With materials, technology and our requirements becoming more demanding every day how do we choose the right sock for the right activity? We dive deep into the sock drawer and look at the differences between men’s ankle socks and men’s trainer socks.
Which socks should I use?
Personal choice and style play a lot in peoples choices, but each type of sock has a very distinct design for different uses. We looked closely at the difference between two popular styles of men’s socks and dive deep into the history, fabrics, technology and most importantly when to wear them.
A good fit for performance
Even though there is more to socks than their length, wearing an ankle sock that does not fit correctly will cause you a lot of problems and hinder your ability to perform any activity to your full potential. When you are doing any sport, our focus is usually on the trainers that you buy. We take our time looking at the shoe support, sole cushion and materials that help your feet breath.
If you choose the wrong socks, your time, effort and money paid for expensive trainers could all go to waste. The choice of socks and the way it fits your foot can cause circulation problems, hinder breathability and create friction where blisters occur, which can lead to infections, odours and cause bacteria to affect your feet.
A history of pulling up your socks!
Starting from our early history where socks began made from animal skins or plant matter it was a practical choice that the socks went up to the ankle so that it could be easily tied securely held in place. We often think of the Roman’s with their ‘Udones’ that laced around the ankle and the earliest surviving examples of men’s socks, discovered during an archaeological dig, were in ancient Egypt. Dating back from 300 – 500 BC these were excavated from Oxyrhynchus on the Nile in Egypt. The style also had a split-toe design for use with sandals, which today would almost be considered fashion suicide. These socks are still on display today in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.
The Ankle Sock
Ankle socks sit higher up the leg than no show socks but lower than crew socks. They end right, you guessed it, at your ankles, and they are meant not to be invisible. Ankle socks are worn for hiking, running and any other sporty activity. Ankle socks are preferred over crew socks and other longer socks as they trap less heat on your lower leg.
The ankle sock comes in many variations but predominantly will have a knit arch support, top toe seam, blister tab next to your Achilles. Ankle socks are made with light, breathable material so that when you are running they allow your feet to breath and the moisture generated is quickly removed by the fabric. The blister tab and arch support can be knit into the socks to improve comfort and provide protection. Blister tabs sit at the back of the heel where the top of your shoe or trainer hits your Achillies and is a regular spot for blisters as you run, twist and turn whilst doing any activity. The blister tab on an ankle sock prevents friction and irritation from rubbing against your skin, and we have all had that experience before!
Most socks are knit as a tube, then closed at one end with a toe seam. The key to good ankle socks is where the toe seam sits on top of your toes. Most other men’s socks have the seem on the edge of the socks at the tip of your toes. It helps with comfort whilst doing sport and protects the toenails whilst ensuring you have no irritation or rubbing against the end of your toes and the inside of your trainers.
Unlike men’s crew socks, dress socks, mid-calf socks and other formal socks where you match your socks with your trousers the ankle sock can match your trainers allowing a seamless transition between trainer and socks. Most likely you are wearing shorts when running or playing a sport so there is no trouser to match and only a small part of the socks will be showing above the trainer. The last thing you want is a multicolour clash around your ankles unless you plan on distracting your opponent during the sport you are playing!
Trainer socks are similar in shape to ankle socks, but they can take a lot more punishment when it comes to physical exertion. Trainer socks live for endurance and high action sports. Each area of trainers socks is knit to withstand heavy activity whilst wicking moisture from the feet to ensure the feet remain dry. Perfect for marathon runners, professional athletes, endurance runners, tennis and more the trainer sock is the jock of the sock world!
Trainer socks come with extra padding on the sole and are super comfortable. Bamboo trainer socks retain all the usual properties of bamboo, being breathable and anti-bacterial, which make them a perfect choice for the highly active person. Bamboo trainer socks can also contain a small percentage of elastane, between 1% to 5%. People often confuse elastane with Spandex, but they are one and the same. Spandex is a brand name whilst everyone else uses the term elastane, as that is the actual name of the polyurethane material.
Whether you are running a marathon or your first mile, as a runner, looking after your feet is a must. Whilst everyone spends time choosing the right trainers, socks go almost forgotten. But the trainer sock is your contact between skin and shoe and are designed to protect the most sensitive areas from blisters and bacteria.
Many trainer socks have ribbed arch band wraps around your midfoot for a supportive feel. Think soles help absorb impact as the shoe and your foot hits the floor. Trainer socks come in a whole variety of colours, patterns and styles so you will always find something that compliments your sporting attire.
Silver nanoparticles stopping odours in men’s trainer socks.Â
One of the benefits some trainer socks have is they are specially treated to remove or reduce odours to keep your feet fresh for longer, with the use of silver nanoparticles – defined as anything smaller than 100 nanometres in size.
Although socks are available in all kinds of materials, only a few of them work well for sports socks.
Avoid Cotton socks for sport
When choosing what socks to wear with sports shoes, try to avoid 100% cotton socks. If they get wet, they do not dry quickly and keep your feet cold and clammy, which increases the risk of blisters and fungal infections.
Synthetic Materials reduce moisture and chafing
The best socks for sports shoes are made of synthetic material like acrylic and polyester because they have moisture-wicking, anti-chafing, and breathable properties.
Wool is a good option when it comes to trainer socks. This material offers wonderful cushioning that prevents blisters, is durable, and soaks up a sweat from your feet without making them clammy. Modern blends like SmartWool are made with itchless wool that can prevent skin irritation on sensitive feet.
SHAPED FOR SPORT
If you wear shapeless tube socks while you are participating in sports, they can bunch up and irritate your feet.
Trainer and ankle socks are designed to be moulded to the contours of your feet so that they don’t chafe and cause blisters. The best type of socks for any sport has an elastic arch lock that keeps your sock from shifting out of place. You can also get socks with seam-free toes to further reduce the risk of blisters. You can also find socks that are made to match the differing feet shape.
Socks which have padded soles also work well with sports shoes as they provide your heels extra cushioning. Although thicker socks give you more comfort, many athletes prefer thinner socks because of their lightweight properties and provide more sensation in the athlete’s foot against the trainer. Depending on your preference, you can choose either type of sock.
Why wear socks for sports?
Each human foot has 26 bones, 33 joints, 12,500 sweat glands, and more than 100 tendons/ligaments/muscles. During exercise, your feet are more susceptible to strain and injury, so ankle and trainer socks are specially designed to provide the extra protection and comfort you need that standard socks can’t provide. Here’s a rundown of exactly what your performance socks should be and why you need to wear them:
- Cushioned: to absorb shock.
- Comfortable: to help you cope with intense activity for longer.
- Durable: to withstand continuous and rigorous movement.
- Lightweight: to help you move quickly and easily.
- Flexible: for maximum movement of different parts of the foot.
- Supportive: targeted compression for weaker parts of the foot to prevent injury.
- Moisture-wicking: to trap and transfer sweat from the skin.
- Reinforced (particularly the heel and toes): to provide extra comfort and protection to high-impact areas.
So next time you are going out for a run, going to the gym or planning on doing any sport. Remember your choice of socks is equally important as every other piece of equipment. Just as you take care with the type of underwear, trainers and shorts you need to make sure you have the right socks for the activity you are about to perform.
If you don’t provide your feet with the right socks you will not enjoy or get the most out of the activity you are doing. It just makes sense to take care of your feet as they carry us everywhere, even to sporting greatness!