Sock 411: They’re Not All Created Equal

The humble sock is having a moment. Look below the cuffs of your well-dressed friends and you’ll probably see a display of fashion-forward color and patterns. Equally important, the long-neglected sock is benefiting from some smart thinking about materials, construction, performance, and fit (no, one-size-fits-all does not actually fit all).

If your sock drawer doesn’t offer you a variety of choices, it’s time to up your game. To start with, just as you have shoes designed for different aspects of your life, socks can fill very different needs. Here are some sock-drawer wardrobe basics:

Running socks.  You’re going to want a couple of pairs of socks that will keep your feet as dry as possible no matter how much you sweat.  Cotton is probably your worst choice for anything more than a short workout—look for synthetics such as nylon or spandex, sometimes blended with natural fibers such as wool or even bamboo or coconut, that will wick moisture away from your skin (the higher the needle count the more the sock will wick).  Not only will dry feet be more comfortable, they will be less prone to blisters, calluses, and fungal infections.

Compression socks.  These are not your grandfather’s socks but they have all the same benefits: they are good for your circulation, they help control swelling, and they soothe achy legs.  The difference is that the trendy new socks are soft, fashionable, and easy to put on and take off.  Keep at least one pair on hand for long plane trips or other times when you’ll be sitting for long stretches.

Thick socks.  It’s not just that that the socks are thicker, but that the extra padding on the bottom supports your sole and reduces impact.  Good for warmth, good for durability, and just plain good for you.  Have at least one pair in your life.

Arch support socks.  Socks with compression bands around the arch are a big help for tired feet or feet with plantar fasciitis or other issues.  Also look for “Y-heel” stitching—a distinctive knit that helps the sock fit snugly and stay in place.

Socks of different heights.  Depending on your shoe choice, different height socks may be needed. For instance, taller socks are great for boots to prevent chafing, while shorter socks pair well with athletic shoes.

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