Before You Buy Walking Socks

What to Look For in an Athletic Sock for Fitness Walking

Balega Enduro Socks
Balega Enduro Socks. Wendy Bumgardner ©

Sweat, pressure points, and shearing forces can lead to blisters. Your socks are your first line of defense against these enemies. They must fit correctly so they don't bunch up and lead to pressure and shearing forces. They must wick sweat away from your skin. Forget cotton socks. Forget tube socks. Invest in wicking, anatomically-designed walking socks and your feet will thank you.

Today's Fitness Walking Socks

Luckily, you can find great socks designed for walking, jogging, and light hiking from several manufacturers.

Here is the short list of top picks:

Thickness and Padding for Walking Socks

Socks designed for walking will have light padding in key areas. These include the heel, ball of foot, toes and, in some cases, the instep. You will find a variety of thicknesses for athletic socks. Some walkers prefer a thin, single-layer sock, especially if they have shoes that already fit snugly, or to layer under a wool sock. Other people prefer a thick sock or a medium-thickness sock. Often you have to choose the sock to match your shoe so you have a good fit with the combined system.

    Double-Layer Socks

    Double-layer socks prevent blisters by wicking moisture away from the foot and decreasing friction. The two layers of the sock move against each other rather than your foot moving against the sock. Some walkers find them the key to blister prevention, although others do best with a single-layer sock.

    WrightSock is a leader in this type of socks. Traditionally, hikers would wear two different pairs of socks, with a wicking liner sock of polypropylene and and outer wool sock. A double-layer sock is similarly designed, although rarely using wool.

      Anatomic Design

      To keep the sock in place and prevent bunching, it needs to be shaped like your foot.

      Many designs have elastic or ribbing to keep them snug. Men's and women's feet differ in shape, so a gender-specific sock is wise. For those of us with bunions, you may find your sock is the culprit for irritation rather than the shoe and you will need to shop for a sock that doesn't bunch your toes together.

        Wicking Fabrics

        Say no to cotton. When cotton gets wet from sweat, it absorbs it but doesn't release it readily. As a result, your feet stay moist and that is a set-up for blisters. Look for socks made of moisture-wicking fabrics such as CoolMax, Dri-Fit, Sorbtek and many others available on the market. Smartwool and other modern technical wool fabrics use wool for its moisture management system. Some people do well with wool socks, and these type take the itch out by using special wool. The wicking fabrics in socks are the key to preventing blisters.

        Wide Socks

        If you have wide feet or bunions, you may want wide socks so your toes won't be cramped. Here are tips and top picks for wide socks.

        Compression Socks and Sleeves

        Compression socks and leg sleeves can help with blood flow for people with diabetes and varicose veins. They have also become popular for runners to use either in hopes of improving performance or for recovery. The evidence for the benefits of compression socks and leg sleeves in athletics is mixed.

        More Sock Picks:

        Top Picks for Winter Walking Socks: You may want a heavier sock for winter walking to help keep your feet warm and dry.

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