Athletic Socks

Monday, 27 October 2008

Any sport that involves a lot of impact and shock to the foot can easily result in blisters if there isnít adequate padding. With dense cushioning at key pressure points for extra support and protection, specially designed socks can make your activities much more enjoyable.



The Basics

  • There are different types of socks for different sports:

    • Running: for all high-impact sports, look for dense cushioning in the sole.

    • Hiking: extra padding in the sole plus cushioning in the instep to decrease the pressure from tight laces.

    • Cycling: thin and lightweight so cyclist can feel the pedals; also more aerodynamic

    • Walking: may have spandex in the arch for additional support

    • Basketball: extended heel pads to protect against Achilles tendon injuries; typically higher so they stay up

  • Buy your size and make sure they fit properly. Too big will bunch up and cause discomfort. Too small will put the padding in the wrong place, compromising performance.Extra padding in a sock shouldn’t make your shoe feel too tight.

  • Different fabrics affect your comfort:

    • Cotton-Blend: Avoid 100% cotton for athletic socks since cotton traps moisture and causes friction between the sock and skin. 60% or less blends usually have a synthetic component that adds to performance, e.g., wickability, etc.

    • Wool: Not itchy if made from soft types such as merino. Good wicking, extra cushioning, good insulation even when they’re wet. Repels bacteria.

    • Acrylic: Soft, lightweight, can wick moisture away, very durable and holds shape without shrinkage.

    • Nylon blend: strong, good elasticity, easy to wash and quick to dry, popular in blended fabrics to add stretch and strength.

    • Polypropylene blend: Inexpensive and lightweight, enhances thermal and wicking properties.

    • Stretch fabric blends such as lycra, spandex and elastic: helps sock stay up and increases comfort.

    • Performance fabrics (Cool Max, dri-FIT, and Dryline): designed to wick moisture away and speed evaporation, keep feet warmer and dryer making fungal infections less likely.

    • Polymer added: to help cut-down on bacterial growth, reducing foot odour.

Other Considerations

  • Wash socks made from wool or high-tech fibers in cold water and hang to dry

  • Wash acrylic fabrics and cotton-blends in warm water and put in the dryer

  • Check washing instructions on packaging


We tested socks under two popular sporting conditions: running and hiking. The candidates we tested were:


  • Wrightsock double layer: $9.50
  • Thorlo roll-top with extra padding in heel: $15.98
  • Nike 85% cotton/15% nylon cross-trainers: $5


  • Fox River polyester/nylon/cotton: $11
  • Meindl polyester/wool/nylon/teflon: $29
  • Dahlgren 27% genuine Alpaca/Merino wool: $19.99

Our test and results include:

Fit & Comfort Test

  • Thorlo didn’t fit very well and caused blisters

  • Dahlgren fit well and the extra padding made them very comfortable

  • Wrightsock and Meindl were very comfortable

Construction & Fabric Test

  • Nike and Fox River didn’t deal with sweat very well and resulted in wet, cold feet

  • Dahlgren started to pill so we questioned their durability

  • Wrightsock and Meindl stayed dry


We were unanimous in our choices:

  • Running: Wrightsock
  • Hiking: Meindl

   Thanks to our Experts

  • Janice Larsen, a textile engineer who focuses on high performance athletic wear
  • Podiatrist Dr. Mark Lindey
  • Mountain Equipment Co-op
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