Socks – one of the most critical pieces for running and weighing only few grams and also the fact that most of us buy it without thinking too much about them… just like the shoes we buy which look greaaat!
Your choice of running socks can be the difference between a comfortable, pain-free run and a painful one. Wearing the wrong type of socks can lead to foot blisters, chafing, corns and other issues. Some runners run in the wrong socks for years before they realize how much better their feet could feel in the right type of socks.
A good pair of running socks should be made of moisture-wicking fabrics, such as polyester, acrylic or even a wool and nylon blend. When choosing socks for running, the most important factor to consider is the material. You want to stay away from 100 percent cotton socks. Once cotton gets wet, it stays wet. When your feet sweat or you step in a puddle, the moisture won’t get wicked away. Wearing cotton socks in the winter will make your feet feel cold and clammy. In the summer, sweaty feet will increase your risk of blisters. The best running socks are ones that are made from synthetic materials such as polyester and acrylic because these fibers wick moisture away from the surface of your skin. You may be familiar with these fabrics for technical running shirts, and they work great on your feet as well. Look for a breathable, anti-chafing material for all of your running clothes.
A correct fitting sock should do three things: protect your feet, be comfortable and wick away moisture. Resist the urge to just buy a pair of “athletic socks.” Look for a pair designed specifically for running, even if they’re on the expensive side.
In comparison to regular socks, running socks are built with cushioning in mind, which is especially important when you’re pounding the pavement day after day. A good pair of running socks will also have a tight feel around the mid-foot and heel, but plenty of room for your toes. Running socks also 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 socks for runners are a super strong elastic sock, typically worn up to the knee. They compress veins on the surface of your leg, as well as arteries and muscles, so that blood is circulated through your legs through smaller circulatory channels. Blood gets back to your heart faster, making it less likely to pool into your feet.
Most brands apply graduated compression, meaning they are tighter around the ankle, and less so at the knee, which makes them tricky to put on. Since leg sizes vary, you can find compression socks to match your foot and calf size. Make sure they aren’t too tight – they shouldn’t feel like a tourniquet!
For athletes, compression socks are designed to reduce swelling, muscle soreness, and muscle fatigue experienced post exercise.
According to one study, most compression sock manufactures claim they aid athletic performance by improving circulation and blood flow, limiting exercise induced peripheral edema of the lower extremity, supplying muscles with more oxygen, enhancing lactic acid removal, or decreased muscle soreness during and post exercise.
The perceived benefit here is that if you can circulate blood faster back to your heart, you can regenerate blood quicker to your legs.
There is a lot of debate on whether or not compression socks for runners perform as advertised. Some runners love them, while some find no benefit at all.
The study I read looked at distance runners who wore them during a 2 hr run, and then again 8 hours post run. Their findings indicated that there was not a statistically relevant benefit from wearing compression socks.
I have worn my compression socks on many long runs, marathons and post runs also. In my experience, my legs felt better than they normally would after each activity. I felt less sore and more “recovered.” It was as if 1,000 little fingers were giving me a calf massage.
While my experience is hardly conclusive evidence that compression socks work, there’s no denying that these things are comfortable to wear.
Should you try ? – If you have a specific goal in mind for your next race, or are especially sore going into it, you may want to pick up a pair. Can’t hurt, right? Try wearing them after every run and see how you feel.