Should I Buy Special Running Socks?

A common question among newer runners is whether they need to buy specialty running socks. When you’re already dropping hundreds of dollars on other gear like shoes, rollers, and hydration belts, you may think just any pair of socks will do. Not true! And this article seeks to show just how important it is to make sure you opt for those specialty running socks. 

orcas island 50k race report
Photo: Glenn Tachiyama

Material Matters

There is a reason why so much fuss is made over whether something is dri-fit or not. Just like how you’d rather not just wear a regular cotton t-shirt when you go for a run, you wouldn’t and shouldn’t do the same for your socks. While cotton t-shirts are known to cause some uncomfortable chafing, cotton socks aren’t exactly known for their breathability either. They are known for holding onto heat, friction, and moisture, all of which make your feet more susceptible to blisters. Getting specialty running socks not only keep your feet more comfortable, but they also help regulate temperature, wick moisture, and reduce blisters. Plus, the extra durability you get from specialty running socks make them a more economical choice over time. 

Depending on the brand of running socks you get, you can come across different materials that all work equally as well as one another. At that point, it all comes down to personal preference. The majority of running socks have some combination of synthetic fibers like polyester, acrylic, and nylon. These fibers are found in fabrics such as Coolmax and Drymax with a main selling point of being particularly good for sweaty and wet feet as they are very fast drying and pull moisture away from the foot. 

Another fabric that is also often found in running socks is wool, often in the form of Smartwool or Merino Wool socks. While it may not sound like it, these socks are also good and effective year-round. While you may seem put off to want to wear these during those hot summer runs, these socks are also moisture wicking, comfortable, and breathable. With Merino wool, they regulate temperature to both keep your feet cool in the summer and warm in the winter. With natural odor resistance, stinky feet become a thing of the past and they are even better for the environment than using petroleum-based synthetics.. Fleece-lined running socks also help provide a more comfortable winter running experience by trapping heat while still wicking away moisture.

Bonus “Feetures”

The materials of the sock and their subsequent benefits aren’t the only thing you get out of the added price, you also get benefits in terms of fit as well. While the material of the sock goes a long way in preventing blisters, there are also fit features that help prevent and alleviate blisters as well. These include seamless toes to prevent rubbing and bunching, separated toes for those prone to blisters in between their toes, and having socks with two layers, which allow any rubbing and friction to occur between the two layers as opposed to a single layer with the runner’s foot. Other models of socks will vent through mesh ventilation, which still protects high-wear areas while allowing socks to breathe where needed. 

Does Left Foot Right Foot really matter?

Have you ever wondered why some pairs of running socks list an “L” or an “R” on them to signify left and right? Despite contrary belief, it isn’t for the sake of delirious runners in the latter stages of a long, grueling event. It is since most running socks have an anatomical feet feature, meaning that those socks are designated for left and right feet to give a more personalized fit to better support each foot individually. Running socks also provide better support than regular athletic socks due to extra cushioning and advanced arch support. The cushioning is placed often at the toe and heel, protecting the underfoot, while the arch support, as suggested, protects the arch on top of the foot, using compression bands to improve fit and even help with preventing common major running injuries like plantar fasciitis. 

Compression is yet another benefit of specialty running socks! On the start line, you’ve likely come across runners wearing high, tight socks known as compression socks. While these tend to be more niche and take compression to the extreme, it is true that all specialty running socks have at least some degree of compression. On top of the snug fit preventing the socks from moving around, compression has also been found to aid in circulation as well.

To learn more, here is another good article from Running Warehouse that’s all about socks! 

Conclusion 

To summarize, the extra money spent on getting specialty running socks is well worth it. For the hundreds of dollars spent on running shoes, you need to have the right socks to go with them. While the cost seems steep initially, in the long-term specialty running socks are the more economical choice with their extra durability and benefits in terms of material and fit. The added comfort will have you going longer and stronger whether you’re out on the roads, exploring some trails, or when you hit up your local track.

brian comer running coach

Brian Comer is a coach with Team RunRun. To learn more about him or to work with him, check out his coach profile.