The 11 Best Running Socks of 2021, According to a Running Coach

Keep blisters at bay with these top picks

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Whether you’re running indoors or outdoors, your choice of running socks can make the difference between a comfortable, blissful run and a painful, miserable one. Wearing a high-quality, properly fitting pair of running socks provides essential protection and can help you avoid common foot ailments, such as foot blisters, chafing, and corns.

“Socks can help avoid rubbing between the skin on the foot and the shoe itself, such as along the back of the heel and Achilles tendon, or even along the ball of the foot and the toes,” says Jonathan Kaplan, M.D., orthopedic foot and ankle surgeon with Hoag Orthopedic Institute in Southern California. “They also provide protection externally, such as providing insulation for cool temperatures as well as support along the instep and arch to aid in absorbing the forces while running."

Here are the best running socks on the market, according to a running coach.

Our Top Picks
Best Overall for Women:
Smartwool PhD Run Elite Micro at Amazon
They feature elastic bands at the ankle, instep, and arch to offer more flexibility and faster recovery.
These extremely durable socks use stretchy, moisture-wicking fabrics, so your feet stay dry, comfortable, and blister-free.
The moisture-wicking fabric and mesh ventilation keep your feet cool, dry, and fresh.
With a seamless toe and moisture-wicking fabric, they help reduce your risk of blisters and chafing.
Made with a signature Olefin fiber that wicks away sweat, they prevent blisters from forming.
Made with an ultra-lightweight blend of nylon and spandex, these socks will keep your feet cool even during the hottest months.
Crafted with premium merino wool, these high-cut socks will keep any runner warm during low temperatures.
Help prevent blisters in a cushioned, breathable design for an all-around performance sock.
Made with organic merino wool, which has natural anti-odor and anti-microbial properties, they keep your feet fresh and odor-free.
They're made with silver ions and a well-ventilated design to help fight post-run odor.

Best Overall for Women: Smartwool PhD Run Elite Micro

Smartwool PhD Run Elite Micro Running Socks
Pros
  • Lightweight but cushioned

  • Women-specific fit

  • Good ventilation

  • Durable

Cons
  • Expensive

  • Runs small

With a narrower profile that provides a women-specific fit, these socks from Smartwool are designed for long-lasting comfort while running. They have just the right amount of cushioning you need in a running sock without being too bulky. Elastic bands at the instep and arch provide more flexibility and faster recovery.

The strategically-placed mesh vents allow for exceptional temperature and moisture management, while the seamless toe helps prevent blisters. The padded Achilles tab offers additional protection and prevents irritation on the heel. These socks come in a range of fun colors, and though they're a bit of an investment, fans say they’re worth every penny.

Materials: Merino wool, nylon, elastane | Length: Ankle | Quantity: One pair | Care: Machine wash warm gentle cycle, tumble dry low

Best Overall for Men: Balega Hidden Comfort No-Show Running Socks

Balega Hidden Comfort No Show Running Socks
Pros
  • Cushioned

  • Stays in place

  • Prevents blisters

  • Multiple color options

Cons
  • May not work for wide feet

  • Expensive

Balega Hidden Comfort running socks check all the boxes for what runners need in a pair of quality, high-performance running socks. Made of stretchy, moisture-wicking fabrics, they’ll keep your feet dry, comfortable, and blister-free. For additional comfort, they also have a high-volume, impact-resistant cushioned bottom that can hold up, no matter how hard you’re pounding the pavement.

With high heel tabs and extra-deep heel pockets, you won’t have to worry about these socks sliding down. The reinforced toe and heel help to reduce chafing and their durable polyester-blend material is designed to outlast many trips through the washer and dryer. With a wide variety of fun colors to choose from, you may find them too perfect to stop at just one pair.

Materials: Drynamix polyester, nylon, neofil, elastane | Length: Ankle | Quantity: One pair | Care: Machine wash, tumble dry low

Best Budget: Saucony Men's Multi-Pack Mesh Ventilating Comfort Fit Performance No-Show Socks

Saucony Men's Multi-Pack Ventilating Comfort Fit Socks
Pros
  • Excellent wicking capability

  • Good value

  • Very breathable

  • Lightweight cushioning

Cons
  • May lack durablity

  • Runs small

For casual runners who don’t want to invest a lot of money in running gear, these Saucony socks are comfortable and an excellent value. The moisture-wicking fabric and mesh ventilation keep your feet cool, dry, and fresh. Featuring arch support and lightweight cushioning, they have enough padding to keep your feet comfy without being too bulky or hot.

These socks come six in a pack and are all the same color, making it easy to pair them up after you pull them out of the dryer. They’re a great pick if you’re looking to stock up on comfortable, high-performance socks for running or other activities.

Materials: Polyester, spandex | Length:  No-show | Quantity: Six pairs | Care: Machine wash, air dry or tumble dry low

Best Compression Socks: Zensah Tech+ Compression Socks

Zensah Tech+ Compression Socks
Pros
  • Good for post-run recovery

  • Prevents blisters and chafing

  • Graduated compression

  • Seamless toe

Cons
  • Can get hot quickly

  • Expensive

The Zensah Compression Socks are known for their performance, quality, and comfort since they feature graduated compression to help improve your blood circulation, reduce leg fatigue, and support muscles. With a seamless toe and lightweight, moisture-wicking fabric, they also help you avoid blisters and chafing.

For added comfort, an elastic band around the foot supports your arches and prevents fatigue. Available in a range of colors and sizes, they also have a no-slip cuff that holds the sock in place, whether you're running, recovering, or standing on your feet at work.

Materials: Polyamide, elastane | Length: Over calf | Quantity: One pair | Care: Machine wash cold, no-heat dry or air dry

Best Anti-Blister: Swiftwick Performance Zero Running Socks

Swiftwick Performance Zero
Pros
  • Lightweight

  • Breathable

  • Excellent blister protection

  • Stays in place

Cons
  • Limited colors

  • Runs small

Wearing the wrong size or type of socks can lead to annoying blisters, but wearing this pair from Swiftwick can keep you pain-free. Designed with Swiftwick’s signature Olefin fiber, they wick away moisture and dry quickly for exceptional sweat management and protection against blisters. Strategically-placed ventilation provides increased breathability and prevents hot spots.

The light compression in the arch area enhances support, while the reinforced heel and toe add to the sock’s durability. Perfect for both casual running and racing, these socks stay firmly in place and won’t slide down (like many other no-show or low-cut socks). With a wide range of unisex sizes, these comfy, lightweight socks are a nice pick for summer running.

Materials: Olefin fiber | Length:  Ankle | Quantity: Three pairs | Care: Machine wash, tumble dry low

Best for Summer: Feetures Elite Ultra-Light No Show Running Socks

Feetures Elite No Show Sock
Pros
  • Moisture-wicking

  • Seamless toe

  • Strategic compression

  • Lifetime guarantee

Cons
  • Expensive

  • Too light for cold weather

The Feetures Elite Ultra-Light No Show Running Socks are especially effective at keeping your feet cool and blister-free. Made with Feetures’ iWick fibers, they keep your feet dry, while the seamless toe construction prevents uncomfortable rubbing and irritation. The lightweight fabric also prevents bulk and bunching in the toe.

Providing targeted compression in the arch area, these socks deliver support where you need it the most. Feetures stands behind the quality and durability of its products and offers a lifetime guarantee on its socks.

Materials: Nylon, spandex | Length: Ankle | Quantity: One pair | Care: Wash gentle cycle cold, tumble dry low

Best for Winter: Bombas Merino Wool Calf Socks

Bombas Merino Wool Calf Socks
Pros
  • Moisture-wicking

  • Seamless toe

  • Strategic cushioning

  • Anti-odor

Cons
  • Expensive

  • Too heavy for summer

Some winter running socks are more functional than fashionable, but these Bombas calf socks are both stylish and well-suited for cold-weather running. Made of all-natural Merino wool, they’re soft, flexible, and moisture-wicking. Merino wool also has anti-microbial properties to keep odor at bay.

Crafted with a Honeycomb Support System, they cradle the arch of your foot for ultimate support. They also feature Bombas’ Stay-Up technology, which keeps them from moving around when you're working out. And to make you feel better about your purchase, Bombas donates a pair to someone in need for every one you buy.

Materials: Merino wool | Length: Calf | Quantity: One pair | Care: Wash gentle cycle cold, tumble dry low

Best for Marathons: Asics Low-Cut Cushion Socks

ASICS Cushion Low-Cut Socks
Pros
  • Affordable

  • Excellent moisture-wicking

  • Comfortable

  • Breathable

Cons
  • Runs small

  • Some think they’re too thick

These Asics low-cut cushion socks provide the comfort, breathability, and bister protection needed for long-distance runners. Equipped with a moisture management system, they wick away sweat, while providing airflow thanks to knit-mesh panels. Plus, the soft sole cushioning delivers a cloud-like feel, even though the sock is still streamlined and lightweight.

With three pairs in a pack, these socks are a great value and ideal for marathoners who are looking to stock up on socks for training. They’re also very durable and hold up well, even after many miles and washings.

Materials: Polyester, nylon, spandex | Length: Ankle | Quantity: Three pairs | Care: Machine wash, tumble dry low

Best Unisex: Rockay Accelerate Anti-Blister Running Socks

Rockay Accelerate Anti-Blister Running Socks
Pros
  • Prevents odor

  • Excellent blister protection

  • Made from recycled materials

  • Durable

Cons
  • Runs small

  • Expensive

With strategically-placed mesh ventilation, excellent wicking capability, and seamless construction, these Rockay Accelerate running socks provide the blister protection that runners need. They’re made with a blend of recycled materials, including a regenerated nylon yarn that’s derived from marine plastic waste and landfill fabrics. Coated with Polygiene, they also prevent odor from building up.

Additionally, Rockay’s lifetime guarantee on their socks ensures that you’re getting a high-quality and reliable product. With a wide range of unisex sizes and a variety of color options, these socks are a great pick for short or distance runs.

Materials: Nylon | Length: Ankle | Quantity: One pair | Care: Machine wash, tumble dry low

Best Anti-Odor: Balega Silver No Show Running Socks

Balega Silver No Show Running Socks
Pros
  • Good for preventing foot odor

  • Seamless, reinforced toe

  • Stays in place

  • Moisture-wicking

Cons
  • Expensive

  • No solid color options

Another high-quality pick from Balega, these socks are ideal for anyone who has had issues with post-run stinky feet. Silver ions encapsulated in the fabric offer antibacterial properties, keeping your feet clean and free of odors, mold, and fungi. Additional odor protection comes from the mesh ventilation panels that encourage air flow.

Beyond their exceptional odor-fighting capabilities, these Balega socks are comfy and durable. The sock’s arch support bands provide light compression for good support, while the seamless toe box minimizes blister risk. The high heel tab and extra deep heel pocket keep the socks from slipping down into the shoe.

Materials: Polyester, nylon, elastane | Length: No-show | Quantity: One pair | Care: Machine wash, tumble dry low

Best Set: Brooks Run-In Running Socks

Brooks Run-In Socks
Pros
  • Good value

  • Stays in place

  • Targeted compression

  • Excellent wicking capability

Cons
  • Limited color options

  • Can’t buy single pair

These Brooks Run-in socks are a dependable, high-performance option for runners who like to grab a few pairs at once. They’re made from quick-drying DriLayer nylon that wicks away sweat, keeping feet comfortable and blister-free. Mesh areas on the upper foot keep the sock lightweight, while also providing cooling ventilation. 

The socks’ midfoot compression provides a supportive, secure fit. Additionally, these socks feature tabs in the front and back for easy on and off, as well as to prevent slipping and irritation. Although color options are somewhat limited, they come in a range of unisex sizes, from women’s shoe size 4 to men’s 14.

Materials: Nylon, spandex | Length:  Low-cut | Quantity: Three pairs | Care: Machine wash, tumble dry

Final Verdict

Men who are seeking comfortable, high-performance running socks can’t go wrong with Balega Hidden Comfort No-Show Running Socks (view at Amazon). They’re lightweight, breathable, and moisture-wicking, so they keep your feet protected and blister-free.

For women, the Smartwool PhD Run Light Elite Micro Running Socks (view at Zappos) are an excellent pick, thanks to their female-specific fit, light cushioning, and exceptional moisture management.

What to Look for in Running Socks

Fit

Fit is one of the most important criteria for selecting socks. “Too tight and they may hinder proper circulation and too loose and they may bunch up in your shoes,” says Paul Ronto, ultra-runner, gear expert, and chief marketing officer for RunRepeat.com. If you can’t try on the socks before purchasing, carefully review the manufacturer’s size guide to determine the right pair for you.

Running socks that are designed for a snug, secure fit will perform better and reduce your risk of blisters. Look for ones with targeted compression around the arch for a comfortable, supportive fit.

Materials

Avoid socks that are made from 100 percent cotton, since the material tends to stay wet. If your feet sweat, the moisture won’t get wicked away from your skin and can lead to cold feet in the winter and lots of foot blisters in warm weather. “Performance fibers like polyester, nylon, spandex, and wool are all better options for runners,” says Ronto.

Runners should also consider the conditions and distance of their runs when choosing socks. “Runners in hotter weather will want a material that cools and allows heat to dissipate, while those running in the wet conditions or colder weather will want a sock that is more insulated and withstands those temperatures and moisture better,” says Dr. Kaplan.

Cushioning

Some runners like thicker, more padded socks for cushioning, but many prefer thin socks for a lighter feel, especially for running in warm weather. “Running creates a lot of heat and friction, so finding a thin sock can help keep your foot's temps down and be a bit smoother in your shoe, helping with excess friction which causes blisters,” says Ronto. “Many shoes are overly padded and run warm, so if you have a really warm shoe, consider a thinner sock.” 

Length

Running socks come in various styles and lengths, from no-show to over the knee. Some runners prefer calf-high socks for more support and warmth, while those running in hot weather look for lightweight, no-show or low-cut socks. If you prefer no-show socks, just make sure they have a tab that goes above your running shoe to help keep the sock stay in place and avoid painful irritation.

FAQs

Are compression socks good for running?

Compression socks can be good for running as long as they’re used correctly and fit well, without being too tight. “It’s possible that compression socks can help pre-load the muscles, keep them energized, and may even help prevent soreness and fatigue,” says Dr. Kaplan “However, runners should take time to slowly break them in and want to make sure that they fit well throughout the entire leg, ankle, and foot without any excessive areas of looseness or tightness.”

Can you run without socks?

“Most shoes are not designed to be worn barefoot and have seams and imperfections that can cause irritation on bare skin,” says Ronto. “If you plan to run without socks, pick a shoe that is designed for it, with much more attention to detail on the interior design.”  

Are cotton socks good for running?

Cotton socks are not a good choice for running. They’ll absorb moisture, rather than wicking it away, like socks made of technical fabrics will do. Running in cotton socks can lead to discomfort, cold feet, and foot blisters.

Do you wear socks with barefoot running shoes?

Most barefoot running shoes are designed to be worn with or without socks, so it depends on your personal preference. If you do want to wear socks, you can get toe socks for barefoot shoes that have individual toe pockets.

Why Trust Verywell Fit

Certified running coach and fitness writer Christine Luff has spent years researching, testing, and recommending fitness and athletic products and knows that the right gear can tremendously improve performance and comfort.

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