Gear reviews, Reviews, Run

The importance of running socks

Decent running socks are an important and much overlooked piece of equipment. Good socks will last a long time and help to prevent foot problems, bad socks will cause not only surface issues such as blisters but can cause worse problems too. For me a good sock must do two things. It must:

  1. Last a long time (provide good value!)
  2. Wick moisture effectively away from your skin

The wicking is particularly important because it helps your skin to stay dry. This massively reduces the chance of blisters and toenail problems. Soft damp toenails and wrinkled soggy skin are simply not desirable to any runner and the further you go the more important it is to keep them dry.

Some socks last a long time and don’t cost much money like the Quecha Kalenji Eliofeel. These are £3.99 for two pairs from Decathlon and I Have a couple of pairs in my drawer that have done literally hundreds of short training runs. I wouldn’t use them for anything longer though because hot spots soon become apparent and the only thing they really do well is not wear out.

Some socks wick but do not last. The Karrimor Dri Max (£5 for two pairs) wick reasonably for about 20 miles of running, then they come apart.

So far I have found one sock that seems to do both, the Wigwam Trail Trax Pro (£13.99 from www.myracekit.com). It wicks beautifully and I have now run hundreds of miles in them with no obvious sign of wear. Last Saturday when I attempted my Ivybridge Everest for St Luke’s Hospice I destroyed a pair of the Dri Max socks in just a few miles and reverted to my Trail Trax Pros. The ground was so wet that my feet were sodden nearly the whole time. I changed socks three times and in 18 hours of moving forward I did not have a single foot problem. My only criticism of the Trail Trax Pro is that it is a touch warm in summer months, but they wick so well that doesn’t turn into an issue. Wigwam do have plenty of other socks in their range though, so I’m sure I can find a summer equivalent.

In addition to the list of things that a running sock should do there is something that a running sock, in my opinion, shouldn’t do. It should not interfere with the mechanics of your feet. I have tried, and binned, two pairs of expensive socks that did just that. They advertise the fact that they support your foot, however your foot is an incredibly complicated piece of equipment and it is practically impossible for something as simple as a cloth tube to provide any meaningful support, especially when it is mass produced and only comes in a few sizes.

The two socks, that caused me foot pain are:

The Compressport Socks went into a roadside bin 26 miles into an ultramarathon when they caused significant heel pain, and the X-Bionic socks went into a bin when they caused pain in my plantar fascia. I would never buy supportive socks again.

I hope that has helped you to choose a decent pair of running socks. People always seem surprised when I say that so far I have never had any significant issues with my feet, and the reasons I give are decent socks and appropriately fitting running shoes. The former is easy to advise on, but the latter is much more complicated as we are all so different. It took a lot of trial and error to settle on the Brooks Cascadia 10 as my go to trail shoe. Of course they’ll make a change when they bring out the Brooks Cascadia 11 and I’ll have to start the trial and error again!

If you have read this, but you still have foot issues and are convinced that your shoes and socks are the right ones then the book “Fixing Your Feet” by John Vonhof is an excellent read and a very handy reference. It has been regularly updated and you can get the latest version online for £11.99.

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