6 Things To Look For When Shopping for Performance Socks

Gone are the days of white tube socks being your only option. These days, shoppers are inundated with thousands of sock options, especially when looking at socks for endurance or outdoor activities. How does one narrow down the endless list of alternatives without getting weighed down in the technical jargon? We selected six main areas to focus on when choosing a new pair of performance socks.

1. Determine what you’ll be using the sock for

Are you going to be trail running in this pair, or primarily cross-training? Maybe you’re a cyclist, or maybe you’re looking to replace your old and tired hiking socks. Keep the purpose of your sock in mind to help you decide between options in the following five categories: compression, cushion, fiber, cuff height, and seams.

Woman stopped on bike with one foot on pedal and one foot on the ground.

2. Compression

You’ve probably heard a lot about compression technology when it comes to performance socks, but what does it actually mean? Compression supports you during your run or hike, keeps your socks from bunching up or falling down, and prevents blisters by minimizing rubbing. Socks typically range from relaxed compression to firm. Runners who like more room for movement in their socks prefer relaxed compression socks, like our MAXUS line. Moderate compression socks (like our VISION, VIBE, FLITE XT, PURSUIT, and PURSUIT Hike lines) are often chosen by cyclists, hikers, fitness junkies, and runners who prefer more support. For the most support, opt for firm compression socks like our ASPIRE line - these are often chosen by long-distance runners and cyclists and are available in taller cuff heights to help improve blood flow.

3. Cushion

Compression isn’t the only feature you’ll want to take into account. While we want support from our socks, we also want to feel comfortable - and that’s where cushion comes in to play. Cushion comes down to personal preference: some athletes prefer a minimalist feel and opt for a light cushion that feels responsive (like what you might find in ASPIRE or Ultra-Light PURSUIT Hike socks). Others might prefer a maximum cushioned underfoot that absorbs shock with every stride. Find maximum cushion in our Heavyand Medium PURSUIT Hike or MAXUS lines. If your preference lies somewhere in the middle, opt for a medium cushion sock for the best of both worlds (found in VISION™, FLITE XT®, VIBE™, PURSUIT™, PURSUIT™ Hike Light and PERFORMANCE™ lines).

4. Fiber

Now that you’ve found the perfect compression and cushion combination, you’ll want to take note of what fibers your socks are made of. Socks are woven with a variety of fibers, from cotton to wool to synthetic fibers. When you’re buying socks that will be worn during strenuous activity, stay away from cotton: socks made from cotton don’t wick away sweat, leaving your feet wet, cold, and uncomfortable. Synthetic blends (like our signature Olefin fiber) or Natural Merino Wool are a much better choice for active wearers to wick away your sweat and prevent blisters and discomfort.

5. Cuff Height

With fibers out of the way, you’re now able to choose a cuff height. Performance socks are available in all sorts of heights (we offer nine) ranging from no-show to knee-high. Choose a height based on personal preference: for running you might prefer an ankle sock while you may choose a crew height for your cycling, hiking, or trail running adventures to protect your calf. No matter how high (or low) you go, you’re going to look good.

6. Seams

This last category may seem minor, but it can make all the difference. If you’re standing in front of the sock wall at your favorite local gear shop, take note of where each sock has a seam. The traditional sock design has a seam that runs across the toes - this makes it easier to sew. However, when that seam is squished between your toe and your shoe it can cause a lot of pain. All Swiftwick socks are constructed with a seamless toe box to remove that friction and prevent painful rubbing. Trust us, your toes will thank you.

Woman riding a bike on gravel road.

Once you’ve determined the right combination of features for your feet and chosen activity, you can get creative with the color! You might choose a color to match your go-to running shoes or opt for a fun pattern that makes you want to get out the door without snoozing your alarm. Now that you have the right socks for the job - nothing can stop you!