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Everyone would agree that the most important item of kit for running is running shoes, but second to that is the socks. So, what’s the difference between an ordinary sock and a running sock?
Running socks have many benefits and they tend to be more durable than average socks, as they're not 100% cotton. They're made from the best breathable, wicking fabrics such as polyester and nylon. They are constructed in a way that draws away moisture from the feet to keep them cool and dry, in order to improve comfort and minimise risk of blistering. They can also be your all-round socks if you run daily, or are always active and on your feet all day.
There's no right or wrong answer here, it's really personal preference. Depending on the weather or how hot your feet get, you may prefer thin or thick, short no-show or anklet length. Some runners wear thin toe-socks all-year-round. Saying that, there are some elements to consider before you buy a pair of socks.
Running socks come in varying levels of thickness – from extra thin to thick and padded. Usually in warmer weather your feet expand, so it helps to wear a thinner sock to give you space in your shoes. Obviously, this becomes more important the further you run, as the extra padding could offer blister protection. Of course, if your feet are very narrow or get cold, you may well prefer to wear a thicker sock all through the year.
Running socks are available in 3 different lengths, either no-show socklets which come just above the shoe line, anklets just above the ankle, or crew which come up to the calf. In winter it's good to go with something above the ankle because we do lose heat through our ankles. If you tend to get colder, try using running tights or higher socks.
Another type is compression socks, which are particularly good for helping with calf tightness and shin splints. Look out for toe socks too – designed originally for Vibram Five Fingers shoes, but also very popular now with distance runners in general.
The Hilly Lite Socklet is very simple, yet has excellent wicking and anti-microbial properties. These are so comfortable and fit the feet just right, without being too tight. The Twin Skin is great for longer distances or those prone to blistering, as the two layers rub against each other, rather than against your feet.
The Stance running socks are made of an air channel cushioning and air vents to help keep your stay comfy and cool, supported by good wicking fabric. Anatomically designed sock with a slightly reinforced heel to toe – perfect good-looking socks!
Feetures Elite Light is another great thin sock that comes with a little bit of padding under the bottom of the foot, around the toes and heels. It comes in 3 lengths.
If you prefer something over the ankle, try their longer versions. The length may come in handy if you are going off road during the hot weather. This offers more protection and you won't get small stones in the socks.
Generally, in the winter people prefer to wear a slightly thicker more padded sock. Some of the socks also have merino, which helps to keep the feet warm. Some wool content in a sock is also brilliant if your feet get wet – it helps to stop them feeling wet, as well as stopping them getting cold.
The Thorlo Experia Sock has great cushioning and more padding in the heel and forefoot than any of the socks mentioned so far. As they just go up to the top of the shoe they could also be a possibility if you have a very narrow foot and need a thicker sock for the summer. If it is really cold you might want to try one of the socks below which come up a little further, so as not to have a gap between your socks and your tights… Brrrrr
The Hilly Supreme Sock comes up past the ankle and has a 50% wool content. It is also anatomically designed – i.e. the right and left socks are a different shape. It is also anti-microbial and so non-smelly – quite an important feature for a sock that might get wet.
The Injinji Trail Sock is our slightly padded – and so slightly warmer – five-finger sock. It also comes up past the ankle, with a wide ankle band that helps to keep the sock in place and keep out the mud.
Compression socks help to support your muscles and reduce fatigue.
It’s important that they fit well but are not too tight as the idea is to improve circulation rather than cut it off. So, get a tape measure, measure around the broadest part of your calf, and then match that against the size guide on the individual sock pages.
If you have a sock that you love and works for you, but find you get tight calves, the calf sleeves may be the way to go.
The Twin Skin socks are great for longer distances or those prone to blistering, as the two layers rub against each other, rather than against your feet.
The Injinji Five Finger socks come in different weights and lengths, as well as in unisex and female specific fitting. They are a great sock to wear, even if you don't use five-finger shoes. They can help prevent blistering from toenails rubbing on the adjacent toe. They have a meshy upper to help with ventilation.
Surely you have wondered – why do trail runners wear long socks? Crew socks are mainly used to protect the lower legs from potential scratching from bushes and harsh terrain. Meanwhile long compression socks and compression sleeves will offer muscle support to help improve blood circulation and reduce fatigue. However, you may still prefer the breathability of anklets if you're running in particularly warm conditions.
Keep your comfort when running through the hills and uneven terrains with twin socks, toe socks and padded technical socks. These will provide a bit more cushioning and coverage – reducing the chance of blisters and discomfort.
Which socks are good for wet trail running? There will be circumstances where you will be running in mud or heavy rain, and that is when we would recommend military grade MVP (Moisture Vapour Permeable) socks like the Sealskinz collection. These socks are completely waterproof and breathable. Plus, they are made with bamboo or merino wool for moisture control, insulation, and comfort. We assure you that they will change your experience in winter – no more cold, wet feet!
Preparing the kit for your race can be crucial, but with so many miles behind you, you probably already have an idea of what you find most comfortable in your training.
Any technical sock with good breathability, cushioning and drying properties will be good. As mentioned above, to prevent blisters you could try twin skin or five-finger socks. Compression and nicely padded options are also good over long distances.
Look out for minimal seams, soft fabrics and anti-odour treatment to keep your feet fresh and comfortable for longer. Anklets and crew socks are recommended to avoid unwanted surprises when socks slide down. If you tend to overheat or run in hot weather, no-show socks with a heel tab may come handy.
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