Footwear is an essential piece of equipment for nearly all fitness activities. Yet, most people stop after they’ve purchased shoes, skates, skis, etc. We can’t say we blame them – after dropping a few hundred bucks it’s only natural to assume you’re done. In actuality, the socks you wear also play an incredibly important role in athletic performance, particularly if you know what to look for. Here’s a quick guide:
Running/Jogging/Walking: Just like shoes selected for these activities, socks should provide some cushion for the repeated strikes of feet against pavement. Running socks are sometimes labeled as such, but anything with a good heel cushion should serve you well. Sock length depends largely on preference and where you run. Those hitting the track or treadmill may prefer an ankle or crew-length sock. Those running outdoors may consider the extra protection of a mid-calf or knee-length to avoid discomfort from vegetation, insects and the like.
Skiing/Snowboarding: You want socks that provide cushion and comfort against the ankles and tops of boots, but that are not so thick as to cause uncomfortable pressure or tightness. Socks should be warm, but also capable of wicking away moisture as feet sweat significantly more than other body parts. Calf- or knee-high socks made of wool or a wool-cotton blend are well suited for these tasks.
Skates/In-Line Skates: Similar to skiing, you want a sock that offers adequate protection from the boot portion of the skate. Blisters are an unpleasant, yet common complaint of people in these sports. Many people prefer a lightweight sock for more foot control, but with sufficient length to cover the ankle and calf. Some choose to stretch the top of the sock over the top of the boot to allow more freedom around the leg while still providing protection.
Most importantly – keep socks clean. Make a habit of removing them immediately after an activity. Do not leave socks balled up after removing them. This only encourages bacteria growth and the tell-tale smell of mold. Extend them their full length and lay flat to dry on the edge of a hamper unless they are being washed right away. Wash socks in hot water and allow to dry completely before returning them to the drawer (or to your feet).