10 best running socks: Start off on the right foot with these pairs that’ll keep you dry and cool

Socks might be the underdog of running gear, but are just as important as shoes  (iStock/The Independent)
Socks might be the underdog of running gear, but are just as important as shoes (iStock/The Independent)

If you’re a runner, you’ve probably read hundreds of articles on the number one shoe that will help you go further and faster than ever before. But there’s one piece of kit that’s arguably just as important: socks.

Good socks can help to prevent blisters and injuries, keep your feet comfortable during those long runs and, in some cases, aid recovery. So, what exactly makes a good running sock? We decided to find out.

If you’re a road runner who loves nothing more than a spring half-marathon, then you’re going to need something breathable that can transition from freezing winter morning sprints to balmy spring jogs. If you prefer life on the trails, however, or think there’s nothing better than a bit of cross country, we’d recommend a thicker, longer sock. There are also compression options if you’re recovering from a big race or injury.

Then there’s style. These days, running socks aren’t just measured on support, comfort and the ability to stop blisters. They also need to look good, so you’ll be pleased to know there are now plenty of options.

How we tested

To help you choose, we’ve spent two months testing pairs from across the market. We’re training for the Royal Parks Half Marathon, so testing has included long runs, interval sessions on the track and treadmill, and time on our local trails.

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We’ve outlined our favourites below, so whether you’re looking for a great fit or searching for a pair that will edge you towards that PB, there’s something for you.

The best women’s running socks for 2021 are:

  • Best overall – Asics ultra comfort ankle: £12, Asics.com

  • Best for road runners – Enertor energy run socks: £12.99, Enertor.com

  • Best for trail runners – Stance run light crew staple: £12.99, Stance.eu.com

  • Best for winter runs – Sealskinz waterproof all-weather ankle length sock: £30, Sealskinz.com

  • Best for sustainability – Zouma performance run socks: £6, Wearezouma.com

  • Best value – Sundried running socks two-pack: £14, Sundried.com

  • Best for a tight budget – Decathlon run 900 mid thick running socks: £5.99, Decathlon.co.uk

  • Best for no blisters – Runderwear anti-blister running socks: £15, Runderwear.co.uk

  • Best for compression – CEP run compression socks 3.0 women: £44.95, Cepsports.co.uk

  • Best design – On mid sock: £18, On-running.com

Asics ultra comfort ankle

Best: Overall

Rating: 9/10

Go to any race or running event and you’ll see someone wearing Asics. The brand is well known for its high quality gear – and its ultra comfort ankle socks are no different. These quickly became one of our “go to” pairs, combining support and performance so you’ll be blister free run after run. We found the cushioned sections and close fit helped to prevent friction, while the classic ankle-style was high enough to protect our heels.

The material is pretty lightweight, so your feet won’t get too hot or sweaty. At £12 these are reasonably priced – plus they are available in four sizes, covering a UK size 2-13, so you can find a pair that’s right for you.

Buy now £12.00, Asics.com

Enertor energy run socks

Best: For road runners

Rating: 8/10

We were introduced to Enertor earlier this year through their high quality running insoles – and now we have the socks to match. These lightweight run socks are great if you want to test your pace on the track or reach maximum potential on the road. We found they helped to keep our feet cool and dry, with anti-blister protection and a rear lip preventing any rubbing.

The fabric is stretchy enough to flex depending on your pace and cadence, but durable enough to ensure they keep their shape throughout training. Plus, the brand says the yarn is anti-microbial so there’ll be limited nasty smells. Enertor also caters for a wider range of sizes than some of the other brands, covering a UK size 2.5-15.

Buy now £12.99, Enertor.com

Stance run light crew staple

Best: For trail runners

Rating: 8/10

We’ve worn Stance socks for years – and are rarely seen on the trails without them. That’s why these are our top choice for trail runners. They are slightly thicker than some of the shorter pairs we tried – keeping our feet warm and dry even on our longer runs.

We found they were breathable thanks to the performance mesh, which helps airflow. Plus, they were super durable, maintaining their shape and colour well (living up to the brand’s “no rips, no tears, forever” slogan). The classic design and mid-length style means they are great if you are heading out and don’t want to be distracted by mud splattering up your ankles.

Available in three sizes, we loved the simplicity, but if you’re feeling a little funkier then do have a good look on the brand’s website – from Deadpool to Star Wars, there genuinely is something for everyone (they might even make a fabulous stocking filler).

Buy now £12.99, Stance.eu.com

Sealskinz waterproof all-weather ankle length sock

Best: For winter runs

Rating: 7/10

We’ve all been on one of those runs where we’ve accidentally stepped in a puddle or a bog at the furthest possible point from home – hello wet and cold feet for the rest of the session. Well, those days are over. Sealskinz’s waterproof all-weather socks do exactly what they say on the tin.

The brand says they are 100 per cent breathable and waterproof thanks to their three layers – a waterproof membrane, a merino wool layer and a durable outer covering. We found these different materials all played their part in keeping our feet warm and dry, even during the terrible August weather (no joke, remember that rain?).

Available in four sizes covering a UK 3-14, these are thicker than the usual pairs, but it’s worth it when they protect from water, wind, cold and mud. Plus, if you’re a cross trainer they are great for cycling and hiking too. They are a tad on the expensive side – but when it’s cold and miserable, we’d happily pay a lot more to keep our feet happy.

Buy now £30.00, Sealskinz.com

Zouma performance run socks

Best: For sustainability

Rating: 8/10

We’re always on the lookout for brands that really push the bar – and so we couldn’t wait to get our hands on a pair of Zouma’s performance run socks. The brand specialises in bold, sustainable running essentials at very attractive prices.

We found this pair was breathable and comfortable, with a rear heel tab so we stayed blister free even in wet weather. They have a close fit, with compression arch support to help with stability.

But the best bit? Zouma’s team says these are made from up to 11 recycled bottles – so you can do a small bit for the planet just by pounding the pavements. For just £6 per pair, and available in four sizes, we think these are great value and should be part of any runner’s staple kit.

Buy now £6.00, Wearezouma.com

Sundried running socks two-pack

Best: Value

Rating: 8/10

Whether you’re a beginner, a racer or a pro, these Sundried running socks will see you through any training session or race. Made with a mix of super soft materials, we found they were breathable and kept our feet cool – even on the hotter days. We didn’t get any blisters, helped in part by the seamless design, while the cushioned heel made them more comfortable than some of the thinner pairs we tested.

The over-the-ankle design means they won’t slip down in your shoes; we preferred this over most of the “no show” socks as they kept us protected stride after stride. Plus, they look great and are good value with two pairs available for just £14. The brand makes these in three sizes, catering for a UK 2-12.

Buy now £14.00, Sundried.com

Decathlon run 900 mid thick running socks

Best: For a tight budget

Rating: 7/10

If you don’t want to spend a lot on running socks, or you want a couple of basic pairs to stock up your drawer, then Decathlon’s run 900 socks are a pretty good option. For just £5.99, you can get your hands on two pairs, which perform much like some of the more expensive options on the market.

We found they were comfortable, sitting nicely on the ankle and staying in place throughout training runs. Their sweat-wicking qualities worked, helping our feet to stay cool and dry. Our only complaint was that the colour ran on the first wash, turning them into a dreary shade of grey for the rest of our runs.

Buy now £5.99, Decathlon.co.uk

Runderwear anti-blister running socks

Best: For no blisters

Rating: 8/10

Pretty much all running socks promise not to give you blisters. But we loved the quirky way Runderwear has tackled the problem. The brand’s low-rise socks have two distinct layers, which rub against each other rather than your foot. We found this wasn’t just a novel way to solve the problem – it was also effective.

These socks kept us comfortable and chafe-free, with the reinforced heel and toe protecting the problem areas. They also had the usual sweat-wicking qualities, ensuring our feet stayed cool and dry. These are available in four sizes covering a UK 4-13 and there’s a choice of three colours (our favourite was the blue).

Buy now £15.00, Runderwear.co.uk

CEP run compression socks 3.0 women

Best: For compression

Rating: 9/10

Jog around any park and you’ll probably see a couple of people wearing knee-length, tight socks. Why? Compression socks can help with recovery and endurance. Leading manufacturer CEP says wearing recovery socks or tights post-workout improves arterial blood flow by 30 per cent and while you’re running, they can also increase circulation helping to improve the supply of oxygen and nutrients to the muscles.

So, do they work? The short answer is yes. We found these were cleverly designed to stay in place and regulate temperature, so we didn’t have to waste time pulling them up and stayed cool even on hotter days. In terms of sizing, they are designed to fit your calf with the compression tech gradually decreasing up the leg, so they are easy to get on and off.

We happily wore these over long distances and found they were chafe-free. These are the most expensive pair we tried but would recommend every runner considers investing.

Buy now £44.95, Cepsports.co.uk

On mid sock

Best: Design

Rating: 8/10

Swiss brand On has taken the running scene by storm due to its revolutionary mix of running and engineering. The desire to create the perfect product clearly comes across with the brand’s mid sock, which can only be described as the lovechild of a high quality trainer sock and a comfortable mid-length pair.

Unlike a lot of mid-length pairs, these are lighter and thinner so you can use them all year round. Available in four sizes (covering a UK 3-9), the mesh sections help to keep your feet at the right temperature, while the snug fit ensures they don’t slip at all. Not only that but these socks are sleek and modern, with an attractive geometric pattern which the brand says triggers sensory receptors to prime your feet for the run.

Buy now £18.00, On-running.com

The verdict: Women’s running socks

There are plenty of running socks on the market – so whatever your style, you’ll find a pair that suits you. We loved Asics’ crowd-pleasing ultra comfort socks, but there was stiff competition from Enertor and Zouma. CEP was the stand out brand when it came to compression socks, while Decathlon and Sundried both offered great value pairs.

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