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Workout socks are often an afterthought to your activewear look — the result of a quick grab into your drawer before lacing up your favorite pair of running shoes or weightlifting shoes. But your socks are almost as important as your workout shoes for boosting performance. “With the right sock, you decrease friction within those shoes and help wick away some the excess moisture during a workout,” says Florida-based podiatrist Dr. Jay Seidel. Unfortunately, not all socks are created equal. Avid runners need different socks than people who perform CrossFit several times a week. Regular walkers might want an ankle sock to match their walking sneakers, while tall, thick socks can be the best match for your hiking boots.
Fabric: This is quite possibly the most important quality of your sock. Natural fibers like wool and cotton help with moisture management, while nylon is smooth. The thickness is also a factor to think about since you might want more padding when hiking and a lightweight fit for your cycling cleat. Also, consider buying styles that have anti-odor or anti-fungal properties to decrease the possibility of infection and keep feet smelling fresh.
Style: The style of your workout socks is also a matter of preference, but the activity you’re performing can sway your selection. No-show socks that won’t peak out of your shoes can be a choice for running and work great with any indoor spin shoe. Mid-calf socks are excellent for cycling or cross-training for protection with weights. “Activities that include higher impact, such as jump rope, jogging and Zumba, would definitely benefit from additional cushioning to help alleviate heel pain,” Dr. Seidel states. “For activities such as basketball, soccer and tennis where you’re weight-bearing and putting greater strain on the ligaments and muscles on the bottom of your feet, you’ll want a sock that provides arch support and compression to alleviate arch discomfort.”
Fit: Your socks should have a snug fit while working out, so there isn’t any bunching or slipping. You want your feet to feel supported the minute you slip them on. Compression socks are tighter and increase circulation, making them great for longer activities and reducing muscle fatigue after a rigorous workout. Compression socks will also prevent swelling and alleviate pain.
Above all, when shopping for the best workout socks, “it’s important to keep in mind comfortability, durability and breathability,” says Kristen Pandolph, VP of product engineering and innovation at Bombas. These factors will make a difference during your workouts and with recovery.
Your drawer should also have a variety of socks to match all the different workouts you like. When it comes to tossing your socks, Dr. Seidel advises replacing them when they are no longer supportive. “When the compression is decreased due to stretching of the elastic fibers, or when the cushioning is worn thin or holes have developed, these issues prevent the technology from functioning as intended.” Socks are not an article of clothing you can donate, so consider finding a recycling program. Smartwool is collaborating with Material Return on its Second Cut Project to collect old socks and turn them into new things like dog beds.
Since you can’t try on socks before wearing them, we are here to help steer you in the right direction. Here are 20 of the best workout socks to buy now.
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Best for Any Fitness Activity
“After spending two years on research and development to make one pair of socks, we reimagined what our version of the sock could be,” Pandolf shares. “All of our socks have a number of features that make them unique and incredibly comfortable, such as the high-quality, premium materials used to make our products to our proprietary honeycomb arch support that feels like a hug around the foot and seamless toe to get rid of that annoying ridge across the top of a sock.” Anyone who has ever tried Bombas socks knows they are an all-around awesome pair of workout socks. Whether for running, spin or HIIT class, you’ll feel the support. They also last longer, so they’re worth the higher price point.
CREDIT: Courtesy of Bombas Buy: Bombas Men's Performance Running Ankle Socks $16 Buy it Buy: Bombas Women's Performance Running Ankle Socks $16 Buy it
As far as workout ankle socks, this style from Saucony is on the top of the list. It’s especially ideal for running, since it has a seamless toe construction and arch support that will keep you focused on your miles, not your feet. A secure heel fit provides zero slippage and the socks also have venting for airflow and RunDry Pro technology to keep your feet dry and feeling fresh. And for runners who hate their socks peeking out of their sneakers, these are no-shows, meaning they’ll keep your look sleek and put together.
CREDIT: Courtesy of Amazon Buy: Saucony Inferno No Show Tab 3-Pack Socks $16 Buy it
Every runner will encounter blisters at some point. While these can happen while you’re breaking shoes in, they’re often caused by wearing ill-fitting socks. This style from Balega, however, has technology that eliminates the risk of friction. It also has an extra-deep heel pocket to make these fit perfectly snug. This no-show sock will keep your feet cool and dry due to the South African Mohair material, acknowledged as one of the finest natural fibers. There’s no doubt your feet will thank you for buying these.
Buy: Balega Blister Resist No Show $15-$22 Buy it
These Copper Fit socks are Dr. Seidel’s personal and professional favorites to wear with tennis shoes because they have it all. “They’re so comfortable and tick all the boxes; they’re copper-infused, compressive, comfortable and durable,” he says. The inclusion of copper prevents odor-causing bacteria from forming and aids in recovery. The cushioned heel tab provides extra protection against abrasions. Additionally, these offer a cloudlike yet responsive feeling underfoot, making them a great pair of tennis or even pickleball socks. In these, you’ll feel free to bounce around the court and make fast movements without worrying about your feet.
CREDIT: Courtesy of Amazon Buy: Copper Fit Cushioned Ankle Energy Socks - 6 Pack $9-$33 Buy it
Best Workout Socks for CrossFit and Strength Training
This six-pair set provides your week’s worth of socks, since you’ll need one day of rest from your workout routine. What sets these Nike styles apart is the additional padding under the heel and forefoot to support the arch. Reviewers appreciate the plush cushioning, mentioning that it makes a huge difference in terms of comfort. The mid-calf height makes these perfect to wear during jump boxes and squats, while the sweat-wicking, breathable material helps you push through the set.
CREDIT: Courtesy of Nike Buy: Nike Everyday Plus Cushioned- 6 Pairs $22 Buy it
Best Workout Socks for Plantar Fasciitis
Plantar fasciitis is inflammation of the band that connects the heel bone and toes. Anyone who suffers from it knows how bad the stabbing pain can be in your arch and heel. This Feetures sock fits snugly to stabilize the condition and will provide compression in a targeted area to relieve the pain. It’s also anatomically designed with a lightweight fit that reduces blisters. Another highlight is seamless design that reduced the chance of rubbing.
CREDIT: Courtesy of Amazon Buy: Feetures Plantar Fasciitis No-Show Socks $25 Buy it
For casual hikes or advanced week-long adventures, you’ll need the appropriate socks. Smartwool’s Everyday Hiker Street crew socks have built-in durable zones where your feet need reinforcement. Merino wool makes these odor-resistant, quick-drying and comfortable. The slightly higher height of these socks provides protection and make these perfect to wear with mid-calf hiking boots.
CREDIT: Courtesy of Amazon Buy: Smartwool Men's Everyday Hiker Street Crew Socks $19-$25 Buy it
Leaps, jumps and turns can be executed on bare feet, but cold toes can be a distraction. Bloch has been creating dance shoes and accessories since the 1930s, so the brand is well-versed in how feet move while dancing. The label’s dance socks have a built-in spin spot for smooth turns and brake lines, strategically placed to help keep pirouettes sturdy. Grip control on the inside of the sock will further aid in mastering difficult positions, while a padded heel will protect bones during landings.
CREDIT: Courtesy of Amazon Buy: Bloch Women's Blochsox Dance Socks $21-$24 Buy it
Suffer from cold feet? You might have poor circulation. Embedded with semiconductor elements, this style from Incrediwear will effortlessly provide comfort. These socks can also help alleviate other foot issues like neuropathy, plantar fasciitis and vascular conditions. One review commented that these not only helped with her husband’s circulation but also with swelling. “They are comfortable and feel like a hug for your feet,” she shared.
CREDIT: Courtesy of Amazon Buy: Incrediwear Circulation Socks $24 Buy it
Best for Running Long Distances
For runners attracted to bright colors, this is the perfect pair of workout socks. The higher height is not only in style but helps keep your leg clean from dirt and mud. A cushioned footbed and arch support will keep feet cozy and snug while running so you can rack up the miles. As someone who has a few pairs of Rnnr socks in fun patterns, I appreciate the smooth fit. There is never any bunching or discomfort during wear.
CREDIT: Courtesy of rnnr Buy: rnnr Marathon Performance Running Sock $20 Buy it
Compression socks improve circulation, relieve swelling and energize feet and legs. Wearing compression socks while being active can boost endurance during cardio and strength training activities like CrossFit. This Comrad style is made with recycled cotton for enhanced stretch and easy on and off access. The inclusion of natural fibers also makes these breathable, so your feet won’t overheat. What’s more, this pair has a contoured cuff and wider footbed, so these won’t pinch or leave any marks on your leg.
CREDIT: Courtesy of Comrad Buy: Comrad Recycled Cotton Compression Socks $86 Buy it
Pandolf shares that Bombas truly designs socks with specific activities in mind. Bikers can rest assured that these socks have everything they need. Made from performance-focused yarns with ventilation, these cycling socks will keep your feet comfy and dry. They also have the strategic cushioning Bombas socks are known for and sit higher on the leg for necessary protection against dirt, sticks and bike spikes. Bike commuters will also be a fan, since the taller height will work with jeans or work pants.
CREDIT: Courtesy of Bombas Buy: Bombas Men's Performance Cycling Calf Sock 3-Pack $49 Buy it Buy: Bombas Women's Performance Cycling Calf Sock 3-Pack $49 Buy it
Compression socks can help your legs feel better after a long day, brutal workout or aggressive hike. Made in collaboration with Gwyneth Paltrow and her wellness-focused lifestyle brand Goop, these Copper Fit socks have a snug fit around the ankle and calf but are roomier at the knee so you can move freely. They also have extra cushion in the footbed to absorb shock and keep steps extra protected.
CREDIT: Courtesy of Copper Fit Buy: Gwyneth Paltrow X Copper Fit Energy Compression Socks $14 Buy it
Best Workout Socks That Double for Everyday Wear
These Feetures everyday socks are great to wear for a quick walk around the block or for support during regular morning miles. With a thin construction, these will provide a light and cool feel. They also have targeted compression for superior support and an enhanced fit to prevent blisters. The Silicone Heel Hugger technology combined with moisture-wicking fibers keep your feet comfortable. We recommend buying a few pairs of these staple socks so you can avoid frequent laundry days.
CREDIT: Courtesy of Feetures Buy: Feetures Women's Everyday Ultra Light No-Show $17 Buy it
If your feet get chilly during downward dog, grab some workout socks with grips on the bottom. The rubber traction details will help stabilize your poses and keep you upright during barre and pilates routines. Buyers love the fit, quality and fun patterns of these Tavi Noir yoga socks, which also feature added cushioning at the heel.
CREDIT: Courtesy of Tavi Noir Buy: Tavi Noir Savvy Grip Socks $16 Buy it
When you take your run off the treadmill or flat, hard pavement onto a trail, you’ll need to reevaluate your footwear. The Flite XT socks are technologically advanced, making them ideal to wear when running fast on rocky terrain. They offer extra support around the ankle to help with fast movements and keep you stable on uneven ground. Constructed with merino wool, the socks wick away moisture to keep your feet blister-free. The finishing touch is a v-shaped design in the heel to keep your foot snug and prevent bunching.
CREDIT: Courtesy of Swiftwick Buy: Swiftwick Flite XT Trail Five $26 Buy it
If you run or cycle in low-light environments, whether first in the morning or at dusk, some extra clothes or socks with reflective hints will help ensure you stay safe on the road. Lululemon’s Power Stride crew socks are designed with a PerformaHeel, which will provide stretch and cushion and keep the sock in place as you move. At the arch, you have 360-degree support, while at the toes you have a seamless construction.
CREDIT: Courtesy of Lululemon Buy: Lululemon Women's Power Stride Crew Socks $24 Buy it Buy: Lululemon Men's Power Stride Crew Socks $24 Buy it
Whether you’re hopping on your Peloton bike at home or heading to a SoulCycle or CycleBar class, it’s important to slip into the right socks before getting your spin on. This Smartwool pair features a 4 Degree elite fit system, a Virtually Seamless toe construction and breathable mesh zones for airflow. The material is a merino wool blend that’s responsibly sourced, making these socks not only soft and odor-resistant but also better for the planet. Another awesome thing about this brand is that its women’s socks are made specifically for female feet.
CREDIT: Courtesy of Smartwool Buy: Smartwool Men's Bike Zero Cushion Low Ankle Socks $17 Buy it Buy: Smartwool Women's Bike Zero Cushion Low Ankle Socks $17 Buy it
As a fashion editor and stylist, I know the wrong sock can ruin your look. These no-show socks from women’s activewear retail site and store Bandier have a slim silhouette to protect your feet but not peak out past sneakers. These have a contoured fit, with no extra cushion to limit bunching. From HIIT or spin classes to afternoon walks, this will be your new go-to pair.
CREDIT: Courtesy of Bandier Buy: Bandier Women's Ultra No-Show Socks $15 Buy it
Best Ski and Snowboard Socks
When hitting the slopes, you want your socks to be tall, provide added coverage from the cold and be smooth and flat on your leg. Nothing can make your mountain experience more miserable than socks bunching inside your boot or experiencing cold toes. Thankfully, this Stance sock has it all. Stretching over the calf, it will cover your entire lower leg. Medium cushioning also keeps the fit snug and secure.
CREDIT: Courtesy of Stance Buy: Stance Range Snow Otc Socks 2-Pack $34 Buy it
Dr. Jay Seidel is a podiatric surgeon at South Florida Podiatry. He is a member of the American Podiatric Medical Association and has been published in multiple peer-reviewed medical and surgical journals.
Kristen Pandolph is the vice president of product engineering and innovation at comfort-focused sock and apparel brand Bombas, which carries some of the best workout socks around. She was previously a hosiery and sock designer for Cole Haan and has also designed for L.L. Bean.
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