How The Right Socks Can Improve Your Workout

How The Right Socks Can Improve Your Workout

The unsung heroes that can make all the difference.

By Amy Gurvitz Updated August 14, 2020


Socks are probably the last thing you think about when it comes to workout wear—until you experience the blisters, chafing, bunching or slipping that can bring your run or ride to a screeching halt. That’s when it hits you: Socks matter as much, if not more, than anything else you have on. We checked in with Peloton instructor Matt Wilpers and some sock-savvy Members to hear how the right socks can start (and finish) your workout on the right foot.

First of all, can something as simple as socks really improve your workout? “Absolutely!” says Tread and Bike instructor Matt Wilpers. “Shoes are built around the specific need of the sport and your sock should be, too. As a running shoe is different from a cycling shoe and a cycling shoe is different from a ski boot, all can benefit from their own type of sock in order to best accommodate comfort.”

Member Rich B. (#Richboys), from Ann Arbor, MI, has discovered the benefits of wearing specialized socks. For riding his Peloton Bike, he sports thin Adidas socks, for riding his bike outdoors he wears Pearl Izumis and for running, he’s devoted to Balega socks. “When I first started running, I ran in whatever shoes I got from a department store and whatever socks I had,” he recalls. “The result was knee issues, then ankle issues, and after my first or second half marathon I lost a toenail.”

A few years later, with the Peloton app’s Outdoor classes in the rotation, he was introduced to specialized running socks from Balega by a salesperson at a running store. “When I changed to Balega socks, I stopped having issues with blisters and discomfort,” says Rich. “I have tried other brands but have not stuck with them for more than a few runs before going back to the Balegas.”

Tammy G. (#focusedfitnfree) from Powell, OH, was similarly introduced to specialized socks at a local running store. “I had no idea socks could make such a difference,” she admits. “I am a fairly new runner and my feet and toes would be hurting so much after long runs. I thought it just came with being a runner.”

For spring through fall, feetures socks are now her go-to. When winter rolls around, she switches to Smartwool. “I no longer get blisters on the tips of my toes and my feet aren't angry at me for days after a long run,” she says happily. “It turns out all I needed was a $12 pair of socks to make a $100 pair of running shoes feel like a million.”

What should you look for when shopping for a running sock? “You want a sock that wicks away sweat, has minimal seams, has some cushion in high-impact areas, fits snugly to your feet and breathes,” says Matt Wilpers.

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“If the sock does not wick sweat, it will quickly feel like your feet are in a swimming pool,” he continues. “If the sock has seams, these can act as pressure points on your feet and potentially cause blisters. If the sock is not snug to your foot, it will likely bunch and then create blisters or pressure points. If the sock does not breathe, it will feel like your feet are sweltering in heat.”

Like Tammy, Wilpers is a fan of feetures socks for running, so much so that he has become a brand ambassador for them. He hasn’t figured out his favorite cycling sock just yet, but when it comes to choosing the right one, much of the above applies. “In general,” says Wilpers, “you want a light and thin sock with preferred fibers for the temperature you will be riding in and at the preferred length.” Whether you cycle in a taller sock or one that just hits your ankles is a matter of personal preference.

Darrell M. (# H_town_Coog) from Houston, TX, has found that Swiftwick’s ASPIRE Four are his favorite socks for his 4-5 weekly rides. “I began riding in older non-compression socks and my arches would get sore after longer rides,” he says. “These socks have definitely improved my workouts from a comfort perspective. They have great compression and arch support for my flat feet. I also like the length, as they protect my ankles and support my lower calves.”

Compression socks have been the solution to Leslie J.’s (#SpikingSixPak) workout woes, too. The East Brunswick, NJ-based Tread and Bike owner has battled blisters and chafing while running, in addition to plantar fasciitis, and has found comfort in Pro Compression knee-high socks and ankle socks from Road Runner Sports.

“I love how both are high-quality dry wicking material and keep my feet dry,” she says. “I wear the knee-high compression socks when I run longer distances to aid in preventing exercise-induced edema, improve circulation and blood flow as well as help with lactic acid removal so that I minimize soreness. It is important to me to make sure my feet are happy because in order to achieve my fitness goals, I need my feet to be healthy!”

Former collegiate basketball player Brandie R. (#BrandieBomb81) from Tulsa, OK, had struggled to find socks for her long, narrow feet that won’t slip down, bunch up in the toes, cause blisters or (literally) rub her the wrong way. Then she discovered Bombas Performance Ankle Running Merino Socks. “These socks are perfect!” raves the 7-day-a-week rider. “They have extra support around the arches that holds them in place. They have improved my workouts because they never require mid-workout adjustments. I never worry about blisters. They keep my feet dry and never leave my shoes smelling bad.”

Adriana C. (#Vaskula11) from Tampa, FL, shares Brandie’s disdain for sliding socks, and is currently running and riding in the lightweight Agile style from Rockay. “They are very thin yet comfy, and I don’t ever have to worry that they will slide down my heel,” she says. “And they are made from they upcycled ocean waste, which is very cool.”

Compared to thick, cushiony styles she once wore, which made her feet feel “hot, sweaty and weird,” Rockay socks are more breathable and help her better feel the road. Says Adriana, “I know I’m wearing the right socks when I don’t think about them on a run!”