The 12 Best Running Socks You Can Buy for Happy Feet & Better Miles

editor@purewow.com (PureWow)
·16 mins read

Runners are weirdly obsessed with their socks. Sure, the right shoes are important and we’re happy to share our thoughts on the best fitness trackers, but ask us about socks? Well, you’d better settle in. Compression liners, blister tabs, foot beds and toe boxes are music to our headphone-filled ears—and for good reason.

“A lot of foot problems that stem from running are actually a result of shearing forces occurring in the shoes, which can in fact be prevented by wearing a proper sock,” Donna Robertson, Head of Training and Chief Pedorthist at Foot Solutions tells us. These shearing forces can occur anywhere on your foot, including your arch, insole, heel and toes. A good pair of socks will help minimize blisters and skin irritations, but a great pair can do so much more. “Sock technology has improved the awareness and importance of socks designed specifically for the left or right foot,” she says. “With the constant improvement in fabrics, sock qualities have been enhanced over time with improvements of athletic performance.” And while they might not make you run faster or farther, there’s no doubt that the right socks can help decrease injuries and improve your overall recovery time.

If you’re new to running, there are a few key factors to keep in mind when sock shopping: material, cushioning, cut and special features. Socks can come in all different materials, including spandex, nylon, wool, polyester and so much more. A wool blend is great for the colder months and will keep your feet warm and dry when you need it most (like during that last mile of your town’s local Turkey Trot). A synthetic material, like polyester, will be supportive, sweat-wicking and durable enough to stand up to multiple wears and washes. Cotton, however, will hold on to moisture, which can lead to fungal infections like athlete’s foot (yuck). Cushioning and cut are both based on personal preference, so they might take some trial and error to figure out. Some people swear by a no-show, ultra-light compression sock while others can’t bear the thought of running without a thicker mid-calf. And if you really want to geek out on socks, special features like reinforced heel durability and a dual-layer sweat removal system take things to a whole other level.

Luckily, PureWow is full of runners who won’t shut up about their socks (seriously). So if you’re just starting out or are looking to try something new, we’ve done the sweaty work for you. Here are the 12 best running socks we’ve ever tried, according to people who love to run.

The winners at a glance:

RELATED: How to Get Into Running, According to a Coach, a Marathoner and a Total Newbie

1. Balega Women’s Enduro No Show Socks

Best Overall

  • Value: 20/20

  • Functionality: 20/20

  • Quality & Durability: 20/20

  • Aesthetics: 20/20

  • Comfort & Fit: 20/20

  • TOTAL: 100/100

“I feel very cautious about giving these socks a perfect score but honestly, they truly deliver across every single one of the categories we rate on. I will admit, I wish they were less expensive (a single pair costs between $13 and $16), but I've worn the same six pairs for over five years, including training for three marathons and averaging about 30 miles per week this summer, and have yet to see any significant wear and tear, making them well worth the cost of entry. Honestly, I can still remember thinking, oh my God, these are the softest things I've ever put on my feet, the very first time I wore them. I own a few other brands of running socks, but these always leave my feet feeling fresh and prevent soreness much better than the others. Balega does have some plain black, gray and white options for people who prefer the classics, but I'm a big fan of the super-bright color combos. There are also a ton of different heights and styles and fabric thicknesses to choose from, but my sock of choice is the Enduro No Show. I also appreciate that the company is sustainably-minded and continues to improve on its eco-friendly practices. I truly searched for someone who's worn these socks and come up with a complaint, but I couldn't find anyone...they are perfection.” – Abby Hepworth, runs 30 miles per week

BUY IT ($13)

2. Lululemon Light Speed Tab Socks

Best Compression

  • Value: 19/20

  • Functionality: 20/20

  • Quality & Durability: 20/20

  • Aesthetic: 19/20

  • Comfort & Fit: 19/20

  • TOTAL: 97/100

“I love how uncomplicated these running socks are. They’re clean, simple and get the job done. When I first put them on, I was surprised by how tight they were but still willing to give them a shot. TBH, they’re not the most comfortable socks to mill around in. They have a lot of compression around your arch and the top of your foot and can verge on overbearing if you’re not actively moving, but when I slid my foot into my running shoes, their unique design made total sense. They felt like a second skin, moving when I moved, protecting my skin from the brutal asphalt of New York City streets. A few strides in, I completely forgot I was wearing them (ideal for long runs when scratchy socks are the last thing on your mind). They never once bunched, rubbed or slipped. All ten toes we’re quite pleased post run and they even kept my feet cool and dry during an otherwise toasty summer. If you’re looking for a non-compression looking compression sock with support in all the right places (like your arch, heel and ankle), these will not disappoint.” – Catrina Yohay, runs 12 to 15 miles per week

BUY IT ($14)

3. ASICS Intensity Single Tab Running Socks

Best for New Runners

  • Value: 19/20

  • Functionality: 19/20

  • Quality & Durability: 19/20

  • Aesthetic: 17/20

  • Comfort & Fit: 20/20

  • TOTAL: 94/100

“The ASICS Cushion Single Tab was my first foray into the realm of real running socks (prior to that I was suffering through squished toes and avoidable blisters). They were like a black and pink beacon in a sea of crisp white socks, and I reached for them every time a Saturday morning long run came around. They air on the thicker side so are great for chillier days, but are still super breathable and have strategic cushioning, arch support and blister tabs to help keep your mind off your feet and on the road. I also love that each sock is labeled with a giant L and R so you know exactly which foot goes where—one less thing to think about for those early morning runs where you’re still half asleep. They’re extremely durable and have held their shape and texture after multiple races and even more trips to the washing machine. After three years, I still have the same pair today, and they’re still one of my favorites. Sadly, they’re currently out of stock (the good ones always leave us too soon) but luckily, the Intensity Single Tab is almost identical and even comes in a convenient three-pack. If you’re new to running and don’t want to spend a fortune on a pair of socks, these are a great option.” – Catrina Yohay, runs 12 to 15 miles per week

BUY IT (3 for $12)

4. Swiftwick Aspire Zero Socks

Best Sweat-Wicking

  • Value: 19/20

  • Functionality: 18/20

  • Quality & Durability: 19/20

  • Aesthetic: 17/20

  • Comfort & Fit: 19/20

  • TOTAL: 92/100

“If I'm being honest here, socks are the one clothing item I hate spending money on. Mostly because you inevitably end up losing one of them or getting a hole in the toe after just one wear. However, I surprised myself with how much I liked Swiftwick Aspire Zero socks—so much so that I'd say each pair is truly worth every cent of the $15 price tag. For one, they're just the right thickness for any type of sneaker or running shoe, without being too bulky or too thin (I've had mine for four months now and not a single hole has appeared). And they're incredibly adept at wicking away sweat—I hardly ever end a run or a workout with gross, damp toes anymore. Not to mention, they hit at just the right spot on the back of the ankle, so this no-show style doesn't peep out of sneakers but also keeps me protected from pesky blisters.” – Dena Silver, runs 3 to 6 miles per week

BUY IT ($15)

5. Smartwool Women’s PhD Run Cold Weather Mid Crew Socks

Best for Cold Weather

  • Value: 19/20

  • Functionality: 19/20

  • Quality & Durability: 20/20

  • Aesthetic: 18/20

  • Comfort & Fit: 20/20

  • TOTAL: 96/100

“If anyone has chronically cold toes and is crazy enough to take on marathon training during the coldest months of the year, you need these. If you are picturing thick, itchy wool socks, these are the exact opposite. They are lightweight, snug where they need to be, and keep your toes warm and dry while logging your miles. The longer length allows you to tuck them into your running tights so your ankles are not exposed to the elements (goodbye cold ankles!). They aren't the sleekest or stylish, but your warm toes will thank you at the end of your 20-miler in 27-degree weather!” – Frances Sisson, runs 15 to 20 miles per week

BUY IT ($22)

6. All In Motion Women’s Lightweight No Show Athletic Socks

Best Budget-Friendly

  • Value: 20/20

  • Functionality: 19/20

  • Quality & Durability: 17/20

  • Aesthetic: 17/20

  • Comfort & Fit: 19/20

  • TOTAL: 92/100

"I'm the absolute worst at keeping track of socks. I swear my washer or dryer eats them because every time I do laundry I seem to lose at least a couple of pairs. Needless to say, I can't justify spending big bucks on fancy running socks if they're just going to disappear on me. So this 10 pair value set from Target's All in Motion line is my go-to whenever I need to replenish my collection. The socks are super soft and lightweight, and I never have to worry about them falling down inside my sneakers (the absolute worst). My only qualm? The pairs I've managed to hang on to for about a year have gotten really thin and feel rough. But at this price, I don't mind replacing them at all!" – Kara Cuzzone, runs 10 to 12 miles per week

BUY IT (10 for $16)

7. DryMax Hyper Thin Running Socks

Best Breathability

  • Value: 20/20

  • Functionality: 20/20

  • Quality & Durability: 20/20

  • Aesthetic: 17/20

  • Comfort & Fit: 20/20

  • TOTAL: 97/100

“Even though all of the fall marathons have been canceled this year, that hasn’t stopped me from enjoying those brisk long runs as the leaves change color around me. But even with cooler temperatures, those pesky, uncomfortable blisters caused by heat, friction, and moisture (I’ll just say it—sweaty feet) can still pop up. Enter DryMax Hyper Thin Running Socks. I’ve been wearing these socks while I run since my early 20s and, while they aren’t the cheapest socks on the market, I honestly can’t imagine ever replacing them with another brand. With the drymax Dual Layer Sweat Removal System, their mesh stripe vents provide significant breathability allowing heat and sweat vapors to escape—meaning those blisters don’t stand a chance. What they lack in cute colors (not that it really matters because they’re on your feet), they make up for in comfort, durability, and reliability. If you like to run, these socks are about to be your new best friend.” - Jane Leverich, runs 20 to 25 miles per week

BUY IT ($12)

8. Feetures Elite Max Cushion No Show Tab Socks

Best Fit

  • Value:18/20

  • Functionality: 19/20

  • Quality & Durability: 19/20

  • Aesthetic: 18/20

  • Comfort & Fit: 20/20

  • TOTAL: 94/100

“I had knee surgery a few years ago so ever since getting back to running I've been pretty selective about the gear I use, even down to the socks. And Feetures are by far the best. The no show is high enough that it covers the full back height of the sneaker, so no rubbing on my heels or ankles. Most socks I used to run in would eventually get holes in them, but not my Feetures. Are there pairs I should probably retire? Yes, but I don't think I've ever had a pair get a hole so I just keep them in rotation. The best part is the fit. Super comfortable and soft, but my feet don't get too hot on longer runs, and no blisters to report. It's just enough compression on my arch, almost like a little suggestion to my foot. The material is thick, but doesn't get too hot and gives good support on the ball of the foot too.” – Mary D’Alessio, runs 15 to 18 miles per week

BUY IT ($16)

9. Fits Micro Light Runner Socks

Best Sizing & Support

  • Value: 19/20

  • Functionality: 20/20

  • Quality & Durability: 19/20

  • Aesthetic: 18/20

  • Comfort & Fit: 18/20

  • TOTAL: 94/100

“I will admit that I was skeptical about how good these socks would be upon first getting a pair. They look and feel much more like wool hiking socks than super-soft cushy running socks and have more built-in compression, making them just a bit harder to pull on. However, the compression details and slim fit make these a brilliant option for longer runs or for folks who don't want/need a full compression sock, but who could use some additional support. There are more size options than a lot of other brands to ensure you get a close to perfect fit. Also, because they're made of wool, even if they get wet they'll still keep your feet warm, which is a major bonus on rainy and snowy runs. I knocked a point off the aesthetics metric because the socks get fuzzy over time. There are no holes or pills, but you can see clearly where on your foot they are rubbed most.” – Abby Hepworth, runs 30 miles per week

BUY IT ($19)

10. Bombas Women’s Performance Running Ankle Sock

Best for Style Points

  • Value: 19/20

  • Functionality: 19/20

  • Quality & Durability: 19/20

  • Aesthetic: 20/20

  • Comfort & Fit: 19/20

  • TOTAL: 96/100

“One thing that really separates Bombas from other sock brands is its commitment to giving back—for every purchase made, Bombas donates a pair of socks or a T-shirt to organizations that help those who are homeless. As for the actual socks, they are my second favorite after Balega. While not quite as soft, Bombas socks are plenty cozy and you can feel the compression/support when you put them on (not as much as a true compression sock, but just enough to make you feel confident that these coverings are indeed different from non-tech socks). As for aesthetics, the colorful options are super fun and great for showing off, and I like that the classic color options still have some interesting detail to them (like heathering and the brand's signature honeycomb design). I also really like that you can buy them in packs of 3, 6 and 12 at a discount if you really love them and want to stock up. I'm not positive when I got my first pair of Bombas socks but probably close to five years ago and they are still looking and feeling great. There's some pilling and they're not quite as soft as they were originally, but there are no holes and the support and padding are still just as effective as when I originally bought them.” – Abby Hepworth, runs 30 miles per week

BUY IT ($16)

11. Stance Run Wool Crew Socks

Best Splurge

  • Value: 18/20

  • Functionality: 20/20

  • Quality & Durability: 19/20

  • Aesthetic: 17/20

  • Comfort & Fit: 20/20

  • Total: 94/100

“You know the story: It's a pitch-black morning in mid-January and your alarm (rudely) reminds you of that ambitious run you planned the night before. You bundle from head to toe—except for that small sliver of exposed ankle between your socks and leggings. Despite your layering, the biting cold stings your poor, exposed ankles. Enter: Stance Run Wool Crew Socks. These socks single-handedly saved my ankles while marathon training through a Boston winter. The thick merino wool blend is warm but wicking; the targeted cushioning leaves my feet happy—even after a 10+ miler; and (importantly) the crew height layers well over the bottom hem of my leggings for complete coverage. At $25 per pair, they cost a bit more than your average run sock, but their warmth is worth it. For my fellow winter runners, these socks are a must-have.” – Anna Wissler, runs 20 to 25 miles per week

BUY IT ($25)

12. Swiftwick Pursuit Ultralight Running Socks

Best for All Seasons

  • Value: 18/20

  • Functionality: 20/20

  • Quality & Durability: 18/20

  • Aesthetic: 17/20

  • Comfort & Fit: 19/20

  • TOTAL: 92/100

“Confession: I own far too many pairs of Swiftwick socks. But as the leader in the performance sock market (literally, all they make are socks), it’s no wonder they’re on this list twice. From running and skiing to lifestyle and golf, Swiftwick has a sock for every activity you can think of. Their newest release, the Pursuit Zero Ultralight, is a running sock first but can also be broken out for hiking, golfing and cycling. They’re made with merino wool, which means they’re extra soft but are designed for year-round wear. I’m not usually a fan of wool running socks—I keep my sneakers tight and tend to size down when possible, so anything that adds extra bulk just isn’t going to fly. But these socks have the softness you’d expect from a wool fabric with a barely-there feel. They kept my feet warm on the first crisp fall day and sweat-free during summer’s last hurrah. My toes tend to go numb when the weather starts to drop (I know, us runners are crazy), so I’m anticipating these will be my go-to running socks come winter as well. I wish they had a little more compression since the soft fabric can verge on being a bit slippery, but on days when the weather is iffy and my feet need a little TLC, these never disappoint.” – Catrina Yohay, runs 12 to 15 miles per week

BUY IT ($17)

RELATED: New to Running? Here's Everything You Need for the First Few Miles (& Beyond)

PureWow may receive a portion of sales from products purchased from this article, which was created independently from PureWow's editorial and sales departments.