Few articles of clothing
offer a runner such potential for injury prevention and comfort at so little
expense or fuss as socks, simple though they may be. Among the most important
attributes of an athletic sock are moisture management, cushioning and
dissipation of friction. Remember that the primary role of socks is to protect
the foot from the running shoe itself, without contributing to compromises in
fit or thermal management. Sock thickness can also be used to fine tune shoe
fit. An overview of the fiber choices available may help the next time you're
shopping for stockings.
Cotton socks are strong, but not very
elastic and terrible at wicking moisture. They will fail to hold their shape
and offer poor friction control. Though they are the easiest and least
expensive socks to find, cotton socks are best avoided.
Wool is all about absorption, in
contrast to synthetics with an ability to repel moisture. It manages moisture
better than cotton, but shrinks. The foot perspires heavily; at rest, the
average foot produces 10 to 15 gallons of sweat per year. To adequately keep
you dry while retaining shape, any synthetic fiber serves you better.
Acrylic provides good cushioning and
excellent friction and moisture management. It is also among the softer
synthetics. Your feet may feel damp or bulky at times, but acrylic makes an
excellent all-around choice for runners.
Olefin, which is made from
polypropylene, is one of the strongest fibers you can purchase, and certainly
is the best for wicking. It isn't very elastic, however. For this reason a
better choice would be polyester. As with olefin, however, be wary of odor
build-up in polyester.
It's tempting to neglect
the importance of good socks when so much of a runner's attention—not to
mention budget—remains on a proper shoe purchase. But where are the savings in
a drawer full of misshapen, blister-inducing cotton socks one wear away from
dust rags? Choosing a quality synthetic and shelling out a few extra bills for
several pairs will almost certainly benefit you in the long run. And remember
when you do head out to buy your new hosiery, while activities like baseball,
soccer and hiking require over-the-calf socks, for runners, crew and mini crew
socks are the way to go.
Vol. 10, No. 1, pp. 39-49; Am. Journ. Med. & Sports, 2003, Vol. 5,
No. 1, pp. 79-86)
© American Running
Association, Running & FitNews 2004, Vol. 22, No. 2, p.3