Running Socks: 4 Happy-Feet Tips to Pick the Right Pair

Grab some running socks, and pick out your perfect pair of shoes. We’re going for a run.

Wait just a second. There’s socks...and then there’s running socks. And they’re not all created equal.

Pick the right running socks, and your feet feel like they’re getting the royal treatment while you crush some miles without a second thought about your feet. That’s what you want, right?

But pick the wrong pair of running socks, and your feet might take a in blisters, calluses, toenail trauma, and more.

Been there, done that? Or maybe you’re hoping to avoid the whole blister-and-mangled-toenail drama.

Check out these happy-feet tips to pick the right pair of running socks to go the distance.

The Forgettable First Marathon Running Sock Mistake

I had some great running socks I was planning to wear for my first marathon.

It was the inaugural Park City Marathon in Utah...about a million years ago in the middle of summer.

My training was fair. But it was hot. So if I wasn’t working two jobs or running, I was hanging out in shorts, T-shirt and sandals.

And that turned out to be a problem. I packed everything I needed for the run, hopped a plane to Utah with my dad, and got ready to race.

But the next morning when I went to change into my running clothes and put on my shoes. I discovered my sandal-wearing habits caused me to forget one very important thing…


There's a difference between dress socks, cotton athletic socks, and performance running socks. Try on a pair of performance running socks, and you'll see.

I have no idea how it happened. You’d think I would have checked that race-prep list once, twice, three times.

Slipping into my running shoes without socks and running 26.2 miles seemed like a bad idea.

And there weren’t any stores open for some last-minute running sock shopping.

So I grabbed a pair of my dad’s dress socks. You know...paper thin with zero padding. The kind of socks you wear with a suit or dress pants. And I hoped for the best.

Don’t forget your running socks, OK? 

4 Happy-Feet Tips to Pick the Right Pair of Running Socks

If you’re looking for running socks to help you go the distance and keep your feet happy, here’s what you need to know. 

1. Cotton Kills

It really wasn’t that long ago, cotton running socks were pretty much the only option.

You know...a one-size-fits-all cotton athletic sock or tube sock.

Here’s the thing...once that cotton sock gets wet from sweat, rain, puddle, or water crossing it can take on sandpaper-like qualities that start to grind away your skin.

Cotton socks also tend to lose their elasticity easier, slipping down your leg or bunching up in your shoe.

It’s not a good recipe for happy feet.

Fortunately, running socks have come a long way based on design, fabric, and performance.

Skip the cotton, one-size-fits-all, athletic tube socks, and choose a performance running sock. Cotton socks absorb water, lose their shape and elasticity, contribute to blistering, and don't support your foot like performance running socks.

2. Performance Matters

So what should you look for in a good running sock?

  • Snug fit around the mid-foot and heel. Just a little bit of compression, and you’ll notice a big difference compared to a typical cotton-tube sock.
  • Room for your toes. Meaning the sock isn’t so tight that it’s squishing your toes together. Or another variation...toe socks.
  • Heel cup. A good running sock is designed to hug your heel, provide some support and stability,  without slipping around.
  • Seamless design. No stitched together seams that create extra friction points while you’re running.
  • Cushioning. Running socks designed to improve performance typically include extra cushioning, around the mid-foot and heel.
  • Moisture-wicking fabric which isn’t a feature of cotton running socks. What you’re looking for is a sock made with polyester, acrylic or even a wool and nylon blend.
Go ahead and geek out a little about running socks. There's a lot of different styles and performance features to choose from to keep your feet happy.

Fun fact...At the Western States 100-Mile Ultramarathon in California, race directors survey runners about their brand choice of running socks.

Injinji and Dry Max are the most popular...

Ever wonder what running socks ultrarunners wear? Race officials at the Western States 100-Mile Ultramarathon asked runners. Injinji and Dry Max socks were the favorites.

3. Get Personal

Back in the athletic-tube sock days, there wasn’t much to choose from. But now, running socks come in a lot of different styles and designs. You’ve got even more choices like:

  • Crew-length socks
  • Ankle socks
  • Mid-calf socks
  • Knee-high socks
  • Bootie socks
  • Compression socks
  • Toe socks

Tip: Once you find a pair of running socks with the performance features you want, try out the different styles and choose the one you like best. Based on design, running socks might feel different while you’re running and room inside the sock for your toes can vary.

You've got lots of choices when it comes to running socks. Just like running shoes, there's lots of options and styles to choose from.

4. Running Socks Don’t Last Forever

Here’s another truth about running socks...they don’t last forever.

You probably know that about your running shoes. Once the EVA foam starts to compress, tread wears off, stitching and fabric loosen up, tear or unravel, you know it’s time to retire those running shoes.

Running socks have a lifespan, too. It’s time for new running socks when your current pair…

  • Loses its contoured shape designed to fit your foot snugly.
  • Feels like the cushioning has been compressed or diminished
  • And the advice your mom probably gave you...It’s time to get rid of your running socks at the first sign of any holes or tears.
Ahem...there comes a time in the life of every running sock when it's time to retire. Pay attention, and your feet will be happier.

Looking for Running Socks?

Check out a few of these WeeViews picks…

Injinji Sport Original Weight Crew CoolMax Socks
👉Ruth Gersky: "Love love love my Injinji coolmax socks—they’re great, especially if you have issues with blisters on or between your toes while running…problem solved with these socks!"

PRO Compression PC Racer Socks
👉Amy Gunderson: "I love these compression socks.  I wear them with a variety of exercises, not just running.  They help my legs feel better during the exercise and after.  Sometimes, just wear them, because they are cute."

Injinji Ultra Run Crew CoolMax Socks
👉Brynn Cunningham: These are the socks she wore when she WON the Laurel Highlands Ultra 50K.

Balega Balega blister resist no show socks 👉Nick Specht: I was getting lots of blisters on my long runs, so I tried the Balega Blister Resist socks.  The blisters were significantly reduced.  These socks are super comfortable.  Great quality.  Highly recommend.

Zensah Compression Socks 👉Thomas Waldren: "I bought my first pair of Zensah compression socks in 2018. 3 years later, I bought my second, they lasted through hundreds of miles, and I still wear them to bed after long runs. Their no show socks work great also."

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Evan Jensen
SANDY, Oregon
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I help RUNNERS reduce injuries, fix running form, run longer & faster by strength training without running ragged. I'm a NASM...


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