Running Socks Matter

August 30, 2011 Posted By: Bob "Wish" Wischnia

For runners, it often seems like calluses, blisters and black toenails are just part of the running equation. Our feet take such a terrible pounding from all the miles we put in that foot issues are an accepted part of running.

But it doesn’t necessarily have to be that way. Certainly, wearing running shoes that fit your feet well are key, but so, too, are wearing the proper running socks.

Unfortunately, for many of us, socks are all too often nothing more than an afterthought. You need to wear something on you feet and just about any sock will do, right?

Wrong. Wearing the proper socks for your running health are nearly as important as wearing the proper shoes. But ironically, while we’ll spend hours in a running store trying on different shoes to get the best fitting, top performing shoe, we tend to assume just about any sock will work just fine.

Wearing the right running socks are extremely important to maintain healthy feet. Although it’s true that just about any sock will offer some protection and comfort, only a sock specific to running made out of the latest fibers will provide the same protection and comfort while also controlling the flow of moisture off the foot.

Cotton athletic socks won’t control moisture. Just the opposite, cotton socks absorb moisture and retain it against your feet. If you run in cotton socks, you’ll likely end up with a soggy foot which will lead to the inevitable blisters and calluses that are a direct result of moisture and friction.

Instead of cotton, look for socks made out of synthetic fibers that wick the moisture off your feet and keep the feet somewhat dry while running. If the feet are dry, that will go a long way to avoiding the friction between your feet and the shoes that leads to blisters. Check the labels for socks made out of acrylic/polyester and nylon which work well to wick the moisture away from your feet.

Wicking is a term which means the sock actually moves moisture from your feet to the outside of the shoe. A technical running sock made of breathable yarns can do this because it doesn’t hold on to the considerable moisture generated in the feet by running.

Let’s face it, runners sweat a lot. The hotter it is and the harder you run, the more you sweat as this is the way your body cools itself. But a lot of the sweat ends up right there in your socks.

Why the socks? We have millions of sweat glands over our bodies, but the highest concentration of them are in the palms of our hands and the soles of our feet. The hands aren’t a problem, but clearly the feet are. That’s why our running socks have to get rid of that moisture before it builds up.

Another key factor when choosing running socks is just like when choosing running shoes—fit. Certain socks will fit certain feet well, while others will not. So try them on at your favorite running store. Chances are good the running store has plenty of sample running socks you can try on with the shoes. Try to pair up the type and thickness of running sock you would normally wear.

Here are some other sock tips:

When shopping for new running shoes, make sure you bring your favorite running socks with you. Try the new running shoes on with your running socks to make sure they match up well. Don’t be fooled by trying on new shoes with your street (or dress) socks. If you do, the shoes may not fit well with your running socks. Almost all running stores have running socks to try on with new shoes.
If you’re in the market for new running socks, pair them up with your running shoes. Choose the thickness of your running socks with your existing or new shoes. Another words, if you prefer thin running socks, when you buy new shoes, you’ll probably have to stick with that sock thickness. Wearing extra thick socks for added cushioning will probably end up making the shoes too tight.
Thickness matters, but it’s a personal preference. Some prefer thin socks, but if you like wearing thick (or padded) socks, you’ll have to stick with that style. It’s tough to go back and forth between thin and thick socks in the same pair of shoes because the shoes probably won’t fit equally well.
Only use socks specifically made for running. Never wear cotton socks for running.
Always wear fresh, dry socks for every run. Never wear socks more than once without cleaning.
If you have calf issues (i.e., cramping), consider wearing compression socks or sleeves. They can help.

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