The best sports socks 2018 for runners and walkers

Stay blissfully blister-free with our pick of the best trainer socks and sports socks

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While finding the best sports socks might not be at the forefront of your mind as you build up your running or gym kit, it's an important decision. 

To help you avoid the pain that can be caused by rubbing or slipping socks – and a multitude of other pitfalls – we’ve rounded up the best athletic socks available right now, but only you can find the ultimate foot-cushioner for your chosen form of exercise, based on a few handy bits of info.

First of all, you’ll want to make sure it’s made of the right stuff. Cotton is light, breathable and inexpensive, but can absorb a lot of moisture, so a sock with a high cotton content isn’t ideal for particularly sweaty gym sessions. 

If you want the socks for high-intensity exercise, look instead for a pair that also has a high proportion of a synthetic like polyester or polyamide. If you prefer cold-weather pursuits like skiing or winter walking, look for something with a little (or a lot of) wool to keep toes warm.

Finally, while socks aren’t the most feature-laden of accessories, you might be surprised how much they can do. With wicking woven panels, strategic cushioning, and even compression, which plenty of research suggests can help decrease soreness post-exercise, they’re really quite clever. With that in mind, keep on reading for our list of the best sports socks to buy right now.

1. Hilly Energize Anklet Running Socks

Our best running socks are compressing and cushioned in all the right places

Specifications
Best for: Endurance and performance
Colours: Grey/blue
Material: 42% polyester, 29% polyamide, 16% NanoGLIDE, 8% cotton, 5% elastane
Sizes: S (3–5.5), M (6–8.5), L (9–11.5)
Reasons to buy
+ Compression to reduce soreness  + Wear and wash well 
Reasons to avoid
- Hit quite high on the calf 

These Hilly running socks finish first in our list of the best sports socks for a number of reasons. They’re made to last from stay-new polyester with a touch of cotton and polyamide for comfort, and reviewers say that they’ve withstood several washes without losing any oomph. They’ve also commented favourably on the ultra-comfortable padding and sweat-free end result after wearing these socks on intense runs. 

However, the feature we’re most intrigued by is the compression: intended to increase recovery rate after running, there’s a chance these socks will even leave you less sore, and that’s definitely something we can get behind. 

2. Physix Compression Socks for Men & Women

Easy-on compression socks in a huge range of sizes

Specifications
Best for: Comfort and circulation
Colours: Black, grey, blue
Material: Nylon
Sizes: S/M (Women’s 4–6.5, Men’s 4–8), L/XL (Women’s 5.5–13, Men’s 7–13.5)
Reasons to buy
+ Comfortable compression + Durable double-stitched fabric 
Reasons to avoid
- Not very warm 

Another winner on the compression front, these unisex athletic socks are engineered to boost stamina and recovery by gradually compressing from the heel to the upper calf, staying put with the help of non-chafing supportive cuffs. 

Reviewers of all kinds – not just runners and cyclists, but flyers and long-hours workers too – loved how comfortable they were, and with their double-stitched construction and breathable anti-bacterial fabric they’re sure to become a long-lasting addition to your kit bag. 

However, if you’re on the lookout for cold weather walking socks, the light synthetic fabric means these may not be your best bet.

3. Injinji Run 2.0 Light Weight Mini-Crew CoolMax Toe Socks

Fine and light running socks for ultimate foot freedom

Specifications
Best for: Preventing blisters
Colours: Black, white, grey
Material: 75% CoolMax polyester, 22% nylon, 3% spandex
Sizes: S, M, L, XL
Reasons to buy
+ Light and breathable + Prevent painful blisters 
Reasons to avoid
-Look and feel weird to start with

If you’ve ever suffered from those horrendous between-toe blisters after a run, you’ll no doubt be interested in avoiding them on future trips, and running toe socks are a great way to do just that. 

These slightly silly-looking but ultimately ingenious ankle socks are designed to allow your toes to splay naturally, and wrap each one in second-skin wicking fabric intended to keep sweat and blisters at bay. 

Reviewers rave about them, with a few having worn them for rainy marathons and muddy challenge runs and emerged, comfortably dry and blister-free, to tell the tale. For a blister-busting sock that’s lightweight and breathable, give these a try. 

4. SmartWool Merino Wool Trekking Heavy Crew Unisex Socks, Grey

Shock-absorption and support for heavy-duty hiking

Specifications
Best for: Long walks
Colours: Grey
Material: 80% merino, 19% nylon, 1& elastane
Sizes: M (5–7.5), L (8–10.5), XL (11–13.5)
Reasons to buy
+ Full cushioning+ Wool for warmth 
Reasons to avoid
- Bulky; may be tight in boots 

These wool walking socks are a serious piece of clothing. With heavy all-over cushioning to absorb shocks, protect from biting winds, and relieve pressure on soles while carrying a heavy pack, they’re specifically engineered for hardcore hikers.

They’re quite cleverly constructed, with an arch brace to keep everything where it should be, and a flat-knit toe seam that’s intended to keep rubbing to a minimum, so for long-lasting comfort on demanding walks, especially in cold weather, we say go for these. 

5. Nike Unisex Dry Elite Cushioned No-Show Running Sock, Black/White

Long-lasting running socks for a light, dry and comfortable experience

Specifications
Best for: Running
Colours: Black/white
Material: 100% textile
Sizes: 3–5.5, 5.5–6.5, 7–8.5, 10+
Reasons to buy
+ Light, dry and comfortable + Stay feeling new 
Reasons to avoid
- A small minority reported slipping 

If you’ve already invested in a pair of Nike trainers to take your exercise up a notch, these Nike running socks are the natural next step. You can tell they’re serious from the fact that they have a dedicated left and right, but the Nike Dry fabric, footstrike cushioning and no-show shaping all go into making a sock that’s altogether pretty low-key. 

Reviewers loved the ribbed upper, which protects against rubbing from over-tight laces, and the fact that they stayed looking and feeling new after numerous washes, so if you frequently run and need a sock that’ll keep providing, why not give these a try? 

6. X-Socks Run Performance Socks

Expertly cushioned and breathable socks for comfort over long distances

Specifications
Best for: Cushioning
Colours: White/orange, anthracite/yellow
Material: 74% polyamide, 22% polypropylene, 4% elastane
Reasons to buy
+ Cushioned in all the right places + Light and well-vented 
Reasons to avoid
- Could be more colour choices 

No matter whether you’re going for a quick jog to the corner shop or embarking on an endurance run, these soft-touch socks are engineered to keep you comfortable – and by all accounts, they succeed. 

Reviewers have commented on how lightweight, well-vented and cleverly cushioned they are, but it’s the latter that really makes them stand out. 

With protective padding in the most anatomically vital areas to prevent pain post-run, and a special cushioned flap at the back to stop infuriating slips and rubbed ankles, these look to be some of the best athletic socks around.

7. Yoga-Mad Tavi Savvy Cotton Toesox

Savvy yogis and yoginis know that when it comes to footwear, it’s all about the grip

Specifications
Best for: Yoga and pilates
Colours: Grey
Material: 100% organic cotton
Reasons to buy
+ Grippy sole+ Breathable organic cotton 
Reasons to avoid
- Don’t double as regular sports socks 

Not everyone wants to take their socks off in an exercise class, but wearing ordinary socks can be a recipe for disaster when it comes to slippery studio floors, which is precisely where these grippy socks come in. 

The Tavi Savvy Toesox have silicone grips on the sole to keep you safe on the mat and off, and improve your stability in tricky inversions. While the soft organic cotton goes towards making a sports sock that's light and breathable, there’s a surprising amount of support in there with a Achilles-protecting tab and arch band.