When you’re in the midst of prepping for your next run, there’s probably a laundry list of to-dos that run through your mind. Is your playlist all set? Is your watch charged? Anti-chafe stick, check. But if you’re not focusing on what’s going on with your feet, then you could be making a major mistake. We’re not just talking about sneakers — although choosing the right running shoe can be a total game-changer. We’re talking about socks.
That’s right: Running socks are an often overlooked detail that can revolutionize your running game. Before you buy, remember this: Just like other helpful gear — running socks are not a solution to common problems like poor form.
“While socks can be helpful, it is still important to be sure to work on the essentials like calf mobility using a foam roller or massage gun, as well as do some stretches,” says Theresa Marko, DPT, an orthopedic clinical specialist.
Ready to up your comfort level (and the quality of those miles)? We connected with experts to reveal all of the benefits of splurging on a run-specific sock.
Typical socks are made of cotton. Cotton is breathable but does not wick sweat away from your feet; they’re also often loose, which can cause friction. Athletic socks are typically made of a sweat-wicking material and provide a snug fit. Just like with your favorite breathable tops and bottoms, sweat-wicking socks can help protect you from a slew of popular running ailments — from blisters to sores.
It’s no surprise a lot of great running socks are on the thicker side, which means they provide more cushioning. “This will protect your toes from the constant banging they endure from the front or side of the shoe, resulting in blisters, which could alter your running pattern,” says Marko. Without the right socks, that constant impact could lead to injury, such as a knee or hip issues from running with this impaired gait, she adds.
Run-specific socks often come complete with compression technology, which is ideal for athletes of all types, whether you’re tackling a mile or a marathon. “Great running socks come with compression and support that mimic the muscles and tendons in the feet,” says Kate Mihevc-Edwards, DPT, author of “Go Ahead, Stop and Pee.” “The compression [which helps increase blood flow to an area] may help with swelling that occurs on longer runs and races.”
The right sock can help stave off unwanted soreness that comes once the miles are in the bank, according to Marko.
“You want that support to the arch of the foot,” says Marko. “Many runners suffer from tight calves, which in turn cause them to pronate their foot while running. This means that bones fall inward and the arch is collapsed. Having better running socks that provide some support at the arch is an easy way to support your foot during running and avoid over pronation while running.”