What Type Of Technical Running Sock Is Right for Me?

by Sportitude

How to choose the best running sock is a popular conversation of runners across the globe - whether you're a recreational jogger, everyday athlete or an elite marathoner chasing a PB.

We've already covered why you should wear technical running socks. In this video, Sportitude shoe expert Josh Willoughby jumps into the what - what type of technical running sock is right for you?

Josh does a breakdown of the cushioning categories of technical running socks, being ultra-thin, balanced cushioned and max cushioned.

He provides insight on top running socks styles and brands including Feetures running socks, Steigen running socks, 2XU running socks, Lightfeet running socks and Balega running socks to determine which is your best match in terms of feel, fit and your personal preference.

A running sock is not only essential for blister prevention and moisture management but can transform how your running shoes feel. Like a running shoe, comfort is key to your running sock selection to support the health and performance of your feet.

Check out the video with full transcript below.

Hey guys, Josh here from Sportitude. Today we're going to be taking a deep dive into technical running socks. It's a conversation we have on a daily basis downstairs. When we're fitting a running shoe we're often talking to that person about their running sock choice. It's so important to get that partnership right. A running sock can have a big impact on the overall fit and performance of your running shoe.

It's surprising because buying a running sock is one of your cheapest purchases as a runner, and getting that right is so important. We're talking about moisture management, blister management and a little bit of cushioning. Those three components come into the conversation around all things technical running socks.

We don't want to inhibit the performance of a running shoe by a misfitted running sock. Blisters, hot feet, burning - we've probably all experienced that form of discomfort before with our runs out on the road and a lot of it can do with your sock selection. In today's discussion I'm going to take a deeper dive into the running sock categories.

We'll look at your thinner socks, right through to your cushion socks and give you a debrief on what is in them regarding the materials and the components to hopefully answer some of these questions that you have around running sock selection. Let’s get stuck in.

Why Should You Purchase A Technical Running Sock?

Before we jump into today's review talking about all things running socks, let's have a brief discussion about why you should be considering a performance sock in the first place.

In front of me I have the Feetures Elite Light Cushion running sock valued at $29.99 AUD and I have a basic three pack of New Balance crew socks valued at $14.99 AUD. You would probably perceive that to be great value for money, however they’re vastly different in performance, comfort and in moisture management properties.

When we're looking at running socks and we're looking at pairing them to a good performance running shoe, more often than not in Australia we're looking at around $180 - $200 AUD if not more for a performance running shoe.

Therefore, let's put a performance running sock on your feet and make you enjoy your runs even more. By wearing something like a three pack of basic socks, you're just doing yourself a disservice.

Some of you out there might say, “That’ll be absolutely fine for me,” but there's a vast majority of you that need help with moisture management, comfort, cushioning and blister prevention with regards to technical running socks.

That's how we weigh up whether we should go for a technical running sock over a basic sock. It's so important to get that running shoe and running sock combination or partnership absolutely spot on and that's what we aim to do today by giving you all the information you need to know.

Ultra-Thin Running Socks

The first category of running socks we're going to be talking about is our ultra-thin running socks. Steigen are a performance brand sock, and I also have the 2XU Vector Light Cushion which is very popular downstairs at Sportitude.

Steigen Running Socks

To give you some context around what they do, the Steigen running socks brand has been around for more than 8 years. They are a popular sock, being extremely thin. In fact, they are the thinnest sock that we carry here at Sportitude. It almost feels like you have no sock on your foot at all for a barefoot experience.

There will be some people out there that like that, but it does change the overall feel of your running shoe. If you do need to fill up the volume we wouldn't suggest going for the Steigen running socks, that's for sure.

The other thing to note is 20% of the properties in Steigen running socks are Lycra and the other 80% component is made up of a nylon material.

20% Lycra is actually a lot of Lycra for a sock. The reason they use so much is because they only have one size, being 5-12 with regards to their unisex fitting. They do offer smaller sizes now which is a great thing, catering for smaller women's feet and the kids’ market. Being pretty generous from 5-12, they need to be able to expand and stretch out quite a lot.

With that in mind, they're the only technical running sock downstairs we carry that don't have left and right foot padding. The main reason being is there's so much give or take with the amount of elasticity within that running sock.

2XU Vector Light Cushion Running Socks

The 2XU Vectr Light Cushion running socks come in left and right padding. They are very light and breathable. The main difference between this running sock and the Steigen running sock is the padding underneath the foot. The 2XU running sock is a little bit thicker, so you get a bit more cushioning.

However, at the top of the sock is a very light material. The difference between the properties of the Steigen versus the 2XU Vector Light Cushion is that around 88% of the make-up of the 2XU Vector Light Cushion is in nylon and around 12% of the properties are in Lycra.

There's a little bit of elasticity but by nowhere near as much as the Steigen running socks. Both of them are very popular, but as I touched on if you're looking to increase the volume of your running shoes we would probably steer away from the ultra-thin running socks category.

Balanced Cushioned Running Socks

The next category of running sock is probably where we see most of our conversations training towards - the cushioned category.

It’s a little bit like the running shoes that we talk about downstairs. There are max cushioned, balanced cushioned, etc. Within the balanced cushioned category of running socks, we have the best of both worlds, a bit like Goldilocks. They're not too thin, they're not too thick, they're just right for the majority of runners.

Feetures Elite Light Cushion Running Socks

The first one is the Feetures Elite Light Cushion running socks. This kind of sock could have fallen into that thinner category of socks, however it is significantly thicker than the Steigen running socks and therefore we tend to nudge it towards this cushion category.

It features left and right foot ventilation channels and left and right foot padding. It’s a very comfortable sock and is very popular downstairs.

Lightfeet Lightweight Running Socks

The other running sock that fits into the cushioned category is the Lightfeet Lightweight running sock. Lightfeet have been around for a number of years. The Lightfeet Evolution running socks have been around for the best part of a decade plus.

However, this is a category of running sock that they've only just introduced in the last couple of years because they were kind of missing the mark. Lightfeet didn't really have that lighter, thinner sock on offer. The Lightfeet Lightweight running socks are not thin by any stretch, but the Lightfeet Evolution running socks are significantly thicker and we'll talk about that in the next category of socks.

The Lightfeet Lightweight running socks have a really comfortable arch wrap, so you don't get too much slippage through midstance. They have the perfect amount of padding in the heel and the forefoot which is split by that segmentation of the arch wrap.

2XU Vectr Cushion Running Socks

The next sock which is a bit different than the first sock we talked about from 2XU is the 2XU Vectr Cushion running socks. Vectr Cushion is the most popular running sock from 2XU. Being a compression brand, you are right in thinking these would be a bit firmer on the foot.

It doesn't matter if it's the thin sock, it doesn't matter if it's the cushion sock - they're quite firm on the foot. That's probably their unique point of difference. If you like a good firm fit around your heel through to your arch and that toe box, you'll probably enjoy the 2XU running socks range.

The cushioned version of the 2XU Vectr is a nice, balanced cushioned sock. It fills up the toe box a little bit more than what we would expect from this category.

If you're looking for a little bit more volume through the front half of your toe box but you like a really firm fit, it's hard to get that balance right from the whole sock industry. The 2XU Vectr Cushion sock does exactly that.

Falke Stride Running Socks (Sold Out)

The final one in this category is the Falke running sock range. The Falke Advanced Performance Stride is a very comfortable sock. Although it's not quite as thin as the Feetures running socks, it’s still very similar.

The Balega running sock range and Falke running socks have been side by side for a number of years, it's almost like Pepsi and Coca-Cola – they’re so similar.

The Falke Stride running socks have left and right foot padding which is what you would expect from a performance running sock. However, they’re not quite as firm as the other three we've talked about in the arch wrap.

It has a little bit of arch wrap and there's some elasticity around the arch, but it's not quite as tight as the 2XU running socks, Lightfeet running socks and the Feetures running socks. If you don't like that snug, tight fit and prefer your running socks to be a little bit looser and more relaxed but with nice padding underneath and fit on top, Falke is a great option for you.

Max Cushioned Running Socks

The last category of socks we're going to talk about is the max cushioned category. I have the Feetures Elite Max Cushion, the Lightfeet Evolution and the Balega Blister Resist. All of them are quite different from each other.

Max cushioned is a category that allows us to loosely throw that terminology out there to you because it's a bit like running shoes. One brand that perceives their running shoes to be max cushioned is vastly different from another brand's perception of max cushioned.

Feetures Elite Max Cushion Running Socks

The Features Elite Max Cushion running socks are not quite as thick as the Lightfeet running socks or the Balega running socks. The reason they fell into the max cushioned category is because they are thicker than the previous versions of running socks we talked about.

They have left and right foot padding and ventilation channels which is what you'd expect but the arch wrap isn't quite as tight as the previous category of balanced cushion socks. The reason being is you have to get that that mixture of firmness and mixture of cushioning right within the sock.

If it's too tight, generally speaking we find it's not going to be comfortable and the same goes if they put heaps of padding underneath the foot. When they’re making the sock quite firm and getting that counterbalance of cushioning underneath, it can be a little bit of a miss. However, regarding the max cushioned sock from Feetures they've got it right.

Lightfeet Evolution Running Socks

The Lightfeet Evolution running socks don't need a lot of introduction here in Australia. They are extremely popular. The heel padding and forefoot padding is split by the arch wrap material and there is a lot of elasticity.

It is a firmer sock on the foot than the Feetures Elite Max Cushion running socks, but splitting that heel and forefoot cushioning has been a very popular thing for this sock. It's subjective whether you like that. Some people like the cushioning to go the whole way through the foot, but the Feetures Max Cushion is very comfortable.

Balega Blister Resist Running Socks

All these running socks we've talked about today have properties within them and engineering features that will reduce the risk of blisters. The Balega Blister Resist running sock claims to do that by the properties in which they use within their sock.

Around 60% of the running sock make-up is nylon or polyester materials and 30% of the properties in this sock is made up from organic fibres which is wool. Therefore, they can get that management right of moisture and of overall ventilation within the sock.

Balega are very well-known across North America, Europe and South Africa. The reason being is they're actually quite popular in that hiking category or the trail category.

There’s a lot of great socks within that category of socks but here at Sportitude Running, we found the Balega Blister Resist running socks to be a very good option for us if we want to increase the volume in the running shoe and someone's looking for a lot of comfort and padding underneath the foot.

Whether you want that feel, the proprioception underneath your foot or you're not getting it out of your running shoe, we can certainly achieve that with the Balega Blister Resist running sock, the Lightfeet Evolution and also the Features Elite Max Cushion.

The Wrap Up

Today we went over three different categories of running socks; ultra-thin, balanced cushioned and max cushioned. We hopefully gave you some context around why those three categories exist and how we fit them downstairs here at Sportitude.

Just to address a couple of takeaway points - the sock is the only protection between your running shoes and your foot so getting the thickness, ventilation and moisture management right is so important.

We don't want to run the risk of a blister or hot spots that can occur with an ill-fitted sock or a sock that's just not up to standard with regards to your running shoe selection for performance.

Getting that right is so important. Hopefully with the three different categories of cushioning you can start to see the market separation between them and get an understanding of the left and right foot ventilation channels and foot cushioning supports underneath your foot.

If you have any questions about what we touched on today with sock selection, please contact our Sportitude shoe experts.

If you have a favourite running sock and it wasn't one that we've discussed, please let us know. We always like to hear from you the running community because if we're missing an opportunity of bringing a good performance running sock to market, then we're not doing our job right.

Please subscribe to the Sportitude YouTube channel if you haven’t done so already to stay notified and we'll keep doing shoe reviews or sock reviews or whatever it is you want to hear from us.

Until next time, stay safe, be kind of one another, happy running and no blisters!

For an in-depth shoe fitting experience, you can book a free 15 minute video chat in a Live Fit session or make an appointment to discover your RunDNA at Sportitude Running at Hindmarsh or Sportitude at Fullarton.

Book your RunDNA assessment today!

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