Fitting, breathable tank top? Check. Sturdy, comfortable shoes? Check. Excellent, high quality socks? Wait. It’s true: Don’t head to that next workout without a good pair of athletic socks. Having a good sock will benefit the athlete in and for the long run!
Sock It — The Need-to-Know
To help prevent injuries and boost athletic performance, we may want to head to the top drawer . Foot problems are common among athletes, yet many don’t realize socks could be the culprit. The feet need support beyond the shoe: Excessive pressure (as the body pounds up to three times its body weight on the ground), as well as jumping, lunging, and running, all put extra stress on the feet. Luckily, socks can help repel some of this extra force.
Athletic socks cushion feet, protect them from irritation and blisters, and, shocker, keep em’ warm. For most athletes, acrylic or synthetic socks may be the way to go, since they’re lightweight, durable, and less likely to bunch up. And it looks like fiber isn’t just important for digestion. Choosing sock fibers with a good wicking gradient will help trap and transfer moisture, which will keep feet nice n’ dry . (Acrylic or polypropylene fibers do this best.) Some studies also show that when running, acrylic socks are better than cotton to keep blisters away .
Despite what commercials say, there are a few more reasons cotton may not be the fabric of our lives. Besides of the tendency for fibers to trap sweat (a recipe for blisters!), cotton is also made of absorbent hydrophilic fibers, which may cause socks to lose their shape and lead to skin irritation. Studies also show that cotton doesn’t do the job against foot fungus, and that tight wool may be a better choice . Wool also preserves heat even when wet, making it a popular choice among hikers. (Don’t want to get cold feet when out in the woods!)
Head to Toes — Your Action Plan
Before grabbing the cheapest option in the sock aisle, acrylic or synthetic blends might be better bets since they hold their shape, stay dry, are comfortable, and even repel odor (win!) . But, like specific shoes, athletes should choose socks depending on the sport and conditions. Here’s a quick breakdown:
- Running: It’s no secret that a bad pair of socks can really hurt a run. To prevent tinea pedis (a fancy name for athlete’s foot), wear moisture wicking, synthetic socks, and change them as soon as they get wet.
- Hiking: The options are aplenty for hikers, depending on trail conditions and how challenging the hike is. For shorter hikes, lightweight socks emphasize wicking abilities over comfort. Midweight and mountaineering socks with durable padding keep feet warm and are good for longer hauls.
- Cycling: When hopping on the bike, slip on very thin socks to wick moisture away and reduce friction to avoid foot chafing, recommends Victor Jimenez of Bicycle Lab. Cycling is a non-impact sport so extra padding isn’t necessary.
- Lifting: It may just come down to personal preference at the squat rack, but according to Greatist Expert and trainer Jordan Syatt, wearing higher socks is definitely wise when deadlifting to avoid the bar scraping the legs.
No matter what sport or activity is on the agenda, be sure to put those feet first. After all, there’s no replacing them!
Which are your favorite go-to socks? And what’s the most you’ve shelled out for them? Tell us in the comments below!
Illustration by Elaine Liu