If you’re a regular runner you probably already know that a good pair of shoes can have a dramatic impact on your overall performance, not to mention the ability of your legs to recover and avoid injury. You’ve probably even spent a considerable amount of time trying on a wide variety of shoes just to find the ones that you like most, and if you’re extra diligent you also make sure you replace your footwear every 300-500 miles. After all, keeping your feet healthy and happy is a vital part of running.
While a lot of time and energy is spent figuring out which brand, style, and type of running shoe we prefer, many of us don’t think twice about the socks we wear during our workouts. But believe it or not, what type of socks you use is important too and could make all the difference in how much you enjoy running.
One of the most common challenges that frequent runners face is developing blisters on our feet. Most blisters are the result of the buildup of heat and moisture combined with the constant rubbing of our skin against the fabrics of our socks and shoes. Blisters can end up being extremely painful and can even get so bad at times that you have to stop running altogether to allow them to heal, which is, of course, counterproductive when you’re trying to prepare for a race or just work on getting healthier.
But a good running sock can serve as a preventive measure against blisters thanks in no small part to the technical fabrics that they are made from. Most modern running socks not only pull moisture away from our feet, but they also dry quickly. This helps to alleviate the conditions that cause blisters, making them far less likely to develop in the first place.
Unfortunately, many runners are satisfied with running in basic cotton socks, which are fine for just about anything other than a strenuous workout. Although very comfortable, cotton socks will retain moisture throughout your run, making it far more likely that you will develop a blister or painful calluses. On top of that, running for an extended period of time in sweaty socks can also lead to fungal infections, which result in irritated skin with symptoms like itching and burning. This condition is more commonly known as athlete’s foot, and it can be extremely irritating.
In addition to keeping your feet healthier, running socks also provide an extra layer of cushioning from the impact of the ground. While your shoe absorbs most of that impact, your socks can help reduce the shock to some degree as well. This helps to keep your legs fresher while out on the road, and although the effect is subtle, it can improve your performance over the long haul.
Additionally, a lot of sock manufacturers have included some type of compression technology in their products to help stimulate blood flow in our feet, ankles, and calves, depending on the style of the sock you wear. This can help keep swelling to a minimum and speed recovery both during and after a run. The use of compression has also been shown to improve performance to a degree.
So what exactly should you be looking for when it comes time to buy running socks? Well for starters, as we’ve already mentioned, be sure to avoid cotton fabrics. Instead, look for synthetic fabrics or merino wool instead. These types of materials are far better at wicking away moisture and dry quickly too. That means your feet will stay far more comfortable on longer runs.
You’ll also find that running socks come in a variety of thicknesses; which one works best for you is a matter of personal preference. But be aware that the thickness of the material you choose could have an impact on the fit of your shoes too. Prefer a thicker sock? You might need to go up a half-size in your running shoes to accommodate them.
In addition to offering compression technology, some running socks will provide arch support too. This can be especially helpful for runners who suffer from plantar fasciitis, reducing the pain associated with that condition and helping to prevent it from reoccurring. If you have had to deal with this problem in the past, you probably know that any relief is welcome, particularly if something as simple as a pair of socks can make a difference.
Unlike running shoes, socks are a considerably less costly investment to make, although the benefits can be just as far-reaching. Additionally, running socks don’t tend to wear out all that quickly, which means you won’t have to replace them very often. Isn’t it time you do your feet a favor and cover them in high-quality socks that will provide them with extra comfort and protection? After a few workouts, you’ll never want to go back.