Have you ever run in a pair of cotton socks and ended up with a big ol’ blister? That’s because cotton does a terrible job of wicking away moisture. And by "terrible" we mean it doesn’t wick at all. Not cool. Cotton soaks up all the sweat and creates hot spots. The longer you run, the worse it gets. Thankfully, with a plethora of high-performance running socks on the market, it’s easy to avoid cotton. But not all moisture-wicking socks are created equal. Here, we present the inside scoop on several of our favorite sock technologies.
You might think of wool as a cold-weather only fiber, but not anymore. Wool-blend socks wick moisture exceptionally well, regardless of temperature. They’re also naturally odor-resistant, which makes them an excellent choice for long runs, adventure trail runs, vacations (when you can't do laundry every day) or multi-day adventures.
Merino is the most common type of wool fabric found in performance socks, but Balega also builds socks with a variety called mohair. It’s a silky, shiny yarn (sometimes referred to as “Diamond Fiber”). What makes mohair so great? It’s incredibly soft and durable while still maintaining all the odor-resistant properties of Merino. It also holds color well (a plus for bright sock designs).
Yep, silver like your jewelry. It’s in socks now. According to Balega, who uses the metal in a line of performance socks, “Silver interrupts the bacteria cell’s ability to form the chemical bonds essential to its survival.” This means that performance running socks made with a silver textile prevent the growth of mold, fungus and other potential foul-smelling bacteria. ... And we all know how funky those running shoes can get.
Compression socks help to keep swelling at bay by increasing circulation and maybe even preventing cramps. The medical industry has long used compression socks to help decrease post-operative patient’s chances of getting blood clots, and so it makes sense that the technology transitioned over into the fitness world, albeit with brighter colors. The jury is still out whether or not they actually increase your performance, but most runners agree that they feel good. Placebo maybe?
Knee-high socks (like these from CEP) with will help keep your calves happy during a long race or travel thanks to graduated compression that gets (slightly) looser the higher up the leg you go.
Feetures also makes socks with mid-foot-wrapping compression for extra support inside your shoe.
Performance running socks come in thin, no-cushion models to thick, high-cushioned pillow-like models. There’s no right answer for which type to wear; choosing your sock weight based on the kind of run you’re going on might be the better route to take.
For example, if you’re running short intervals on the track in a pair of racing flats, going with a very thin performance sock will probably be the most comfortable. If, however, you’re out for a long jaunt in the woods, something with wool and plush heel cushioning might keep your feet extra comfy. Bottom line: It’s up to you.
Talk about taking blister prevention to the next level. Feetures and Balega use seamless construction to prevent sock bunching and unnecessary friction due to excess fabric. In short, the ability to remove seams from socks goes a long way in keeping your feet comfortable over the long run.