10 Best Athletic Socks – 2021 Buyers Guide
That's an issue in our book, as sock technology has gotten better and better over the last decade and the old commodity socks just don't cut it anymore.
If you are breaking in a new pair of athletic shoes, a soft and supportive sock can help cut down on blisters and protect your feet from hot spots. Plus, advanced materials such as Merino wool is ideal for running in cooler climates because it holds in heat while keeping your feet dry. In this guide, we tested and reviewed some of the very best athletic socks on the market. All so you can be confident in your purchase decision.
We got your back...and your feet!
Our top pick is...
Additional arch support
Upper mesh panels
10 Best Athletic Socks
1. Rockay Accelerate
Grip tabs for ankle
Odor eliminating properties
A bit pricey
As runners, it's important we spend a significant amount of time ensuring our feet are taken care of. Whether it's the shoe we choose to run in or the sock that keeps our feet comfortable, taking special care of our feet will help us perform at our best.Read more
This sock is made from high-quality Organic Merino wool so the performance is higher and breathability even better. Organic Merino wool enables optimal balancing temperature regulation so that the material reacts to the seasonal temperature positively. When it is cold, you get warm feet and when it hot you get reasonably cool feet. Merino is a highly durable high-quality material that does give prolonged durability whilst also providing comfort.
If you're looking for comfort combined with stability, Rockay has some amazing features. This is a compression-fitting sock that is designed to give optimal temperature control regardless of which season you are out running in. The design though seeming simple is actually highly innovative, thinner material zones work with thicker material zones to distribute and regulate temperature and wick away moisture. This results in constant comfortable breathability.
The moisture-wicking properties in these socks prevent friction and blistering, which is the last thing you need when you're a few miles into your run.
These socks feature a nice protective heel tab, which also works to prevent the sock from slipping down into the shoes, bunching up and causing discomfort and friction. The sock design ensures a compressive FIT while also targeting compressive support for the foot arch. Both the toe and heel are padded and this padding will work as additional support and comfort inside a running shoe.
These socks are sold at a price that translates into value because the sock will outlast and outperform products that are not constructed from high quality and durable materials.
2. Nike Dri-FIT
Additional arch support
Upper mesh panels
If anyone knows the needs of athletes, it’s Nike. What we loved most about the Dri-FIT design is that it is built to keep your feet cool and dry on intense training days. It is composed of durable materials that hold up well over the years, and packs in supportive features to keep your feet dry and happy.Read more
This design is composed of a blend of 49 percent polyester, 43 percent cotton, 6 percent nylon, and 2 percent spandex. The cotton and polyester materials used in this design craft a soft and plush feel, while the stretchy materials help hold it in place as well as wick away sweat and moisture as you train.
It also boasts smart design features built into the fabric to keep your feet cool and comfortable. The base is reinforced with extra cushioning, as well as a higher density of spandex along the arch for added support.
Lightweight mesh panels along the top of the foot limit the occurrence of hot spots and also help to lift hot air up and away from your feet.
If you are in the market for something that is soft and comfortable that works to keep your feet dry and happy, this design from Nike is a great option. It utilizes Nike’s Dri-FIT technology in the fabric to wick sweat away from your feet to prevent blisters and keep your feet feeling refreshed even after a long run.
Unique color options
Additional arch support
This option from PUMA checks all of the boxes. It is composed of supportive yet lightweight materials, and it stays in place while your run. Runners love that it comes in a wide variety of fun and neutral color options, and have supportive features to keep you light on your feet.Read more
This blend of materials is composed of 80 percent rayon, 15 percent polyester, and 5 percent spandex which contours to the shape of your foot and locks it in place so it won’t become lost inside of your shoe.
We also love that this no-show design packs in a few supportive features where you need it most. It has a higher concentration of spandex along the arch of your foot for extra support and protection. The thin materials limit thick seams rubbing into your foot, and also work to wick away moisture to keep your feet cool and dry.
They're very lightweight and breathable, which is convenient for hot summer days.
If you are in the market for a lightweight and breathable pair of no-show socks, this option from PUMA is a great choice.
We love that they come in at a super affordable price point, and the durable materials make it easy to pop them into the washing machine for a quick cleaning as needed.
4. Gold Toe
Reinforced heel and toe box
Wicks away moisture
Is durability super important to you? If you love running long distances and have a hard time finding tough socks that are able to keep up with your long tempo runs, you will want to check out this option from Gold Toe. It is composed of super-tough materials that hold up incredibly well over the years. Plus, they are incredibly plush and comfy for those long days.Read more
The very first thing that we noticed about this design is that it is composed of plush materials that deliver that coveted cushy new-sock feel wash after wash. It is made from a blend of 81 percent cotton, 14 percent polyester, 4 percent nylon, and 1 percent spandex.
The materials used are reinforced in key areas in your toe and heel to prevent wear and tear over the years. The soft cotton makes this design incredibly plush and comfortable, and perfect to wear all day long.
The higher concentration of cotton delivers premium cushioning while the nylon and spandex additions hold it in place and wick away moisture.
We also love that this design comes in 4 different height options that include crew, short crew, ankle, and no show.
If you need something that is incredibly durable, you can’t go wrong with Gold Toe. This brand is known for its durability and quality of materials used. If you are looking for that soft and cushioned new-sock feel (even after multiple washes!), this option is well worth the slightly higher price point.
5. Saucony Performance
Minimizes formation of blisters
Soft comfortable fabric
Nice amount of arch support
Some durability issues reported by some users
Saucony Performance Comfort is more than a name, it’s what literally is built into this athletic sock. It has performance technology running through every thread and offers the comfort of a second layer of skin without constriction or sweatiness. What’s more, they are super affordable.Read more
Made with a 5 percent spandex/rubber mix, you get durability and extreme elasticity with longevity. The rest is polyester, which wicks and evaporates sweat. This material is made into a mesh design that allows for maximin air penetration, keeping the foot cool and accelerating the drying process. Even the sweatiest of feet stay dry with the Saucony Airmesh technology.
The socks hug the feet tight and add compression as support. The cushioning is strategically placed for added shock absorption as well. Although they are snug, Saucony made them enough flexibility to accent the foot versus constraining it. Extra padding in the sole of the sock gives these a softness that is unrivaled for the price and for how well they breathe. Furthermore, although they have all this extra padding, the sock is thin and slip-resistant inside the shoe.
Air-mesh venting gives these advanced sweat-wicking athletic socks a boost in dryness and breathability.
Low cut, supportive and arid; a perfect trifecta of style and athletic design. Saucony made these low cut and snug for a slight compression style that targets the arches.
You get a high-end athletic sock in a pack of 12 at the price some cost for two pair.
6. Smartwool PhD Micro
Won't slide down
Thinness means they're not as durable as thicker socks
Not great for colder weather activity
The Smartwool PhD Light Micro is a super thin sock made for those who want very little protection. The thin construction of the sock means it's extra breathable and won't weigh you down. The snug fit stays put and won't break down easily.Read more
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.
The Smartwool PhD comes at a pricey cost. If you are into aesthetic appeal and comfort, then it's definitely one to consider.
These provide an excellent compression fit. They have also antimicrobial features, good cushioning, and are perfect for anyone looking for a good pair of socks that won't cause blisters and won't slide down easily.Read more
Thanks to silver sock locks in special areas, you can easily move your toes. The toe box is seamless which makes it less probable to get blisters. There’s a high tab heel so the socks won’t slide down. The socks have also medium cushioning, a great choice for runners who want a little more comfort.
The antibacterial ions prevent the bacteria growth, keep your feet dry, clean and there’s no unpleasant odor. The Balega socks provide the right tension but they don’t restrict the movement.
As it has antimicrobial features, it’s made of high-quality polyester and nylon, it wicks the moisture in the proper way.
If you’re a fan of color and you want a wide choice, this product is for you. There are many colorful options and styles.
The Balega sock gives good value in terms of its design and quality. Considering other products of the same range in the market, its price is a bit more expensive.
8. Under Armour Resistor III
Keep shape well
Under Armour is proving more and more they really know feet and their Resistor III Lo Cut athletic sock is proof of that. It is a simple-looking sock with a lot of protection. They keep the sweat and smell away while adding protection and cushioning to the whole foot.Read more
Polyester, nylon, and spandex make the Resistor III durable, flexible and breathable. The material wicks and dries while adding odor protection in every stitch. The anti-microbial fabric keeps the smell away while the wicking accelerates drying and sweat evaporation. Under Armour Resistor III athletic socks are made with extra soft material without the dreaded toe seam. This prevents the material from being abrasive and causing unwanted irritation or blisters.
Comfort is an understatement in the Resistor III. Not only does the material dry fast, but the cushioning is also extra in areas of high-impact, like the heels. That extra cushioning adds support to the Achilles while absorbing shock. It’s actually impressive how much thought went into the sock. The 2% spandex and 1 % nylon is just enough to give it a huggy secure fit that is extra durable and doesn't lose elasticity.
Due to the wicking material, it keeps the feet dry. As a thicker athletic stock, they aren't designed with mesh panelings, however, they breathe. These are a perfect athletic sock for colder climates or colder gyms.
These are ankle socks that cushion, support, reduce stress and impact while hugging the foot. They are well designed and have a simple look.
These are pricey; however, they also offer a lot. They are thick, comfortable, and supportive and come in a pack of 6 or more.
9. Smartwool PhD Cold Weather
No seam lines
Made with Merino wool
Additional arch support
Great for cold weather
Do you need something that offers a little extra warmth when running in cooler climates? What makes this design from Smartwool ideal for cooler weather is that it works to hold in heat while also wicking away moisture and sweat to keep your feet toasty and warm. It is composed of premium materials that are warm, yet super lightweight and comfortable.Read more
What makes this design stand out from the pack of other cold-weather socks is that it is composed of Merino wool. This type of wool is super soft and thin and acts as an excellent insulator. This design of wool also boasts moisture-wicking properties to ensure that your feet also stay dry in cold weather conditions.
The underside of the foot is packed with additional padding in high impact areas such as your toe box and heel. It also has a tight arch that helps the sock stay in place as well as lend additional support to your arches.
We also love the construction of this design. It boasts thinner materials at the top of the foot to limit hot spots and let your feet breathe.
If you are on the hunt for a cold-weather sock that hails from a trusted brand, this design from Smartwool is an excellent choice. It comes in a variety of different cuts that include high crew all the way down to no-show. It boasts supportive features that keep your foot comfortable and dry and hosts minimal seam lines for maximum comfort.
10. Dickies Dri-Tech
Great for long distances
Dickies is a brand that isn’t necessarily known for their sportswear, but this sock is a great option for those that need something durable for long distances, as well as soft and moisture-resistant. What we love most about this design is that it feels incredibly soft and supportive right out of the box, and doesn’t lose its new-sock feel after multiple washes. If you need something tough yet soft, this is a surprisingly great choice.Read more
Just like many of the other designs from trusted brands such as Nike, the fabric blend is very similar. It is composed of 70 percent cotton, 28 percent polyester, 1 percent nylon, and 1 percent spandex.
The higher cotton count in this design is responsible for that soft and comfortable fit, while stretch materials work to wick away moisture and hold it firmly in place.
It also has additional padding along the bottom of the foot for just a little bit of extra cushioning, and the lightweight top of the foot works to wick hot air and moisture up and away from your foot.
If you are training for long distances, this is a great choice. It boasts reinforced materials in the toe box as well as the heel that extend the life of your sock, even after extreme wear and tear!
If you are in the market for something that is soft, comfortable, and incredibly durable, this design from Dickies is worth checking out. Runners love this option because it works to keep their feet high and dry, while comfortable padding along the bottom of the foot provides an extra layer of plush cushioning as well as support.
Criteria Used for Evaluation
A sock needs to be made of materials that can breathe, that is 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 often 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. Wool socks are also easier to care for than other fabrics, and it doesn’t hold onto odors like other materials. This 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.
Comfort depends on what kind of material you prefer.
Some folks will opt for natural fibers over synthetic ones. 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 people find it comfortable, or were there glaring issues like blister formation, too many seams, or itchy fabric? Those were deal-breakers, obviously.
Some materials can cause allergic reactions as well. While Merino is an excellent fabric choice for most, some can become irritated by it, so make sure you choose a fabric that feels nice against your skin.
Moisture management is one of the most important things a sock needs to do.
It is 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 moisture wicking 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 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.
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 technical fabrics perfect for runners that will keep you comfortable.
Expert Interviews & Opinions
For various workouts, you need different socks. Just like your trainers, various styles of socks accommodate different needs. If you are a long-distance runner, you need a durable design built tough that will hold up over the miles. Not sidelined by cold weather? A good pair of Merino wool socks will work to keep your toes nice and toasty. Before you buy, think about what you really need out of your socks!
It is recommended to use mild detergents, skip the fabric softener and air dry your athletic socks to extend the life of the high quality materials used in the construction.
Other Factors to Consider
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 gives it an 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.
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.
Frequently Asked Questions
q: I run in both hot and cold weather. Is there a sock that I can use all year round?
Even in the most freezing weather conditions, 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 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 counter-intuitive, but Merino is an awesome material that can promote both warmth and cool your feet down depending on the ambient temperature.
q: What’s the best way to care for my new athletic socks?
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?
You could but you will probably end up regretting it. Cotton socks are known to hold in heat, sweat, and can cause blisters on your feet. It is important to get a pair of socks that is breathable and will wick away sweat, not hold it in. You will end your run with a soaking wet sock, and nobody likes wet socks.
q: Do I need to try socks on before buying?
If you can, then it’s absolutely recommended. Not all sock brands are the same size, just like it depends on the brand if you need a size small shirt or a medium. 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 if a sock is fitting correctly?
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?
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?
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.
- How to Choose the Right Running Socks, Running Specific Website ,
- Pick the Right Athletic Socks, A Case Against Cotton, Health & Fitness Website ,
- Do Compression Socks Really Work?, Running Specific Website ,
- Socks: How to Choose, REI Expert Advice Page ,