compression athletic socks from TRUEENERGY®.
In addition to providing compression to enhance performance and improve health, our socks have infrared nanoparticles woven right into the fibers. These tiny particles capture the heat your body generates when you exercise and use it to improve blood circulation and speed up recovery times.