The Best Running Socks for a Marathon
Keeping your feet free from blisters and pain is essential to finishing a marathon and the right socks contribute to your foot health. When choosing the best socks for you, consider the material, cushioning, height and special features of the socks. Most importantly, choose your socks early in your marathon training so you have plenty of time to ensure they won’t cause blisters or hot spots on your feet.
Cotton holds on to moisture, leaving it on your feet where it can lead to chafing. Avoid cotton and opt instead for synthetic or wool socks. Synthetic socks are typically made from a combination of acrylic, polyester or spandex. These materials wick the moisture away from your feet, leaving them drier and with less chance to blister. Synthetic materials tend to dry faster than wool socks, while wool socks may provide more insulation in extreme temperatures. Consider synthetic socks if you plan to race on a hot, humid day and wool socks if you plan to race in the winter.
Pick Your Padding
Choosing the best cushioning is primarily personal preference and you may have to run in a variety of socks before you find your favorites. However, a few general guidelines may help you narrow your choices. If you already run in a well-cushioned shoe, thin socks with little cushioning may work well. If you tend to like lighter, less cushioned shoes, consider a more padded sock to protect your feet from the repetitive impact they’ll endure over 26 miles. Because the thickness of the sock can affect the temperature of your feet, you may need to adjust your choice based on the predicted conditions of the race, opting for thinner socks if it will be a hot day.
Select a Heigh
Sock height can play a role in skin protection. No-show socks cover only the part of your foot in the shoe and are best if you don’t get blisters on your Achilles and want a minimal sock. Low socks cover your foot and part of your ankle, while quarter socks typically cover your entire ankle. Low and quarter socks can help prevent blisters on the Achilles. Crew socks cover your ankle and part of your calf, while knee-high socks cover your entire calf. Choose crew or knee high socks if you’re running a trail marathon and want to protect your calves from branches or weeds.
Like any sports equipment, a variety of specialty running socks are available. Some runners choose knee high compression socks in the hopes of preventing calf cramps. Others choose socks with toes, hoping to prevent blisters between the toes. Your best bet when it comes to special features and socks is to try them in training. If they work well on long training runs, they’ll likely serve you well on race day.
- SockGeek.com: Sock Glossary
- Bogerd CP, Rechsteiner I, Wust B, Bruhwiler PA. The Effect of Two Sock Fabrics on Perception and Physiological Parameters Associated with Blister Incidence: A Field Study. The Annals of Occupational Hygiene. 2012. doi:10.1093/annhyg/mer127.
- Laing R, Swan P. Wool in Human Health and Well-Being. In: Fangueiro R., Rana S. (eds) Natural Fibres: Advances in Science and Technology Towards Industrial Applications. RILEM Bookseries, vol 12. Springer, Dordrecht. 2016
Lisa Thompson has been writing since 2008, when she began writing for the Prevention website. She is a holistic health practitioner, nationally certified massage therapist and National Council on Strength and Fitness-certified personal trainer. Thompson also holds certificates in nutrition and herbology from the Natural Healing Institute, as well as a Master of Education from California State University.