What Socks Knock Your Socks Off?

Socks, once the most boring of running apparel, have undergone an evolutionary explosion in recent years. No longer are your only choices white or striped, knee or ankle, and thin or thick. Now you need too decide what feature is crucial. Is it the toed socks from Injini, right and left footed socks from Keen, built-in gaiters made by Inov-8, or something else entirely. Once you make that call you might need a PhD to choose from all the various advanced wicking and support technologies included in socks, including those from Smartwool.

Not to be left out in the cold, er… warming, the Earth First!ers out there now have plenty of enlightened sock options into which they can slide their demure carbon footprints. Even a single company, Teko, spins their yarn and your eco-minded minds with offerings of merino wool, recycled plastic, organic cotton, and corn. Yes, corn. [December 2009 Update: It appears that Teko has discontinued both its organic cotton and corn-based Ingeo lines of socks.]

Ok, take a breathe and please don’t wish yourself the days of blue and orange striped tube socks just yet. It just so happens that the runner-in-chief at iRunFar is in search of a new socks and he, too, has been left staring blankly into the ethers of the Internets after being presented with such choices. (He has been for 3 whole months. Just him… staring… at the Internets since he started this post a full quarter year ago.) With all the great feedback iRunFar readers gave to the recent Diversity of Trail Shoes post, we’ll open up discussion in hopes that you can sort out this socky subject for Bryon and the rest of the iRunFar readers.

Please share what socks and sock features you’ve found really work for you and which don’t.

  • Do you have a favorite make of socks?
  • Any sock horror stories?
  • What do sock makers get wrong most often or, put another way, what feature do most socks lack to their detriment, and, just for fun, what is your wildest fantasy sock feature?(Ours is a sock that turn sweat into bourbon, but we’ll settle for beer.)

Comment Summary [Updated 7/8/08]
So far iRunFar readers have left informative comments regarding the following brands of socks:

  • Balegas
  • Drymax
  • Feetures
  • Injinji
  • Salomon compression socks (Exo Calf)
  • Smartwool
  • Teko
  • Underarmor
  • Wigwam
  • Wright Socks

Others have also discussed their preferences for thin socks in general as well as no socks at all.

There are 29 comments

  1. Meredith

    For long runs and races i wear injinji wool socks (preferably the purple ones!) with a wool Wright sock over them. For shorter runs i like Balega socks or Smartwool socks. I have never gotten my Balega's wet, but my husband did and said that they were very wet, unlike wool socks that dry out pretty darn fast. Balegas, though, feel like heaven on my feet :)

  2. MN Ultra Runner

    I wear Feetures due to the most important feature…they've never caused my feet any problems.By the way, I've also changed my trail shoe to the Roclite 320 after being on the losing end of a battle with a rock wearing my Asics trail shoes.

  3. bgill

    Most of my socks are Smartwool, but I have a pair of the Injinji Performance and I love the separated toes. However, this past weekend I did a long/wet run in them and they got and stayed soaked for quite a while. I'll want to try some out the Outdoor version to see if their wool drys any better. I also read this post yesterday about Drymax socks and how well they work, so I'd like to hear how those bad boys hold up, too.

  4. Dan Rose

    Regular Wright Socks work for me. No blisters, no problems. Ever. Of course a shoe that fits correctly plays a roll in that as well. I usually get about 2500 miles in them before replacement is needed.

  5. Travis

    I use the Smartwool PhD Ultra Light Mini Crew socks. My main complaint on the Smartwool Mini crew is that since the cuff and the body of the sock are 2 different pieces, the cuff starts to pull away before the sock wears out. The PhD mini crew keeps more debris out then the micro mini. My complaint with the micro mini is that the cuff on the back creates a gap and lets dirt and grit get caught easier, but for road use, they are fine. I've tried injini's, Brooks (left and right), some 2 layer socks, and I always come back to Smartwool. It's hard for me to argue with no blisters.

  6. Hart

    teko socks are hands down the best socks i've ever tried. prior to that i used smartwool but i found that after a couple races they would be worn through. my teko ecopoly socks last seasons, not races. i guess i'm tough on my socks.

  7. Meredith

    I think DryMax were the socks they gave out at Umstead 100 in April? If so, they were not bad. They are very not-soft to the touch. That was my only complaint. I have not tried them on long runs, but they were fine for short runs.

  8. Mike

    Injinji's with an Inov-8 Mudsoc over top. On most of my runs my feet get soaked but I've yet to get a blister. They don't dry out as fast as some others though.

  9. Clara

    I wear any kind of sock that's SUPER thin. I don't see how people can stand to wear the thick socks…even if you're running on crazy rocks and roots. Anything thicker than 1mm makes my feet feel suffocated and sweaty. Mmmmm.

  10. Anonymous

    I like injinji but most of the time use smartwool mini crews with med cushion. They are comfortable under all conditions (temperature range, dry-wet etc), reliable, don't cause problems, and the slight amount of cushion makes it harder to feel the callus "knots" or whatever they are on the bottom of my feet.dogrunner

  11. Sunshine Girl

    What about those sexy new Salomon knee-high Compression Socks? You need a pair of those to test-drive! Especially with a matching pair of short-shorts….

  12. atwell

    I stopped wearing socks a few months ago, and its working for me. With no socks, I think your feet are drier and lighter. I recently did the Mohican 100 with no socks and didn't have any trouble.

  13. Mike Wedemeyer

    I love the wright socks, and even get a lot of use out of the several pairs with holes. They end up being my work socks.Bryon, I was wondering if iRunFar could do a survey on the approximate miles of driving or weekly cost in gas devoted to running or training. I am off for a 12 mile drive to run in Forest Park here in Oregon right now. That is approximately 24 miles round trip, which is roughly 4 dollars. And then considering the other trips to go running in the week. Fortunately, I can ride my bike 5 miles to the trails,which cuts back on costs/emissions. I am wondering how many out there have the fortunate opportunity to hit the trails from their front door. I am fortunate to be able to cruise the pavement for a few miles up to the trails on Mt. Tabor that offer nice views of Portland. That too cuts back on gas. Mike Wedemeyer

  14. aerojust

    The standard injinji toe socks are what I have been wearing lately, esp on longer runs when it is hot. I like to wear a medium weight smart wool sock when it is cooler and I know my feet will not be soaked. When my feet get soaked with the smart wool I get blisters, this has not been a problem with the thinner injinji socks. They have also prevented between the toe blisters when it is hot out.

  15. aerojust

    Almost forgot – I like to wear Under Armor socks for road runs under 10 miles or so. I think their apparel is overpriced and not as good as advertised, but I have a liking for the socks.

  16. Trail Goat

    Thanks everyone for your comments re the following socks:InjinjiSmartwoolBalegasFeeturesDrymaxWright SocksTekoSalomon compression socks (Exo Calf)WigwamUnderarmorFolks also discussed the advantages of very thin socks and wearing no socks at all.

  17. Trail Goat

    Sunshine Girl,If you can find me a pair of the a pair of the Salomon Exo Calves, I'll be sure to show of their and my super sexiness with short-shorts to boot at TransRockies.Wedemeyer,Thanks for joining the iRunFar crowd! :-) That's a great poll idea. I look into putting something up in the near future.

  18. Toods

    I'm very new to the whole trail running thang, and recently invested in a few pairs of Wright Socks. Love them. I'm used to running in cushy poly blend, but I could really get used to the thin, super-wicking powers of Wright. I had a couple issues with some gravel jumping in along the way, but nothing I couldn't ignore. Did an 11-miler this past weekend and when I took my shoes and socks off…completely dry. And it was hot out too! They didn't fall either, which was great for the backs of my heels. My biggest gripe is socks falling on runs. That's when I get nasty blisters. The Wright's held up great! I'm a fan :)

  19. Trail Goat

    Toods,Thanks for sharing your thoughts re Wright Socks. I haven't tried them in a really long time, but from what I've heard, they are a high quality brand. If you read this, I'd love to hear which brands you've had problems with their socks falling down. I can't say that I've oft had that problem.

  20. Toods

    Nike socks always fall on me. My heels are nearly immune to blisters now from all the blistering I've gotten over the years! I'm sticking to Wright from now on, and really want to give Injinji a try.

  21. Weldon

    Drymax socks, for sure, if I know my feet are going to get wet. For hot/dry conditions, feetures or bridgedale have been pretty decent so far.

  22. Paul Bateson

    Wool everytime, best in the high temps we get out here in Andalucia. Injinji toe socks (wool) for use in road shoes, Injinji with Teko over top for the longer ultra/stage races. Teko are fantastic, well fitting, don't go baggy and feet don't get wet/sweaty. I find any synthetic socks become hard and uncomfortable and I think coolmax is the worst fabric for use in a sock.

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