Technical Running Socks Are Key to Healthy Running Feet
by Bob "Wish" Wischnia on December 6, 2011
Let’s face it, not too many of us spend much time thinking about our running socks. That is, we don’t pay much attention to our socks until we get a nasty blister while on a long run or in a race. But if that happens, all we want to know is what the heck went wrong?
Who knew that picking proper running socks is almost as important as choosing the right running shoes?
It’s true. Wearing the wrong socks, can ruin a run or a race faster than you can say fartlek. As any runner knows, the number one culprit is blisters. And those little devious things are most frequently caused by heat, moisture and friction within our socks.
The cure is wearing the proper technical running sock. Socks, especially designed for running, will keep your feet mostly dry and comfortable, but good socks can also add a bit of support, rearfoot padding and even a touch of cushioning.
There are plenty of different types and brands to choose from (Mizuno has a complete line of running socks), but the most important aspect of buying the right running socks is—not surprisingly—fit.
Just like when you buy running shoes, fit is absolutely crucial. If the socks are too big, they will bunch in your shoes. Too small and your toes will get squished. If the socks fit loosely, your heels will slip.
The socks should also fit your shoes well. If your shoes are a little narrow, you don’t want to buy an especially thick pair of socks that will take up more room. Conversely, if your shoes are slightly on the wide side, a thick pair of socks can take up extra room and provide a better all around fit.
What you don’t want in your running socks is socks that are 100 percent cotton. While running, you generate plenty of heat and sweat and cotton socks absorb that moisture and retain it against your feet. Inevitably, this results in heavy, soggy socks that is the perfect breeding ground for blisters and bacteria.
Instead, you need technical running socks made out of synthetic fibers that wick moisture away from the foot to keep it relatively dry. Wicking is a term which means the socks move moisture away from your feet to the outside of the shoe where it evaporates. This keeps your feet dry and if you can do that, there’s a good chance of eliminating the friction that causes blisters.
Good technical running socks are made from either synthetic fibers such as acrylic, nylon or polyester or a blend of natural fibers (wool and cotton) and synthetics.
Running socks are usually either very thin or considerably thicker. The thicker socks generally have extra padding in the heel and toe which provides a little extra cushioning and good blister protection. If you prefer a thicker sock, you must make sure it fits your shoes well.
Many runners prefer thin socks because they are lighter and tend to have a better road feel. But it’s just a personal preference. You need to experiment to find the thickness of sock that work best for you in different conditions.
There are plenty of good running socks from a variety of brands, including Mizuno which offers a complete line of technical running socks that work well with its line of running shoes.
The Mizuno sock choices are the Samurai, Musha, Ronin and Tajima styles. All Mizuno socks are made for men in sizes medium, large and extra large and for women in a small and medium.
The Samurai is an exceptional training sock, made out of a blend of wicking fibers polyester, nylon and spandex. Featuring a seamless toe (to reduce blisters), the Samurai has mesh venting (to reduce heat) and a bit of arch support. Durable and comfortable, the Samurai comes in a variety of colors for men and women.
The Musha is lighter and thinner than the Samurai and more appropriate for racing. It is made of a blend of spandex and two microfiber polyesters, including a special Ice Touch yarn (for temperature control). Also available in several colors for men and women.
The Ronin is another racing sock, very similar to the Musha in terms of lightness and thinness. It also utilizes the same polyester/spandex wicking blend with the Ice Touch yarn to reduce heat buildup. The difference between the Ronin and Musha is the Ronin comes in a left/right fit. That is, one sock is designed for the left foot, while the other is for the right. Also available in several color options for men and women.
The Tajima, available in a four-pack, features the polyester, nylon, spandex blend for comfortable, cool running. It also has a unique X-wrap in the arch to prevent slippage as well as mesh venting for coolness.
Finally, for 2012, Mizuno offers its first compression sock gear. In addition to a lightweight compression sleeve with graduated pressure from the calf to the ankle, there is a compression sock with a left/right fit. The only difference between the two is the sleeve stops at the foot (and another sock is necessary), while the compression sock wraps the calf and entire foot.
Compression socks (or sleeves) stimulate blood flow and reduce muscle fatigue. The sleeves or socks are especially valuable for post run recovery. In addition, the compression gear works well for runners to reduce post run cramping in their calf muscles.
1. Stay away from 100 percent cotton socks. Instead, choose socks with a blend a blend of synthetic fibers.
2. Be on the alert for toe seams. A poorly placed seam can cause blisters, especially in a long, hot race or run. Mizuno’s Samurai, Musha and Ronin socks all have seamless toes.
3. Decide whether you prefer thin or thicker socks.
4. Look for socks that have a tighter weave in the midfoot area. This prevents the socks from slipping in the running shoes.
5. Fit the socks to your shoes. If possible, use a test pair at the running store to try on with your shoes.