Sock Thickness Alters Forefoot Running Form

Does sock thickness affect forefoot running form?

The more protection on your foot during running, the more spatiotemporal reflexes are compromised. Remember, less is more when it comes to optimizing your forefoot running form.

My Experience

In the past, while running I wore thicker socks because I wore the Puma-H Streets which are very minimalistic.

I felt that wearing thick socks added protection, when really, thick socks defeats the purpose of being a minimalist runner!

I became a minimalist runner to strengthen my feet and to transition from heel striking to forefoot striking. However, to achieve these elements, I needed to feel the ground with my feet. Wearing thick socks is no different from adding more cushioning to your minimalist shoe, and therefore reverses the benefits of minimalism.

Thick Socks = ‘Blind’ Feet

When reviewing a video analysis of my forefoot running technique, I noticed my forefoot landing was inconsistent; I landed flat-footed and even on my heel at times.

To gain better neuromuscular control over my forefoot strike, I needed to reduce the protection on my feet, so I did more barefoot running drills and wore ultra-thin socks while running in my Puma’s.

As expected, thinner socks gave me a better estimation of the ground and I was better able to feel if I was heel striking.

The Take Home Message

In the beginning, I was tightly bound to my thick socks for ‘protection’, but protection from what?

In theory, if I ran on my forefoot properly, then force, torque and loading production reduces beyond a level where external protection is not required. In my opinion, increasing sock thickness, or increasing cushioning in your footwear are equally damaging.

Running in thick socks caused my foot strike discrepancies which would, without question, had negative consequences = injury.

To run with good forefoot running form, the feet need to read the ground as accurately as possible to improve the motor patterns governing safe ground interactions. For injury-free forefoot running, strong awareness of foot strike is critical for reducing shock and is achieved just by wearing less on your feet.

I do not wear socks on my feet anymore when forefoot running because I run in the Vibram Five Fingers which essentially, fit like a sock and I strongly dislike the feeling of toe-socks also.

  • If you are a newbie forefoot runner struggling with injuries, do not preoccupy yourself with finding external sources of protection such as insoles, or thicker socks.

Go back to the basic, do some barefoot running drills to update your body on how to land properly on your foot, because chances are the problem stems from a flaw in your form which only you can correct, not a shoe, and certainly not a sock.

Hope this helps.

More From Run Forefoot:

Run forefoot, because you are faster than you think!

Bretta Riches

"I believe the forefoot strike is the engine of endurance running..."

BSc Neurobiology; MSc Biomechanics candidate, ultra minimalist runner & founder of RunForefoot. I was a heel striker, always injured. I was inspired by the great Tirunesh Dibaba to try forefoot running. Now, I'm injury free. This is why I launched Run Forefoot, to advocate the health & performance benefits of forefoot running and to raise awareness on the dangers of heel striking, because the world needs to know.
Bretta Riches

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P.S. Don't forget to check out the Run Forefoot Facebook Page, it's a terrific place to ask questions about forefoot running, barefoot running and injury. I'm always happy to help!

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