7 of the Very Best Running Socks to Prevent Blisters


Socks are kind of a boring topic and there are a lot more cool pieces of running gear than socks. But, I am a weirdo (or maybe I’m not alone in this?!) who thinks a new pair of socks is a fabulous thing. And truthfully, if you’re not being picky about your running sock choice, it’s time to start. If you want to up your running game and avoid blisters in the process, it’s time to ditch your cheap cotton socks and go for a pair specifically designed for running.

Here’s a quick preview of seven pairs of snug, no-slip, moisture-wicking running socks that will keep you blister-free all year long:

1.) Best All-Around Anti-Blister Running Socks: Feetures Elite Light Cushion No Show Tab Sock

2.) Best Ultra-Thin (Warm Weather) Running Socks: Balega Hidden Dry Moisture-Wicking

3.) Best Eco-Friendly Running Socks: Rockay Accelerate Anti-Blister Running Socks

4.) Best Knee-High Compression: CEP Tall Socks for Performance Women’s and Men’s

5.) Best Running Socks With Fun Prints: Zensah Mini-Crew

6.) Best Anti-Blister Socks for Cold Weather: Smartwool PhD Light Crew in Women’s and Men’s

7.) Best Toe Running Socks: Injinji Run 2.0 Lightweight No-Show Toe Socks

Why You Need “Real” Running Socks

When you can easily get a pair of athletic socks at a big box store for $3-$5 a pair, it can seem insane to pay in the teens and even twenties sometimes for a pair of socks. It is normal and logical to see those prices and ask yourself, “do running socks make a difference?” and “Are they worth it?” We know that marketing is a big reason we buy things, so it makes sense that you might think these companies just slap the word “running” on the package and price them quadruple what you’re used to paying for a teeny tiny piece of clothing.

The truth is that if you are only running a couple of times per week, perhaps a few miles at a time or less, you can probably get away with a cheap pair (though definitely stay away from cotton). But once you up the mileage and are starting to really work up a sweat, all that rubbing from socks made of the wrong materials with seams in the wrong places are going to leave your feet raw.

On top of that, quality running socks will last MUCH longer. And though it took me several years to figure this concept out, not only do you save money in the long run by spending more for higher quality, but you’re also helping the environment by reducing your waste as well.

If you want to avoid blisters and chafing (and yes, this can happen in the winter, too), those socks from companies who research and test to give runners exactly what they need are absolutely worth every penny.

What to Look For in Anti-Blister, Chafe-Free Running Socks

It’s just a little pair of socks, right? Wrong. There’s a lot more to consider than you’d think when it comes to getting a pair of great running socks that feel like they were made for you, offer the look you want AND keep blisters away for good.

Here are the top sock features to pay attention to:

Material

I’ll just come right out and say it – cotton is bad, bad, bad. Maybe not for sleeping and being cozy by the fireplace, but cotton is a fabric you want to stay away from when it comes to running. So what materials should you be looking for to keep blisters at bay?

The best running socks usually use a synthetic blend. A mix of fabric materials such as spandex, nylon, polyester, elastane, acrylic, rayon and nylon are typically what you’ll see. The best natural fiber is merino wool. No, this is not the itchy kind of wool your thick sweaters are made from, so don’t let that word turn you away. Merino wool is soft and thin and has the ability to regulate body temperature and wick away sweat. This makes it the ideal natural fabric for running socks. This is the main material used in Smartwool socks, but they also use synthetic materials for added comfort and the right amount of stretch.

Choosing the right materials means the socks will wick away sweat, and that’s what keeps blisters away. So “moisture-wicking” are words you want to look for (and read reviews to be sure people attest to this fact). You can look for additional materials that keep the stink factor to a minimum – such as the silver ions that Zensah uses in their socks. I haven’t had an issue with stinkiness from any of the socks I’ve listed in this post; they all seem to do a good job with that.

Amount of Cushioning

Cushioning is somewhat of a personal preference, and if you aren’t prone to blisters you could probably just choose whatever you want. But I feel pretty strongly that more cushioning leads to more blisters and “hot spots” if you are going out for longer runs. Especially if those longer runs are in the warmer months when your feet are going to sweat more.

Thicker, more cushioned socks may sound like they’d be better for protecting your feet, but it really just makes it easier for your feet to overheat…which leads to blisters. If you do require more cushioning for a more comfortable experience under the ball of your foot and heel, just be sure that they are a high-quality pair that wicks away sweat. Smartwool is an excellent choice in this regard as they do a good job of adding cushioning without a lot of extra bulk. Keep in mind that many of the ones I’ve listed on this page do have more cushioned options as well, if that is something that you require.

Proper Sizing

Buying your socks too small or too large can cause blisters and just discomfort overall, so it’s important that they fit well. Too small and they’ll be slipping down the back of your heel and putting seams and compression in the wrong places…too big and you will get bunching that causes friction and that is exactly what we’re trying to keep you from.

If you are in the middle range of a sock size, you’re probably good to go on getting that size in all socks. For example, I wear a 6.5 and I have a size small in every pair of running sock I own. That size has never let me down.

However, if you are on the edge of size range, you’ll probably want to try both the smaller and larger size to get the proper fit. For example, I bought my husband a pair of the Feetures Mini Crew for Christmas in a size large which is for sizes 9-12. As a size 12 I knew it would be cutting close from looking at their size chart on the package, but they didn’t sell XL at my local running store. They work for him, but are definitely a bit on the snug side.

Length

Running socks come in about four different lengths, and for the most part, this is more about your style preference than anything else. However, tall compression socks do seem to have some benefit when it comes to better circulation and recovery which I talk about in my article, “Should Marathon Runners Wear Compression Socks?” And you’ll probably prefer a shorter sock in the warmer months and a longer sock in the winter that ensures no extra skin is exposed to the cold.

In terms of preventing blisters, length doesn’t usually matter. But if you are experiencing any rubbing from your shoe up by the ankle, choosing a sock that creates a barrier between your shoe and your skin will keep that from happening. I have a pair of Hoka Bondi’s, for example, that the tongue rubs weird on the front of my ankle so I have to make sure I choose a sock that comes up a bit higher when I wear those shoes.

Here are the lengths to choose from:

1.) No Show – These are my favorite in terms of style. I personally don’t want my socks to stick out above my shoes when I’m wearing shorts. I think it’s because I’m short, so this gives the illusion of longer legs. Or, at least that’s what I tell myself! They also have no-show socks that have a thicker tab in the back that helps prevent the sock from slipping down…though if you buy a high-quality sock that fits, you likely won’t have this problem either way.

2.) Ankle – If you still want a minimal look from your socks but wanting something between the top of your shoe and your skin, ankle-length (also sometimes called quarter-length or low-cut) socks are a good way to go. I love this pair I have from Balega.

3.) Crew – I know a lot of runners who go for this length, including my husband. If you like to show off the cool pattern of your socks, this is a great way to go.

4.) Knee-Length – Most compression socks come in this length, but you can also find “normal” running socks that come in this length as well. I love wearing my tall Smartwool socks in the winter on the coldest days over my leggings to give an added layer of warmth.

Seam Vs. Seamless

Seams, when they’re in the wrong spots can sometimes cause chafing. (This is why I love running in seamless underwear so much which I talk about in this post. TMI? You’ll thank me later, I promise.) Seams in socks aren’t always a bad thing, but if you are prone to blisters in a certain spot on your foot or toes, you may want to avoid seams in those areas. Zensah, for example, boasts a seamless toe.

Top 7 Running Socks That Won’t Chafe Your Skin and Give You Blisters

Your non-running friends and family may think you’re crazy for spending $10 – $20 or more on one pair of socks, but you will be a much happier runner and they will like you better when you’re not complaining about your poor, worn-out feet. Here is a lineup of some of the very best!

1.) Best All-Around Anti-Blister Running Socks: Feetures Elite Light Cushion No Show Tab Sock

My husband has worn Feetures socks for a little while, but I just recently got my first couple of pairs. As someone who really prefers less cushioning and has avoided blisters for a long time with that choice, I went ahead and tried the light cushion and ultra-light cushion options. I love both, but the light cushion is a pair that will work great year-round (the ultra-light cushion is better suited toward warm-weather running) which is why I chose it as the top sock option for staying blister-free on all those runs. The material forms well around my feet and I forget they are even there. The snug, second-skin feel is something you will definitely appreciate!

5 more reasons why Feetures are a great sock to wear to keep away blisters:

  • Elite design is Feetures most technically advanced sock
  • Anatomical design (left and right foot specific) provides targeted compression and like they were made just for you
  • Power bands of Lycra hug your foot for maximum support
  • Most advanced wicking fibers keep your feet free of moisture and blister-free
  • Offer a Lifetime guarantee which means you can be confident these will be money well-spent


2.) Best Ultra-Thin (Warm Weather) Running Socks: Balega Hidden Dry Moisture-Wicking

Summer is coming and I am already so excited to have this pair of running socks in my rotation for those hottest days. My parents gave me a line-up of running socks for Christmas (thanks, Mom and Dad) and these were by far my favorite in the bunch. Though they weren’t my go-to for those frigid days, I’ve gravitated to them for treadmill runs and for the warm days that are now upon us. Additionally, I just ran a 5k PR in my Saucony Endorphin Pros (I made a video about it if you want to check that out) and these are the socks I wore. As someone who typically wears Altras that have a wide toe box, I wanted as little material between the shoe and me as possible. These were perfect.

Here’s the down low on the Balega Hidden Dry Moisture-Wicking Socks:

  • All Synthetic Material: 63% Polyester, 35% Nylon, 2% Elastane
  • Cushioning: Little cushioning – these are a “low volume construction” sock and ultra-thin
  • Snug fit creates a second skin and will prevent slipping and rubbing that can cause chafing
  • Seamless toe closure to prevent blisters
  • Keep feet cool, dry and comfortable

3.) Best Eco-Friendly Running Socks: Rockay Accelerate Anti-Blister Running Socks

I had never heard of Rockay until about a year ago when I was given a free pair of these running socks in return for providing them with feedback. (For transparency – me including them here on this page has nothing to do with getting them for free, I just honestly really love them!)

It was clear that they they wanted both my positive and negative reactions to the socks so that they could make them the best product they could and I though that was really cool. These socks are similar to the Balegas above in that they are thin and provide a snug fit. But these from Rockay stand out in that they are made from 100% recycled materials. And for every pair sold, the equivalent of 22 plastic bottles will be removed from the ocean…and if that doesn’t make you want to buy them (combined with the fact they’ll keep you blister-free), then I’m not sure what will.

What else to know about Rockay’s Carbon-Footprint Reducing Socks:

  • Constructed with special ventilation zones to wick away sweat and prevent blisters and chafing
  • Offer a Lifetime Guarantee which offers great peace of mind that these will hold up to all those miles
  • Made with anti-odor technology – they recommend air-drying after use and only washing every few wears. (I was squeamish about this at first, but I can attest to the fact they don’t stink even after running in them multiple times without washing)
  • Thin, low cushion design makes them ideal for warmer runs


4.) Best Knee-High Compression: CEP Tall Socks for Performance Women’s and Men’s

Though there isn’t definitive data that confirms that compression socks aid in recovery, bu many runners, especially those who run long distances, swear by their benefits. Increased circulation, decreased inflammation and reduced muscle fatigue are just a few advantages that tall compression socks can offer. Achy joints, inflamed tendons and sore muscles can’t be completely prevented from a pair of socks, but if that discomfort can be improved by a pair of socks that also keep the blisters away, count me in. The progressive compression technology used in the CEP socks has been scientifically proven to increase circulation by up to 40%.

Here are a few other reasons runners love the compression socks from CEP:

  • Made from an 85% polyamide and 15% Elastane blend
  • Provide graduated compression to deliver more fuel to muscles in order to better sustain endurance
  • Knit design allows for better airflow to keep skin cool
  • Strategically placed cushioning and seamless toe-closures prevent blisters and hot spots
  • Socks mold to your feet to give a superior fit

5.)Best Running Socks With Fun Prints: Zensah Mini-Crew

A good running friend of mine swears by Zensah socks. In fact, I think that’s all she wears. (She runs 60-mile weeks and just qualified for Boston just to give you an idea of the type of runner she is.)

I think these are the cutest socks in the world, but as someone with short, muscular legs, I usually prefer the no-show socks. Though I’m considering branching out on these soon…especially to wear over running leggings to keep my ankles warm in the winter. But honestly, I know many runners who wear this style year-round. It makes sense…I mean who doesn’t want to have a little fun with their running gear while staying blister-free? That’s it…I think I just sold myself.

What else there is to love about the zany Zensah Mini-Crew:

  • Moisture wicking fabric made from a combination of 5 synthetic fibers
  • At least 24 color options to choose from at the time of writing including avocados, sloths, sushi and a map (but get the print you like while they’re hot as the options are ever-evolving)
  • Compression technology gives a snug fit around the ankle and is said to help in the recovery process
  • Targeted arch support
  • Silver ions are woven into the fabric to keep your feet from stinking
  • Stay blister-free with a seamless toe and a specific sock for each foot (left and right)

6.) Best Anti-Blister Socks for Cold Weather: Smartwool PhD Light Crew in Women’s and Men’s

Smartwool socks are by far my favorite for running in the winter (but they’re honestly great year-round). I’m not a huge fan of extra cushioning or just a “thicker” sock, but I do want to keep my feet warm. Smartwool is perfect in that it’s really ideal for all seasons without the extra, unnecessary bulk. I go for the ankle/low-cut lengths on cool days, am totally fine using their “ski” sock option on the rare sub 10-degree days I’m out running, and the crew is perfect for in-between.

Features that make the Smartwool PhD Light Crew a top pair of running socks:

  • Made from 58% natural soft and thin merino wool and a sythetic combination of nylon and elastane give it a good stretch
  • warm insulation
  • durable and made to last (I attest to this…I have had my Smartwool pairs of socks for years and they’re just like new)
  • lightly cushioned on the sole
  • 4-Degree Elite Fit System is designed for movement
  • A virtually seamless toe and mesh venting keep you blister-free

RELATED: 7 of the Best Running Gloves and Mittens for Cold Weather Running

7.) Best Toe Running Socks: Injinji Run 2.0 Lightweight No-Show Toe Socks

I haven’t personally haven’t tried toe socks, but I know several runners swear by them. If you have ANY issues with blisters forming between your toes (I personally don’t), you should definitely give these a try. I know it seems weird to wear socks that look like gloves, but when you really think about it, if it works for our fingers, it makes sense that it would work for our toes. Injinji writes that the “anatomical 5 toe sleeve design prevents blisters and promotes proper posture and balance.”

We know that mittens are better than gloves for keeping our fingers warm (more on that here), so when our toes are together in normal socks they’re naturally going to warm each other up. The separation that Injinji socks provides means less overheating from your toes which means less chance for blisters.

What you can expect if you choose these Injinji Toe Socks:

  • Constructed from a Polyester/Nylon/Lycra blend
  • Superior Fiber Construction
  • Allows toes to align and splay naturally
  • Mesh-Top design for better ventilation for a blister-free ride
  • Maximum comfort with minimum bulk

Trying to keep blisters and chafing at bay on other parts of your body? Be sure to read, “How to Stop Chafing in Marathon Training.”

Jane

Hi, I'm Jane! I'm an avid runner who races 5ks to marathons. After a 4:59 first marathon, I came back to the distance years later running a BQ time of 3:36. I did a lot wrong for a long time and finally started doing a lot right. Now I'm an RRCA certified running coach and love sharing what I've learned to help others run their best.

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