There are a ton of options out there for running socks, and the fiber content, fit, and cushioning level can vary a lot from brand to brand. So we’ve put together a list of some of our favorites, and separated them into three categories based on the cuff height (“No Show / Low-Cut” vs. “Quarter” vs. “Crew”).
We’ve then arranged the socks in order of cushioning — from lightest to heaviest — and I’ve listed my own perception of the level of cushioning since one brand’s “Light” cushion is sometimes the same as another’s “Medium.”
Another note: we consider all the products listed here to be good socks — none were excessively sloppy in fit or caused any blistering issues, so if you’re coming from a standard cotton sock, we think you’d be happy in any of them.
So the goal of this list isn’t to say which sock is best, but rather to provide some comparisons and references for the next time you’re looking to get a new pair. We’ve just updated it with several new options, and will continue to update this post as we’re able to try more socks from more brands.
NO SHOW / LOW-CUT
FITS Ultralight Runner – No Show
Fiber Content: 66% Merino Wool / 27% Nylon / 5% Polyester / 2% Lycra® Spandex
Height: No Show
Like all FITS socks we’ve used, the Ultralight Runner No Show has a nice fit that is very snug without being constrictive, and can be worn for several runs before stinking due to its high wool content. Even without extensive mesh panels like the Smartwool PhD Run Ultra Light Micro, the FITS Ultralight Runner No Show is still a very breathable sock that’s great for hot runs and those looking for a no-show sock that won’t slip down while running.
Darn Tough Vertex Tab No Show Ultralight
Fiber Content: 53% Nylon / 41% Merino Wool / 6% Lycra® Spandex
Height: No Show (with tab)
This sock is very similar to the FITS Ultralight Runner No Show above — they both fit pretty snug throughout and I’ve never had any issues with them falling down in my shoe. The Darn Tough Vertex Tab No Show Ultralight has a higher nylon content, and seems to smell a bit faster than the FITS but offers slightly more support (particularly around the arch) and has a more breathable mesh on the upper.
Balega Ultralight No Show
Fiber Content: 78% Drynamix Polyester, 20% Nylon, 2% Elastane
Height: No Show (with tab)
The Balega Ultralight No Show basically feels like the synthetic version of the FITS Ultralight Runner No Show. The Balega Ultralight No Show has a very snug fit and the microfiber sections on the toe and heel slide very easily in shoes, which should help prevent blisters. Since it’s all synthetic, the Balega Ultralight No Show wicks moisture better than the socks here with higher wool content, but also smells pretty nasty after each run. So if you prioritize wicking and breathability over odor resistance, the Balega Ultralight No Show is a great option (and it comes in at a better price than the wool options).
Smartwool PhD Run Ultra Light Micro
Fiber Content: 48% Merino Wool, 48% Nylon, 4% Elastane
Height: No Show (with tab)
Like all the Smartwool socks here, the PhD Run Ultra Light Micro has the most snug fit, and feels the most elastic. It’s not the most supportive sock — that snug fit isn’t tight per se, but if you don’t require a ton of compression from your socks and just want a great fitting, very breathable sock, the PhD Run Ultra Light Micro is a great choice.
FITS Micro Light Runner – Low
Fiber Content: 73% Merino Wool / 21% Nylon / 4% Polyester / 2% Lycra
The Micro Light series from FITS is new this year and fills the gap between their Light Runner and Ultralight Runner. Given that FITS’s “Light” cushion is actually pretty thick, I think a lot of people will get along well with this new series from FITS.
The Micro Light Runner, like all FITS socks, has an excellent fit that has kept them very secure on my feet. And the cushioning level slots just above the non-cushioned socks above, making the Micro Light a great option for those who want a very precise fit, a bit of cushioning, but still want a low-volume sock. And of course, FITS’s merino fabric makes the Micro Light Runner hold up very well against odors so you can log a bunch of runs in the sock before feeling the need to toss it in the washer.
Le Bent Le Sock Trail Light Micro
Fiber Content: 44% Rayon (Bamboo) / 29% Merino Wool / 35% Nylon / 2% Elastane
Le Bent, originally started by ski bootfitters, is a relative newcomer to the market but we’ve come away very impressed by their offerings so far.
The Trail Light Mini feels really similar to the FITS Micro Light Runner Low — they’re both very tight without feeling excessively constrictive, and they both offer a minimal amount of cushioning that makes them great for snugger-fitting shoes or those who just want something that falls between non-cushioned socks and bulkier, more heavily cushioned socks like the ones below.
Le Bent’s Rayon / Wool / Nylon blend feels very similar to FITS’s merino blend in terms of breathability and comes close in terms of odor resistance. All of this makes Le Bent’s Trail Light Mini another great addition to the minimally cushioned, low-cut category.
Altra Running Sock — Low Cut
Fiber Content: 98% Polyester, 2% Spandex
MSRP: $24.99 for 3-pack ($8.33 per pair)
Altra’s Low-Cut running socks are the most cost-effective options here. They don’t have the tightest fit and are not the most breathable, but for the money, they’re still very high-performing socks. One thing to note is that these socks are designed with Altra’s “FootShape toe box,” which means that the socks don’t taper as much as the other options in this roundup. This is done in an effort to let your toes splay out a bit more while running. As a result, these socks match well with Altra’s running shoes, which are designed with the same FootShape toe box.
FITS Light Runner – Low
Fiber Content: 73% Merino Wool / 21% Nylon / 4% Polyester / Lycra 2%
This sock shares all the same characteristics as the FITS Ultralight Runner No Show, but adds cushioning in the toe and heel, and features the slightly higher “low-cut” cuff height (about 2 cm higher than the “no-show” version) which some might prefer over a no-show. FITS’ “Light” cushioning on the Light Runner Low is more substantial than Smartwool’s “Light” cushioning, and is just a bit thinner than the Balega Hidden Comfort (see next). The Light Runner Low’s high wool content means you can wear this sock for several runs before feeling the need to wash them.
Balega Hidden Comfort
Fiber Content: 84% Drynamix Polyester / 11% Nylon / 3% Neofil / 2% Elastane
Height: No Show (with tab)
The Balega Hidden Comfort stands out from the socks above in a number of ways. First, it’s the only cushioned no-show sock here, and unlike many of the cushioned socks in this review, that extra material runs the entire length of the sock underfoot, providing a very plush feel. Second, it’s all synthetic, so don’t expect these to last very long before smelling, but if you’re washing your socks after every run anyways, this obviously won’t be a problem. Finally, it’s one of the cheapest socks in this review at $13, which might make it more enticing, especially if you tend to wear through a lot of socks every year.
Smartwool PhD Outdoor Ultra Light Mini
Fiber Content: 48% Merino Wool / 47% Nylon / 5% Elastane
This sock is essentially the quarter-height version of the Smartwool PhD Outdoor Ultra Light Micro above, and features the same best-in-class fit and breathability. As with the other Smartwool socks here, it’s not the most supportive, but it is a great option if you’re looking for a quarter-height sock and want the precise fit and feel of a non-cushioned sock.
Le Bent Le Sock Trail Ultra Light Mini
Fiber Content: 48% Rayon (Bamboo) / 20% Merino Wool / 30% Nylon / 2% Elastane
Le Bent’s Trail Ultra Light Mini is another excellent quarter-height sock that has a few things that make it stand out.
First, it’s got a very secure, tight fit. In my experience, Le Bent’s fit is on-par with both FITS and Smartwool, which is high praise. Second, Le Bent’s “Ultra Light” level of cushioning slots it just barely above non-cushioned socks like the one above, which I think will be appealing to a lot of runners who want a minimal sock but don’t want to go without any cushion at all. Lastly, the “Mini” version of this sock has a slightly higher cuff that’s somewhere between a typical quarter-height and crew.
Le Bent’s Rayon / Wool / Nylon blend in the Trail Ultra Light has proved to be very breathable and close to the predominantly wool socks when it comes to odor resistance. I’ve become a huge fan of this sock for most days in the mountains, and have also been using it as my go-to mountain biking sock thanks to its secure fit, very good breathability, and slightly higher coverage.
Smartwool PhD Outdoor Light Elite Mini
Fiber Content: 55 % Merino Wool / 42 % Nylon / 3% Elastane
Want the snug fit and breathability of Smartwool’s Ultra Light socks but need a bit of cushioning? Look no further. Featuring the same fit and breathable upper of the other Smartwool socks here, the PhD Outdoor Light Elite Mini adds a bit of cushioning, but its stated “Light” cushioning is very minimal — it feels noticeably less plush than the “Light” cushioning from FITS.
FITS Micro Light Runner – Quarter
Fiber Content: 70% Merino Wool / 23% Nylon / 4% Polyester / 3% Lycra
Like the low-cut Micro Light Runner, the quarter-height version brings a tight fit and low-profile construction into a sock that still has a bit of cushioning to it. The Micro Light is a touch thicker around the forefoot and heel compared to the Smartwool PhD Outdoor Light Elite Mini, but both socks are fantastic when it comes to fit.
For people who want a minimally cushioned sock with a bit of extra coverage, the FITS Micro Light Runner Quarter is an excellent option.
Wigwam Ultra Cool Lite Low
Fiber Content: 41% Stretch Nylon, 30% Polyester, 19% X2O® Acrylic, 6% Spandex, 4% Tencel®
Height: Low Cut / Quarter
The Wigwam Ultra Cool Lite Low is a sock that wicks moisture very well and comes in at a great price. It’s just slightly more cushioned than the Smartwool PhD Outdoor Light Elite Mini, and is a good option for those looking for a lightly cushioned synthetic running sock. It doesn’t have the most precise fit, but I haven’t experienced any issues while running in it. Lastly, the Wigwam Ultra Cool Lite Low has a cuff height that sits somewhere between the low-cut and quarter-height socks here, which I’ve appreciated most on milder trails where I don’t need all the sand / rock coverage of a higher quarter-height sock like the FITS Performance Trail, but still want a bit more coverage than the low-cut or no-show options here.
Fiber Content: 50% Merino Wool / 47% Nylon / 3% Lycra® Spandex
The Vertex ¼ Sock Ultra-Light Cushion essentially feels like a slightly more supportive and cushioned version of the Smartwool PhD Run Light Elite Mini. Its elastic is a bit tighter (particularly around the arch and forefoot) and its cushioning just slightly thicker.
Wigwam Attain Midweight Quarter
Fiber Content: 34% Stretch Nylon / 33% Reprieve Polyester (recycled) / 28% Hydrotec / 5% Spandex
The Attain Midweight Quarter is a new sock from Wigwam that’s been really impressive so far.
The main thing that sets apart the Attain from the other socks is its use of recycled “Reprieve” polyester, which is made from recycled water bottles. Combined with the other synthetic fibers in its fabric, this makes the Attain wick moisture really well and also resist abrasion / blistering — the sock feels very slippery, though not as slippery as the Balega Blister Resist (I’ve never had slippage issues in the Attain).
The fit on the Attain is also surprisingly snug compared to their Rebel Fusion, making the Attain a bit more competitive with FITS, Smartwool, and Balega when it comes to a tight fit.
Cushioning on the Attain is what I’d call a pretty standard “light” cushion — it strikes a nice middle ground between offering more cushioning than the socks above while not feeling as bulky as the ones below.
On top of all that, the Attain Midweight Quarter comes in at a price that’s significantly lower than most of the wool socks here, making it a great option for those who want a lightly-cushioned sock that uses some recycled fibers and comes in at a great price.
Wigwam Rebel Fusion Quarter II
Fiber Content: OUTER: 70% Stretch Nylon, 28% Merino Wool, 2% Spandex LINER: 100% Olefin
This sock is unique in that it uses merino wool fibers on the outside of the sock, while the inner “liner” is made from synthetic olefin. The result? It wicks moisture away from my feet a bit better than the standard merino socks here, but also fends off odor a bit better than the fully synthetic socks. The Rebel Fusion Quarter II has the least precise fit of the quarter-height socks, which makes me more inclined to use it for shorter runs, or for hikes. But if you don’t need a super snug fit and want some of the performance characteristics of both synthetic and wool socks, the Wigwam Rebel Fusion Quarter II is certainly worth a look.
Balega Enduro V-Tech Quarter
Fiber Content: 75% Drynamix Polyester / 23 % Nylon / 2% Elastane
Balega claims their V-Tech construction “perfectly matches the contours of your foot without constricting it,” and this was certainly the sock that struck me as being the most supportive. It’s cushioning in the toe and heel feels similar to the FITS Light Runner Low, and like the Balega Hidden Comfort, the Enduro V-Tech Quarter smells faster than the other socks here, but comes in at a significantly lower price.
Balega Blister Resist Quarter
Fiber Content: 49% Drynamix Polyester / 16% Mohair / 16% Wool / 8% Acrylic / 4% Nylon / 3% Microfiber / 3% Neofil / 2% Elastane
The Blister Resist Quarter is the first sock I’ve used that utilizes Mohair fibers in its construction. If you’ve ever used Mohair climbing skins, you know that the fiber is very slippery, and that’s the idea behind this anti-blister sock. It certainly creates less friction than the other socks here, and I actually found it too slippery to use with some of my higher-volume running shoes (it caused my foot to move around too much inside the shoe, though I never got any blisters).
However, if you have had issues with friction blisters in the past, these are definitely worth a look. I have been lucky enough not to have any problems with blisters while running, but I did lend these to a friend who has had problems with blisters, and he’s reported that the Blister Resist Quarter alleviated his blister issues.
FITS Performance Trail – Quarter
Fiber Content: 58% Merino Wool / 32% Nylon / 7% Polyester / 3% Lycra® Spandex
The FITS Performance Trail Quarter has been my favorite medium-cushion running sock for years. It has a snug, supportive fit, and more cushion than any other quarter-height sock here (though the “Light/Medium” cushioned socks above aren’t that far behind). It lasts for days without smelling, and I still haven’t worn a complete hole through any of my pairs, even after a few hundred miles (though the wool cushioning is definitely worn down, the elastic still hasn’t torn through completely).
My favorite feature is the tall, thick, ribbed cuff — it prevents any rocks from getting in the sock and makes it a better option once the weather gets cold (though the breathable upper portion makes it a perfectly fine option for year-round use). If you’re looking for a bit less cushioning and more breathability, FITS also makes a “Light Performance Trail Quarter” that’s a bit thinner throughout, but still shares the same thick cuff.
FITS Micro Light Runner – Mini Crew
Fiber Content: 65% Merino Wool / 27% Nylon / 6% Polyester / 2% Lycra
The Mini Crew version of FITS’s Micro Light Runner adds a bit more coverage to the quarter-height version but maintains the excellent fit, minimal cushioning, and very good breathability.
While some crew-height socks have sloppier / looser fits compared to their lower-cut counterparts, all versions of the FITS Micro Light Runners are comfortably snug and I’ve found myself taking the crew version on a lot of shoulder-season or winter runs when I appreciate a bit more warmth or coverage from mud, gravel, etc.
If you want minimal cushioning and a very snug fit but like a higher sock, the FITS Micro Light Runner Mini Crew is worth a very good look.