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There are few things worse than getting to the peak of your workout and noticing your sock is drenched, rendering it all but useless.
Athletic socks are a critical, yet oft-overlooked component of a successful workout. When you’re doing something active that requires any sort of footwear, your socks are the only thing between you and the footbed. That thin sliver of fabric plays a big role in the quality of your experience, not to mention the only thing preventing you from massive blisters.
It goes without saying that all athletic socks are not created equal, and they vary in quality and price as such. Our list of the 10 best athletic socks for men includes something for everyone, and wide coverage for a range of activities.
The Best Athletic Socks for Men at a Glance
1. Best Overall: Darn Tough Vermont Men’s Element Quarter Lightweight Athletic Sock — $18.95 at Backcountry
2. Runner-Up: WORN T3 Ankle — $16 at WORN
3. Best Running Socks: Balega Blister Resist No Show Tab — $20 at Balega
4. The Runner’s Runner-up: Swiftwick Aspire Two — $16.99 at Swiftwick
5. Best Cycling Socks: Smartwool Bike Zero Cushion — $20 at Smartwool
6. Best Ski Socks: Smartwool Ski Zero Cushion Over the Calf — $27 at Smartwool
7. Best Snowboarding Socks: Worn T3 Snowboard Sock — $28 at WORN
8. Best Athletic (lightweight): Decathlon Van Rysel 900 — $16.99 at Decathlon
9. Best Gym Socks: DSG Core Bamboo Running Socks (3-Pack) — $10 at Dick’s
10. Best Budget Socks: Fruit of the Loom Men’s Dual Defense Cushioned (12-pack) — From $11.97 at Amazon
What’s In the Best Athletic Sock for Men?
Let’s be clear — the best athletic sock for men depends on the activity at hand.
Also consider planned intensity within that activity, weather conditions (if outdoors), your body type and desired budget. What you do you want to look for is a sock that won’t tear or fragment upon repeated use and one that can withstand regular laundry.
If you can, you’ll also want to take your socks for a “test run” before you get into your activity of choice by walking around the house a bit to scout any hot spots or potential rubbing areas. It’s much easier to diagnose and solve the issue beforehand instead of halfway through a HIIT class. If for any reason a sock doesn’t feel comfortable, take time to adjust and figure out what isn’t working. The best athletic socks become vital pieces of your workout wardrobe, and should complement whatever it is you’re doing.
1. Darn Tough Vermont Men’s Element Quarter Lightweight Athletic Sock
Best For: When you need a do-it-all athletic sock built for anything
Why We Chose It: Legendary DTV durability in a secure, simple fit that’ll take anything you throw at it. Plus, lifetime warranty!
- 53% Nylon
- 43% Merino wool
- 4% Lycra
Darn Tough Vermont used to be focused solely on hiking, meaning only a specific part of the outdoor populous really got to enjoy their wonderful socks. This lighter, quarter-length sock represents a newer direction while sacrificing none of the important facets of these Vermont-made products.
With these socks, it’s all in the name. They’re tough, but that’s just the beginning. They’re highly breathable and built for most, non-frigid activities. They also won’t lose their shape in the laundry, even after several turns. These socks performed exactly as expected, which is to say our pick for the very best athletic socks.
Did we mention the lifetime warranty? It’s an investment at the start for sure, but having a sock you can rely on is worth the cost. It may also be the start of a larger DTV collection as part of your go-to wardrobe.
- Great performance
- Superior durability
- Top moisture wicking
- Slightly pricey
- Limited color options
2. WORN T3 Ankle
Best For: Workouts. Lots of them.
Why We Chose It: Worn’s proprietary Merino blends took top honors across most of our testing.
- 49% Merino
- 47% AR Nylon
- 4% Elastane
If you’ve spent any time checking out our list of overall best socks, you’ll know how much we love WORN.
They’re a relatively smaller brand but produce essentially the best athletic socks we tested in the ankle height category. Their signature Arrowool material performed well in all climates and almost all workouts. We even like their socks as a good casual, day-wear option.
The ankle edition seen here comes in a fun arrow pattern and in five different colorways.
- Probably the best material we tested
- Excellent durability
- Solid cushioning where it matters
- Slightly pricey
- The only pattern option available may not be right for everyone
3. Balega Blister Resist No-Show Tab
Best Running Socks
Best For: Runners who need to keep on running.
Why We Chose It: We were really impressed with the sock’s performance in really warm conditions.
- 52% Drynamix polyester
- 14% Mohair
- 14% Wool
- 7% Acrylic
- 5% Nylon
- 3% Microfiber
- 3% Neofil
- 2% Elastane
Runners and triathletes won’t be surprised to see a Balega sock on our list.
These socks are purpose-built for long athletic pursuits with specific fiber mixes to get the most of a sock’s performance. We found Balega socks to perform among the best in hot conditions and tough workouts. These socks are fine for calmer days, but really shine when output is high.
This performance comes at a price, but certainly still worth it for, what many runners consider, the best athletic socks.
- Best in hot, hot conditions
- Comfy fiber blend
- Still works great after repeated washes
- More expensive of what we tested
- It’s a specific style, and not everyone might like it.
4. Swiftwick Aspire Two
The Runner’s Runner-Up
Best For: Those who want ultralight performance in a higher cut.
Why We Chose It: We liked the sock’s feel the more we wore it.
- 69% Nylon
- 27% Olefin
- 4% Spandex
Runners who aren’t fans of the Balega might say that Swiftwick makes the best athletic socks.
You can tell almost instantly that this sock is different, mostly because it’s predominantly made from nylon with no wool in sight.
That gives the sock a different feel, but ultimately lends itself to better performance. It doesn’t do quite as well in hot conditions but performs very well in temperate to cold climates. All in all, feet felt secure through all types of wear and we found this also to be a great walking sock.
- Good for running and walking
- A bit less expensive
- Reliable color choices
- Some may not like fabric feel
- Could potentially fray quicker due to fabric construction
5. Smartwool Bike Zero Cushion
Best Cycling Socks
Best For: Long mileage or just a hot gym class
Why We Chose It: There are few socks that will perform as needed and as well under demanding athletic conditions
- 3.25” height
- 47% Merino Wool
- 47% Nylon
- 2% Recycled Nylon
- 4% Elastane
Smartwool socks are engineered for any condition, so it’s no surprise two styles made our list.
Not only is this sock incredibly lightweight, but it does far more than it’s asked to. Our testing found that our feet remained highly secure with almost no chafing, even during the most movement-focused workouts. The colors certainly leave something to be desired (not uncommon in athletic specialty socks), but their performance significantly outweighs aesthetics.
As for price, they continue to be on par with Smartwool’s higher-end pricing, but the bottomline is worth it.
- Bikers, look no further
- Excellent foot security through every pedal stroke
- There with you from mile 1 to 50 (maybe bring a spare pair for the next 50)
- Color schemes aren’t for everyone
6. Smartwool Ski Zero Cushion Over the Calf
Best Ski Socks
Best For: The slopes, of course!
Why We Chose It: If you can find any significant comfort in a ski sock over the course of the day, we’ll take it.
- 55% Merino wool
- 10% Nylon
- 31% Recycled nylon
- 4% Elastane
Ski socks are a tough category because you’re asking for your socks to still perform while being compressed against nearly your entire lower leg.
Smartwool has done a good job of developing a sock that can move as your leg does within the boot, yet still feels comfortable through all of that compression. These socks maintained their comfort through long powder days.
Ski socks are a special category where each fit will be different, but as you begin your search, be sure to put Smartwool near the top.
- Good comfort
- Fun colors
- Expensive (but most good ski socks are)
- Some may need more cushion
7. WORN T3 Snowboard Sock
Best Snowboarding Socks
Best For: Shreddy days
Why We Chose It: We can’t get enough of WORN and were amazed by how well this sock performed.
- 55% Merino
- 27% AR nylon
- 12% Coolmax
- 6% Elastane
Our tester could not stop raving about these socks.
He reported non-stop performance throughout the day, noting how the socks seemed to keep his feet completely dry and comfortable at all times, even during long runs. He even thought that these socks made his overall boarding day better because his feet were that comfortable.
It echoes our testing across WORN’s entire line and certainly merits a second product on our list.
- Does this sock make your shredding day better? Yes.
- Extreme comfort
- Equally extreme durability after laundry, long days, whatever
- Only one color option
8. Decathlon Van Rysel 900 (two-pack)
Best Athletic Socks (lightweight)
Best For: no-frills cyclists and light-on-their-feet athletes
Why We Chose It: Ongoing reliable performance from a brand largely unknown Stateside.
- 5% Spandex
- 95% Polyamide
- 7.9” high in EU sizing (40-42)
Decathlon is fairly well-known in Europe as a big-box supplier of sporting goods but remains nearly off the radar in the United States and Canada. In reality, this is a brand that does it all. Decathlon makes everything from bike helmets to underwater gear, and of course, clothing — including the best athletic socks for those who prefer lightweight liners.
We weren’t expecting much high-level sock performance, but our tester took them out on a 20-mile bike ride, and found them to regulate temperature well while duly capable of walks later on. Further, these socks would work well soon a warm hike or blistering days in the city.
This is also a fantastic value for a high-quality product at $17 for a two-pack.
- Good performance
- Only one color option
- Some may not like fabric feel
9. DSG Running No Show Socks (three-pack)
Best Gym Socks
Best For: Those who workout mostly at a gym
Why We Chose It: Solid performance-to-value ratio.
- 1/2 cushioned bamboo
- Added arch support
Like every big-box store, Dick’s Sporting Goods has their own, in-house brand. Known as “DSG,” it supplies a range of basic products and is a notable entry point for many athletic pursuits.
If you find yourself working out mostly at a gym, these socks will probably get you through your routine with ease. We liked that they had a bit more comfort when walking between stations or shifting between workouts. They also had nice bounce-back after regular washing.
- Solid value
- Above-average performance
- Easy to wear
- Feels a bit cheap
- Perhaps long-term durability would be an issue
10. Fruit of the Loom Men’s Dual Defense Cushioned (12-pack)
Best Budget Socks
Best For: volume sock needs without spending a ton
Why We Chose It: A budget choice with performance and overall value in mind
- 76% Polyester
- 22% Cotton
- 2% Spandex
Economy athletic socks are sort of a grab bag. You never quite know how they’ll perform until you put them to the test. Luckily, we did and were pleasantly surprised by how they wore. Even though you’re wearing something exceptionally basic they do get the job done.
The low-cut fit is about the same as others in its class, and they continued to perform well after multiple laundry cycles. Additionally, we like them as a straightforward, all-day wear choice in the warmer months, especially if price is a deciding factor.
- Excellent value
- Neutral color
- Lots of cushion for those who need it
- Very basic
- Not specialty-focused in any way
How We Chose the Best Athletic Socks for Men: About Our Process
Our athletic sock testing process simply came down to testing in a range of conditions and activities.
We did everything from Peloton rides to days at the mountain to get a good idea of which fabrics performed and which didn’t. Our testing revealed a ton of minute differences between even the highest-priced options, which sent us back for even more testing.
Our final choices reflect those that performed best while considering cost and availability.
Why Trust SPY When Searching for the Best Athletic Socks for Men?
The SPY team is always on the lookout for the best men’s athletic clothing and accessories (and even how to keep them fresh and clean between uses). We also ranked the best men’s gym pants for the days when shorts aren’t an option, and gym bags to carry all of your new gear. We know what to look for in the best men’s clothing and accessories and we regularly update our articles to reflect new revelations and new product releases.
About the Author
Geoff Nudelman is a lifestyle copywriter and journalist helping brands make the world a better place through compelling copy. Recently, Geoff has reviewed the Osprey Talon Earth as well as the Taxa Cricket Overland. Aside from Spy, he regularly contributes to publications including Barron’s, AskMen, InsideHook and many more. You can check out more of his work at geoffnudelman.com.
Frequently Asked Questions About Men's Athletic Socks
A: While this is very subjective, the best athletic socks should anatomically cradle the shape of your foot without restricting it, offer ideal arch support (you have had your arches checked, right?) and stand up to the needs of whichever workout you’re heading into.
A: It is really important to follow all care instructions when washing pricier and specialty socks. When in doubt, wash on a gentle setting and air dry.
A: We tend to stay away from a predominantly-cotton blend, as the fiber holds too much moisture. We recommend a Merino wool blend or bamboo for the best mix of performance, durability and value.