Let’s Talk About Your Socks
Socks are one of those seemingly innocuous accessories. People will spend all day trawling the internet to research a new running shoe before purchasing, yet not give a second thought to the buffer between their foot and the shoe. I’m guilty of this, and it always reminds me of being a teenager getting dressed to go out – my clothing was carefully thought out, every hair in place. But as I was about to walk out the door, my mom would always yell, “Did you brush your teeth?” and 9 times out of 10 I had not. You can’t go on a date looking great but having garlic breath. You can’t fix your car and forget to fill the gas tank. You can’t make a pizza and forget to put on the cheese. And you definitely, definitely cannot put all of your research into your shoes and forget about the socks. Because they’re what’s actually touching your foot, and they’re your first line of defense against blisters, chafing and discomfort.
The first obstacle to tackle in any activewear socks discussion is “Cotton”. Cotton is a wonderfully breathable, hypoallergenic, natural yet durable fabric to use in making everyday clothing. There’s a very good reason cotton is king for many people. But in some instances, cotton is the absolute worst fabric you can choose to wear.
The first instance is in cold weather, where cotton can actually “kill you”. This is because of the exceptional absorbency and moisture holding nature of cotton, and the fact that wet fabric will conduct heat away much faster from your body (up to 25 times faster) than dry fabric. A piece of cotton fabric can absorb up to 27 times its own weight in water. While this has cooling abilities that will keep you nice and breezy in warmer weather, it can mean death in cold climates. If you’re in colder weather, your best bet is to choose less absorbent, moisture-wicking clothing made of wool or synthetic fibers like polyester and nylon.
The second instance is in performance activities or sports such as running, where cotton can again be your worst enemy. The consequences might not be fatal but can still cause some incredibly serious damage. Your feet have hundreds of thousands of sweat glands, meaning your tootsies are one of the sweatiest places on your body. Combine that with the super absorbency of cotton discussed above, and it’s pretty easy to imagine what will happen if you try to wear cotton socks while running. Your sweat will have nowhere to go – and moist, wet feet while running around means chafing, blisters, and nasty hot spots. Again, the best thing you can do is to choose socks made of fabrics that will wick the moisture away from your feet while providing the best breathability and comfort. Here are a few of our best tips to help you find the right socks as a runner.
- Choose a sock made of synthetic fabrics.
The most popular socks in the sport of running are made from synthetic fabrics such as nylon, acrylic, polyester, Lycra, and spandex. Most often the sock will be made from a blend of several of these types of fabric. What you are looking for is a sock advertising breathability, durability, and moisture wicking abilities. If you live in a cold climate or are running in the winter, consider socks made of a wool or merino wool blend – these non-synthetic fibers come with their own natural moisture wicking capabilities while providing a warm layer of insulation. If you prefer non-synthetic socks year round, there are some excellent thin wool sock options (wool technology has come a long way), and check out socks made from bamboo fabric while you’re at it – they’re extra soft and absorbent!
- Bring your running shoes to the store to test out sock thickness.
How thick you want your sock to be is highly individual to you and your shoe. For example, if your shoe is a little loose, try a thicker sock. You may just prefer the comfortable padding of a thicker sock. On the other hand, some runners prefer minimum cushioning between their foot and shoe, or maximum breathability, and will choose a thinner sock.
- Make sure you are buying the right sized sock.
This sounds like a no-brainer, but if you’re like me, you might just be tempted to eyeball the rack of socks and grab the ones that look “about the right size”. However, if you pick a sock that’s just a little too big or loose, you run the risk of the fabric bunching up uncomfortably in certain spots and potentially causing blisters. If you choose a sock that’s too tight, it can cause swelling and even negatively affect your blood circulation. What you want is a snug, comfortable fit without any loose areas.
- Consider the different sock features available.
Once you start venturing down the sock rabbit-hole, you’ll realize there are many features to provide the best comfort or guarantee for each individual foot. Here are just a few options you can choose for your next run:
- Compression running socks help improve your blood circulation by directing the blood flow back towards your heart.
- Padded soles provide extra cushioning for your feet and joints, by giving you maximum protection at impact when your foot strikes the ground.
- Seam-free toes are available on some socks, to give you an extra advantage against blistering if you are susceptible to blisters.
- Several companies offer a warranty for their socks. Socks designed for optimum performance often aren’t cheap, but with the handy warranty feature, you will have a guaranteed sock for life.
- Arch and injury support socks are designed to give you support where you need it most. With a tighter, reinforced weave in particular areas of the sock, they are specifically designed to improve blood flow to certain areas, support your arch, or minimize discomfort from an injury site.
With a little research and testing of the right sock for you, you’ll feel like you’re running on clouds in no time!
- Why Cotton Kills: A Technical Explanation, Jan 01, 1970 ,