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Best trail running socks 2022: for taking on rugged and technical terrain this fall

best trail running socks: A trail runner on a run wearing socks
Look after your feet during adventures with these trail running socks (Image credit: Getty)

The best trail running socks work in tandem with your shoes to provide comfort and support during your fast and light adventures. It makes total sense that quality running socks are vital. After all, your feet take their fair share of punishment on a long run, which makes your socks arguably the most essential base layer.

What sets the best trail running socks apart from the rest? Well, for a start they're usually cushioned in all the right places, while their seams are located so that there's less chance of your developing a pesky blister. They're typically woven from highly breathable, moisture-wicking fabrics, meaning your feet don't overheat.

All of this adds up to a high level of comfort, which is especially important as it's likely your best trail running shoes are relatively minimalist compared to road runners, with less cushioning to absorb those impacts.

The best trail running socks are also more durable than your average pair, thanks to the quality of their construction. As with the best hiking socks, it's often the case that a performance running sock packs loads more stitches per square inch compared to most, making them much more resistant to wear and tear. 

In this guide, we've gathered thirteen of the finest pairs available today.

Best trail running socks for summer

Voormi Run Sock in red

(Image credit: Voormi)

Voormi Run Socks

Ultralight, innovative well-vented wool trail running socks completely sans cushioning

Specifications

List price: $25 (about £20)
Gender specificity: Male / female
Materials: Polyester (50%), wool (40%), nylon (5%), Lycra (5%)
Length: Sub ankle
Colors: Red/Navy
Compatibility: Warm weather running on any terrain

Reasons to buy

+
Thin material without any bulk
+
Excellent moisture-wicking capabilities
+
Flex panel provides superior movement

Reasons to avoid

-
Sizing runs slightly long

Voormi has created a unique double-layer trail running sock with a wool outer layer and a soft, next-to-skin synthetic inner layer that hugs and supports the curvature of the foot. The outer layer provides temperature management – warmth when it’s cool and cooling when it’s warm – while the inner layer ensures an optimal fit and excels at wicking moisture away from the skin.

Although it’s a low-cut model with no cushioning, it has an achilles protection pad that helps keep the socks in place and reduce friction against the back of the heel. A seamless toe closure and flex panel under the arch for dynamic motion as your foot moves through the gait cycle. The socks were designed and produced with sustainable New Zealand wool, and our pick for the best trail running socks when the temperatures rise.

Darn Tough No Show Tab ultra-lightweight merino wool run sock in green

(Image credit: Darn Tough)
Comfortable, hard-wearing and high performing, these trail running socks might be invisible, but their benefits are very obvious on the trail

Specifications

List price: $16 / £17
Sizes (men's): M-XXL
Sizes (women's): S-L
Materials: Merino Wool (48%), Nylon (48%), Lycra Spandex (4%)
Length: Ankle (no show)
Weight (men’s large, per pair): 40g / 1.4oz
Colors (men's) : Eclipse / Black / Fatigue / White / Burgundy
Colors (women's): Ash / Black / White / Baltic / Gray
Compatibility: Best suited to trail and mixed-terrain running in warmer conditions

Reasons to buy

+
Robust
+
High performing
+
Supremely comfortable
+
Lifetime guarantee 

Reasons to avoid

-
No lower leg protection
-
Better in warmer months
-
Not foot specific

Unless you’re wearing a extremely low profile running shoe, you won’t really see these trail running socks (as the name suggests), so they won’t protect you from things like stinging plants, brambles or ticks, and are better suited to the warmer months, but there’s lots going on beneath the surface.

The design and fine-gauge knitted material cradles the foot really well, regardless of the lack of left/right specificity, and the seams are entirely undetectable. Once pulled on, they stay firmly in place. As Darn Tough proudly proclaim at every opportunity, their socks are still made in Vermont, and they are constructed with lots of attention to detail and extremely well quality controlled. Available in cushioned (for extra bounce) and non-cushioned (superlight, with more trail feel) versions, these near-as-damn-it half-merino socks offer performance and comfort in equal measure.

1,000 Mile Run Socklet in blue

(Image credit: 1000 Mile Run)

1,000 Mile Run Socklet

Comfortable and short, this is one of the best trail running socks for summer weather

Specifications

List price: £13 (twin pack)
Materials: Nylon (97%), elastane (3%)
Length: Mini crew
Sizes (men's): M-L-XL
Sizes (women's): S-M
Colors (men's): Kingfisher blue / Navy blue
Colors (women's): Pink & lavender / Steel & blue (one of each in every twin pack)
Compatibility: A great sock for spring, summer and early autumn/fall running

Reasons to buy

+
Very breathable 
+
Soft and comfortable
+
Well padded where it counts
+
Great price
+
Durable

Reasons to avoid

-
Non-recycled synthetic materials
-
A little short
-
No left/right specificity

The 1,000 Mile Run Socklet features extra padding in various areas to better protect your feet from the stresses of running. This is most pronounced around the Achilles, where there’s a big fat-lip of material to cushion the oft-problematic tendon, but there are also padded zones on the heel, toes and ball of the foot. Sections of ventilation mesh have been employed along the top of the foot, which helps noticeably with breathability, and these socks seem so well made that these areas still seem robust despite their lightness. 

Other useful features include arch bracing, which feels supportive and helps keep the sock in place, a Y-shape heel for a better fit, and flat toe seam, to reduce irritation and rubbing on pinkies. Although made mostly from nylon (not brilliant from an environmental point of view) these socks are very breathable, wick moisture well and don’t feel super synthetic – they’re actually very soft and comfortable. Will they last 1000 miles? Well, we haven’t run quite that far in them yet, but we have ticked off over 100km without any signs of wear and tear presenting themselves, and they do seem genuinely durable.

Best trail running socks for breathability

best trail running socks: BAM clothing Technical Bamboo Running Socks

(Image credit: BAM)

BAM clothing Technical Bamboo Running Socks

Brilliantly designed to offer comfort, support and performance, these technical running socks are an excellent and environmentally friendly option

Specifications

RRP (per pair): £16 (UK)
Gender specificity: Male / Female
Sizes: Men’s: 4–7 / 8–11; Women’s: S/M/L
Materials: Bamboo Viscose (40%), Merino Wool (10%), Recycled Polyamide (37%), Polyamide (11%), Elastane (2%)
Length: Ankle
Colors: Black / Blue / Grey / Green
Compatibility: Trail and road running, plus summer walking and general use

Reasons to buy

+
Comfortable and well designed
+
50% natural fiber
+
Hard wearing
+
Some recycled content

Reasons to avoid

-
Not particularly suited to winter
-
Offer no leg protection on overgrown trails
-
Relatively expensive

These new ankle-length technical running socks from British bamboo clothing brand BAM are excellent performers on any sort of surface. Instantly comfortable, they feature additional terry lining for extra padding and there’s a mesh section at the toes for better breathability and ventilation. The socks are nicely shaped and designed to provide some support in the arch area and there is a bit more cushioning on the heel too, which helps avoid niggles around the Achilles area. They are not the cheapest socks out there, but the material mix is a particularly rich one. 

It begins with a bamboo base that’s not only an excellent eco-friendly fabric (being natural and biodegradable), but is also super comfortable, and this is combined with merino wool (which deals well with both odor and moisture) and majority-recycled poly materials, with a bit of dynamic elastane thrown in to help it keep its shape. The result is a sock that’s a joy to wear, which performs brilliantly, resists residual odors and lasts for a decent amount of time (and yet is still biodegradable at the end of its useful life). The raw material sourcing and production process for bamboo clothes is also much less environmentally damaging and water-heavy than the manufacturing methods for man-made clothes. These are short socks, however, so they don’t offer much protection from stinging and prickling plants on overgrown trails.

best trail running socks: EDZ Merino Running Socks

(Image credit: EDZ)

EDZ Merino Running Socks

Soft-feel comfortable running socks for all kids of conditions

Specifications

RRP: Single pack: £9.99 (UK); 3-pack $ (US) / £24.99 (UK)
Gender specificity: Male / Female
Sizes: S/M/L
Materials: Merino wool (50%), Polyester (25%), Nylon (20%), Elastane (5%)
Length: Ankle
Colors: Black & grey / Blue & orange
Compatibility: All kinds of running, from trail to track to road

Reasons to buy

+
Extremely comfortable
+
Good odor control
+
Reasonable price

Reasons to avoid

-
Prone to fuzzing up
-
No recycled content
-
Offer no leg protection on overgrown trails

These running socks from British sportswear brand EDZ, who are based in the sheep-infested outdoor wonderland of Cumbria and specialize in the use of high-quality wool in their performance products, are instantly comfortable, with a lovely soft next-to-skin feel. Made mostly from merino, which is what accounts for their soft touch, they offer excellent natural moisture-wicking and bacteria-bashing qualities, and retain their thermal properties even when damp, which makes them ideal for running any where, in any conditions. And they won’t pong, even after multiple wears. 

That said, this version is only ankle high, so it doesn’t protect you too much from trail overgrowth or annoyances such as stinging nettles, brambles or ticks, and they’re better suited to running in the spring, summer and autumn rather than in the depth of winter. The material mix also features (polyester, nylon and elastane) tougher fabrics than merino, which will help the socks endure and hold shape, but on test we did discover they went furry fairly quickly, which does suggest they might not last a long as we would have liked.

Swiftwick Flite XT Five trail running socks in black and gray

(Image credit: Swiftwick)

Swiftwick Flite XT Five

Lightly cushioned, well-vented compression socks that keep feet comfy and dry

Specifications

RRP: $24 (US) / £22.50 (UK)
Gender specificity: Unisex
Sizes: S/M/L/ XL
Materials: Nylon (66%), Polyester (17%), Olefin (14%), Spandex (3%)
Length: Crew
Colors: Black/Gray
Compatibility: All terrain running, cross fit, various activities

Reasons to buy

+
Modest zoned cushioning
+
Well-vented construction
+
Stays in place and flexes with the foot

Reasons to avoid

-
Some material can bunch up in the toe box

Serving up medium cushioning and moderate compression, the Flite XT Five socks feel like a second skin when you pull them on. Swiftwick name the material mix they use GripDry, but no matter what it’s called, it keeps the socks from slipping. Made from a blend of four synthetic fibers, it is engineered to stay in place, provide support under the arch and around the ankle and wick moisture away from the skin with targeted venting over the top of the foot.

The zoned cushioning pads under the forefoot and ankle help reduce bulk as it works in concert with the other design aspects of the sock. As much or more than any socks we tested, the Flite XT five is one of the best trail running socks that stays in place without any interior slippage.

Best trail running socks for comfort

best trail running socks: Stance Run Crew Staple

(Image credit: Stance)

Stance Run Crew Staple

Sturdy, supportive running socks with a touch of style

Specifications

RRP: $15 (US) / £14
Gender specificity: Unisex
Sizes: S/M/L
Materials: Nylon (85%), Polyester (8%), Elastane (7%)
Length: Crew
Colors: Black & gray / White & gray
Compatibility: Trail running, road running and general activity

Reasons to buy

+
Comfortable, sturdy design
+
Exceptional arch support
+
Minimally cushioned

Reasons to avoid

-
Durability less than optimal

Stance burst on the sock scene a few years ago and made a splash with bold, disrupted new designs, but it was its unique Infiknit construction technology and use of sturdy, high-end yarns and air jet texturizing to create socks that perform as good as they look. They’re not soft or cushioned, but they’re smooth, sleek and comfortable when you pull them on.

These socks support your arch and stay in place, helping your feet feel energized with a wrap-like feel throughout a run or workout. It’s an ideal pair of socks for trail running, both because Stance offers the Run Crew ST in a lot of dark color patterns but also because they’re so comfortable, supportive and breathable. Made from a blend of nylon, polyester and elastane, it’s a reliable, stay-in-place model that’s comfortable and cool enough for casual wear.

Wigwam Surpass Lightweight Mid-Crew trail running sock in orange and blue

(Image credit: Wigwam)

Wigwam Surpass Lightweight Mid-Crew

Performance-oriented socks with an innovative design to ensure optimal fit

Specifications

List price: $19 / £19
Sizes: S-XL
Materials: Polyester (49%), stretch nylon (38%), Tencel (7%), spandex (6%)
Length: Mid crew
Colors: Black / Gray & Blue / Green & Yucca / Red & white / gray
Compatibility: Trail and mixed terrain running

Reasons to buy

+
Exceptionally fitting socks
+
Midweight cushioning
+
Non-constrictive toe box

Reasons to avoid

-
Heel feels a bit roomy
-
Synthetic materials

Wigwam developed its Synchroknit sock technology with the intent of creating a contoured, no-slip fit while also strategically reducing material bulk. Soft and lightweight, the Surpass Lightweight Mid-Crew socks serve up a near-custom fit for most foot shapes with its innovative contour knit that uses gradient stitching to use less yarn than its contemporaries in the running sock arena.

Made from a synthetic blend of polyester, stretch nylon, Tencel and Spandex, the SynchroKnit Surpass socks have an elastic, form-fitting construction with a double-Y heel pocket design that envelops the rearfoot. It provides noticeable arch support and modest padding and a seamless design in the unrestricted forefoot. 

Injinji Outdoor Midweight Crew NuWool Toe Sock in gray

(Image credit: Injinji)

Injinji Outdoor Midweight Crew NuWool toe sock

Extremely versatile, the original toe sock performs at the highest level out on the trails

Specifications

List price: $21 / £24.50
Sizes: S-M-L-XL
Materials: NuWool (43%), acrylic (43%), nylon (12%) Lycra (2%)
Length: Crew
Weight (men’s large, per pair): 62g / 2.2oz
Colors: Charcoal / Oatmeal
Compatibility: Excellent for all trails in any conditions

Reasons to buy

+
Low risk of blisters
+
Comfortable 
+
Robust design and construction
+
Arch support

Reasons to avoid

-
Can be tricky/slow to put on
-
Needs to be washed carefully (cold water only)

Injinji pioneered the toe sock, and we have been wearing various iterations of this sock for over eight years now, and have always been very impressed with the performance. With your toes being separated from one another, the level of skin-on-skin rubbing is reduced, massively lowering the risk of blisters in this potentially problematic area. This design also lets your feet and toes move in the way they are supposed to (natural splay), albeit within the confines of a shoe (obviously if your running shoe has a narrow toebox, this won’t work as well). Depending on your feet, it can take some time to get these on properly, but the comfort levels make it worthwhile. 

Arguably, a toe sock is slightly less warm than a normal sock – just as gloves aren’t as warm as mittens – but the Nuwool fabric used in these trail running socks has excellent thermal properties. Other features include midweight padding cushions, and some arch support. The cuff is designed to stay firmly in place, keeping out dirt and debris from the trail. A large area of mesh across the forefoot allows air to your feet – it will be interesting to see how durable this element is, but we have run 50km-plus in them, washing them after each outing, and haven’t noticed any concerning issues yet. In fact, they seem extremely robust.

Inov-8 Speed Sock High trail running socks in black and gray

(Image credit: Inov-8)

Inov-8 Speed Sock High

Solidly supportive synthetic sock

Specifications

List price: $24 / £18 (twin pack)
Sizes: S-M-L
Materials: Nylon, Spandex
Length: High crew
Weight (men’s large, per pair): 20g/0.7oz
Colors: Black / gray
Compatibility: A very versatile sock that performs well on and off trails, in any conditions

Reasons to buy

+
Tight, supportive fit
+
Lightweight
+
Wicks moisture well
+
Durable construction
+
Versatile

Reasons to avoid

-
Non-recycled synthetic materials
-
Synthetic feel

A hard-working and versatile outdoor-active sock (good for running, cycling, walking with your best hiking shoes), the Inov-8 Speeds are extremely durable and priced sensibly. The first thing to note is that they are very supportive – the fit is tight, to the point of compression, which aids blood circulation when you’re working hard and reduces foot swelling. 

These socks are left/right foot specific, and this is clearly indicated on forefoot, next to the size, so you don’t have to faff about in the half light of dawn before a morning run trying to work out which foot to pull what sock on. They feature extra padding around the heel and underfoot, which cuts down on the chances of you suffering sores and blisters. Materials are entirely synthetic, which isn’t so brilliant from an environmental point of view, but they will last ages and they wick moisture brilliantly.

Best trail running socks for sustainability

Rockay Flare Quarter Running Socks in gray and orange

(Image credit: Rockay)

Rockay Flare Quarter Running Socks

Lightly cushioned performance-oriented crew socks made from recycled materials

Specifications

List price: $18 / £16.50
Sizes: S-XL
Materials: Econyl regenerated nylon (50%), recycled polyamide (46%), recycled elastane (4%)
Length: Ankle
Colors: Light gray / lime & blue / orange & black / lime & black / red & eco white
Compatibility: Trail and mixed terrain running

Reasons to buy

+
Performance-oriented fit
+
Made from recycled materials
+
Excellent arch support and breathability

Reasons to avoid

-
Cushioning is minimal

Rockay has only been around for a few years, but it’s quickly making a name for itself with its penchant for making great-fitting socks out of eco-friendly materials. Most of its socks, including the Flare, are produced entirely with recycled or regenerated fibers and fabrics, which allows the brand to use the equivalent of 13 plastic bottles pulled from the ocean.

The Flare is a performance-oriented sock with a high degree of elasticity, allowing it to mold to any foot shape and move without any bunching or stretching. The sophisticated weaving process gives the multi-zone Flare exceptional arch support, breathability, a compact layer of cushioning and a snug, seamless toe box. It’s a thin sock with minimal cushioning, but it fits as well or better as any sock we tested in this review.

Balega Blister Resist Quarter Running Socks

(Image credit: Balega)

Balega Blister Resist Quarter Running Socks

Soft, comfortable socks made from sustainable South African mohair

Specifications

RRP: $15 (US) / £15 (UK)
Sizes: S-L
Materials: Drynamix Polyester (49%), Mohair (16%), Wool (16%), Acrylic (8%), Nylon (3%), Microfiber (3%), Neofil (3%), Elastane (2%)
Length: Ankle crew
Colors: Mink / Grey / Ink / Cobalt / Black / Grey/ Orange / Ethereal blue / Pink/ Wildberry
Compatibility: Trail running, endurance events

Reasons to buy

+
Effectively pulls sweat away from skin
+
Supremely soft and comfortable
+
Segmented ventilation padding

Reasons to avoid

-
Irritating toe box seam

Balega’s Blister Resist Quarter socks combat friction and other blister-causing factors with a smart design and a blend of materials that keeps the sock in place and ensures your skin remains dry and cool. These socks have a deep, form-fitting heel pocket, a snug, elastic ankle cuff, form-fitting arch support and a seamless toecap. 

One of the key materials in the sock’s blend is South African mohair, a sustainable natural fiber made from Angora goat hair that’s long been known for its durability, softness, stretchiness and antimicrobial qualities. It’s a hollow-structure fiber that delivers superior temperature regulation, providing warmth when it’s cold and a cool sensation when it’s cool. The other key material in the makeup of these socks is Drynamix, an elastic synthetic fiber with exceptional moisture-wicking capabilities. The quarter cuff height does a good job at keeping dirt and pebbles out.

BAM Bamboo Sport Socks in blue and black

(Image credit: Bamboo)

BAM Bamboo Sport Socks

Comfortable, high-performing socks that are friendly to your feet, wallet and the planet

Specifications

RRP (2-pack): £10 (UK)
Materials: Viscose Bamboo (53%), Organic Cotton (30%) Recycled Polyamide (15%) Elastane (2%)
Weight (men’s large, per pair): 39g/1.4oz
Colors: Navy / Amber
Compatibility: A good summer running sock for all kinds of terrain

Reasons to buy

+
Environmentally friendly
+
Very comfortable
+
Anti-odor properties
+
Excellent price

Reasons to avoid

-
Slower to dry than some others
-
Not as durable as others
-
Not warm enough for cold weather

As a natural material, bamboo is much more environmentally friendly than synthetic fabrics, and it’s also fine for vegan runners to wear. Here it is blended with organic cotton, grown without insecticides, and the whole manufacturing process uses far less water than industry usual (BAM say purchasing these specific socks over most alternatives is equivalent to saving 25.5 days of drinking water). Bamboo isn’t just a Panda snack, spun into yarn it is a dynamic, comfortable fabric with lots of naturally occurring properties that work particularly well with active apparel, including excellent breathability, moisture-wicking capability and anti-stink attributes. 

As a 100% natural fiber, it will also biodegrade after your sock’s lifespan is over - although these socks are pretty robust, so you should get plenty of runs done in them. It is absorbent too, as is the organic cotton it is blended with, so it’s not as light as some synthetic material when wet, when it will also lose some thermal properties (although this is a not a cold-weather design anyway). This is a low-cut sock with a terry cushion sole and an extra-padded tab at the back to protect your heel and ankle against rubbing on the cuff of whatever trail running shoe you pair them with them.

Best Trail Running Socks Comparison Table
SocksRRPMaterialsLengthCompatibility
Voormi Run Socks$25 (US)Polyester (50%), wool (40%), nylon (5%), Lycra (5%)Sub ankleWarm weather running on any terrain
Darn Tough No Show Tab Ultra-Lightweight Merino Wool socks$16 (US) / £17 (UK)Merino Wool (48%), Nylon (48%), Lycra Spandex (4%)Ankle (no show)Best suited to trail and mixed-terrain running in warmer conditions
1,000 Mile Run Socklet£13 twin pack (UK)Nylon (97%), elastane (3%)Mini crewA great sock for spring, summer and early autumn/fall running
BAM clothing Technical Bamboo Running Socks£16 (UK)Bamboo Viscose (40%), Merino Wool (10%), Recycled Polyamide (37%), Polyamide (11%), Elastane (2%)AnkleTrail and road running, plus summer walking and general use
EDZ Merino Running SocksSingle pack: £9.99 (UK); 3-pack £24.99 (UK)Merino wool (50%), Polyester (25%), Nylon (20%), Elastane (5%)AnkleAll kinds of running, from trail to track to road
Swiftwick Flite XT Five$24 (US) / £22.50 (UK)Nylon (66%), Polyester (17%), Olefin (14%), Spandex (3%)CrewAll terrain running, cross fit, various activities
Stance Run Crew Staple$15 (US) / £14 (UK)Nylon (85%), Polyester (8%), Elastane (7%)CrewTrail running, road running and general activity
Wigwam Surpass Lightweight Mid-Crew$19 (US) / £19 (UK)Polyester (49%), stretch nylon (38%), Tencel (7%), spandex (6%)Mid crewTrail and mixed terrain running
Injinji Outdoor Midweight Crew NuWool toe sock$21 (US) / £24.50 (UK)NuWool (43%), acrylic (43%), nylon (12%) Lycra (2%)CrewExcellent for all trails in any conditions
Inov-8 Speed Sock High$24 (US) / £18 (UK) (twin pack)Nylon, SpandexHigh crewA very versatile sock that performs well on and off trails, in any conditions
Rockay Flare Quarter Running Socks$18 (US) / £16.50 (UK)Econyl regenerated nylon (50%), recycled polyamide (46%), recycled elastane (4%)AnkleTrail and mixed terrain running
Balega Blister Resist Quarter Running Socks$15 (US) / £15 (UK)Drynamix Polyester (49%), Mohair (16%), Wool (16%), Acrylic (8%), Nylon (3%), Microfiber (3%), Neofil (3%), Elastane (2%)Ankle crewTrail running, endurance events
BAM Bamboo Sport Socks£10 (UK) (Twin pack)Viscose Bamboo (53%), Organic Cotton (30%) Recycled Polyamide (15%) Elastane (2%)AnkleA good summer running sock for all kinds of terrain

How to choose the best trail running socks for you

Feet are the single most important part of the body for runners, and even if you’re into ‘barefoot’ running (see: What is barefoot running?), how you treat them and what you clad them in is vitally important. Trail runners look for a slightly different set of features in a sock than their road running cousins, because of the gnarlier terrain and increased potential of encountering wet, muddy and generally more challenging conditions. 

The other thing to bear in mind when you start trail running is the possibility of brushing against stinging flora and biting fauna, which can be mitigated with a pair of the best running leggings.

The best trail running socks tend to take the key features of quality hiking socks but place emphasis on being lighter. Following are some factors we recommend taking into account to help you choose the best trail running socks for you.

best trail running socks: A trail runner excitedly running down a hillside

Gnarlier terrain is one of the main reasons trail running socks have to be more specialized (Image credit: Getty)

Materials

There’s a lot to ponder under this heading. The best trail running socks are breathable, warm (when they need to be), wick sweat away, last for a good amount of time without stinking your sock draw out, look ace and are good for the planet. It’s hard to get all of these qualities in one sock, though, because materials all offer different qualities. 

Natural fabrics such as wool and bamboo boast great thermal qualities, wick well, feel great and don’t pong (too much). They're also environmentally friendly, partly because they’re grown and not made as a byproduct of the fossil fuel industry, and partly because they biodegrade at the end of their life. 

So what's the downside? Well, they’re often not as durable as socks made from manmade materials. Cotton feels lovely in summer, but offers no warmth whatsoever when it’s wet and cold outside. Synthetic poly products dry incredibly quickly, still perform when wet and last for ages. In fact, they’ll outlive all of us. However, they don’t feel as nice next to your skin and one day they will take over the entire planet if we keep buying them. 

The best choice really is to go for socks made with a mix of materials – although these can be more pricey. If you run trails regularly, it’s worth getting a garment that will make that experience more enjoyable.

best trail running socks: A trail running racing through some woods

From the forests to the summits, trail running socks will cope with whatever conditions you throw at them (Image credit: Getty)

Length

You need to consider seasonality here, and the kind of terrain you are running through. Obviously, a longer sock is great for cold weather runs, which are more endurable when you’re better covered up. They also provide more support for tendons, joints and muscles and protection against prickly and stinging plants, and little nasties like ticks (also see: How to avoid tick bites). But if you’re running open or sandy trails in mostly good conditions, an ankle sock or socklet can be the most pleasant choice.

best trail running socks: A trail runner racing through mountains

The best sock length depends on where you are going to be running (Image credit: Getty)

Padding and cushioning

The best trail running socks offer that little bit extra, in terms of protection for the various long-suffering parts of your foot against the stresses of repeated foot strike when running, and the constant chafing and wearing a trail shoe can cause. A bit of cushioning on the heel, toe area, sole, ankle, and around the Achilles tendon can really make a difference. These elements can increase the price of the sock, but if it’s going to prevent blisters and blackened toenails, it’s definitely worth it. If you're heading out on an ultra run (What is ultra running?), this added protection can be the difference between success and failure. Thicker material in these areas will also increase the durability of the sock, so you’ll get your money’s worth in the end.

best trail running socks: A trail runner on a hilltop

On a long run, the extra protection offered by trail running socks is essential (Image credit: Getty)

Other design elements

When a sock has left/right specificity, it implies that each sock has a more contoured fit for each foot. This can absolutely be the case, and the majority of socks covered here do include one left- and one right-footed sock. But it shouldn’t be the deal breaker that turns the best trail running sock into an also-ran – in reality, the difference feels fairly negligible. When you’re trying to get out the door for a dawn run, it can be a pain if it’s not immediately obvious which sock is for which foot.

We have put the wrong one on the wrong foot before now, and we didn’t fall over any more than usual. The exception to that rule is, of course, the toe socks, where you definitely need to get them the right way around. But you already knew that.

Brian is an award-winning journalist, photographer and podcaster who has written for Runner’s World, The Times, Outside, Men’s Journal, Trail Runner, Triathlete and Red Bulletin. He's also the author of several books, including Kicksology: The Hype, Science, Culture and Cool of Running Shoes. He lives in Boulder, Colorado, and loves to run, bike, hike, camp, ski and climb mountains. He has wear-tested more than 1,500 pairs of running shoes, completed four Ironman triathlons, as well as numerous marathons and ultra-distance running races.

With contributions from