The Best Winter Running Socks a Running Coach Thinks You Should Try

Keep toes toasty in the cold with the Smartwool PhD Run Cold Weather Crew Socks

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When you’re running outdoors in the winter, your choice of running socks can make a huge difference in your performance and comfort level. Wearing high-quality, properly fitting socks provides protection from the cold and the right socks can also help you avoid common foot ailments, such as blisters, chafing, corns, and bunions. Socks for winter running need excellent insulation and moisture-wicking capabilities, but shouldn’t feel too bulky or thick.

Reviewed & Approved

Our top overall pick is the Smartwool PhD Run Cold Weather Mid Crew socks for their narrow profile and plenty of cushioning without added bulk. The Darn Tough Men's 1/4 Lightweight Socks are a good choice for their moisture-wicking and odor-resistant properties and they have a lifetime guarantee.

“Wearing socks while running is especially important as they provide an additional layer of protection for the feet,” says Jonathan Kaplan, MD, orthopedic foot and ankle surgeon with Hoag Orthopedic Institute in Southern California. We chose the best winter running socks by researching the details and reviews for more than 40 running socks. We evaluated them on warmth, durability, price, performance, value, materials, design, and technology. We also consulted runners and running coaches about features they look for in winter running socks and which ones they recommend.

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

Best Overall for Women: Smartwool PhD Run Cold Weather Mid Crew

4.6
Smartwool PhD® Run Cold Weather Mid Crew

Courtesy of Smartwool

Pros
  • Comfortable and breathable

  • Soft and flexible

  • Female-specific fit

  • Cushioned but not bulky

Cons
  • Expensive

  • Limited color options

Offering exceptional protection from wind and cold, Smartwool PhD Run Cold Weather Mid-Crew running socks are cushioned without feeling bulky which makes them a top pick for cold weather running. They have a narrower profile that provides a women-specific fit and are made of high-quality Merino wool, nylon, and elastane to offer premium comfort, a secure fit, enhanced durability, and odor protection. The strategically-placed mesh ventilation zones allow for excellent moisture management and breathability, while the seamless toe adds to the overall comfort.

Smartwool’s 4 Degree Elite Fit System features elastic bands at the ankle, instep, and arch, to offer more stretch, flexibility, and faster recovery. It also helps to keep the socks in place, so they won’t bunch and slip, which can be irritating and lead to blisters. Like most quality running socks, you’ll pay a bit more for them, but cold weather runners say they’re worth the investment. They’re available in women’s shoe sizes 4 to 13.

Materials: Wool, nylon, elastane | Length: Mid-crew | Quantity per purchase: One pair | Care: Machine wash, tumble dry low

Best Overall for Men: Darn Tough Men's 1/4 Lightweight Sock

Darn Tough Men's 1/4 Lightweight Sock

Courtesy of Darn Tough

Pros
  • Stretchy and flexible

  • Excellent wicking capability

  • Lifetime guarantee

  • Odor-resistant

Cons
  • Limited color options

  • Too heavy for warmer weather

Durable and dependable, these Darn Tough socks certainly live up to their name. Made from a blend of merino wool, nylon, and spandex, they’re stretchy, breathable, and have excellent wicking capabilities. The smooth, undetectable toe seam and full mesh instep enhance the overall comfort, and because they hit just above the ankle, they eliminate any gaps between your running tights and sock line.

For long runs on the road or trails, these socks provide the comfort and durability you want in winter running socks. Available in five sizes from S to XXL, they’re also odor-resistant. Even better, Darn Tough has a lifetime guarantee for all their socks, so you can get a brand-new pair if they develop any holes, wear, or tear.

Materials: Merino wool, nylon, spandex | Length: Ankle | Quantity per purchase: One pair | Care: Machine wash

Best Unisex: Feetures Merino 10 Cushion Crew Sock

Feetures Merino 10 Cushion Crew Sock

Courtesy of Feetures

Pros
  • Lifetime replacement guarantee

  • Targeted compression

  • Durable

  • Breathable and moisture-wicking

Cons
  • Limited color options

  • May be too tight for very wide feet

Feetures is well-known for its durable running socks, and its Merino 10 Cushion Crew is no exception. Designed with a blend of Merino wool and Tencel, the socks offer the right combination of support and comfort. The fabric is also breathable, odor-resistant, and moisture-wicking, and the seamless toe construction helps to prevent uncomfortable rubbing and blisters.

They’re low-profile enough that they won’t feel bulky, but they still provide plenty of protection and insulation for running in the cold. With targeted compression in the arch area, these socks deliver support exactly where you need it most.

These socks are available in unisex sizing, offering a range of options from S-XL. With a lifetime guarantee, Feetures stands behind the quality and durability of its products, so you know you’re getting an exceptional pair.

Materials: Merino wool, Tencel | Length: Crew | Quantity per purchase: One pair | Care: Machine wash cold, hang dry

Best Budget: Saucony Comfort Fit Performance Crew Socks

Saucony Comfort Fit Performance Crew Socks

Courtesy of Saucony

Pros
  • Good value

  • Breathable and moisture-wicking

  • Lightweight cushioning

  • Comfortable

Cons
  • May lack durability

  • Run small

Cold weather running socks are often expensive, but these quality pairs from Saucony are a fantastic choice for stocking up at an affordable price. The moisture-wicking fabric and venting technology keeps your feet dry and fresh. With targeted arch support, they have enough compression for a snug but comfortable fit. Lightweight cushioning enhances the overall comfort without feeling too bulky.

These socks come six in a pack, with a few different color options to choose from. Available in men’s shoe sizes 8 to 15, they’re an excellent pick if you need to beef up your winter running sock collection and don’t want to break the bank.

Materials: Polyester, spandex | Length:  Crew | Quantity per purchase: Six pairs | Care: Machine wash, air dry or tumble dry low

Best for Blister Prevention: Balega Blister Resist Crew Socks

Balega Blister Resist Crew Socks

Courtesy of Balega

Pros
  • Good for blister-prone feet

  • Stay in place

  • Unisex sizing

  • Comfortable fit

Cons
  • Limited color options

  • No natural odor protection

If you’ve had issues with foot blisters during or after runs, these Balega Blister Resist crew socks are a great option for winter running. They're made of Drynamix and mohair, an ideal blend for keeping feet dry and blister-free. The Drynamix pushes the moisture away from the skin, while the ultra-soft mohair helps to regulate temperature and minimize friction.

With an extra deep heel pocket and elastic top grip, these socks stay put, so you don’t have to worry about them sliding, bunching, or rubbing your feet. The seamless construction further protects you from irritation, while the microfiber mesh ventilation panels prevent your feet from overheating.

Perfect for long, cold-weather runs, they also feature a wide arch band and lightweight cushioning that keeps your feet comfy, no matter how many miles you’re running. They come in unisex sizes S-XL.

Materials: Nylon Drynamix, mohair, microfiber, elastane | Length: Crew | Quantity per purchase: One pair | Care: Machine wash

Best for Really Cold Weather: Bombas Merino Wool Adventure Calf Socks 4-Pack

4.8
Bombas wool hiking socks

Bombas

Pros
  • Moisture-wicking and anti-chafing

  • Anti-odor

  • Very comfortable

  • Strategic cushioning

Cons
  • Too heavy for hot weather

  • Expensive

These Bombas socks are stylish and comfortable, but they also keep your feet well-protected and blister-free during cold-weather runs. Made of all-natural Merino wool, they’re incredibly soft, moisture-wicking, and have natural insulation and anti-microbial properties.

Designed with Bombas’ unique Honeycomb Support System, they hug the arch of your foot for ultimate support and comfort. Plus, they’re flexible, stretchy, and feature Bombas’ Stay-Up technology, which keeps them from sliding and moving around.

Available in multiple sizes, they fit women’s shoe sizes 4 to 13. With a wide variety of colors (plus the fact that Bombas donates a pair to those affected by homelessness for every one purchased), it’s tough to stop at just one pair. 

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

Best Toe Socks: Injinji Liner Crew Toesocks

Injinji Liner Crew Socks

Courtesy of REI

Pros
  • Good for layering

  • Odor-resistant

  • Excellent blister protection

  • Comfortable, secure fit

Cons
  • Air drying recommended

  • Not very warm

If you want to wear two pairs of socks for extra warmth and protection, these Injinji Liner Crew Toesocks serve as an excellent base layer. Designed with five separate toe sleeves, the sock fits your foot like a glove, helping your toes align and splay properly to enhance the natural function of your foot. Plus, the five-toe construction prevents skin-on-skin friction that can lead to blisters.

The blend of Merino wool, Lycra, acrylic, and nylon provides a streamlined, custom fit that works well under an outer sock and keeps your feet dry and comfortable. Available in men’s shoe sizes 5 to 14, these socks are also naturally odor-resistant and can work as a standalone sock in warmer weather.

Materials: Merino wool, acrylic, nylon, Lycra | Length: Crew | Quantity per purchase: One pair | Care: Machine wash, line dry

Best Waterproof: Sealskinz Unisex Waterproof Cold Weather Mid Length Sock

Sealskinz Unisex Waterproof Cold Weather Mid Length Sock

Courtesy of Sealskinz

Pros
  • Waterproof

  • Unisex sizing

  • Mid-length fit

  • Comfortable and durable

Cons
  • Sizing runs small

  • Expensive

If there’s snow or rain in the forecast, you don’t need to forego your outdoor run thanks to these socks from Sealskinz. They feature an innovative three-layer construction that places a unique hydrophilic membrane between a Merino wool interior and a nylon blend exterior to keep your feet warm and dry. With four-way stretch and flat seams, the sock also provides a close fit to prevent chafing and blisters, while ensuring comfort.

These durable and dependable socks are pricey, but worth it for anyone who wants truly waterproof socks for protection on the run. They’re available in unisex sizing with four different color and size options.

Materials: Polypropylene, Merino wool, polyester, nylon, elastane | Length: Crew | Quantity per purchase: One pair | Care: Hand-wash

Best for Plantar Fasciitis: Sockwell Plantar Cush Crew Sock

Sockwell Plantar Cush Crew Sock

Courtesy of Sockwell

Pros
  • Light compression

  • Cushioned sole

  • Good for plantar fasciitis

  • Moisture-wicking

Cons
  • Expensive

  • Run small

Plantar fasciitis, or inflammation of the plantar fascia, can be painful and keep you sidelined from running. Getting relief from this common foot pain can be as easy as pulling on socks, thanks to this pair from Sockwell.

They’re designed to soothe and comfort your feet while providing support to your plantar fascia and Achilles tendon. The graduated compression improves circulation and reduces swelling, while the lightly cushioned sole relieves pain and reduces fatigue.

Made with a high-performance blend of Merino wool, rayon, nylon, and spandex, these durable socks offer natural moisture management and odor control, keeping your feet dry and fresh. They come in a variety of fun and neutral colors and fit women’s shoe sizes 4 to 11.

Materials: Merino wool, rayon, nylon, spandex | Length: Crew | Quantity per purchase: One pair | Care: Machine wash

Best for Trail Running: Swiftwick Pursuit Four Trail Running Crew Socks

Swiftwick Pursuit Four Trail Running Crew Socks

Courtesy of Swiftwick

Pros
  • Durable

  • Good cushioning

  • Moisture-wicking and fast-drying

  • Light compression

Cons
  • Limited color options

  • Too heavy for warm weather

Whether you’re hitting local trails for a short run or racing an ultramarathon in the backcountry, these trail running socks from Swiftwick provide the protection your feet need for cold weather running. Constructed with soft, moisture-wicking Merino wool, they provide warmth while also keeping feet dry and blister-free.

These socks hit above the ankle and feature a double cuff construction, offering extra support for trail running. A reinforced heel and toe boost durability, while the medium cushioning helps to absorb impact and enhance comfort. Additionally, the contoured arch support provides light compression and keeps the socks in place. Available in four options of unisex sizes, these socks are a great addition to any trail runner’s winter running wardrobe.

Materials: Merino wool, nylon, spandex | Length: Ankle | Quantity per purchase: One pair | Care: Machine wash, tumble dry low

Best for Bunions: Sockwell Bunion Relief Crew Sock

Sockwell Bunion Relief Crew Sock

Courtesy of Sockwell

Pros
  • Helpful for bunion relief

  • Odor-resistant

  • Comfy arch support

  • Good wicking capability

Cons
  • Expensive

  • Too tight for some

If you suffer from painful bunions, or bony bumps on the outside of your big toe, these socks from Sockwell can give you some easy relief. They feature a cushioned toe pocket with anatomical padding that protects against abrasion from your shoes and discomfort from overlapping toes. Beyond the helpful design, the blend of soft, naturally wicking Merino wool and bamboo rayon eliminates friction and controls foot odor.

Light cushioning on the sole and arch support offers a comfortable fit and helps to keep the sock from shifting and bunching. Available in women’s shoe sizes 4 to 11, they come in a crew height, which works well for cold weather running.

The split-toe style may take some getting used to at first, but you’ll be hooked once you notice the difference.

Materials: Merino wool, bamboo rayon, nylon, spandex | Length: Crew | Quantity per purchase: One pair | Care: Machine wash warm, tumble dry low heat

Final Verdict

Men who want comfortable, high-performance running socks for cold weather running can’t go wrong with Darn Tough Men's 1/4 Lightweight Socks (view at Amazon). The durable socks provide good insulation, but are also breathable and moisture-wicking, so they keep your feet blister-free.

For women, the Smartwool PhD Run Cold Weather Mid-Crew Running Socks (view at Zappos) are a solid choice, thanks to their female-specific fit, excellent moisture management, soft and comfy fabric, and supportive cushioning.

What To Look For in Winter Running Socks

Fit

Fit is one of the biggest factors for choosing running socks. “A running sock should have a snug fit but should not be too tight,” says Dr. Kaplan. “Ideally, it’s reinforced with extra stitching or alternative supportive materials along the arch, instep, and the heel including the Achilles and plantar fascia.”

Socks that fit snugly and securely will reduce your risk of blisters and won’t fall down, which is especially important when running in cold weather to avoid exposing skin. Look for ones that have targeted compression in the arch area to get a comfortable, supportive fit. If you’re purchasing socks online, make sure to review the manufacturer’s size guide to determine the right pair for you.

Cushioning

For cold weather running, socks can be a bit thicker, with some padded cushioning for extra comfort and impact protection. However, even though overheating is not as much of a concern as it is in warm weather, you still don’t want an extremely thick sock. Look for socks with light to medium cushioning.

Materials

When shopping for running socks, you should carefully consider the materials. “You want the socks to wick moisture away from your feet,” says Steve Stonehouse, NASM CPT, USATF certified run coach and director of education for STRIDE, an indoor running franchise. “If your feet are dry, then they have a better chance of staying warm.” 

Choose socks made from moisture-wicking materials to avoid cold, wet feet that can lead to blisters and serious issues such as numb toes, frostbite, and hypothermia.

“Cotton socks absorb sweat and stay wet when running, so performance fibers like polyester, spandex, nylon, and wool are all better options,” says Paul Ronto, ultra-runner, gear expert, and chief marketing officer for RunRepeat.com.

Merino wool is commonly used in high-performance winter running socks since it has natural odor-resistant and moisture-wicking properties. It’s softer and thinner than regular wool and allows air to be trapped to help insulate you against the cold.

Length

Running socks come in various lengths, from no-show to over the knee, and most brands give multiple options for their cold-weather versions.

Some runners like crew, calf, or knee-high socks for more support and warmth, while others who run in full-length tights prefer ankle-high models. If you wear shorter socks, just keep in mind that some socks, like no-show ones, may leave a gap between your pants and tights and your sock. So you’ll have to consider whether or not you want some skin exposed.

Anatomic Shape

If you've been wearing shapeless tube socks for running, you run the risk of having the fabric bunch in your shoes and irritate your skin. Running socks are constructed to hug the contours of your feet so this potential source of blisters is eliminated.

Look for running socks that have an elastic arch lock to keep your socks in place. Some are designed specifically for men and women to match the typical shapes of feet for each gender. You can even find socks labeled for the left foot and right foot.

These socks may even provide the sensation of added arch support while running. The actual support they offer is minimal, but they may be able to boost your comfort level.

Double Layers

Some runners choose to wear double-layer socks for additional blister protection. These socks are designed with inner and outer socks that are connected—providing an air layer in between to help with wicking moisture away from the foot.

Varied Thickness

Another great feature is padded soles, which can give your heels some extra cushion. Although some runners like thicker socks for additional cushioning, others prefer thin socks for a lighter feel, especially in warmer weather. Other things to look for are a seam-free toe section, which can further reduce your risk of blisters.

Different Heights

Running socks come in various heights, from no-show to knee-highs. If you prefer no-show socks, just make sure that they have a tab that goes above your running shoe and over your Achilles, so your shoe isn’t digging into or irritating your skin.

Compression

Compression running socks or compression sleeves have become popular with runners. These socks have a very snug fit and may take longer to put on. Some are even made out of medical-grade materials. They are designed to help return blood flow uphill to your heart. Compression socks are often used for post-run recovery, and while some runners wear them during workouts, you should get adjusted to using them regularly before committing to them for a long run.

When shopping for running shoes, make sure you try on shoes with the socks you're going to be running in, because some socks will require you to go up a half-size.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Are compression socks good for running?

    Compression socks can help keep runners’ lower leg muscles energized and may even help prevent soreness and fatigue. “Compression socks can be good for running as long as they are used correctly,” says Dr. Kaplan. “The key is that they should be well-fitting but not too tight.”

    Runners should ease into using them and make sure they fit well throughout the entire leg, ankle, and foot without feeling too tight or loose in any area.

  • Can you run without socks?

    Most shoes are not designed to be worn without socks and they have seams that can irritate bare skin, causing blisters, calluses, corns, and other painful issues.

    “Socks also help with odor control, shoes can become stinky as we all know, but running barefoot exacerbates that issue greatly,” says Ronto. “Odor is a result of bacteria and fungus growth, which can also lead to foot issues, so it’s best to don some socks when running.”

    If you prefer to run without socks, pick a shoe that’s specifically designed for barefoot running.

  • Are cotton socks good for running?

    “Cotton is terrible at keeping you dry. It’s called a 'water-loving' fabric because its molecules are attracted to the opposite molecules in water,” says Stonehouse. “That’s why cotton is great for bath towels but terrible for socks.”

    Rather than cotton socks, runners should choose ones made from wool or technical fabrics such as polyester, Spandex, and nylon. They’ll wick away moisture to keep feet warm and blister-free, without compromising breathability.

  • Do you wear socks with barefoot running shoes?

    Most barefoot running shoes are designed to be worn with or without socks, so whether you want to wear them depends on your preference, as well as the conditions. If you’re running in cold or wet weather, you’ll probably want to wear socks for extra protection and warmth. If your barefoot running shoes have individual toe pockets, you can get toe socks to wear in them.

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. Christine understands the importance of thoroughly researching products to only recommend the best in class.