By: Jeremy Neisser
This is something that frequently comes up at finish lines, gyms, and online forums. Is it comfortable to run without socks?
Is it safe? Does it cause problems?
In general, is it a good or bad idea?
We break down the reasons why someone may want to go running without socks and how it impacts your feet and shoes.
The Pros & Cons of Running Without Socks
Why Run Without Socks
There are a couple of reasons a runner might choose to avoid socks.
First, some sprinters and track athletes think they will be faster without the fabric weighing them down.
Second, some runners believe shoes fit better without the extra material from the sock.
Third, many people who complete triathlons choose to avoid socks because it is easier to transition from swimming to running without the extra time it takes to put on socks.
There isn’t a lot of scientific research for or against running without socks, so it all depends on a person’s preferences.
Websites like Running Advice firmly believe that the decision to run with or without socks will depend on the fit of a person’s shoes, while other coaches and professionals think avoiding the protection is a bad idea altogether.
People who choose to go without socks tend to do so during short runs, when there isn’t a lot of time for moisture to build up in the shoes.
This is important since the combination of friction and moisture can cause blisters.
According to Healthline, blisters are small pockets of fluid or fluid-filled bubbles that occur on the skin when there is too much friction from materials. You can also check this article for more info about the dangers of blisters.
Many people develop blisters on their feet, and the chances of getting them are increased when someone chooses to run without socks since there is no protective coating for the feet.
Going for short runs without socks can help people prevent blisters and is also an important step for runner’s who want to train their feet to stand the motion without the protection of fabric.
This process involves toughening the skin to form calluses that won’t bleed or blister in shoes.
The only way to train the feet is to keep running without socks, so people should go for plenty of short runs without socks to slowly make their feet more durable and used to plain shoes.
Long runs can be extremely painful without socks and aren’t recommended for people who haven’t trained their feet to withstand friction.
People who possess shoes that don’t move at all when socks aren’t worn should try going for a short run (between 2-5 miles) before deciding to do anything longer.
Once a runner’s feet have been prepared, there should be no problems with going for longer runs. Most runners simply report having foul smelling shoes at the finish line.
Breaking in Shoes
Livestrong adequately explains the need to break in new running shoes, since the footwear often comes from the store stiff and inflexible.
Even shoes that belong to the same make and model as a previous pair will not fit the same. Each pair of footwear has its own unique fit, so it’s important to test the shoes out before committing to long runs.
This means that normally a runner should wear the shoes for basic trips to the grocery store, on walks, and other situations where there will be little stress for the feet but the runner grasps the uniqueness of the shoes.
They should also not go for runs longer than six miles so the feet can get a break from the stiff, new fabric of the footwear.
For someone who chooses to go without socks, this process is even more important since there will be no extra cushioning to prevent blisters.
Honestly, since the process of breaking in shoes can be painful, stressful, and take a few weeks, it’s recommended that runners not try to do this without the comfort of socks.
Here is a great article that shares how long it typically takes to break in a pair of running shoes.
Those who choose to do so can expect some extra pain and blisters for their trouble.
What to Do When Running Without Socks
People who do choose to run without socks should follow a couple of steps to avoid causing tough blisters, peeling, bleeding, and other injuries.
Is it OK to run Without Socks?
Your feet sweat when you run. You are considerably more likely to get blisters if you don't wear socks because your damp feet will be rubbing against the cloth interior of the shoe. Wicking socks, on the other hand, make it more likely that your feet remain dry. It will be difficult to walk and run when you have blisters.
Are Socks Really Necessary?
Socks help aid in the overall health of your feet. Not only do socks absorb moisture, but they are also used to help prevent rubbing of shoes on the bare foot. Socks can also provide cushioning to pad the feet and help keep them warm.
Do socks help with Running?
Running socks are designed to compress your muscles gently to increase blood circulation, decrease tiredness, boost recovery time and protect your feet against getting blisters so you can run farther, longer. Compression socks add the extra protection in their knee-high lengths and over a tighter compression on your muscles helping to increase circulation faster.
Pros & Cons of Running Without Socks
So, with all of this information about what running without socks can do to the feet, what are the actual pros and cons?
Again, since there isn’t a lot of research, results will vary and are based on the personal experience of runners.
Most athletes note the following benefits of drawbacks of wearing sneakers without socks:
7 Reasons to Wear Socks When Running
Here are my favorite reasons to wear running socks.
1. Feet Protection Keeps Them Dry
When you run, your feet sweat. Because your damp feet will be rubbing against material without socks, you are significantly more likely to get blisters. When you wear moisture-wicking socks your feet are more likely to stay dry and protected against developing blisters.
No one wants blisters or even worse, calluses. It's best to wear socks when you run.
2. Adds a Layer of Cushioning
Often times we choose shoes because of comfort and support as they assist in making your runs more enjoyable. Socks add an additional layer of support and cushioning helping make even the most uncomfortable runs a little more bearable.
3. Provides Protection & Warmth in the Cold & Rainy Weather
Going sockless in the summer can be really beneficial since it cools down your feet, but that's the last thing you want to do when it's cold or raining. Wearing socks when it rains will keep you dryer and warmer.
In the winter, socks provide an extra layer will provide you with additional warmth. And knowing your feet are comfortably warm should help make your runs more enjoyable.
4. Decreases Smell in Running Shoes
We all know how sweaty your feet get when you run. Because socks keep your feet dry, particularly if you have anti-wicking socks, there won't be as much sweat in your shoes.
More sweat will enter your shoes if you run without socks. Your running shoes will have a stronger odor as a result of this. Washing them to some degree might help, but odors, especially in the summer when you already sweat profusely, will be difficult to eliminate.
5. Decreases the Chance of Bacterial Growth
You'll have less bacterial growth in your shoes if you wear socks, according to a National study. Bacteria grow best in warm and moist places, which is exactly what your running shoe will be after a nice, long, sweaty run.
Because of this, if you decide to go sockless, you'll have more germs in your running shoes.
According to one European research, wearing shoes without socks increases the amount of bacteria three times as much as wearing shoes with socks.
6. Decreased Irritation on Your Feet
There's a good chance that going sockless will irritate your feet since you won't be used to what the inside of your shoe feels like without them.
This is especially true if the shoe is old. The interior lining of shoes deteriorates as they age and becomes rougher as a result of wear.
7. Shoe Color Fades Slower
Some runners may prefer to wear socks for other reasons, such as warmth or comfort, but their shoe color would fade more quickly if they didn't!
Because socks retain particles from your feet, the inside and outside of your running shoes stay cleaner.
Dust, sand, and other particles will accumulate in and on your shoes if you don't wear socks. They'll eventually find their way into and around your footwear, altering the color of them. You don't want that especially if you enjoy vibrant hues.
4 Tips for Running Without Socks
1. Slowly Ease Into It
This is obvious, but don't attempt to run a long race the first day you try running without socks. Just like breaking in running shoes, you'll have to break in running without socks.
Runners who don't put on socks typically start off with shorter runs. For example, a run of less than 5K or shorter. Definitely start off slowly and test how everything feels after doing such lengths of running. This will assist you in preventing blisters and determine whether or not you want to keep running without socks.
If you really like it, try longer distances; if you don't, then stick to shorter runs until your feet are used to running without socks.
2. Powder Keeps Your Feet Dry
Powder is a great method to keep your feet dry and avoid blisters. You'll want to test out how much talcum powder you need based on how far you're going.
Obviously, the more you sweat, the less effective the powder will be, but it may still be a fantastic choice when it's not yet too hot outside.
3. Use Body Glide to Prevent Blisters
If you're looking to avoid blisters, use jelly or bodyglide, or any areas where you believe they'll rub the wrong way and develop blisters. I am a big fan of Bodyglide as I use it on my runs.
Runners usually apply jelly/Bodyglide gel to the top of their foot, which comes into touch with the shoe's tongue, and the heel. However, keep in mind that jelly makes your feet more slippery, so avoid wearing a shoe that will come off during a run.
4. Wash Your Shoes On A Schedule
If you decide to go sock-free, you'll have to wash your shoes more frequently to keep germs from growing/spreading. This will aid in preventing mold and improving the scent of your footwear.
The insoles, in fact, are so close to your sock-less foot that they can effectively be called extensions of it (much like the tongue is for a shoe).
Ultimately, the decision to run without socks is going to be a personal one that depends on a person’s level of comfort and style of running.
Sprinters and individuals who want their feet to be as light as possible are more likely to skip using socks, while distance runners might continue to prefer the extra cushioning to stave off blisters and bleeding.
For people who would like to try to run without socks, remember: Start slow and pay attention to how a shoe fits without the extra padding.
Blisters and bleeding will happen regardless, but they will be worse with too much running or a shoe which slides or digs into the skin. If you opt to decide to run with socks, these Balega socks are highly regarded.
Good luck, and remember to wash all running shoes as often as possible to avoid mold.
Hi, Jeremy Here,
I am the the guy behind Train for a 5K. On this site, I share everything that learned along my running journey. The content I create is the running training I wish I had before we started this journey. About Jeremy.
I have run over 250 races including the California International Marathon, Clarksburg Country Run, and various other 5K & 10K races throughout the United States. I am a former Athletics department employee at University of the Pacific and Shoe Consultant with Dicks Sporting Goods