When you run a lot, whether it’s just your favorite workout or you’re training for a marathon, a lot can happen to your feet. Your toenails may turn black, or even fall off. The top of your feet may hurt. And you may develop blisters…lots and lots of blisters.
When it comes to the first two problems, proper lacing and shoe fitting can make a major difference. But, when it comes to blisters, it turns out your socks can offer you far more protection than your actual shoes.
Cotton Socks and Running: a Toxic Relationship
At one time, cotton socks were the gold standard for preserving your foot health. Made from a natural fiber, we thought they’d let your feet breathe, preventing the buildup of moisture and bacteria. We thought those facts would help keep problems like blisters and fungi at bay. But, as it turns out, we thought wrong.
In fact, wearing cotton socks—especially if you’re an avid runner—is a very bad idea when it comes to blister prevention. Far from preventing them, wearing cotton socks actually makes you more likely to develop a blister. Yes, cotton absorbs moisture like sweat, keeping it off of your feet, but that moisture stays in your sock, right on your foot, which can make the surface of your skin more slick and vulnerable to rubbing.
And if those cotton socks are even a little bit small for you? The problems get worse! When those socks become wet from the absorbed moisture, they rub up against your slick skin, creating even more friction. And wet skin + extra friction = …you guessed it! Blisters!
Choosing the Best Socks for Your Runs
So, now that you no to steer clear of cotton, what socks should you choose? Don’t worry, you have plenty of options.
One sock choice that always makes sense for runners is a high-tech, sweat-wicking athletic sock, such as ones crafted from Merino wool or Dri-Tech. These are designed with the specific purpose of blister prevention, so they are clearly an excellent choice for runners.
But, you don’t have to splurge on super expensive socks in order to protect yourself from blisters. Even if it’s not a ‘high-tech’ sock, any non-cotton pair with ‘sweat-wicking’ capabilities will, at the very least, lower your risk of developing blisters. So, look for polyester, wool or nylon socks if you’re not in the mood to spend on specially designed athletic gear. While they may not have the exact same blister-fighting powers as their fancier counterparts, they will still go a long way towards preventing your sweaty feet from rubbing up against their material. And, though it probably goes without saying by now, they will always be a better choice for runners than those formerly-celebrated 12 packs of cotton socks!