Some people might see socks as little more as something you have to wear in order to slip into your sneakers, but we don’t feel that way. Socks can be so much more! They can showcase your personality, add some life to an otherwise dull workout ensemble, help you stay warm during the cold winter months, and even improve performance and recovery.
And, yes, yes — they do make wearing shoes more comfortable, too, so there’s that.
So, if you’re looking to up your sock game (and if you aren’t … well, may we suggest you consider doing so?), we’ve got a few tips for what to look for in a sock as well as suggestions for socks Erin and I have had the pleasure of sampling over the last couple of months!
Sport Sock Shopping 101
First off, assuming you’re not also shoe shopping (although, if you are, we can help with that!), you’ll probably want to think about what shoes you wanna wear these socks with — and the socks you’re currently sporting in them. If you’ve been wearing thicker socks, switching to something really thin might change up the fit and vice versa. Doesn’t mean you can’t do it — just means you probably ought to start with shorter runs or walks if you make a big change to the type of sock you’re wearing.
Then, what are your thoughts on compression? I’ll be honest — I wear compression socks a lot. I love them for both workouts and recovery, I almost always wear them when I travel, and if I’m ever wearing tall boots, you’d better believe that’s what’s happening underneath. But not everybody likes compression — or some people like really light compression.
Whether you go for high compression, no compression, or something in between, you’ll also want to decide whether you want high, low, or mid-length socks. This has a lot to do with looks, for sure, but what you’re wearing them with (not to mention what season you’re wearing them in) can make a big difference. For instance, in the depths of winter in New Jersey, Erin could probably rock long socks designed for warmth underneath long running tights, while down in Florida — well, I still might wear knee-high or calf-length socks, but they’ll probably be paired with itty bitty running shorts. Or I might pair short socks with capris to keep a bit of skin cool and exposed.
Only then would I recommend really honing in on the looks. I mean, I love a good accessory — this is not a secret — but when it comes to your workout gear, you’ve gotta go for function over fashion.
Happily, the sock brands below pass the test in both respects!
My first pair of compression socks ever (which I bought back when I was training for this race) were CEP, and I still have them — they’re in great shape (if you ignore all the dog hair that’s weaved its way into the soles and will not, no matter what I do, come out) and I still wear them regularly. They’re one of the pairs I go to when I need serious compression, so often, they’re my post-long run recovery socks, but I’ll wear them for long workouts too.
Anyway, they’ve got a couple of new styles out that Erin and I got to try. I checked out the Women’s Dynamic+ Run Ultralight Low Cut Socks ($20), and let me say, that’s a seriously apt description.
They are, in fact, very light weight and the cut is great — low enough to be out of the way but high enough to offer some compression goodness to my low ankle area. They’re really easy to slip on and off, have either a seamless toe box or extra-flat toe seam, and after putting in considerable miles in them, I’ve had zero problem with slippage or hot spots.
Erin tested out the Women’s Compression+ Merino Run Socks in a fun green color ($60).
Designed to keep you warm when it’s cold and keep you cool when your body temperature goes up, the merino wool’s natural heat and moisture management kept Erin comfortable. Layered under tights they’ll keep toes snug and calves comfortable on really cold days. Great for cold, wet climes, you can see why I didn’t try try them out. Erin did report that the compression is super supportive and great for both runs and recovery. Also, I hear that if you wear them with capris that overlap with them, you can have a bit of a claustrophobic situation trying to get them off.
This is a fairly new brand with a major focus on both fashion and the benefits of compression. Tight at the ankle and slightly looser as they go up to the knee, these socks feel great. They even have a slightly padded heel for extra comfort.
All Lily Trotter socks ($48 unless on sale) are knee-high, and they range from cute and girly to a little funky to nice and plain, although they all have a scalloped detail at the top, which makes them stand out in a really cute way. I’m kind of partial to the Candy Stripes, myself, although there are a whole bunch of adorable options at which you might want to take a gander.
Speaking of cushion (sort of), I’ve gotta give a shout out to Feetures for their Elite Max Cushion No Show Tab Socks ($15.99). They come in an assortment of fun color combos, but, since it’s a shortie sock, they won’t be too visible with shoes on.
However! This is a sock you’d choose for the feel. There’s targeted compression in the arch, no irritating toe seam, and, as some of you smarties might guess by the name, they’ve got cushion you can really feel — and yes, even after several wears and washes, it’s still noticeable.
Now, when it comes to serious style, I can’t think of a brand that does it better than Stance. They offer all kinds of socks with all kinds of designs, drawing inspiration from Star Wars, Dennis Rodman, outer space, flowers and more and almost anything else you can imagine. But for our purposes, we’ll focus on their Performance Socks ($12-38), which still has loads of options (starting with the fact that they have knee-high, crew and short compression socks).
Want bright colors and bold patterns? Got ’em. Need something more subtle? That’s in there, too. The compression isn’t as strong as it is with some of the other brands, but it’s still significant — and the patterns just can’t be beat!
Let’s hear it — are you a compression fan? Do you wear compression socks for workouts, recovery, travel … or something else entirely? —Kristen