Nota bene: If you buy through the links in this article, we may earn a small share of the profits.
With all the hype around running shoes, it’s easy to forget about socks, but they’re a critical piece of running gear. Running socks cushion impact forces, help you get a snug, secure fit within your shoes, and most importantly, prevent blisters and irritation while running. Every runner needs a few good pairs of socks. Below, I’ve outlined the key features to look for and then rounded up top models for running.
The Best Running Socks
There’s quite a bit of variety among athletic socks, and choosing the right pair mainly comes down to your foot shape and preferences. Focusing on a few key features will help you narrow down the list and find running socks that’ll work for you.
Running socks are usually made with a blend of synthetic fabrics: Polyester, nylon, and elastane are the most common, and many of the socks in this guide use these three textiles. Polyester wicks moisture, nylon boosts the sock’s durability, and elastane gives it stretch, so it conforms to the contours of your feet.
Merino wool is a popular natural fabric used in socks, and it’s usually blended with nylon and elastane for improved durability and stretchiness. Merino has a long list of beneficial properties: It wicks moisture, resists odors, and stays comfortable in both hot and cold temperatures. The Darn Tough and Tracksmith options below are great picks if you want to try merino wool socks.
Socks are often described in terms of weight (ultralight, lightweight) or cushioning level (high cushioning or minimal cushioning, for example). These terms refer to the same thing: The thickness of the fabric. Thicker fabrics create a softer, more padded feel under your feet. Thinner fabrics provide less cushioning, but they weigh less and they’re often more breathable. There’s no right or wrong level of cushioning; just choose what feels best for you. The fabric thickness also influences the overall fit around your foot—if your running shoes are a bit large, a thicker sock will take up more space and create a better fit.
You can get socks in a range of heights, from “no-show” ankle socks to crew socks and even knee-high options. Height is a matter of preference, but make sure your socks cover enough of your upper foot, ankle, and heel to keep these areas from rubbing against your shoes, as that can cause chafing. In addition, crew socks can be helpful for trail running because they protect your lower legs from scrapes against rocks and brush.
Compression socks are designed to hug your ankles and legs tightly, which improves blood flow and can boost your recovery and reduce fatigue from running. If you opt for this style, choose compression socks with graduated compression (they’re tighter at the ankles and progressively looser going up toward your knees). This design promotes proper blood circulation.
Whether you’re jogging around the neighborhood or racing to the finish in a marathon, your feet work hard—these running socks will help you treat them right.
Best Overall: Balega Hidden Comfort No Show Tab
Balega Hidden Comfort No Show Tab
Ask a runner about their favorite socks, and chances are you’ll hear about Balega. The brand is a perennial contender in best socks lists, and runners on Reddit rave about the company’s running socks. The Hidden Comfort model offers a well-cushioned feel, and it’s made with Drynamix recycled polyester fabric for excellent ventilation and moisture wicking. A touch of elastane in the fabric gives these socks a snug fit, and the seamless design prevents uncomfortable rubbing and irritation while running. If you want to upgrade to a premium pair of running socks, you can’t go wrong with these.
Thinner Material: Balega Hidden Dry No Show Tab
Balega Hidden Dry No Show Tab
Not everybody likes a thick, cushioned sock. For those who prefer a more minimalist foot covering, Balega offers its Hidden Dry model. It’s made with the same Drynamix material as the Hidden Comfort, so you get excellent breathability, but the fabric blend is thinner and less bulky. It’s designed to hug the arch and ankle for a supportive, secure fit, and the seamless toe ensures a chafe-free running experience for your feet.
Best Value: Saucony Mesh Ventilating Comfort Fit Performance Quarter Socks
Saucony Mesh Ventilating Comfort Fit Performance Quarter Socks
Want to fill your sock drawer with just one purchase? Grab a set of these quarter-length socks from esteemed running brand Saucony. Sold in packs of six or twelve pairs, they’re an excellent value, and they provide all the performance features you need. The polyester-spandex fabric wicks moisture to keep your feet cool and comfy, and they’re designed with compression zones around the arch for added support and a close fit. They’re also available in a shorter no show version, too.
Best Crew Sock: Darn Tough Element Micro Crew Lightweight Running Sock
Darn Tough Element Micro Crew Lightweight Running Sock
Darn Tough is another highly recommended brand on Reddit, and I wear its made-in-Vermont socks almost daily. The company has a deep lineup for runners, but the Element Micro Crew is a standout. It’s made from merino wool blended with nylon and spandex, so you get all of the performance benefits of merino—excellent temperature regulation and moisture wicking—with plenty of durability and a foot-hugging fit. I really like the length of these socks: They’re tall enough to offer protection from brush and scrapes on the trail, but not so tall they look dorky when worn with sneakers. Better yet, Darn Tough guarantees all of its socks for life, so if yours wear out, the company will replace them for free.
Best Compression Sock: Pro Compression Marathon
Pro Compression Marathon
A good fit is essential for compression socks to work properly, and with the Pro Compression Marathon, it’s easy to get a sock that matches your legs: In addition to normal sizes, there are dedicated options for people with wide calves (consult the brand’s size guide to see which version is best for you). Like any good compression sock, the Marathon offers graduated compression, where the sock wraps tighter at the ankles and looser higher up your legs to promote proper blood flow. The polyester-nylon-spandex blend offers good breathability, and there are a wide range of muted and lively colorways to choose from.
Toe Sock: Injinji Run Lightweight No-Show
Injinji Run Lightweight No-Show
Yes, they might look bizarre, but these Injinji toe socks serve an important purpose for runners: The individual toe pockets help prevent irritation and blisters caused by your toes rubbing together while running. The unique design also allows your toes to move independently and splay out within your shoes, which can help you feel more stable on your feet. This model features a lean, seamless design, and the Coolmax polyester-nylon-elastane fabric offers superb breathability, too.
Classic Aesthetic: Tracksmith Merino Tube Sock
Tracksmith Merino Tube Sock
Tracksmith’s merino tube socks combine throwback vibes with serious performance. Although they look like something your grandpa might’ve worn during his prep school track days, they’re made from a modern blend of merino wool, polyester, and elastane, so you can expect excellent temperature regulation and a soft, comfortable feel against your feet. Plus, their ribbed texture and double stripe colorways give them an heirloom appearance—a major upgrade from the typical black and gray fare you usually get with athletic socks.
Double-layer Design: Wrightsock Coolmesh II Quarter Socks
Wrightsock Coolmesh II Quarter Socks
Wrightsock, a family-run company based in North Carolina, has been producing double-layer socks since 1990, and the Coolmesh II is its bestselling model. The double-layer construction, essentially a sock within a sock, prevents blisters and irritation on your feet: The two layers slide against each other as you run, absorbing shearing forces that would otherwise be transferred to your skin. The polyester-nylon-elastane fabric breathes well, and despite the beefed-up construction, these socks are notably light.
Breathable and Supportive: Swiftwick Aspire Zero Tab
Swiftwick Aspire Zero Tab
The Aspire Zero Tab sock features a unique fabric blend of olefin, nylon, and elastane. Olefin is the key ingredient: This synthetic fiber repels moisture, wicks sweat, and dries quickly. These properties give the Aspire superior breathability, and combined with its minimal cushioning, the sock serves up a lightweight, breezy feel on the foot. The Aspire is also designed with firm compression, so it creates a supportive wrap around your foot that can help reduce fatigue while running.
We’ve put in the work researching, reviewing and rounding up all the shirts, jackets, shoes and accessories you’ll need this season, whether it’s for yourself or for gifting purposes. Sign up here for weekly style inspo direct to your inbox.