Why running socks are as important as your running shoes

Sock choice is crucial for runners

Running socks are nearly as integral to a runner's performance as a decent pair of running shoes. Choosing the wrong pair of socks could lead to an uncomfortable run, with friction and sweaty feet leading to a blisterful rather than a blissful experience. Here's why socks are important to the runner.

Choose socks wisely

It makes little sense purchasing a really good pair of running shoes, if you then wear a pair of cheap running socks that mean your foot slides around in the shoe causing friction and ultimately painful blisters. This effectively negates the benefit you should be getting from the decent running shoes, reducing them to footwear that effectively handicaps you every time you run.

Sock technology has come a long way in recent years, but it is quite hard for manufacturers to get runners excited over a humble running sock. Many runners still pick up a three-pack of poor quality cotton socks over a decent pair of technical running socks and then wonder why their feet are getting damaged. Yes, cheap socks may cost a fraction of the cost of quality running socks but it is a false economy to buy them instead of a running-specific pair of socks.

Development of running sock technology

Running socks differ from your standard pair of sports socks. The principal development that started the change process was that of blister-resistant technology. Although by no means guaranteed to rid the runner of a persistent race curse, the use of two layers of fabric fundamentally changed the way some runners perceived the sock market.

The idea behind this concept was that double layers would absorb friction, whilst at the same time wicking away moisture, so dramatically reducing the very cause of blisters. With the constant improvement in the fabrics, these qualities have been enhanced over time with resultant improvements in performance. Many runners would not consider running long distance events in anything else, but some still regard them as overpriced gimmicks.

Cushioning is another improvement in modern socks, and is often the main reason why some runners invest more in a pair of socks than others. The level of padding can differ by brand, but the principle is the same in all of them; they give the runner more protection in those areas of the foot that take the most pounding. Principally the cushioning is around the heel and in the toe area, which has the effect of dissipating the pressure normally associated with these points.

What about running socks and other injury prevention?

In addition to the positive effects of good cushioning, there are two other issues to cover when it comes to running socks. Firstly, some have an additional thread woven into the sock from top to bottom, which operates like a bandage to protect the joints. Secondly there is the use of pressure sensors. These prevent deviation from natural motions, so common towards the end of a run and the cause of so many injuries.

And if you’re still not convinced, there are several other recent running sock developments worth noting. One is the creation of specific socks for men and women, plus the production of socks designed specifically for the left or right foot. There’s also the whole subject of compression socks…but that’s a whole other story and it is dealt with in a separate article Can compression gear really help runners?

Comments (6)

  • Keith_L 'Go for Hilly TwinSkins - not cheap but very comfy and hard wearing. Have been blister free since I used them'

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  • Silverfox1 'I have been using Hilly TwinSkins for a year now, and I would highly recommend them.'

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  • VictoriaLondon 'i'll stick with my marks and sparks-brand 'sport socks'... £6 for 3 pairs and comfy as heck!'

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  • realrunner2007 'I also agree Hilly TwinSkins. My wife has been running in these since day 1 of taking up running and suffered no blisters and told me to change over. Good choice, glad I changed over. '

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  • DaveVickerstaff 'I found that the Hilly TwinSkins were too tight for me. The 'bandage' around the middle cut into my feet as I have a thick foot.'

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  • janetglover 'I totally agree with the recommendation for Hilly's as i suffered with blisters all the time on long runs but have not had one since i started using Hilly's twinskin. I got mine off an e bay company and will not use anything else now . I also put vasaline on my feet under my socks as i heard that was good - now a happy runner!'

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