By: Austin Bonds
As a fan of Seinfeld for life, I always make reference to the episode of note if a conversation with someone touches on subject matter that provides an appropriate segue for this iconic television series. This article is derived from an exchange between Kramer and J. Peterman concerning Kramer’s encounter with the Van Buren Boys (from a 1997 episode). As Kramer recounts the story to Peterman, he makes mention of the fact that he inadvertently flashed their secret sign and thus avoided significant bodily injury. Peterman calls Kramer’s adventure “one ripping good yarn.”
As you may gather, “one ripping good yarn” is another way of saying that Kramer told an exciting story. I’d like to preface the forthcoming content with this Seinfeld reference as it makes for more interesting reading than socks – or more to the point – running socks. That said, my aim is to inject some excitement into the process of identifying and purchasing a sock for running.
When people inquire about what socks are the best socks at the store I work for, Big Peach Running Company, I reply by telling them that the ideal sock is based primarily on personal preference – much like running shoes. With this in mind, there are a few considerations to mull over when your eyes peruse rows and rows of socks.
- Cushioning. I tend to think of cushioning in terms of thickness. So ask yourself: Do you like a thicker sock or a thinner sock? If there’s not a clear answer to this question, specialty running shops have try on socks for you to slip on over your feet and wrestle down this dilemma.
- Coverage. Sock packaging can preclude your ability to gauge the actual length of a sock, so this is where trying on a few brands will again prove to be a worthwhile exercise. Some socks fit just below the ankle whereas others fit above. Speaking of which, be mindful of the heel collar in the shoes you wear, and if a sock of interest will provide adequate coverage so as to reduce the risk of blisters around the heel area.
- Composition. This may seem like the most obvious point of note when it comes to selecting a running sock, but what the sock is made of matters. This is no small thing. I like to tell people that the socks at Big Peach all have one shared characteristic: no cotton. Steer clear of cotton as it retains moisture and increases the risk of blisters; synthetic materials (e.g. polyester, spandex, nylon, and wool), in contrast to cotton, wick away sweat from the feet and keep them dry mile after mile. Rub Body Glide or Run Guard on troublesome spots for added protection.
- Construction. Anatomical socks are special in that they are uniquely made for the left and right foot. Toe Socks (e.g. Injinji) provide spacing between the toes and may allow them to spread out more fully in the shoe. Running socks are also devoid of numerous seams, which translates into less irritation and enhanced comfort from the forefoot to the heel and everywhere in between.
- Climate. While some runners prefer to run in one type of sock year round, an argument can be made for sock rotation just as it is for shoe rotation. Personally, I gravitate towards socks with wool and a higher length above the ankle for cold months of the year, and thin, breathable socks for the warmer months and shorter race distances (e.g. a 5K and 10K).
I can think of no better way to conclude this article than by circling back to the title and reflecting on it in a literal sense. A few months ago I ran in a favorite sock, the Balega Ultra Light No Show, and unbeknownst to me, the yarn around the first toe on the right foot had started ripping, albeit slightly. The result of this ignorance was a sizable blister underneath that first toe.
This good yarn had literally started ripping. How could this be? This is a high quality, running sock.
Like running shoes, socks also have a life span. I hope that you will learn from my painful mistake and periodically check your socks for any tearing or small holes that may have developed around the toes or the arch or heel area. Replace them with a new pair so you too can avoid blisters.
Unlike the stories of Cosmo Kramer, that blister story wasn’t very exciting. Socks, for that matter, are not the most exciting subject for runners. But they have a profound impact on whether a run is good or turns out to be a painful bust. Find yourself a good sock, run well, and proceed to tell others about your “ripping good yarns” from the roads or the trails or the races.