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AMR Gears Up: Favorite Socks

Best Running Gear for Layering: the next edition of Another Mother Runner Gears Up. We have #motherrunners—put key running gear to the test, then deliver the results so you can grab the gear that works best for your running and body. 

By Allison Pattillo

Socks can be tough–there’s a lot that goes into making no-bunch, blister-free running socks able to withstand long miles in sweaty shoes, and lots of washings–because the best ones tend to be those you don’t notice! Given all they accomplish, it’s time for socks to get a spotlight. We asked our testers to do just that. They sampled a variety of styles, with emphasis on ‘sampled’ since there are dozens upon dozens of sock styles and brands in the running world, and put them through serious miles and washings! Consider this list of our favorites for the moment, organized, roughly, from shortest to tallest, as a starting point for your sock shopping therapy, and please let us know your favorites below!

Swiftwick Maxus Zero Tab

Tester Rating: 5

Review: These had a snug fit and were short enough to not show much (basically just the blister-prevention tab at the heel) above our minimalist runner’s shoes for a winning combination. Our tester, who usually tends towards more cushioned shocks to help combat her black toenails, was pleasantly surprised with how much protection (and comfort) these provided, enhanced by light compression and great moisture wicking, while also being much thinner. She distilled her review in a sentence by saying, “My feet seem to be really happy in these socks.”

Price: $14.99

Perfect For: Runners who like barely-there socks but are prone to blisters and/or black toenails.

Get it here:

Icebreaker Run+ Ultralight Micro

Tester Rating: 5

Review: One of our wools sock loving runners said these were the softest she had ever worn. “I also love how low cut they are, yet my shoes didn’t ‘eat’ them, as often happens with very low-cut socks,” was another plus. Believe it or not, wool is a smart fabric for year-round performance and is odor-resistant. These socks are designed to be durable and our tester said they “hugged my high-arched foot and stayed put perfectly.” Wool socks do tend to be more expensive but make for a worthwhile investment.

Price: $18

Perfect For: Those who like to run in barely-there socks, and also appreciate wool’s temperature regulating (even when wet) and anti-stink properties.

Get it here:

Injinji Women’s Run Lightweight No-Show

Tester Rating: 5

Review: Our tester, who had never tried the brand, admitted to being skeptical about the individual toe-pocket style. Yet, she now has a new favorite brand! “These fit beautifully,” and she didn’t notice her toes on the run. She did notice the pleasant lack of blisters and the fact that they stayed put on her feet, as did her feet in her shoes. Since they are her new favorites, she’s even more pleased with the wide variety of color and style options. This is a brand you have to test to appreciate!

Price: $13

Perfect For: Anyone with blister-prone tootsies.

Get it here:

Balega Enduro Reflective Quarter

Tester Rating: 5

Review: Our testers loved the fact that these were soft, comfortable, and did not cause blisters. “The evidence of how much I like them is that I now dig in the laundry to find them before runs!” (edit note: #relatable, but don’t worry, she’s ordering more! If frequent washing isn’t your thing, choose from Balega’s Silver collection for odor free running!). This brand is known for their dialed fit, and these deliver with a deep, no-slip heel cup and contoured knitting to wrap your arch in a hug. This quarter-height sock also has glass refractive beads knit into the ribbed top to provide increased visibility in low light conditions. 

Price: $16

Perfect For: Savvy runners who want a smart mix of visibility and comfort. 

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Swiftwick Aspire Two

Tester Rating: 4.5

Review: With a thin sock, lightweight cushion, and welcome ankle compression, these will keep you running in comfort. Our tester said that while she usually runs in socks with more cushion, she really enjoyed the snug fit and breathability of this style. She also found the moisture-management to be impressive, making them ideal for damp and humid conditions, even more-so with the stay put and blister-resist fit. If you want to try the line, but mini-crew isn’t for you, Aspire comes in a full range of options from no-show to knee high.

Price: $15.99

Perfect For: Runners who like sleek socks with compression.

Get it here:

Synchroknit Trail Junkie Mid-Crew

Tester Rating: 5

Review: With nice cushioning, a contoured fit, and some invigorating compression around the arch, these will be your favorite cold weather running socks. Synchroknit is all about using a patented knitting system to create a sock shaped like your foot for a truly superb fit. They have a comfortably secure fit, and even stayed put (and kept feet comfortable with no need for a sock change) through a magical testing day that included running, snowshoeing, and ski touring.

Price: $20

Perfect For: Staying comfortably warm whether your run entails cold breezes, freezing rain, snow, or slush.

Get it here:

Smartwool Women’s PhD Run Light Elite Pattern Crew

Tester Rating: N/A

Review:  Tuns out the Smartwool Crew socks we originally reviewed were so popular, they are no longer available. So as not to disappoint all of you Smartwool loving runners, we decided to highlight this cool new offering! The fun pattern is obvious. What you don’t see until you try them is the narrower, women’s specific fit, body-mapped mesh zones (yes, specifically for a woman’s foot), enhanced durability, and a sweet spot amount of non-bulky cushioning, which, when combined, create what should be an awesome year-round running sock.

Price: $22.95

Perfect For: Striding it out on the trail in style.

Get it here:

Check out all of the AMR Gears Up columns here!

Did we miss your favorite running gear for layering?
Let us know in the comments below!


3 responses to “AMR Gears Up: Favorite Socks

  1. Darn Tough gets my vote! I have a pair for every day of the week for running in the rain. Good running in the rain socks are a necessity in Oregon and these have been my favorite. Even running 2+ hours my feet are still comfy.

  2. For blister prevention, I really like compression socks. Swiftwick, any of their varieties, for shorties, Pro Compression for knee highs. I also appreciate that both companies produce their socks in the USA. When I want a thicker sock, I go back to an old favorite, Wright socks double layer, especially their cold weather version. I like Balega for their cushioning, but only for shorter runs. For life in general, Darn Tough, also produced in the USA, in close by (for me) VT.

  3. This is helpful! I am bummed you didn’t get to test Darn Tough Socks, as they have recently replaced my Smartwool PhD run Light socks. I looove wool year round for sure.

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