Fitness / Fitness Gear

The Best Women’s Running Socks for Every Kind of Runner

Research Based

Research Based

This article was rigorously researched and fact checked. We use peer-reviewed journals and reputable medical sources (think: CDC, WHO, NIH, and the like) to back up every claim we make, and also reach out to experts in the field to ensure we’re covering things the right way. We apply these principles to everything we cover—including brands we partner with—and we’ll always disclose sponsorships, ads, and any kind of financial relationship with anything featured on The Ness Well. You deserve the best, most straightforward information on health and wellness, and we think this is the right way to do it. You can read more about our testing and review process here.

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bombas performance running ankle socks

Written by Brooklee Han
Reviewed by Taylor Thomas & Julianne Benson

We write for people looking for the best health and wellness gear (not for brands). All products and services are independently selected and tested to provide recommendations you can trust. You can read more about our process here. We may receive commission on purchases made from some of our links, but that’s not why we’re here. We just want to help you find good stuff.

No matter what kind of workout you’re doing, having the right equipment is essential. With running, it’s footwear that matters—and that means more than just running shoes. The right running socks are just as important for keeping your feet happy and healthy as you hit the pavement. Even the best Asic or Hoka won’t help you out much if the socks you’re wearing rub and cause hotspots and blisters. 

For this reason, we took it upon ourselves to find the best running socks. 56 miles, seven pairs of socks, and 20 hours of research and testing later, Bombas’ Performance Running Ankle Socks made my feet the happiest. The socks’ soft fabric, secure fit, and subtle arch support combined to make them the clear winner in my books.

Here’s the TL;DR on the best running socks for women:

  1. Bombas Performance Running (Top Pick)
  2. Saucony Performance No-Show Tab (Budget Pick)
  3. Rockay Accelerate
  4. Smartwool PhD Run
  5. Swiftwick Aspire Zero
  6. Balega Hidden Comfort
  7. Darn Tough Women’s Run Ultra Lightweight

Are Specialized Running Socks Worth It?

woman standing outside wearing running shoes and leggings
Brock DuPont for Ness

Running socks are socks specifically designed for, well, running. (Or jogging, trotting, or Prancercise-ing—whatever you like to call it.) Running socks typically have a deeper heel pocket for a more secure fit, as well as other features such as arch support and moisture-wicking capabilities achieved by multiple layers of fabric that absorb friction and push out excess moisture. A good pair won’t transform you from a casual jogger to a record-breaking marathoner, but it will improve circulation, arch support, and comfort. Likewise, the wrong pair could cause agony as you run. 

No matter how much you invest in running shoes, if your socks don’t fit properly or are made out of moisture-absorbing and not moisture-wicking material (looking at you, 100% cotton), you will still end up with extra-tired feet at the end of your run, not to mention blisters and even athletes’ foot icon-trusted-source Mayo Clinic “Athlete's Foot” View Source . So, if you want to make the most of your time on the road (or the treadmill) and reap all the benefits of your fancy running shoes, it might be time to look into finding the best running socks for you.

Running Socks We Love

Top Pick

Bombas Performance Running Ankle Sock

  • Lightly cushioned toe and heel
  • Comes in sizes S-L to fit U.S. women’s shoe sizes 4-13
  • 51% polyester, 33% nylon, 12% cotton, 4% spandex
  • $16.50 per pair
Shop Now at Bombas | $16.50 Shop Now at Dick’s Sporting Goods | $16.50
bombas performance running ankle socks
Pros
  • Secure fit
  • Easy washing directions
  • For every pair bought, a pair is donated to a homeless shelter
  • Hex Tec arch provides support
Cons
  • Not as moisture-wicking as some other socks

It should come as a surprise to exactly no one that the ever-popular, Shark Tank-famous Bombas brand makes a killer running sock. Not only does this pair have all the features I was testing for—moisture wicking, snug/secure fit, and arch support—they’re just plain comfy. These are socks I want to wear again and again, regardless of if I’m running that day or not.

The polyester-nylon-spandex-cotton-blend fabric felt great on my skin and the compression provided by the arch support is strong enough to do its job but not so much that it ever felt uncomfortable. The socks have have light cushioning on the toe and heel, too, which helped the pads of my feet feel protected while I ran, but so much that my running shoes felt tight. As an added bonus, they are super easy to care for with no specific washing instructions. As long as you’re using non-chlorine bleach, you can just throw them in with the rest of your laundry. 

I love the feel of cotton, so the fact that these socks aren’t 100% synthetic made me very happy. The cotton-poly blend doesn’t wick moisture quite as well as some other socks, but my feet never felt soggy or tender when I finished my workouts (even if the rest of my body did, in fact, feel soggy and tender). And after taking the socks through several runs and washes, I didn’t see any signs of wear and tear: They truly looked and felt just as good as when I first took them out of the packaging. I expect this to change after a few years of consistent use, but you can’t ask for much more from a sock.

My main gripe with the Bombas is their cost: $16.50 a pair. You can save a piddling amount (5%) if you buy a pack of six, but the price still seems excessive. Still, the high cost seems more justified when considering Bombas’ mission—for every pair of socks bought, the brand donates a pair to a homeless shelter. With 4.8 stars across 5,000 reviews on Bombas’ website, I’m not the only fan of these running socks. “Been wearing Bombas for years. The performance ankle is great. Not too tight, just right,” writes a reviewer.

Budget Pick

Saucony Performance No-Show Tab

  • Light cushioning in the toe and heel
  • Comes in sizes S-L to fit U.S. women’s shoe sizes 5-13
  • 98% Polyester/ 2% Spandex
  • $13.51 for pack of 8
Shop Now at Amazon | $13.50 for a pack of 8 Shop Now at Zappos | $15.99 for a pack of 8
Saucony
Pros
  • More affordable than others
  • Great arch support
  • Doesn’t slip
Cons
  • Fabric not as high quality as other pairs
  • Decreased cushion after one wash

Any budget-minded runner will, at some point, find themselves buying socks in a bulk pack. Saucony’s 8-pack running socks are one of the most popular options—and, as someone who has bought many multipacks from various brands throughout the years, these Saucony socks are just like the socks I usually find myself running in (except without the worn-out elastic from years of love). 

The Sauconys don’t have that luxurious, made-to-run-in feel as some of the other more expensive options. Still, even if they’re more “average” than “spectacular,” I have no real complaints about them. They check all the necessary boxes for a running sock (secure fit, arch support, moisture-wicking capability) and have some cushioning in the heel and on the sole of the sock, but not enough to make my shoes feel tight. They also have simple washing instructions to machine wash warm with non-chlorine bleach and tumble dry.

If you don’t necessarily have the budget to spend nearly $17 on one pair of socks, or maybe you just aren’t that committed to running, these socks are the ticket. They are very much your no-frills, no-fuss running sock, and honestly, there is nothing wrong with that. 

And, with 4.8 stars across a whopping 71,000 (!) reviews on Amazon, you can be assured that you’re in good company if you opt for them. “I might as well throw all of my other socks away. These are my go-to socks. Comfortable for around the house, on the farm, or on a run,” writes a reviewer.

Other Running Socks Worth Considering

Rockay Accelerate Ankle Sock

  • Minimal cushion
  • Comes in sizes S-XXL to fit U.S. women’s shoe sizes 4-12.5
  • 50% Econyl regenerated nylon, 46% recycled polyamide, 4% recycled elastane
  • $22 per pair
Shop Now at Rockay | $22 Shop Now at Amazon | $16.95
rockay
Pros
  • Doesn’t slip on the feet
  • Barely-there feel
  • Targeted arch support
  • Made from recycled material
Cons
  • Fussy washing instructions

No matter how well a sock fits, I can pretty much always feel its presence on my foot—some rubbing, some friction, some there there. Rockay’s Accelerate socks, however, seemed to magically disappear, leaving me to wonder if I really was wearing socks during my run or if my feet had just become magically suited to running.

The socks have a snug (but not too snug) fit, and an arch support panel that hit right where it was supposed to on my feet. Unlike other socks, the support panel isn’t a band that goes around the foot, which (in my experience, at least) can leave the foot feeling slightly squished. Instead, it’s a small strip of compressive fabric that sits under the foot and applies slight pressure to the arch. The socks’ fabric is made of recycled trash from the ocean (and has a composition of 50% Econyl regenerated nylon, 46% recycled polyamide, and 4% recycled elastane). Surprisingly, it feels super soft and, essentially, not like it’s made from recycled ocean garbage. 

While I loved the Rockay Accelerate, they missed the top spot for two key reasons: their lack of cushioning and fussy washing requirements. The Rockay Accelerate has no cushion whatsoever, which makes them feel thin and insubstantial. However, if you prefer to have no cushion as you run, these are the socks for you. (Rockay also makes other running socks with cushioning, such as the Accelerate Max Cushion, which might be worth a try.)

Due to the nature of the socks’ recycled material-made fabric, they have some specific washing instructions. This includes only washing them in cool water with no bleach or fabric softener and letting them air dry. This got some demerits from me—when I wash my socks, I typically just chuck them in with the rest of my laundry and go. To have to wash them separately in cool water with no softener and then give them enough time to air dry is a level of commitment and care I’m just not sure I’m able to give a pair of socks. It probably wouldn’t be the end of the world if they ended up in the dryer, but it could cause longevity issues.

Still, the socks have enough fans to earn high marks on Rockay’s site—4.9 stars across 1,000 reviews. “Perfect, does just what they [are] supposed to, no slippage or chafing, super comfortable. I do not wear any other brand to hike or trail run, or actually any athletic event in,” writes a reviewer.

Smartwool PhD Run

  • Minimal cushion
  • Comes in sizes S-L to fit U.S. women’s shoe sizes 4-12.5
  • 48% merino wool, 48% nylon, 4% elastane
  • $16.95 per pair

 

 

Shop Now at Smartwool | $16.95 Shop Now at Backcountry | $16.95 Shop Now at Amazon | $16.95
smartwool
Pros
  • Wool material wicks moisture well
  • Full foot compression
Cons
  • Heel pocket tends to bunch up

Overall, I liked the Smartwool PhD run socks. The brand’s signature wool blend material felt great on my feet and it did a fantastic job at wicking the sweat away, keeping my feet dry throughout my runs. But they have strange heel construction that left small pockets of fabric on each side of my heel, a lack of cushioning, and high level of compression that eliminated them from the position of best overall running sock.

However, it’s possible that the bunching issue I had may have been because they were slightly too large for my size 5 feet, even though the size I had should have been sufficient. Someone with slightly larger feet may have been happier in them, but if you have small feet like me, I’d pass on these. However, their washing instructions weren’t too complicated—machine wash warm, inside out, tumble dry low—especially given its wool material. (I also tend to leave my socks inside out when I throw them in the wash, anyway.)

The socks have 4.5 stars across of 60 reviews on Smartwool’s site (and, for the record, most people say they fit true to size). “They are breathable, comfortable and look great! My feet get sweaty when I exercise but these socks help,” writes one reviewer.

Swiftwick Aspire Zero

  • Minimal cushion
  • Comes in sizes S-L to fit U.S. women’s shoe sizes 5-12
  • 55% nylon / 40% olefin / 5% spandex
  • $14.99 per pair

 

 

 

Shop Now at Swiftwick | $14.95 Shop Now at Amazon | $14.99
swiftwick
Pros
  • Great arch support
  • Stay in place throughout runs
Cons
  • Plastic-y feeling material
  • Not as breathable as other socks

When I think about the hour or so I spent running in the Swiftwick Aspire Zero socks, then I can honestly say I loved them—they have amazing arch support and stayed in place throughout my whole run. You can also buy them in a variety of lengths that range from the ankle to the knees. But as soon as my sneakers came off, so did the socks, because I couldn’t stand the feel of the material when I wasn’t actively moving—the all-synthetic, low-cushion material made it feel like I was wearing plastic grocery bags on my feet. Thankfully, they have very simple washing instructions: Machine wash warm, no bleach, and tumble dry low.

All told, I feel comfortable endorsing them, with the caveat that they should only be worn while running. But would I wear them on a daily basis, or for a second longer than needed after a run? No way.

That said, people seem to like the Swiftwick Aspires—the pair has 4.9 stars across 333 reviews on Swiftwick’s site. “The best socks for running,” writes a reviewer. “The light compression through the arch is amazing. The socks stay put and prevent blisters. Swiftwick Aspire is all I wear. I even buy them for my cross country and track teams because they are superior.”

Running Socks You Can Skip

Balega Hidden Comfort

  • 88% Drynamix Polyester/ 10% Polyamide/ 2% Elastane
  • High level of cushion
  • Sizes S-XL to fit U.S. women’s shoe sizes 6-15.5
  • $15 per pair

 

Shop Now at Balega | $15 Shop Now at Amazon | $15
Pros
  • Soft fabric
Cons
  • Fewer size options than other brands
  • Low breathability

Balega socks seem to be a constant recommendation among those in the know, so I was excited to test the Hidden Comforts. However, disappointment set in almost as soon as I put them on. On the plus side, their polyester-elastane material is super plush, with extra cushioning on the bottom that makes them feel nice and soft. But they were too big for me—I have size 5 feet, and Balega’s sizing options start at size 6. This meant that I had some extra fabric to work with and both test runs gave me a hot spot on my left arch from the socks rubbing against my skin.

I  can chalk that issue up to the socks being big on me, but they also didn’t provide great ventilation. Although they claimed to be super breathable, my feet were toasty at the end of my runs. As for washing instructions, the Balegas are standard: Machine wash warm with no bleach or fabric softener and tumble dry on low.

In any case, a lot of other people—presumably ones whose feet are the right size—seem to like them, with 4.7 stars across 787 reviews on Balega’s site. “Still appreciate the extra padding in the Hidden Comfort after many years of wearing them for walking, jogging, and CrossFit,” writes a reviewer. 

Darn Tough Women’s Run Ultra Lightweight Running Socks

  • 54% nylon, 39% merino wool, 7% Lycra spandex
  • Option for no or moderate cushion
  • Sizes S-L to fit U.S. women’s shoe sizes 4.5-11.5
  • $16 per pair

 

Shop Now at Darn Tough | $16 Shop Now at REI | $17
Pros
  • Breathable and moisture wicking
Cons
  • No arch support
  • No compression

When buying a specialized pair of running socks, it’s important that they’re better suited for the sport than just any old pair of ankle socks. These Darn Tough socks fell short. They’re comfortable and fit me well, but have no arch support or compression. This meant they didn’t feel particularly special. You can get them with cushion or no cushion—I went with the cushioned option, which wraps extra fabric from the toe to the heel. Like the Smartwool socks, the washing instructions for the Darn Tough socks request they be turned inside out and tumbled dry on low, but they had to be machine washed warm on the gentle cycle.

 If you’re looking for some cozy, top-quality socks, these are a great pick. But if you want a true running sock, you’ll be much better off with another pair. The socks have 4.8 stars across 331 reviews on Darn Tough’s site, so they have some (or several hundred) fans. “These socks rock! They stay put. No sliding down to the depths of my shoes,” writes one happy reviewer. “Protect my Achilles from the back of the shoe. Wicks away sweat and makes exercising a dream. Ultra comfortable for running or just hanging out.”

How We Got Here

woman running outside in green tank top and blue shorts
Greg Rosenke / Unsplash

Meet Your Guinea Pig

I’m Brooklee Han, a retired international figure skater and winter Olympian. In skating, my feet were my main tool and taking good care of them was an absolute must. Throughout my competitive career, whether I liked it or not, I frequently found myself running as a form of off-ice cardio. 

Since retiring from competition and with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, running has become a staple in my exercise regimen. While I am certainly not someone with goals of becoming an ultra-marathoner, I have realized that, as in my skating career, the right equipment can make a huge difference in how enjoyable and successful my running is. Most weeks I run at least three to four days, averaging about 3.5-4 miles per run.

Our Testing Process

woman washing saucony running socks
Brock DuPont for Ness

In my quest to find the best running socks, I started by evaluating the most popular running socks on the internet, based on customer reviews and press coverage. I also took stock of features buyers seemed to look for most often in a good running sock, like moisture wicking capabilities, cushioning and compression. Once I narrowed the list of socks I wanted to try down to seven, I began the testing process in earnest.

To test the socks, I completed two four-mile runs in each pair, adding up to a total of 56 miles. In between test runs, I washed the socks according to the directions on the packaging and evaluated how they held up to laundry. I made sure I had clean, dry feet before each run and I wore the same pair of running shoes for every test. Due to some unnaturally warm winter days (super unnatural, considering I live up in frigid New Hampshire), I was able to complete a handful of my test runs outside, but each pair was tested at least once inside on the same treadmill, running the same workout.

All in all, I spent roughly 20 hours researching and testing these products.  If you’d like to see exactly how we found the best running socks, you can see our testing notes here.

Who should buy running socks? 

woman wearing purple swiftwick running socks on carpet floor
Brock DuPont for Ness

All the socks I tested are specifically running socks and therefore designed for the sport. But their utility shouldn’t be limited only to those who are avid racers. I’d describe myself as a “recreational runner,” but I can still say that my jogging game was improved by using socks designed for the activity I was doing. 

Normal socks or just generic athletic socks do not always have features that runners need or want, like built-in arch support, compression, or moisture-wicking capabilities.

Which features matter most when buying running socks? 

  • Fit: I have small feet (women’s size 5) and it’s sometimes hard to find socks that are designed to fit my feet. On a day-to-day basis I can deal with this occasional inconvenience, but if my running socks don’t fit properly, then I’ll certainly be left to deal with numerous hot spots and even blisters. Even if you have “average” sized feet, make sure you’re getting a pair that fits right—snug but not too tight and without too much excess fabric to cause irritation. If you have smaller or larger feet, take extra care to make sure the pair you’re buying is suitable for your needs.
  • Arch support: I have super flat feet. While I have gained some relief by running in more supportive shoes (shoutout to my beloved Brooks Adrenalines), the added support given by some running socks can make a huge difference in the fatigue I feel in my feet post-run. Likewise, anyone with high arches will also benefit from extra compression around the arches to prevent foot pain. 
  • Moisture wicking: Who loves running in soggy socks? Yeah, that’s what I thought. Not only is running in sweaty socks uncomfortable, it can also make you more prone to getting blisters and developing fungal issues like athlete’s foot. A good pair of running socks should consist of a blend of fabrics like wool or nylon to prevent waterlogged shoes. 
  • Durability: Running-specific socks feel like a financial investment (at least compared to multipack socks). Because of this, a good pair should be able to withstand several miles and washes. Check the brand’s washing and care instructions before buying to ensure it’s something you’ll be able to keep up with.
  • Cushioning: People have different preferences on cushion in running socks. Personally, I am not a huge fan of running in super plush socks, but like to have a little extra fabric to provide some rebound. Too much cushion can also cause friction and hotspots for athletes running long distances (say, a half marathon or anything that requires running for an hour or longer). Take a look at the cushioning a brand purports to have—some may have a few different options—and select one that works best for you. If in doubt, go for a low- or mid-level amount of cushion, and use how you feel about that pair to guide your selection for future pairs. Excess cushioning can make socks more comfortable to wear on a day-to-day basis, but if the sock doesn’t fit perfectly when running, it can create more opportunity for it to move around and create discomfort. 

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