Best Athletic Socks Compared – 2021 Review

Last updated: November 4, 2021

Running Apparel / Best Athletic Socks Compared – 2021 Review

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Whether its for your running shoes or exercise shoes, having the right socks does feel like it improves your performance.

Athletic socks are designed to be tougher than your regular cotton ones. They can also provide extra cushioning, wick moisture and generally have more durability. Some athletic socks such as those made of merino wool, also don’t itch, smell or crease all that much.

Below we’ve compiled some of the best athletic socks as rated by other runners and athletes. We’ve also compared these ourselves during our regular 5K and 10K runs and can confidently say that they are some of the best at the moment.

Best Athletic Socks Compared And Reviewed

Best Overall
Rockay Accelerate
USA Made
Swiftwick FLITE XT Zero
Best Value
Smartwool PhD Run Light Elite Micro
Best Style
Balega Silver
Most Popular
Under Armour Resistor 3 Lo Cut

1. Rockay Accelerate

Key Features

  • Eco-friendly materials
  • Polygiene treatment
  • Elastic ring
  • Merino wool

Reasons to buy

  • Great fit
  • Offers great fit and support
  • Breathable
  • Regulates temperature

Reasons to avoid

  • Reflective logo can be hard to see

The Rockay Accelerate is a pair of performance socks designed with eco-friendly materials that are fully recycled plastics from the ocean. With highly inventive key features for performance cushioning, blister protection, arch support and brace and a lifetime guarantee on the product. The Accelerate has an anti-odor Polygiene treatment that allows you to use and wear the socks in between washes. 

The socks are built with an elastic ring below the ankle that holds up the socks better when in use. The Accelerate is made with highly organic and quality Merino wool that boosts performance and adds breathability for the feet. The material also provides durability for the product and positively responds to any seasonal temperature with its optimal balancing temperature regulation.

The Rockay Accelerate has been raved about by many athlete reviewers due to its compressive fit and support for the feet and arch. It wicks moisture and sweat away using the thinner material zones that work together with thicker material zones that also helps regulate temperature. Even though the Accelerate has an ankle cuff height, its materials still manage to prevent friction and blistering along with a nice protective heel tab that stops slippage. 

This product offers a combination of comfort and stability to athletes and runners alike using unique features such as the heel and toe padding. Reviewers have also commended the softness of the socks even though it was relatively thinner. However, due to the ankle cuff height, the reflective logo might be hard to see especially when used at night or low lit areas.

2. Swiftwick FLITE XT Zero

Key Features

  • AnkleLock
  • Olefin materials
  • GripDry Fibre

Reasons to buy

  • Offers great compression
  • Tough grip and great friction
  • Slippage prevention

Reasons to avoid

  • Can be a little hot on the feet

These no-show socks offer compression in all the right places perfect for training, running, golfing and other variety of activities. The Swiftwick FLITE XT Zero has the highly innovative technology of GripDry Fibre which are nanofibres with tiny micro treads on the underside of the socks that increase friction and boost up its gripping power. 

The GripDry technology is placed on the heel and toe box in order to prevent slippage and keeps you stable on your every move. Swiftwick has combined this technology with Olefin materials on the footbed for improved durability, comfort and grip as well as keeping moisture away from the feet.

The upper part of the FLITE XT Zero is breathable but still enables a secured feel on the feet and provides enough compression for better stability without the loose feeling. This product also has AnkleLock technology that offers support on the ankle, heel and the Achilles tendon.

This sock feature also keeps moisture away and dries instantly to avoid abrasions. Reviewers have also noted the snug and minimal fit of the socks as well as the good traction it provides that helped them keep their feet steady on their every movement. 

On the forefoot, Swiftwick has applied Flex Channels, also with Olefin, that delivers moisture control and enhances the range of movement and motion. However, all of the underside design and materials have been noticed by some customers to make the FLITE XT Zero run a little hot on the feet but it still manages to wick moisture away in the process.

3. Smartwool PhD Run Light Elite Micro

Key Features

  • Merino wool
  • Nylon
  • Spandex
  • Virtually seamless toe section
  • Targeted underfoot cushioning
  • 4 Degree Elite Fit System

Reasons to buy

  • Impressive moisture-wicking
  • Comfortable
  • Premium combination of materials
  • Keeps odor away even after multiple usage

Reasons to avoid

  • Slippage on runs

For anyone looking for a pair of plush socks that have been tested and proven to have great moisture-wicking properties, the Smartwool PhD Run Light Elite Micro is a great option. These comfortable athletic socks have unique features like minimal in-shoe volume, body-mapped mesh ventilation zones and a seamless toe. 

The material has been lauded by many athletes and runners alike because of the combination of 56% Merino wool, 41% nylon and 3% Spandex/elastane. These all sum up to a thick cushioning that adds comfortability and coziness to the product. The targeted underfoot cushioning is surprisingly not bulky or takes up too much space when worn in shoes.

The Merino wool has antibacterial properties that have been tested and proven by RunnersWorld to prevent odoreven after being used multiple times without washing versus athletic socks made with cotton and polyester.

The Smartwool PhD Run Light Elite Micro has Virtually seamless technology on the toe section that increases comfortability. An Achilles tab heel has also been added with the product to prevent the socks from slipping down in the shoes while moving. 

However, some customers have noticed that there were instances that they experience a bit of slippage when running. The targeted underfoot cushioning is placed specifically on the heel and the ball of the feet. It also has a 4 Degree Elite Fit System for a performance-oriented fit. 

The Smartwool PhD Run Light Elite Micro is designed also with Indestructawool technology that offers a patent-pending construction method that adds up to the durability and comfortability of the socks. You can purchase this with different color variations and sizes from small to large.

4. Balega Silver

Key Features

  • Drynamix
  • Nylon
  • Elastane
  • Padded collar

Reasons to buy

  • Seamless toe prevents blisters
  • Secured fit
  • Antibacterial ions
  • Great moisture-wicking ability

Reasons to avoid

  • Can get a bit hot on the feet
  • Underfoot cushioning gets in the way of moisture-wicking
  • Men sizes are noticed to be smaller

The Balega Silver is another no-show pair of athletic socks that offers a combination of comfort and performance. This pair has silver locks in particular areas and a seamless toe section that prevents blisters. This product has a high-heel tab design that secures the socks in their place. It also has a medium amount of cushioning for the comfort of any wearer. 

Antibacterial ions are infused within the moisture-wicking fibres that ward off bacteria and keep the feet clean and dry when used. Reviewers have noted that the Silver offers the right tension for their feet without any constriction.

The Balega Silver is built with high-quality materials with a combination of 75% Drynamix, 23% nylon and 2% elastane. It also has a thick cushioning underfoot and a breathable top panel that keeps the feet cool. The collar is constructed with padding that adds to the socks’ comfortability. 

The fit has been described to be nice and snug on the feet. The stretch of the socks is also commended since it’s not too tight-fitting and the size is true to fit, however, some male customers found that the men’s sizes are relatively smaller so it might be best for male buyers to purchase a size bigger than their typical sizing. 

Elasticity is designed on the front to the back of the socks that assists in keeping the socks in their place. However, the underfoot cushioning has been found by some reviewers to have a tendency to get in the way of venting moisture away and the Balega Silver can run hot on the feet particularly on hot days.

5. Under Armour Resistor 3 Lo Cut

Key Features

  • ArmourBlock technology
  • Embedded arch support
  • Hydrophobic materials

Reasons to buy

  • Comfortable and durable
  • Good moisture-wicking properties
  • Has shock absorption properties

Reasons to avoid

  • Limited color options
  • Might not be best for hot climates

The Under Armour Resistor 3 is the perfect pair of athletic socks for anyone looking for both comfort and durability. These socks are made with polyester, nylon and spandex that providing more flexibility and breathability to the product. These materials also help with wicking away moisture and quickly drying the socks. 

It also has the ArmourBlock technology that prevents odor-causing bacteria from settling in the socks and the anti-microbial fabric helps to keep odor away. The Spandex and the nylon combination provide a secured fit on the feet. Strategic cushioning is designed in the Resistor 3 on the bottom section of the socks that aids in the absorption of shock on every movement. Another great feature of this product is the extra cushioning in high-impact areas like the Achilles heel.

The Resistor 3 has an embedded arch support that lessens foot fatigue giving you enough support on your arches. The polyester material is hydrophobic, hence, the socks will keep your feet dry. It might be less breathable compared to cotton athletic socks but it still offers enough ventilation.

Many customers have also noted that it has a nice fit and is true to its size. The heel and toe section has great reinforcements to counter wear and tear. However, some customers hope that there will be other color options in the future. Some reviewers have also noted that the socks are thick enough for them to be best used in colder climates.

6. ASICS Cushion Low Cut

Key Features

  • High level of polyester material
  • Ankle tab
  • Y-shape sewing design on the heel
  • Great insulation properties

Reasons to buy

  • Ample cushioning
  • Breathable and protective barrier on the upper section
  • Great on hot or cold days

Reasons to avoid

  • Color transfer and staining on to the shoes

The ASICS Cushion Low Cut socks has light cushioning, simplistic designs and a long-lasting stretchability. The materials for these socks include a high amount of polyester and a small percentage of nylon and Spandex. It offers enough underfoot cushioning making it comfortable for any wearer. 

The upper section of this product has a mesh layer that combats moisture buildup. This panelling also serves as a protective and breathable barrier that lets cool air pass through easily all-around your feet. The Cushion socks are built with an ankle tab that prevents any possible injuries, blistering or irritation and prevents direct contact of skin to the shoes. It also enables you to wear the socks easily by pulling on them instead of pulling different parts of the socks which could lead to early damage to the product.

The ASICS Cushion has a 1cm collar that wraps around your ankle and has an elastic band that helps in keeping the socks in place and giving the socks that snug fit on your feet. The stiff heel also has a nice fit on the area with its unique Y-shape sewing design that provides that minimal pinch on both sides of the ankles.

For insulation, ASICS has designed this product with impressive temperature control technology. Polyester has been proven to be a great heat insulator which makes it great in cold or winter weather conditions. If you are in an area with a hotter climate, the socks will still allow you to have ventilation with its breathable mesh panels. However, some customers have noticed that the socks have a tendency to stain the insides of your shoes and transfer their color.

7. Feetures Elite

Key Features

  • Lycra fabric
  • Nylon
  • Tencel fibres
  • 200 needle count thread
  • Anatomical left and right foot design

Reasons to buy

  • Seamless toe
  • Great slippage prevention
  • Soft on the skin
  • Light padding
  • Cushioned feel

Reasons to avoid

  • Moisture-wicking is not the best
  • Sizing is a bit small and tight

This product has a seamless toe construction and is made of high-quality materials that will aid you in your activities. The Elite socks are made from 96% nylon and 4% Lycra fabric, which is the Spandex material that amounts to the soft touch on the skin. 

The Tencel fibers and 200-needle count provide that comfortable fit. The socks also have a targeted compression on its underside for extra support. The padding is light enough and the high-density cushioning makes up for the cushioned feel on every movement without any bulkiness.

Reviewers have also raved about its classic anatomical left and right foot design which enhances the fit and prevents blisters and inflammation.

For slip prevention, Feetures built these socks with tightly woven and soft fabric that grips flawlessly the feet and the inside of the shoes for minimum slippage. On the other hand, the fit of the socks has been described by customers to be a bit small and tight.

The compressed fit prevents the feet from moving around and being loose once worn. However, based on the testing done by OutdoorGearLab, the moisture-wicking properties of the Elite is not as impressive compared to other athletic socks in the market. After the testing, they discovered that the pads and stretchy panels were damp inside and out.

How to Choose the Best Athletic Socks

Aside from finding the right pair of shoes for your chosen activity, it is also important for you to know how to choose the right athletic socks for your feet.

Athletic socks also play an important role to provide you the best comfort and experience in the sport that you do. We have listed down below some factors to think of when you are searching for the appropriate athletic socks:

Materials

Materials do matter and it is one of the most important things to look for in athletic socks. Different socks are made from different materials such as cotton, nylon, polyester, merino wool or a combination of these synthetic fibers.

Athletic socks that are made from cotton could give you great comfort on your feet, however, this has always been the least option for athletes and runners alike since it fails on managing moisture and tends to absorb water or sweat.

Cotton athletics socks will also make your feet vulnerable to blisters. On the other hand, Merino wool is a frequent pick since it is best not only for moisture management but also for anti-odor and temperature regulation.

Lastly, athletic socks with synthetic fibres usually offer good value, great with dealing with moisture as well and have quick dry properties.

Sock Cuts

Aside from personal preference, you should also know why there are different types of sock cuts and what purpose they serve. Low cut and no-show socks are best for runners.

Crew socks are best used in the gym or on the pitch. Mid-calf socks are typically chosen by athletes who need extra coverage for warmth. Knee high socks are best for anyone who needs leg protection and when you are exposed to abrasive elements.

Type of Activity

Some athletic socks are great with any type of activity you do but at the same time, some socks can be utilised more with your specific sport or activity. When you are doing more running, you should opt to buy a pair of athletic socks that have synthetic materials and offer the best moisture-wicking properties, like the Smartwool PhD Run Light Elite Micro.

For cycling, it is advised for you to steer away from athletic socks with extra padding and stick to thinner socks that can still wick moisture away and reduce friction. On the other hand, when you do a lot of lifting, it is best for you to purchase and wear higher socks on this activity to avoid bar scraping.

Lastly, for hikers taking on short hikes, you could sacrifice comfort and choose lightweight athletic socks that focus more on wicking away moisture and longer hikes should be taken on with extra and durable padding.

Comfort and Durability

Your athletic socks should be able to provide you with top-of-the-notch features especially based on their price point. Athletic socks should offer you comfort and durability in your activities.

For your next pair, try checking if your targeted athletic socks offer features such as a seamless toe which will prevent you from having blisters. Cushioning on impact zones is also something you should look for in order to protect your feet.

For durability, look for athletic socks that have a high thread count which will make the socks stronger. Moisture control is one of the most important things to look for as well since it will help you and your feet with sweat and moisture once you are active. Lastly, athletic socks should offer you odor resisting properties.

Frequently Asked Questions

Which athletic socks are best for hiking in a hotter climate?

Hiking in a hotter climate will require you to have athletic socks that are great in temperature regulation. You should look for a pair of athletic socks that are made from wool instead of synthetic materials. Wool has better temperature regulation ability versus synthetic or any other material even if it gets easily saturated such as the Rockay Accelerate socks.

Does sock thickness matter?

Yes, it does, since the appropriate thickness will affect the fit of your shoes. For people who have shallow or low-volume feet, it is advised for them to buy a pair of athletic socks that are on the thicker side. On the other hand, if you have medium to wide or high-volume feet, thinner socks will be best on your feet. Always remember to try on your socks with your shoes to gauge the comfort and fit.

What do arch reinforcements do to my feet?

Arch reinforcements are built within some athletic socks mainly to provide support on your feet using a tight weave. If you have high arches, it is best for you to look for a pair that has arch reinforcements to combat arch pain and even plantar fasciitis. Athletes who have regular arches and flat feet can also benefit from this feature, however, you should know that arch reinforcement should go along with the arch support on your chosen footwear.

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