The Best Socks for Trail Running in 2020! May 19 2020

Well, you finally made it. After spending an eternity picking out the perfect kicks to maximize your trail running, you realized there’s another layer to consider. Socks aren’t merely an applicator for the more important running shoes. Choosing the right socks can mean the difference between hours of blisters/debilitating pain or a runner’s comfort and protection. That’s why we’ve built this list of The Best Socks for Trail Running including where and why MudGear ranks among the best in the industry.

It would be a lot easier to just act like the other guys don’t exist. Instead, we’ve reluctantly listed some of the PROS we admire about our competitors as well as some suggested CONS about our own gear. When it’s all said and done, you’ll learn why the socks you choose to run and race in matter. 

Criteria: What Makes a Trail Sock Great?  

Novice runners may be tempted to settle for the most affordable socks they can find. However, seasoned runners typically prefer running socks designed by and for runners. It’s important to take the following criteria into consideration when picking out the perfect socks. 

Comfort - Socks never make you faster, but an uncomfortable sock can certainly slow you down. That’s why the right sock should feel good from the start of your run to the finish.

Fit - Beyond feeling comfortable, it’s important that socks actually fit your feet in a way that promotes confidence and will not become a distraction later in your run.
 
Design - Runners need socks designed for functionality. That means using the right material in the right places to  cushion pressure points, maintain stability (no slip), promote ventilation, and wick away sweat and other unwanted moisture.  
 
Durability - Inferior socks are one-and-done when facing a serious trail run. However, socks designed by and for runners should log many hundred miles before showing signs of wear.   
 
Value - They say, “You get what you pay for;” however, the best trail socks confirm you got your money’s worth and more.

We've provided details below on how we generated the list. For now, here are THE BEST SOCKS FOR TRAIL RUNNING IN 2020.

  

 

#1 MudGear ¼ Crew Trail Socks

Picture of MudGear 1/4 Crew Trail Sock (black/gray)Originally designed for wet and muddy obstacle course racing, MudGear ¼ Crew Trail Socks were made to shed water. MudGear utilizes the superiority of merino wool and strategically cushions the footbed and top of the foot between the upper arch and ankle. The smooth toe seam is located above the bend of the toes rather than their point to eliminate irritation. Finally, the Y-Heel design along with alternating ribbing around the ankle and 3x1 ribbing with strong spandex at the rim secures the sock to your foot like no other. 

     Pros
    • Soft, never-slip comfort
    • Extremely durable against all conditions 
    Cons
    • Limited color options 
    • Priced as a premium sock (rightfully so)

     

    #2 MudGear Tall Compression Socks

    Claiming to be the most well made compression socks on the planet, MudGear Tall Compression Socks are unapologetically over-engineered for even the most brutal trail run. The moment you get them on, you’ll know your stems are protected for endless miles and through all types of mayhem. Continuing MudGear ¼ Crew’s theme of carefully placed drainage, ventilation, and added cushion for comfort over long distance, MudGear Tall Compression Socks add 15-20 mmhg graduated compression to aid performance and recovery. 

     

     Pros
    • Thicker protection than competing compression socks, but without retaining water
    • Extremely durable against all conditions 
    Cons
    • Single height - The tall compression sock is designed to fit just below the knee but can be too tall for shorter runners
    • Compression makes installing and removing socks challenging without proper instruction

      

    #3 Feetures Merino 10 Cushion Quarter

    Just down the road from MudGear is the Charlotte-based headquarters of Feetures - an international leader in athletic socks. The Feetures Merino 10 Cushion Quarter embraces their left-right specific anatomical design and high density cushioning for protection in high impact areas. The end result is super-comfortable footwear. While Feetures are known for the fashionable tabs on their no show socks, the Merino 10 Cushion Quarter falls about 3” above the ankle. 

    Pros

    • The anatomical design produces an incredible, custom-like fit
    • The sock cushions high impact areas allowing long, comfortable runs 

      Cons

    • Added cushioning holds unwanted moisture   
    • Socks durability lacks in relation to its expense  

     

    Common Thread 

    The very best trail running socks designate strategic patterns and material in specific locations to improve ventilation, prevent slippage, and add support to cushion runners' most vulnerable areas. While commodity cotton socks focus simply on covering your foot, professional trail running socks are designed for performance. Review the image, and note MudGear's strategic design for maximum performance.

    #4 Drymax Sharman ¼ Crew Turn Down

    While Merino Wool is the material of choice among many athletic sock leaders, Drymax continues to build incredibly protective socks using their own proprietary technology. Named after ultrarunning sensation Ian Sharman, the Drymax Sharman ¼ Crew Turn Down incorporates traditional Drymax technology with targeted PTFE Fibers in the impact points. The turndown option allows the wearer to enjoy a ¼ crew or mini crew leg height.   

    Pros
    • Drymax has mastered the art of moisture-wicking
    • The Sharman improves on past Drymax models' tendency to slip
    Cons
    • Premium price for minimal comfort
    • More expensive than other industry leaders

     

     

    #5 Balega Hidden Comfort No Show Socks

    These socks are all about comfort! After all, it’s in the name. The Balega Hidden Comfort No Show Socks manage to deliver just that while still offering protection as you rack up the miles. Despite their protective cushioning, these Balegas do not become sweat-logged. Instead, the sock offers good ventilation and uses proprietary Drynamix® moisture wicking fibers to keep your feet cool and dry.

     Pros
    • Balega is very comfortable
    • It exhibits decent durability
    Cons
    • The design does not relieve key pressure points
    • Tends to slip off the back of foot during lengthy runs

      The Process

      MudGear trail socks have been a staple among obstacle course racers (Spartan, Tough Mudder, Savage Race, etc.) for years. However, many pure trail runners have no idea what they've been missing. We wanted to know how MudGear trail socks stack up against the most respected socks among serious trail runners (competitive or frequent recreational).

      First, we needed a consensus on who is our most legit competition. Not just who has the most money or best marketing. We wanted to know who do runners love to wear. We took the findings from 5 separate lists. Each were published within the last year. Each claimed to list the top socks for trail runners. After cross-referencing names of socks to see which ones showed up on multiple lists, we had our base of a dozen socks we wanted to square up against. 

      The next step was to find some runners to test the goods. Among our team of 6 were a mixture of 2 experienced ultra-runners, 2 middle of the pack trail marathoners, and a married couple who prefer running often (5k route - four times a week) over running far. Only 1 of our testers had worn MudGear before, but most had worn at least half of the socks on our list. 

      Aside from the pile of socks we provided from all of the listed brands, we made it clear to our runners that there would be no additional compensation. We simply tasked them with running the heck out the socks, and giving us their honest opinion. While we're not surprised by the results, we are humbled/grateful nonetheless.     

       Best Socks for Trail Running - Comparison Chart

      Best Socks for Trail Running - Notable Contenders

       

      Finish Line

      When it comes to comfort, durability, and functional design, MudGear consistently beats out the competition. However, let's be real. No matter how hard we try to eliminate bias and influence, these kinds of tests are never perfect. Every "Best of" list out there is an opinion that you shouldn't trust 100% until you try it out for yourself. So, are you read to try your next favorite trail sock?

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