If you’re a runner, you’ve probably read hundreds of articles on the number one shoe that will magically 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 prevent blisters and injuries, keep your feet comfortable during those long runs and, in some cases, aid recovery.
In your search for the perfect running socks, there are a number of things to consider. 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 the freezing winter morning sprints to the balmy spring night jogs.
If you prefer life on the trails, however, and think there’s nothing better than a bit of cross country, we’d recommend a thicker, longer sock. There are also compression-fit options if you’re recovering from a big race or injury or need some TLC.
Then there’s style. Running socks are no longer simply measured on support, comfort and the ability to stop blisters – they also need to look good (how else are you going to become an Instagram star?). Brands have really cottoned on to this in the last decade and you’ll be pleased to know there are now plenty of options – from simple sleek trainer socks to Disney-inspired knee-length pairs.
To help you choose, we’ve spent more than 45 hours testing pairs from across the market. We’ve whittled the products down to our favourites so whether you’re looking for the perfect fit or searching for a pair that will edge you towards that PB, you’re sure to find something below.
Stance Distance Tab: £9.99, kitbox.co
When we first tested Stance's socks earlier this year, we found them to be highly functional and wonderfully quirky. We couldn't be happier, then, that this brand, which specialises in running socks, has gone from strength to strength. This time round, we pulled on its Distance Tab socks, designed for helping you go that little bit further. From the anatomically correct designs for the left and right feet, to the articulated foot bed, which increases padding and airflow, these socks have clearly been put together with a runner in mind.
They are also highly durable and didn't lose their colour or shape, despite being chucked in the washing machine covered in mud plenty of times. We loved the simple style of these trainer socks, but if you're fancy something a bit funkier, then do have a good look on the brand's website - from The Grinch to Deadpool, Christmas patterns to Star Wars, there’s genuinely something for everyone (plus they make a fabulous stocking filler).
Reebok ONE Series Running Unisex Ankle Sock: £5.98, Reebok
These socks are by far the most comfortable we tried; not only do we wear them during exercise, but also on our commute, at the gym and when we're lounging on the sofa (don’t judge). The ankle-high fit means there's definitely no chance of rubbing, while the reflective tab on the back cuff is good if you run a lot during dark early mornings and evenings. It also has the standard arch support and mesh inserts to help with breathability.
These are unisex socks and while we found they fitted pretty well, we would say there was quite a lot of extra wiggle room in the toes. We found this didn't really matter, though, especially if you're looking for a bit of extra comfort in the winter months. Overall, a great pair.
Sweaty Betty Technical Run Socks: £15, Sweaty Betty
When these socks first arrived, we were a little sceptical as they felt like aeroplane socks (we think it’s because they are 38 per cent nylon). One or two tentative runs later and we’re pleased we gave them a chance. Thick and comfortable, these are well suited for short blasts round the park on an icy morning (although you might want to put them away in the summer months).
We found they didn’t rub at all and were breathable, with the usual sweat wicking fabric. If you’re obsessed with style and kudos, these are also the socks for you - Sweaty Betty is well known amongst certain factions of the fitness crowd as the fitness brand to be seen in. If you need a sock to take you from your morning yoga class to your lunchtime run club, you can’t do much better than this.
Lululemon Get A Grip Sock: £12, Lululemon
Lululemon may be better known for its yoga apparel, but these Get a Grip Socks certainly stood up to the competition when compared to some of the other brands. As the name suggests, these socks certainly boasted the best grip of those tested, with sticky spots all over the feet and toes. This not only helped when we were racing round the house to try and find our trainers or when we were doing our post-run stretches, but we also found it meant our feet stayed in the same place in our trainers (helping to prevent blisters).
We did find the grippiness diminished over time, but they maintained their shape well. The back heel is also cushioned, which the brand did with barre classes in mind, but we found it made runs in this pair more comfortable.
dhb Marathon Run Socks: £10.80, Wiggle
These socks are designed with long-distance runners in mind. This means they aren't as thick as some of the other pairs on the market. Instead, the brand has focused on keeping your feet fresh and well ventilated as you build up the miles, from the moisture-wicking yarns to special protection zones to help reduce rubbing. These socks are made predominantly from nylon, with a little bit of spandex to help keep them fitted.
We found them comfortable over half marathon distance, as well as for shorter distances in warmer weather. Searching through online reviews for these socks, we weren’t surprised to find plenty of satisfied marathon runners.
Hilly Lite Cushion Socklet, Womens: £7.99, sportsshoes.com
Hilly Socks definitely didn't opt for style over substance with these socks, but we loved this bright, in-your-face pair. Not only do they look great, but they are the only pair we tried with a comfort tab at the front and back of the ankle. We found this made a huge difference to our comfort and the pair’s ability to reduce rubbing, especially compared to some of the other low-rise socks on the market. They also have cushioning that genuinely makes a difference in the heel and toe areas – perfect if you spend all your time running on pavements.
Runderwear Anti-Blister Low-Rise Running Socks: £12, Runderwear
Pretty much all running socks promise not to give you blisters (who would buy them if they didn’t?), 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 incredibly effective. They may not be as stylish as some of the other pairs we reviewed, but these socks do what they say on the tin, keeping you comfortable and totally chafe-free. We would, however, recommend sizing down if you’re in between sizes with the brand – we found these were quite big on us, having gone for a medium (we’re a 6.5).
On Mid Sock: £18, On
This time five years ago, you may not have heard of On.Fast-forward, but the Swiss brand has taken the scene by storm due to its running and engineering knowledge. 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 similar pairs on the market, these are lighter and thinner so you can use them all year round.
The thermo-regulating mesh helps keep your feet at the right temperature, while the snug fit ensures support as well as comfort. Not only that but these socks are seriously funky – we loved the coral and navy geometric pattern and found ourselves showing them off at every opportunity.
Kalenji High Comfort Socks; £3.99, Decathlon
At just £3.99 for two pairs, these socks by Decathlon were by far the best value pair we tried – but don’t think that means they aren’t a good purchase. From the moisture wicking fabric to the elastic strip over the top of the foot arch to help keep the sock in place, we found these have many of the same benefits as some of the other (more expensive) pairs we tried.
They didn’t wear quite as well and faded a little during washes, but overall we found them comfortable and good quality. We’d recommend these socks to beginners who are regularly running for up to 45 minutes. Plus, if you don’t fancy the fluorescent pink there are loads of other colours you can try.
Rockay Accelerate Anti-Blister Running Socks; £15.95, Amazon
Specialist running brand Rockay is perhaps better known in America, but we think it's definitely worth shouting about on this side of the pond. The brand's Accelerate Anti-Blister Running Socks are comfortable and are made partly from organic merino wool. We're promised this means they helps prevent blisters and chafing in both hot and cold weather although, admittedly, we only got to test them in dreary November.
It also creates a compression-fit, which we preferred over some of the looser pairs we tried. Not only that, but the brand does its bit for the environment, promising that the sock will eventually be manufactured from 100 per cent recycled materials and polyester from plastic found in the ocean. While you can buy the socks from the brand's website (in dollars), they are also available on Amazon (in pounds).
Kyrima Sport Infrared Compression Socks: £35, Kymira Sport
Infrared socks? Nope, us neither. But Kymira promises they can help increase circulation, reduce injury and aid accelerated recovery. We're not sure exactly how the science behind this pair works, but what we can say is they're a solid sock. The cushioned heel and toe will keep you pounding the pavements, no matter how tired you are. We found these comfortable even when worn under long lycra (although they are a tad long, coming just over our knees). We'd recommend not only using these for recovery runs, but also when you are cycling and walking, as we found they made a real difference to anything that required us to be on (or using) our feet for a long time.
Nike Dri-FIT Lightweight No-Show Tab: £7.95, Nike
These lightweight socks feel as though you have nothing on – and they look that way too, cut at the perfect height to protect the back of your heel but maintain that triathlete look. Dri-FIT technology may sound like a gimmick, but we found it did actually work. On a run, in the gym and even on an intense bike workout that made us consider throwing our t-shirt in the bin, our feet stayed dry. As far as socks from a well-known brand go, they’re also reasonably priced at £7.95. While there is nothing particularly unique about these socks, you can’t really go wrong with Nike.
Injinji Women’s Run Ultra Thin Cushioning No Show: £15.01, Amazon
After posting these on Instagram for the first time, we received a series of perplexed messages. These toesocks are now a staple part of our running wardrobe, however, whether we’re trotting out to parkrun or training for a half marathon. Not only did the five-toe sleeve improve our balance, but we also found the design helped our feet naturally sit in our trainers.
They are highly comfortable and perfect for winter or trail runs as they are slightly thicker than other pairs on the market - guaranteed to keep your feet warm when you accidentally step in that puddle. We know it might seem a little odd at first, but we love these socks - and the reaction they get on social media.
CEP Merino Socks for Recovery: £34.99, CEP
Everyone should have a pair of these merino wool recovery socks in their cupboard. While they might take a bit longer to get on than the average sock (cue us sitting on our hallway floor for five minutes the first time we put them on), they’re worth the effort. Made by CEP – the performance arm of a high-tech German manufacturer – these are made to a level of precision you don't see often. Before you even order them, you have to measure the circumference of your calf to ensure you get the right size (don't worry, there's a handy size guide on the website).
The perfect fit combined with highly effective compression, which helps increase circulation, means they can aid active muscle recovery after sports, as well as helping you warm up faster. They even double up as travel socks. And don't think you're swapping recovery for comfort – these socks absorb moisture and sweat. They might be the most expensive pair we tried, but we think they're worth it.
Puma Running Cell Quarter Sock: £6, Puma
These simple Puma socks are our go to pair if we’re planning a day out on the trails. The mid-calf length helps protect both your feet and the back of your legs when it's muddy, while the breathable material keeps your feet dry. While the design is simpler than some of the others we tried, we loved the fluorescent detail around the top of the sock and found it gave us some comfort on the darker evenings.
The arch support really does create extra support, while the cushioning helps reduce the chance of injury. They may not be a pair you’d want to team with your three-quarter length lycra, but they’re definitely a pair you want in your drawer ready for your next boggy outing.
The verdict: Women’s running shoes
Running socks are a crucial piece of kit so it’s important that you get the right pair. We found that while all of the pairs we tested were comfortable, they differed in the level of support offered. That’s why we loved Stance’s Distance Tab socks, which not only looked great but were also so clearly designed with a runner in mind. If you’re looking for something a bit different, try Injinji’s toesocks, while if you need to recover, we can’t recommend CEP’s pair highly enough. We also loved the bright, bold pair by Hilly Socks and the oh-so-cool pair by On.