A good pair of running socks can mean the difference between a blissful run and painful blisters. Here are 11 that stood out from more than 40 pairs tested.
By Jeff Dengate, Runners World
Wrightsock Stride ($13)
Testers loved the Stride's silky feel. That's thanks to two independent layers that are stitched together at the toe and collar, as if you were wearing two socks, to reduce friction without adding bulk.
BEST IN WINTER
Falke RU Stabilizer ($28)
With its high, over-the-ankle cut, the RU Stabilizer bridges any gap between your pant leg and shoe. Testers liked the sensation of extra foot and ankle support that the tight-fitting sock offers.
Brooks Infiniti Double Tab Mesh ($15)
An anatomical cut—there's a left and right sock—allows the Infiniti Double Tab Mesh to more closely hug the contours of your feet. Padded strips protect the top of the foot and the joint at the base of the big toe.
New Balance Technical Elite NBx ($12)
Small diamond-shaped cushions in the forefoot and heel of the "ultra-thin mesh ventilation" model soften your landing without any of the added weight or bulk of thicker socks, making these an ideal choice for going fast. The arch wraps tighter than most, to keep the sock from slipping, even at a quick pace.
FOR THE LONG RUN
Smartwool PhD Run Ultralight Mini ($16)
This extremely thin merino-and-nylon model proved to be durable over many miles, in part because of extra wool in the toes and heel. "They held their shape well throughout long runs of 10 to 12 miles and speedwork," says one tester. Elastic bands wrap the arch and ankle to keep the sock firmly in place.
Feetures! Elite Merino+ Ultralight No Show Tab ($15)
Fine merino wool and smooth rayon make these socks soft—and slippery, say some testers, though the condition improved after a few washings. The natural antimicrobial properties of wool mean these won't stink up your gym bag. "I wish they would reproduce in my sock drawer so I could own more of them," says one tester.
Swiftwick Vibe Zero ($13)
With its stretchy top and slightly thicker bottom, the Vibe was largely praised by our wear-testers for its snug-but-not-suffocating feel on the foot. The sock is totally seam-free, a good thing given how tightly the fabric hugs your foot. The "Zero" cut "is perfect, just below the ankle," says one tester, and a spandex cuff keeps it from sliding.
BEST FOR WOMEN
Balega Ultra Light No Show ($12)
Women runners in particular loved the added cushioning in the heel and toe that gives this sock a slightly plush feel despite its light weight. And the slim cut stays put even on runners with narrow heels. "There's a little roll at the back of the sock," says one tester, "which kept the sock from slipping into my shoe."
Thorlo Experia Merino Wool/Silk ($18)
Beefy socks lead to sweltering feet. But the ankle-length Experia has gobs of padding in the heel and forefoot, yet feels breezy on even the hottest days thanks to a silky mesh midfoot. A drawback: frosty feet in colder conditions. "The air on my foot felt like cold water," says one runner who tested these in wintry weather.
Drymax Running Lite Mesh No Show Tab ($9)
How dry do these socks keep your feet? One tester claims they helped relieve the itching caused by her athlete's foot infection. Credit that in part to the mesh top and extra breathability in the spandex arch band. Even so, testers found the sock thick enough to be worn comfortably when the weather turned cold.
BEST BLISTER PROTECTION
Injinji Performance 2.0 Trail ($15)
While they may look strange—"my wife laughed at me," laments one tester—these socks isolate each toe to eliminate nearly all friction and prevent blisters on even the longest of runs. Getting your feet into them, however, can be a serious test of endurance, especially for those of us with crooked digits.
Wigwam Venti Pro ($12)
This super-lightweight acrylic sock is thin enough that you can still feel the ground, which testers in minimal shoes appreciated. The thin fabric and open mesh top help the sock dry faster, decreasing your risk of blisters. Chitosan, found in the shells of crabs, is integrated into the fibers to fight odor.
FOR HEAVY SWEATERS
PowerSox Advanced Dry ($11 for 2 pairs)
Moisture is one of the biggest causes of blisters, but that's no problem here thanks to a breezy mesh that spans toe-to-ankle. Under the foot, there’s plenty of material for a comfortable ride. "The cushioning in the toes and heel is generous enough to keep the foot warm and shielded,” says one tester. Not too shabby for one of the most affordable running socks we’ve tried.
Hilly Trail Anklet ($16)
We don't often recommend cotton, but wear-testers loved the Trail Anklet. "I was disappointed whenever they were in the wash,” says one tester. The inside of the sock is spun of polypropylene yarn, with just a thin layer of cotton on the outside, so moisture is quickly moved away from the foot. Silver fibers are woven into the fabric to keep odors at a minimum.
Darn Tough Run/Bike No Show Cushion ($14)
The name says it all: these are built to last. One tester wore them in a Tough Mudder—both runner and the socks survived. The Merino wool bottom is padded and further reinforced in the heel and toe to withstand mile after mile on the roads. Nylon and spandex in the top give just enough stretch to hold the socks firmly in place and offer some breathability.