10 Best Athletic Socks Fully Reviewed & Compared
There are so many athletic socks to choose from. It’s so tempting just to pick whatever pair is the least expensive. Don’t do it. There are plenty of great options out there that are meant to mold to your feet and enhance your comfort while performing all types of physical activity.
We’ve sifted through tons of different athletic sock options to come up with this list of our 10 favorites. Each one was evaluated on its construction, comfort, wicking ability, and style. Each sock has consistently glowing reviews from users and is a solid choice for those seeking comfort and quality. Resist the temptation to settle on a cheap pack of cotton socks. Your feet will thank you later.
- Balega Hidden Comfort No Show
- Seamless design
- Darn Tough Merino Wool Micro Crew
- Good for colder climates
- Injinji Run 2.0 Lightweight No Show
10 Best Athletic Socks
Hand-sewn, seamless forefoot area reduces the chance of blisters while elastane material provides a supportive fit. The sock's forefoot and rearfoot are made of a more resistant material to protect against the formation of holes. A rearfoot heel tab helps sock stay put and helps protect against any rubbing that may occur between your skin and your shoe.
The sock features cushioning underfoot which provides a bit of extra comfort. In terms of thickness, the Balega sock falls in the middle.
The sock's mesh material enhances breathability. The sock uses DryNamix technology giving it superior wicking ability.
Sock comes in a variety of colors to suit varied tastes.
- Socks stay put and down move
- Very breathable
- Seamless design helps eliminate chance of blisters
- Super comfortable
- Soft feel against the skin
- Great fit
- Well cushioned
- Some reviewers had durability issues
2. Darn Tough Merino Wool Micro Crew (Women)
Made primarily of merino wool which has anti-microbial properties. The material also contains Nylon and Lycra resulting in a quality construction. The sock does not stretch out easily meaning the cuff will stay put over time. The sock is made in the USA.
A performance fit means the sock won't budge when worn for physical activity. This sock will keep nice and warm, making it perfect for colder weather. Some cushioning underfoot offers protection and the fit is snug enough to prevent blisters.
Sock provides warmth without promoting an overly hot environment. Merino is anti-microbial so your sock won't start to smell. Does a good job at keeping feet dry.
Comes in various colors and the available designs are interesting and fun
- Comes with a Lifetime Guarantee
- Good for colder climates
- Don't stretch out easily
- Reduces potential for blister formation
- Merino wool is comfortable and has anti-bacterial properties
- Great color combinations
- Accurate sizing
- Some reviewers had allergic reactions to the wool
3. Injinji Run 2.0 Lightweight
Unique toe-sock design helps to reduce the chance of blisters forming. The sock is mostly made up of polyester and nylon with the addition of some lycra. The super thin material is solid enough that it will last and there's mesh at the top of the foot for enhanced ventilation. The sock features a unique right and left foot.
With this toe design, a runner's foot can move naturally. Toes won't scrunch up and you won't get blisters. Provides some arch support for wearers.
Coolmax Xtralife technology sops up sweat and moisture effectively and the thin material helps keep wearer's feet cool.
Interesting toe design will appeal to the adventurous.
- Minimizes formation of blisters, especially on the toes
- Soft comfortable fabric
- Ventilates well
- Super lightweight
- Nice amount of arch support
- Tough to get on
- Toe design may take some getting used to
4. Wigwam Hiker Pro (Men)
The sock is made up of 57% special Tencel material, 22% stretch nylon, 20% X20 Acrylic, and 1% spandex. It also features a seamless toe area. The sock won't stretch up easily and is backed by a Lifetime Guarantee.
Medium cushioning is paired with arch support for a comfortable fit. A few reviewers found the socks ran small so be careful with sizing.
A mesh area is located on top of the foot for breathability and the sock features Ultimax technology for enhanced wicking ability.
The sock comes in various colors that feature nice fresh designs.
- Don't bunch up
- Breathes well
- Very comfortable
- Versatile, great for various activities
- Some reviewers found they made their feet a bit too warm
5. Smartwool PhD Run Ultra Light Micro (Women)
Made up of Merino Wool and Nylon with some elastane for stretch. Merino wool has anti-microbial properties and is a soft material. The sock is thin but resistant to wear. A seamless forefoot eliminates the potential for unwanted friction and a heel tab protects the rearfoot.
The minimally cushioned sock fits snugly. Made for running, the lightweight material helps keep the foot cool.
The PhD sock wicks sweat well and features quick-drying material.
Super cute designs are available for purchase in this style.
- Attractive design
- Won't slide down
- Great fit
- Thinness means they're not as durable as thicker socks
- Not great for colder weather activity
6. Balega Enduro (Women)
The sock's seamless design helps with the reduction of blisters. A resistant construction in the heel and forefoot areas helps protect against tearing. The sock is made up mostly of Drynamix Polyester with other minor components to help with elasticity.
The sock features mid-level cushioning but some reviewers felt there wasn't enough padding. The sock fits well and won't move around as you move.
The sock features a mesh panel for enhanced breathability and wicks fairly well.
A colorful design will appeal to runners and other athletes who want to inject some style into their workout wardrobe.
- Soft feel against the skin
- High-end construction
- Very durable
- Great fit
- Supportive fit
- Wicks away sweat quite well
- Not as much cushioning as some expected
- Sizing a bit off
7. CEP Progressive+ Compression (Men)
The sock provides 20-30mmHg graduated compression. The band below the knee keeps the sock in place without cutting off circulation and provides an overall supportive fit.
Compression technology fits tight but without being restrictive.
Front ventilation helps air to circulate and foot stays cool in the sock.
Knee high style comes in many colors to suit different taste.
- Work as advertised to increase circulation
- Nice design
- Very breathable
- Comfortable fit
- Super supportive
- Great for recovery purposes
- Hard to get on and off
8. Feetures! Elite Light Cushion
The sock is made up primarily of nylon fabric with spandex to provide stretch. Unique left and right socks ensure an exceptional fit on either foot. A seamless toe eliminates the possibility of friction.
Light cushioning all over with slight extra padding in forefoot and heel areas. The sock protects against blisters and is very supportive.
Excellent breathability thanks to wick fibers which pull away moisture from the foot.
Features a cute design with lots of fun colors.
- Very supportive fit
- Great for blister prone runners
- Fresh design
- Sizing issues
9. Swiftwick Vibe ZERO
The sock is made in the USA and is constructed using materials that don't hold smells. The quality materials result in a very durable sock perfect for rigorous training conditions.
The sock features slight compression for support and a moderate amount of cushioning for comfort. The fit and design of the sock both help to control blisters.
Special Olefin material helps wick away sweat and moisture. This is a sock with superior moisture management.
Several subtle color options available with a nice design. The grey base is easy to match with most shoes and won't get as dirty looking as a plain white sock.
- Very supportive
- Comfortable fit
- Excellent wicking ability
- Won't get or stay smelly
- Some reviewers expected more padding
10. Nike Elite Lightweight
Made of polyester, nylon, and spandex the sock features flat seams and reflective components. In addition, unique left and right socks ensure the best fit.
The sock is super lightweight. It almost feels like you're wearing nothing at all.
The sock effectively keeps feet cool and dry thanks to its composition.
A simple design will appeal to most athletes. The sock comes in various colors, some brighter than others.
- Very comfortable
- Breathable, keep feet nice and cool
- Great fit
- Keep blisters at bay
- Limited color options
- Not as durable as other options
Our Evaluation Criteria for Choosing the Best Athletic Socks
When it comes to socks, narrowing down evaluation criteria is surprisingly challenging. For what seems like such a small accessory, there’s a lot one needs to consider when purchasing a pair of socks. They don’t just need to fit right. They need to be made of appropriate materials, should be comfortable, able to wick moisture away from your foot efficiently, and should probably look good too.
When referring to construction, we’re talking about the actual physical construction of a sock and the materials used to make it. A sock needs to be made of materials that can breathe, that are durable, and some materials may even offer unique abilities like anti-bacterial properties, extra cushioning, or compression.
If you’re choosing a sock for any athletic endeavor, you should choose a synthetic fiber. Cotton might sound like a comfortable option, but it is a poor choice for athletes. It fails when it comes to moisture management and isn’t a good choice if you’re going to be working up any kind of sweat. Like other parts of our bodies, our feet do sweat, and it’s important to choose a material that can handle sweat. Synthetic fibers are much better at dealing with moisture and tend to dry a lot faster than non-synthetic ones.
Of course, there’s always an exception to the rule. Merino wool is an oft-used material for athletic socks providing excellent moisture management, comfort, and antibacterial properties. It also can keep feet warm when it’s cold out and cool when the weather is a bit steamier. Merino wool is also easier to care for than other fabrics, and it doesn’t hold onto odors like other materials, which is a pretty big bonus when we’re talking about sweaty feet. Many will prefer a material like Merino since it’s more natural and comes from sheep making it a renewable resource.
Apart from the material of the sock, the way the sock has been sewn together is also important. Choosing a sock with minimal seams will ensure that you’ll stay blister free. Seams increase the chance for friction between your foot and the sock which is something all runners and athletes want to avoid.
Of course, comfort is subjective. Not everyone will have the same favorite sock. Comfort depends on what kind of material you prefer. Some folks will opt for natural fibers over synthetic ones. It depends on proper sizing (more about that later). It also has to do with whether you prefer to have cushioning or none at all. So how did we evaluate comfort? We simply took a look at what people had to say about a particular sock. Did most find it comfortable or were there glaring issues like blister formation, too many seams, and itchy fabric? Those were deal breakers, obviously.
Some materials will cause allergic reactions in some. While Merino is an excellent fabric choice for most, some can become irritated by it, so make sure you choose fabric that feels nice against your skin.
Moisture management is one of the most important things a sock needs to do. It’s basically its #1 job besides staying on your foot. If a sock can’t actually wick moisture, then it’s not a good choice. We all sweat and our feet sweat too. Without a sock that can sop up all our sweat, the chance that blisters and hot spots will form goes up exponentially. The wicking ability usually depends on the combination of materials that make up the sock. Most synthetic materials are pretty good at mopping up all your nasty sweat. It’s a good idea to avoid cotton because it’s pretty bad at wicking moisture away from the body. It doesn’t dry quickly either, so you’ll end up with a heavy wet sock at the end of your workout. The socks on this list are all made of breathable, quick-drying materials. No cotton in sight.
Most runners and other athletes will deny that they consider style when choosing gear, clothing, and accessories. Let’s be honest, though, it’s always nice when you get a choice of colors. We’ve settled on socks that offer a bit of variety, have attractive designs, and that won’t look like your grandpa’s socks peeking out from your athletic shoes.
As mentioned, it was hard to narrow down our evaluation criteria. Something that seems so simple is a lot more complicated. Picking the right socks for athletic activity is basically a science, so here are some additional things you’ll want to keep in mind as you pick your new favorite running sock.
Many runners and athletes are quite shocked the first time they head out to buy a pair of running or sport-specific socks. If you’re used to buying 3-packs of socks at Costco, you’re in for a surprise when it comes to athletic socks. They are indeed pricier, but that’s because they’re made with durable materials meant to last, and they are made up of super technical fabrics that will keep you comfortable.
This is super important. It’s just like with running shoes. The wrong size can mean disaster. A sock that’s too small will feel uncomfortable while one that’s too big can mean painful blister formation. Make sure you’re buying socks that are either made for men or women. Don’t accidentally purchase a men’s sock in your size. They’ll undoubtedly be too big. You want an athletic sock to fit tightly without cutting off circulation. It shouldn’t bunch up anywhere, and the ankle fit should be tight enough for it to stay put without feeling too tight in that area.
Washing Your Socks
Don’t just throw them in the wash! You might be able to get away with this when it comes to cotton socks, but most other materials will lose their moisture wicking properties if they go through the washer and dryer. It’s best to hand wash most athletic socks. Yes, we know, it’s a pain, but your socks will last longer, trust us. Avoid the dryer at all costs unless your socks specifically say that they can survive the dryer. Some socks will even shrink so you’ll be left with a pair of socks fit for tiny garden gnomes. Merino wool is pretty tough and can stand up to machine washes but always take a look at the care instructions provided by the manufacturer.
We featured one pair of knee-high compression socks on this list. What’s the advantage of compression? It’s meant to increase blood flow and help with recovery. There’s some debate over whether the benefits are real, but there’s no real detriment that comes from wearing compression gear so if you find it beneficial, go right ahead. Compression socks that cover the calves certainly provide outstanding support in that area and can help relieve calf or shin pain experienced by some runners.
And here’s the thing, even if the benefits aren’t real. It’s likely that there’s a placebo effect going on. Wearing compression socks may help reduce soreness even if it’s just all if your head. The human brain is a powerful thing!
This cut of an athletic sock is pure preference, but there are plenty of options. Knee-high socks are ideal for colder weather activities but getting the right fit may be tough if you have small feet and larger calves or vice versa. Very low cut socks are a good option for warm weather, and some will prefer that their sock doesn’t peek out from their shoe but careful when picking a low-cut option. Make sure that there’s no uncomfortable rubbing going on if there’s any exposed skin on your heel. Most socks will be available in a variety of cuts so you can get the style, thickness, and material you want in the right length.
Thickness & Padding
Again, this comes down to preference. Some socks will actually feature specific padded areas in the forefoot and heel to dampen the forces of impact that occur during physical activities such as running. This type of padding is good for those with sensitive feet or those with lingering injuries. It’s a nice extra bit of protection. The thickness of a sock can act similarly to add a layer of protection for wearers. A thicker sock is also likely going to be warmer and better for cold weather endeavors. When deciding on the thickness of a sock and whether you want additional padding, be careful to consider how your current athletic shoe fits. If your shoe is already pretty snug and you’ve been wearing a thin sock, extra padding may affect the fit and make things very uncomfortable.
Yes. These socks look super weird. No, it’s not okay to laugh at people wearing them. Although they look odd, they’re great at prevention the pesky blisters that can crop up between the toes. If you are prone to toe blisters, a pair of toe socks may be your saving grace. These types of socks come in a variety of materials to suit your needs, and some will have more or less padding depending on what kind of cushioning and thickness you want.
Depending on the activity you’re planning to do, your sock choice may change. Thicker warmer socks are best for cold weather sports or hiking. Thicker socks will provide warmth, won’t rip easily, and will even provide an extra layer of protection for your feet. Thinner socks are an excellent option for warmer weather or those who sweat excessively.
Huh? Why do you need arch support if your shoe already gives you the support you need? Well, if you have unusually high arches, a little bit of extra support may be very much welcomed. If you’re constantly battling with foot issues like plantar fasciitis a little bit of extra support from your sock is definitely a good thing. If you want additional assistance in the arch area from your socks, look for an option that features a tighter band around the midfoot for a more supportive fit.
Here’s the thing, unless you’re planning on hiking a great distance in very wet weather or you’re spending days outside in waterlogged environments, a waterproof sock probably isn’t the best choice. They repel water, but they are a lot less breathable than other sock options.
Q: I workout in both hot and cold weather. Is there a sock that I can use all year round?
A: Even in the most freezing weather, most athletic socks will work just fine since your feet heat up quite a bit. If running is your sport of choice, most socks will do since running will generate quite a bit of body heat. Thinner socks may cause your feet to feel a bit cold if you’re hiking or walking outside in colder weather. For those activities, you’ll want a thicker sock. Merino wool is a good choice for year-round wear. It sounds counterintuitive, but Merino is an awesome material that can both promote warmth and cool your feet down depending on the ambient temperature.
Q: What’s the best way to care for my new athletic socks?
A: The absolute best way is to follow the manufacturer’s instructions. They know best! Barring that, it’s a good idea to avoid the dryer at all costs lest you end up with a super shrunken sock. Washing is fine in most cases but use a sports detergent and wash on a gentle cycle.
Q: Why is cotton so bad? Can’t I just use the socks I already own to workout?
A: Go ahead. But you’ll regret it! Unlike other materials, cotton gets wet and stays wet which is the perfect environment for blister formation.
Q: Do I need to try socks on before buying?
A: If you can, then it’s absolutely recommended. Not all sock sizing is the same. If there’s a local running shop nearby, chances are they allow customers to try socks on before purchasing them. They’ll help you get the right fit, and if you’re buying shoes at the same time, you can kill two birds with one stone. Just be courteous and make sure you arrive with clean feet.
Q: How do I know a sock is fitting correctly?
A: It will stay in place, but you won’t feel like it’s too tight. It won’t bunch up even as you slip on your shoe.
Q: I constantly get blisters. Is there a sock that’s particularly useful for blister prevention?
A: Some socks are made specifically to prevent blisters from forming. There are some double layered socks on the market that claim to eliminate friction. Instead of the sock rubbing your foot, the two layers rub together. Some folks will opt to wear two socks, but that’s an imperfect solution especially if you’re working out in hot weather. Some say that thicker socks will help protect against blisters but really the best way to prevent them is a snug fit and superior wicking ability.
Q: Where does Merino wool come from?
A: Glad you asked! Merino wool comes from Australian Merino sheep. The cute critters actually grow a new coat every year meaning it’s an environmentally friendly fiber choice.
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- Pick the Right Athletic Socks, A Case Against Cotton, Health & Fitness Website, Apr 10, 2012 ,
- Do Compression Socks Really Work?, Running Specific Website , Dec 11, 2013 ,
- Socks: How to Choose, REI Expert Advice Page, Oct 28, 2016 ,