Look for technical fabrics, cushioning and a supportive fit to get the most out of these essentials
When it comes to running, you might think that your everyday socks will suffice.
You’d think that until you’ve run more than 45 minutes in a pair of normal socks on an especially hot or wet day, and you’re limping home with blisters and sweaty feet.
Running socks are made from breathable, technical fabrics that wick sweat and moisture away from your feet to keep you comfortable and prevent blisters.
Some also have extra cushioning in high impact areas, which really comes into its own on longer training runs and races.
They also tend to have a close, supportive fit and are designed to stay put when you run.
We ran on hot summer days in the socks below, along with rainier runs where the rain soaks into your shoes.
We were looking at comfort, fit, staying power (badly made sports socks move about and ride down), blister prevention and underfoot feel. Almost all are available in both men’s and women’s.
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Under Armour run cushion crew sock
These are the kind of socks where you give a little sigh as you slide them on. Cushioning in the right places, ventilation in the right places, breathable but warm for colder runs, a supportive arch, a reflective logo on the back, no lumpy seams and a funky crew length. The part of the sock that comes up the leg is the same thinner, ventilated fabric as the upper foot, making it low profile enough to wear under running tights if you want to.
Asics ultra light quarter
Not quite an ankle sock but higher than a no-show – a great length if you want them to come safely above your shoe line. Cushioning in strategic places – heel and forefoot – but an otherwise slimline offering. They’re a pleasure to put your feet into and stayed dry and breathable – the balance between light cushioning where you need it and lightweight material makes them great for longer runs on warmer days.
2XU vectr cushion no show socks
Not quite no-show as you can see them, but only just, and totally invisible socks don’t generally perform well for blister prevention anyway. Padding down the side, behind the big toe and little toe, is a nice touch for what can be pressure points. Beautifully soft around the ankle, the cushioning is sublime as is the compression fit that means they don’t move a millimetre, and they kept feet cool and comfortable on a long, hot run. They’re designed to accommodate toe splay, which works well if you have wide feet, but those with narrower feet might find it leaves some excess material at the toe.
Lululemon speed tab
Performance and comfort combine in these running socks (only available in women’s). They’re soft but with great arch support, stay securely in place while running and have cushioning in the heel and forefoot. They’re breathable and well ventilated but nicely on the warmer side for autumnal runs.
Runderwear anti-blister running socks
The anti-blister element comes from two layers of fabric that rub against each other, minimising the friction against your feet. A great choice if you like your running socks on the thicker, plusher side, and they provide extra warmth on colder days while remaining breathable and moisture-wicking. Almost invisible aside from the heel tab that helps keep them securely in place and prevents rubbing. They do come up slightly small so size up if you’re on the cusp of a size.
Proviz classic airfoot mid-length running socks
If you’re an early morning or evening runner, and want to up your visibility, these are the ticket. A band of hi-viz yarn and logo sit near the top of the on-trend mid-calf-length socks and the socks themselves come in eye-popping fluoro pink or yellow (or black if you like your socks more subtle). The ventilation panels in the upper foot kept us cool. The fit is glove-like and they’re thin – this makes for a sensitive feel underfoot, but we prefer them for shorter runs as there’s no cushioning.
Boody Sport active sock
Supremely comfortable and with eco credentials to boot. Made from a viscose derived from organic bamboo, which is a fast-growing and sustainable plant that requires less water and produces far more fabric per acre than cotton. Bamboo fabrics are also renowned for being breathable and very soft, and these socks are no exception. The sole is well-cushioned while the upper foot has two mesh panels for increased ventilation.
Brooks glycerin ultimate cushion
As the name suggests, a very cushioned sock that feels plush underfoot. The targeted arch compression results in a nice, close fit; the ventilation on the top of the sock works well to keep feet cool and they stay firmly in place while running. You’ll find them under the men’s accessories section, but are actually unisex.
CEP run compression socks 3.0
CEP knows its stuff when it comes to compression and this is its classic offering. The claim is that compression accelerates the removal of metabolic waste products, resulting in active recovery during a run. It’s hard to say whether or not it does this, but we certainly got the “light legs” feeling that these socks promise, legs felt less fatigued after a long run in the hills and the ankles and Achilles felt reassuringly supported. The compression gradually decreases as it goes up the sock, meaning the widest part of the calf doesn’t end up feeling crushed. Be sure to measure your calf at its widest point to get the right fit as too-tight compression socks are miserable.
Enertor energy run socks
Minimalist socks that will suit those who like a sensitive ground feel through their shoes – they’re reinforced in the heel and toe but otherwise uncushioned. The fit is smooth and snug, with a band of tighter yarn around the arch to keep them in place. A sock that would suit a hotter day or if you get very hot feet, as the ventilation and breathability work well.
1000 Mile Sportswear breeze running sock
These socks live up to their “breeze” name – the soft inner layer actually feels cool to the touch and, despite being double layered socks, they keep feet cool even on hot days. The double layering works beautifully for blister prevention on long runs, especially if they get a bit damp in the rain or even wet on a trail run, and there’s cushioning in the heel and forefoot. They last and last – just be sure to wash them at 30C and don’t tumble dry them or (like most running socks) they shrink and become tight.
The verdict: Running socks
We can’t find fault with the Under Armour socks under all of the criteria, unless you don’t like a crew-length. They feel great and perform well (and look good if you care about that!) – they’re on the thicker side so will work well in autumn and winter. If you like your socks less visible, the 1000 Mile Sportswear socks are a favourite, especially on longer runs where blister prevention is key.
For more running kit, read our round-up on the best women’s winter weatherproof running jackets
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