Running-Advice.com -- Marathon Running Information, Coaching and Advice from Coach Joe English

Training — Do I need to wear socks when I run?

Coach Joe English

Coach Joe English

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a post about the question of wearing under-wear when running. That post spawned a lot of e-mails asking a lot of very interesting questions, some of which do not need to be repeated on this family friendly running blog. But one question that a number of people raised had to do with socks: do you need to wear them when running?

So, do you need to wear socks while running? This question I can dispose of with two simple words: it depends.

The role of the sock is, generally speaking, to protect the foot from rubbing against the inside of the shoe. Rubbing is a source of blistering, especially when there is moisture present. As I often say, “moisture+motion=blisters”. But here’s the thing: if there is no friction or rubbing or moisture in the shoe, then socks aren’t always a necessity. In fact, for many people, the wrong sock can even contribute to the motion and or moisture problems.

And to make things more interesting, this question is totally dependent on the fit of your shoes on your feet, so it may not be the same answer from shoe to show. In other words, some people may be required to wear socks with some of their shoes and may not need them with others.

I’ll use myself as an example and I have experience in this area, because I am a notoriously fast packer and have twice forgotten to put running socks in my gym bag in just the last month. Fortunately, for what became this experiment, I had two different pairs of shoes on these two days when I went “sock commando.” I normally wear very thin, snug fitting socks, and would always prefer to wear socks — but I wasn’t thinking that even I could pull off black dress socks with my shorts and running shoes.

In any case, I headed out a few weeks ago in my Mizuno Wave Elixir 4 training shoes without socks and within two miles I was developing a blister on the arch of my right foot right at the point where the laces pull the upper snug. I love these shoes and have run for nearly two years in various pairs of them without ever once blistering, so I know that the lack of socks in this case was the cause.

In my second run, I happened to have my Nike LunarRacer+ racing shoes with me and headed to the track without socks. In this case, the LunarRacer+ — being designed to be a snug-fitting racing shoe — didn’t move around at all. I ran an entire workout with four miles on the road and three miles of hard intervals on the track with not a hint of discomfort.

So I think the bottom-line here is that whether you need to wear socks is going to be highly dependent on the fit of your shoes, how much motion is happening inside the shoe, and how much moisture is present. The less motion and the drier the environment, the less likely that you’ll have blistering problems. If you are having a problem with blisters and think that your socks might actually be causing them, then stuff a pair in your pocket and head out for a short run sock-less. It’s a variable that you just might try as part of your trouble shooting to getting rid of those nagging blisters.

Coach Joe English, Portland, Oregon, USA
Running Advice and News
www.running-advice.com

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2 responses so far, want to say something?

  1. 1. Will March 3rd, 2010 at 9:03 pm

    Interesting post. I've had very good luck using a medium hiking sock. The theory is that they wick moisture away, and they provide more protection to my foot than your average running sock, even a bit of extra cushion. They are especially practical running in the winter here in Minnesota, but I use them all summer, too (and they're really not too hot). My first marathon (Twin Cities, 2008) it was pouring sheets of rain. Everybody was soaked to the skin, puddles you couldn't avoid 2" deep through early parts of the course. I heard a lot about blisters that day, but I had none at all. I give the credit to my nice thick socks.

  2. 2. MMB June 25th, 2010 at 6:07 pm

    I think socks can make a huge difference in your run or after. I'm a huge fan of the SIGVARIS Athletic Recovery Sock. The sock features true graduated compression and help flush out lactic acid. You can find out more about it at http://www.AthleticRecoverySock.com

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