The Best and Most Comfortable Running Socks

We tested dozens of pairs. These are the running socks worthy of a spot in your drawer.

Runners obsess over every detail of a running shoe to make sure they have comfort dialed for every step. But many of us will still jam an old cotton sock between that pricey shoe and our foot. The humble running sock, however, plays an important role in keeping you dry and warm (or cool).

In this article:

  • The Best Socks for Running
  • Materials Matter
  • Height and Cushioning
  • How Tall Are Different Cuff Heights?
  • What Does More Cushioning Feel Like?
  • How We Tested
  • In-Depth Reviews

The Best Socks for Running

Materials Matter

First off, avoid cotton at all costs. Sure, you could safely make it through a five-kilometre recovery jog in running socks that came from a 12-pack, but on hot or wet days you’ll find cotton absorbs an incredible amount of water and easily causes blisters. Merino wool, on the other hand, is a fiber you can wear year-round thanks to its ability to regulate temperature, move moisture, and resist odors. You’ll find it used in many pairs of performance running socks. Most, however, use a mix of synthetic fabrics—nylon, polyester, and spandex—which offers good value and durability, plus prevents irritation.

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Height and Cushioning

The thickness of a running sock can do two things: make each step feel a little softer and take up some of the extra room within a shoe. If you like a soft shoe, pair it with a sock that has thick cushioning underfoot for a supremely plush experience. We often suggest a thick or thin sock to adjust the fit of a shoe. For example, if your shoe fits a little loose—but not enough to up a half size—opt for a thicker sock to take up some of that volume.

tall socks

Trevor Raab

Taller socks can offer more protection against brambles and debris on trail runs.

low socks

Parker Feierbach

No-show and quarter-length socks can feel more breathable for the roads and track.

Unless you’re hitting the trail (where a taller sock will help keep dirt away from your skin and fend off grass and brush scrapes), sock length is a matter of personal style. Crew-length running socks have made a comeback in recent years, but the cut offers little performance value—although one could argue that the sock is unable to slide into your shoe like a no-show length sometimes can.

How Tall Are Different Cuff Heights?

  • No-show: Top of cuff sits below the ankle bone and is barely visible above the collar of a running shoe
  • Ankle: Top of cuff sits right on (or slightly below) the ankle bone
  • Quarter: Top of cuff fully covers the ankle bone
  • Crew: Top of cuff sits just at (or slightly below) the middle of the calf

What Does More Cushioning Feel Like?

  • No cushion: No additional padding has been added to the sock fabric.
  • Light cushion: Sock fabric feels thicker underfoot, but maintains a pronounced feel for the inside of a shoe.
  • Medium cushion: Additional padding underfoot is noticeable and takes up slightly more space inside of a shoe.
  • Max cushion: Underfoot padding is thick, plush, and immediately apparent.

How We Tested

Our team of experienced testers spent many hours and kilometres running year-round to evaluate how these socks fared in a variety of conditions—from hot and humid track workouts to bitter cold runs through the snow to rainy slogs on the trail. We also noted how well these running socks held up between multiple wears and washes.

In addition to gathering detailed on-foot impressions, we used a vertical moisture-wicking test to objectively assess how well each sock handled sweat and moisture. To do it, we cut six-inch-long by one-inch-wide strips from the socks’ fabric and suspended them from a support stand with one end in blue-dyed water. We then measured the amount of time it took for the water to migrate roughly two inches up each fabric strip. Finally, we noted how long it took for the socks to dry after they were completely saturated.

socks testing

Lakota Gambill

We performed a vertical moisture-wicking test using strips of fabric cut from several socks to replicate each material’s ability to pull sweat away from the skin. If a sock doesn’t wick moisture well, it can cause blisters.

The pairs we’ve included in this list are some of the top performers across all of our tests, and we’ve indicated the qualities or conditions in which a specific sock excelled. That said, every running sock here strikes a good balance of odour control, moisture management, comfort, durability, and value for your runs.

In-Depth Reviews


Credit: Balega


Balega Enduro

$19-$30 at Amazon

  • Secure fit around heel and ankle
  • Slightly snug arch compression
  • Cushioning feels plush yet lightweight
  • Excellent breathability on top of the arch
  • Loose threads along inner stitching
  • No men’s- and women’s-specific fits

Key Specs

Cuff HeightsNo-show, ankle, quarter, crew

The Hidden Comfort still reigns supreme as Balega’s plushest and most cushioned model— it’s one of our all-time favourites for both hammering kilometres on the roads and treadmill, and winding down with some post run yoga. However, the potential negative about the Hidden Comfort is that it’s, well, mostly “hidden” inside your shoe. (The heel tab ensures the sock doesn’t slip down your foot, but it doesn’t provide much by way of ankle coverage.) For that reason, we favour the Enduro for trail runs and during the colder months of the year. The sock is still plenty cushioned, but its taller height options offer more protection from dirt and debris, and also help keep chilly air from nipping at your ankles.

The majority of the Enduro’s cushioning uses Balega’s Drynamix polyester yarn, which feels soft and smooth and wicks moisture away from the foot to prevent blisters. But when compared to wool socks we’ve tested, it doesn’t perform as well in terms of durability and odour control. Though we haven’t put any holes in the Enduro after seven months of running, Balega only guarantees its pairs for a year. And, unlike the Balega Silver (below) in which we could easily sneak out a double wear, you’ll want to drop these in the wash after every run.

Elite Light Cushion No-Show Socks


Feetures Elite Light Cushion No-Show Socks

On Amazon

  • Left-right foot specificity dials in fit
  • Full-length padding also covers tops of toes
  • Great arch fit with snug compression
  • Cushioned without feeling bulky
  • Insufficient moisture-wicking for sweatier feet
  • No men’s- and women’s-specific fits

Key Specs

Cuff HeightsNo-show, quarter, crew
CushioningLight (ultra-light and max also available)

We’ve long loved Feetures’s socks because of their dedicated left and right fits and seamless construction. Together, those two aspects dialed in fit and comfort with no baggy toes or irritating seams, but the material itself was always really slippery inside a shoe. Now, the Elite line is built with Tencel fibres and has a very high 200-needle thread count for that same comfortable fit without the sliding. The deep heel pocket and snug wrap around the arch ensure the sock stays in place on your foot; none of our testers reported any slipping around in their shoes on runs.

Even runners who preferred no-cushion socks were won over by Feetures’s cushier offerings. “The inner padding is super soft and a little fuzzy, but overall the sock is still snug, secure, and lightly compressive,” one tester said of the max-cushion Elite. “It feels like a cosy cabin sock meets performance running.” An extra bonus? There’s a rainbow of brand new colors.

Performance Crew Socks


Stance Performance Crew Socks


  • Excellent heat management
  • Multiple cuff and colour options
  • Targeted compression supports arch
  • Good odour control
  • Some runners may want more cushioning
  • Unisex sizing

Key Specs

Cuff HeightsNo-show, quarter, crew
CushioningLight (medium and max also available)

Stance builds apparel that’s all about performance but doesn’t sacrifice style. This means you’re getting premium materials and workmanship with attention to the details—like a left-and-right specific fit, antimicrobial finish, and woven channels to let air flow more easily through the cushioning. And with that, you still have the option to spice up your race or daily run with flowers, stripes, camo, Disney characters, and dozens of artist collaborations.

Made from a blend of nylon, polyester, and a pinch of spandex, the sock is smooth but not too slippery; our RW news editor Theo Kahler found the textured footbed and cushioning created just enough friction to keep him planted inside his trainers. “These socks hugged my arch and heels and didn’t move around at all–almost like a second skin,” agreed another tester, who wore the no-show height for both runs and HIIT workouts.

Even runners who preferred more plushly-cushioned socks were surprised by this thinner model’s support and comfort. “I especially appreciated these socks’ subtle compressive cushion that wraps around the arch. For that reason, they’ve also become my go-t0 pair for cycling,” said one tester, who spins extra kilometres on the bike during his NYC Marathon training. “The socks help my cleats feel snugger without constricting my toes or the tops of my feet.”

Maxus Zero Tab


Swiftwick Maxus Zero Tab


  • New eco-friendly cushioning
  • Fit is relaxed (less compressive) without bunching inside shoe
  • Multiple color options
  • Does not slip down inside the shoe
  • Crew heights not available
  • Sizing runs a bit small for some

Key Specs

Cuff HeightsZero, one (inches above the ankle)

The Maxus is Swiftwick’s plushest, cosiest sock to date. It’s the pair we’ll grab most frequently for Sunday long runs—or days when we know we’ll be spending a lot of time on our feet—and we want to supplement our shoes with as much cush as possible. That much hasn’t changed. However, Swiftwick did recently give the Maxus an important update by switching to a new material called Repreve. It’s a recycled fibre that’s more sustainable and saves the plastic equivalent of one water bottle.

Initially, we worried the new construction would impact the socks’ durability and cloud-like softness. Rest assured, after two months of testing, the Maxus is still our dream sock for big kilometerage. Testers who loved the original model noted no drop in comfort or quality whatsoever.

Quarter Crew Socks


Hurdle Apparel Quarter Crew Socks


  • Men’s and women’s, left and right specific fit
  • Excellent heel and forefoot shock absorption
  • Good breathability
  • Antimicrobial yarns help control odour
  • More expensive
  • Heavier than most running socks

Key Specs

Cuff HeightsAnkle, quarter, crew

In November 2022, Hurdle Apparel launched its small lineup of socks with a unique take on cushioning. Instead of super-thick underfoot padding—which can get heavy and soggy if you’re splashing through puddles—the brand uses flexible gel webbing in the heel and forefoot. This design mimics the fat pads we all have on the bottom of our feet that act as natural shock absorbers, and it offers additional support that won’t pack down like plush cushion. (We sliced our test pairs open for a closer look, and the material feels like a slightly squishy Dr. Scholl’s insole.)

One tester wore the socks throughout her training for a winter half marathon, and liked the socks enough to toe the start line in them. “I prefer a lot of soft cushioning in my socks,” she said. “On my rainy race morning, these felt well-padded but not heavy, even after being in wet conditions for more than two hours.” We also liked that the those gel webs inside the socks’ lining seem to disperse pressure more evenly along the bottom of your foot—it’s a bit like a razor-thin orthotic or insole. In our tester’s case, this made standing (and dancing) at the post-race party much more comfortable.

The Distance Running Socks


Near Earth The Distance Running Socks


  • Anatomical, left and right specific fit
  • Crew height is scaled to size
  • Cushioning feels plush yet lightweight
  • Snug, non-restrictive arch support
  • Heel fit is slightly baggy
  • Some runners may want more colour options

Key Specs

Cuff HeightsCrew

Don’t worry about whether your socks will match your kit on race day; slip on a pair of Near Earth’s all-black or all-white crews and go. They’re simple and soft, but built to go fast with an extremely stretchy and lightweight construction that breathes well and hugs your Achilles without sagging. We wore The Distance for several 16 kilometres during this winter’s RW Run Streak—both on the treadmill and outside in temps from 40 degrees to below freezing—and most liked the socks’ plush and airy cushioning. It’s just padded enough that it doesn’t feel bulky inside a slim-fitting race shoe, and the compressive arch band feels snug and secure around the midfoot. So, even though the material is a bit slick, we didn’t experience any sliding inside our shoes.

For our initial testing, we ran mostly in chilly weather and indoors. However, Near Earth promises its socks’ combo of sweat-wicking nylon yarn and spandex will keep your feet blister-free during the humid summer months, as well. (The company’s founder sources materials and personally gathers feedback from garment makers and seasoned marathoners in Northern Italy.) And so far, we’ve had zero irritation running on East Coast boardwalks and gravel trails under baking July sun.

All in all, we’re impressed by the craftsmanship and high quality of The Distance Running Socks. They’re everything you need for any long, pavement-pounding effort.

The Run Compression Mid Cut 4.0 Socks


CEP The Run Compression Mid Cut 4.0 Socks


  • Left and right, men’s- and women’s-specific fits
  • Treated with silver ions to reduce odour
  • No sagging or bunching
  • Excellent durability
  • Takes some effort to put on and take off
  • Can feel a little slick inside the shoe

Key Specs

Cuff HeightsNo-show, ankle, quarter, crew

Gear editor Amanda Furrer grabs these socks first when she wants an extra recovery-enhancing squeeze on the run, without wriggling into a pair of knee-highs during the hot summer months. “Personally, I’ve not always felt a significant performance boost from compression socks, but the fit and firmness of this pair feels like they’re really doing something,” Furrer said. “It’s amazing they manage to stay up the entire run—no sliding down, or bunching. I’ve taken up speedwork and long runs again, so I’d like to believe these help me recover on my easy runs,” she added.

This mid-cut model delivers between 18 and 20 mmHg of compression around the arch and ankle, which is slightly less than what you’ll get from CEP’s taller pairs (20-30 mmHg). We like it because it supports tired feet and helps promote blood flow, but doesn’t feel uncomfortably snug or restrictive during workouts. Plus, the new 4.0 model has a padded and ventilated footbed for some softer cushioning underfoot that also moves heat and sweat away from your skin.

Run Targeted Cushion Socks


Smartwool Run Targeted Cushion Socks


  • Cushioning targets heel and toe for comfort without bulk
  • Achilles tab effectively reduces slippage
  • Good odour control
  • Seamless toes
  • Longer dry time
  • Runs a bit large for some

Key Specs

Cuff HeightsNo-show, ankle, quarter, crew
CushioningMedium (zero cushion also available)

Even socks with thicker cushioning can efficiently wick sweat away from your skin, which helps prevents blisters from forming on your feet. Just take this plush Smartwool pair, for example—it was the top performer overall in our moisture-wicking test. Made from a soft, cosy blend of merino wool, nylon, and spandex, it was also one of the most comfortable we tested, with targeted underfoot cushioning that didn’t feel bulky or take up too much room in our shoes. Plus, the 52-percent wool construction really cuts down on stink. We found that even after four wears back-to-back, the sock smelled immensely better than standard cotton or polyester models that endured the same sweaty treatment. The only downside was that the Smartwool’s thicker cushioning took longer to dry once it got wet in our follow-up tests, so it’s not the best sock to wear on rainy runs when you’ll be splashing through puddles.

Running Lite-Mesh Mini Crew


Drymax Running Lite-Mesh Mini Crew


  • Excellent blister protection
  • Very breathable
  • Good cushioning-to-weight ratio
  • Dries fast and wicks moisture quickly
  • Less durable
  • Limited colour options

Key Specs

Cuff HeightsNo-show, ankle, quarter, crew

Ultrarunners especially know that even a small blister can become debilitating over the course of a long race. That’s likely why so many endurance athletes swear by Drymax socks. (In fact, the brand has collaborated with runners like Ian Sharman, Karl “Speedgoat” Meltzer, and Hayden Hawks to design models tailored to their specific preferences.) Like all Drymax socks, the best-selling Running Lite Mesh features a dual-layer construction designed to move moisture away from the foot and reduce blister-producing friction. The inner layer uses hydrophobic materials that don’t allow moisture to adhere to the sock, pushing sweat and water away from your skin. The sock also has additional strips of airy mesh on top of the arch for ventilation, while the underfoot portion offers plush—but not dense—cushioning from heel to toe.

During our testing, we noticed that some inseam threads came loose, but we were able to trim them easily without any unravelling. Our senior video producer Pat Heine-Holmberg appreciated their bombproof blister protection for his 526 kilometre FKT on the Pennsylvania Mid-State Trail and two UTMB finishes. “Drymax socks have a moisture-​repelling interior and moisture-​attracting outer layer,” he said. “I like their Trail Run 1/4 Crew for being essentially two socks in one, which allows the two layers to rub against themselves, reducing friction directly against your feet.”

Flite XT Trail Two Socks


Swiftwick Flite XT Trail Two Socks

Now 20% Off


  • Dries fast and wicks moisture well
  • Very secure inside shoe; no sliding
  • Good odour control
  • Heel fit is snug and not baggy
  • Limited colour options
  • Not as durable as the original Flite XT model

Key Specs

Cuff HeightsTwo, five (inches above the ankle)

Swiftwick dubs its latest creation, the Flite XT Trail, the “most technically advanced sock for hiking and trail running.” While much simpler socks have also excelled in our tests, this new model proved itself a cut above. The Flite XT Trail builds on the original Flite XT model from Swiftwick. Both pairs use portions of grippy fibrous material beneath the heel and forefoot, which help prevent your foot from sliding around inside your shoe. Combined with snug arch and ankle compression, this lends extra support for lateral movements in agility drills and circuit training—or for dodging rocks, roots, and potholes midrun.

The trail-specific version, however, also incorporates merino wool that naturally controls foot odour and feels a little softer against the skin. All that comes together to make this one of the best socks we’ve run in. The material is thick, durable, and dries quickly after we soaked it in a rainstorm. Plus, there’s enough cushion so you’ll feel a little extra protection on longer runs, but it’s not too heavy or mushy.

“My favourite thing about this sock is how it makes the fit of every running shoe feel a little more locked in. That’s especially helpful in some daily trainers where I have a little too much wiggle room,” gear editor Morgan Petruny said. “These socks take up that bit of extra space and grip the shoe’s insole without making my feet feel too cramped or sweaty—the material is durable and thick, but still breathes nicely.”

However, after 15 months of running, we did finally put holes in our test pairs. “While there aren’t any signs of wear on the heels or toes, there’s a small rip on the inside of the ankle. It’s right over the ankle bone where the seams connect the heel cup to the rest of the sock,” Petruny added. “I only notice it when I pull the socks on, so it hasn’t yet affected their overall performance.”

Silver Socks


Balega Silver Socks


  • Superior odour resistance
  • Full-length cushioning underfoot from heel to toe
  • Lots of colour options
  • Good arch support
  • Low cuff height offers less protection on trails
  • Some testers wanted more forefoot cushioning

Key Specs

Cuff HeightNo-show

Running shoes are breeding grounds for bacteria, which of course means your socks are going to stink. While wool will cut down on the odours, you can also boost comfort and smell fresh with this pair from Balega. The sock’s moisture-wicking fibres are covered in silver ions to help kill germs. We found the sock remains stink-free, even after multiple wearings between washes (yes, we know this is gross, but we still do it). Runners will also like the thicker cushioning underfoot, and the breathable top panel kept us cool during an extended bout of muggy 90-plus degree days. Available in a slew of neon options, it’ll add a pop of colour to your next race—why not be bold and go with bright lilac and watermelon?

We just wish the Silver was available in more cuff heights. For an antimicrobial sock that covers beyond the ankle, we’ve been grabbing a completely new-to-us brand from our test pile. Purra Performance recently released its first athletic sock, and so far it’s impressed us on our daily runs this summer. “After back-to-back-to-back runs in the same pair of Purras over three days, these socks smelled much better than my On Running socks when I gave them the same multiple-wear treatment,” said Petruny. (To do it, Purra uses Copptech. This technology embeds copper and zinc into a raw material, which is then spun into synthetic yarns. The result is a soft, smooth material that deters bacterial growth at the cellular level to help keep runner stank at bay.) While the socks can feel a bit slick inside looser-fitting trainers, we noticed this only on tight U-turns at the midpoint of out-and-back runs, and when cruising down steep hills.

Run Ultra-Light Cushion Quarter Socks


Darn Tough Run Ultra-Light Cushion Quarter Socks


  • Durable yet soft construction
  • Excellent moisture-wicking ability
  • Good odour control
  • Lifetime guarantee
  • Fit is not left and right foot specific
  • Limited colour options

Key Specs

Cuff HeightsNo-show, quarter
CushioningMedium (also available without cushioning)

Performance socks aren’t cheap, but rest easy knowing that if you ever poke your big toe through this merino sock you’ll get a replacement pair for free. But it’s unlikely you will wear this sock down; we found it to be the most durable, lightweight wool model. Darn Tough uses a high stitch count for the Run Ultra-Light, so it’s velvety soft against your foot and wraps the arch with just enough compression for a secure fit and a smidge of extra support.

“I have a purple and green pair of Darn Tough socks that I’ve been wearing for almost three years, and they’re still as cushy as they were on the first run,” said one tester. “They’re my go-to for 32-kilometres during marathon training because they stay put and don’t bunch or slide, even when I’m moving for hours and my feet start to swell.” One tester who had a little extra space around the pinky toes thought left-right specificity could make the fit even better.

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