How much do you really know about the dozens of types of socks out there? If you’re the sort of person who thinks socks are just a necessity, something to put over your feet to keep them warm, this article will blow your mind.
Yes, shoes are more important than socks but make no mistake, your socks will show a bit no matter what you wear and you will be judged by the type of socks you’re wearing – at a business meeting, a party or the first date with someone you totally want to impress. Don’t make the wrong impression by sporting an odd pair of socks!
What are the different types of socks?
Here is a list of the different types of socks for women, men, and functionality, how they vary in length, the materials they’re made of, and what type of socks to choose for every occasion.
Types of socks for women
They’re more like half-socks, as they are only meant to cover the toes. Mute socks are small enough that they don’t show at all when you’re wearing pumps. They’re very thin and made of breathable material.
Their main purpose is to wick moisture and prevent friction. A whole night spent in a pair of high-heels can leave you with terrible blisters if the skin constantly rubs against the rough fabric of the shoes. There are two types of mute socks.
One type only covers the toe part of the foot and is made of non-skid fabric so they will stay in place even if you dance. There’s also a type of mute sock with a thin elastic band that goes over the heel to make sure the socks don’t slip.
No-show socks are meant to be worn with loafers or ballerina shoes, and a regular pair of socks would look simply terrible. No-show socks cover the toes and protect the heels but don’t go over the margins of the shoe.
They’re invisible. Since this is something you’re likely to wear on warm days, these socks are made of thin highly-breathable fabric. Best buy them in skin color so they won’t be noticeable even if they somehow slip and try to peek out of your shoes.
Extra Low-Cut Socks
This type of sock is just a bit more coverage than no-show socks. They cover the toes, the arch of the foot, and the heel area, but still stay hidden inside the shoe.
You can wear them with sneakers and they won’t ruin your outfit as they are invisible. Make sure they’re made of absorbent material to soak up moisture and prevent odors.
Low Cut Socks
Another type of almost invisible socks. Low-cut socks are quite similar to extra low-cut and only go a bit higher. Still, they end just below the ankle.
Whether or not they show depends on the type of shoes you’re wearing. However, it’s preferable that they stay out of sight because just a bit of fabric showing over the margins of the shoe looks a bit odd.
As the name indicates, anklets go over the ankle bone and protect the sensitive skin in this area. They’re excellent for athletic shoes or sneakers, and give you a sporty look, without standing out too much.
Anklets should be light enough to let the skin breathe and be made of natural highly-absorbent fibers. For a chic look, you can choose anklets in a bright color that makes a nice contrast over a pair of white sneakers.
Crew socks reach up to the middle of the calf and give you a very youthful look. Since such socks are quite visible, the color and the print are crucial. If you’re wearing a colorful outfit, crew socks in a solid color are preferable.
You don’t need clashing colors or prints. For really cold weather, you can wear thick wool crew socks, but otherwise, they should be of thin fabric.
You can, of course, wear crew socks under a pair of pants, not very tight pants though, but they also look great with a skirt. Obviously, they’re not suitable for formal occasions.
This type of sock is definitely meant to keep you warm. Over the calf, socks reach up just under the knee so your legs are perfectly protected on a cool day. Look for something with a nice print, funny or colorful.
White socks give off a schoolgirl vibe, which might not be what you want when you’re past your 20s. You can wear over-the-calf socks with an above-the-knee skirt or even with shorts.
They’re perfect for a hike or a fun day spent out in the open. On really cool days you can wear knitted over-the-calf socks over a pair of stockings if you want.
These socks go completely over the calf, right up to the knee joint. They can be as colorful as you want, provided they match the skirt. Knee-lengths are quite popular among young women because they’re comfortable to wear and keep you warm on a cold day.
You can wear such socks in a solid color, but since they’re meant to be seen why not choose a nice pattern?
Geometric patterns go well with any type of skirt, but you can also wear something a bit more daring, like an animal print or floral one.
This type of sock is very trendy and quite feminine. Over-the-knee socks are best suited for young women bundling up against the cold.
Since they go over the knee it is important that you choose a pair with a firm ribbed edge at the top so they don’t slip while you walk as it is most annoying to stop and adjust them every 20 feet.
Such socks are meant to offer protection against the elements so you should look for a piece of thick insulating fabric. They go well with short knee-length skirts and dresses.
Definitely, they’re more than just socks, they’re a fashion statement and, as such, you need to choose carefully the color and the print. Striped patterns are quite common for this type of socks, but you can also go for a floral print or, why not, polka dots.
Again, make sure the top edge is elastic enough to stay in place. You can totally wear knitted thigh-high socks over a pair of tights or even skinny jeans.
On the other hand, keep in mind that they might be a bit bulky. Also, a striped pattern is not exactly flattering for thick legs.
Knitted socks are extremely trendy and are very popular among young women. Since there are so many knitting patterns, they have a unique look. Great to wear with a short skirt so you have something to keep you warm.
They can be in two colors, but sometimes knitted socks look just great in a single color as they allow the pattern to stand out a bit more.
Since they’re meant for warmth, they should be made of wool, although even synthetic fibers offer enough protection and are easier to care for.
Sheer socks can vary in length and color, depending on what you’re wearing. If you’re wearing ballerina-style shoes with a pair of jeans, ankle-length or mid-calf transparent socks are just perfect.
If the shoes are black you can wear them with black transparent socks, although flesh-colored socks give a more natural look.
When you don’t feel like wearing stockings, knee-high transparent socks are a great choice to wear under a dress, but you should make sure the skirt is long enough and no one can see the top of the socks or the skin above it.
Split-toe socks are more than just a novelty item. Sure, they’re cute and fun to wear, but the point is they serve a practical purpose. Such socks are meant to reduce the friction between the toes as well as to better absorb moisture.
Keep in mind that excess moisture can lead to fungal infections, not to mention nasty odors. At the same time, split-toe socks, also known as Tabi socks, are easy to wear indoors with a pair of slippers, which makes them perfect for winter.
Split-toe socks come in a variety of lengths and, of course, colors.
Men wouldn’t get the point of toe-less socks, but they are just perfect for yoga or a dance class. A thick pair of toe-less socks can keep the legs cozy and warm, while still allowing you perfect freedom of movement. And you don’t risk slipping on the floor.
Then there’s, of course, the great advantage that they allow you to show off your freshly painted toenails, once again something men wouldn’t get. This type of socks is meant to be fun, so go with a cute pattern or some bright colors.
Fishnet/Fence Net Socks
Clearly, the main purpose of fishnet socks is to look nice. They’re not meant to keep you warm, nor do they offer much protection against blisters. On the contrary, worn with a pair of tight shoes, the strings might cut into the skin.
Fishnet socks can vary in length from anklets to knee-high. Since they serve a decorative role, they can be of any color that goes with your outfit.
This type of socks looks cute when they have a little bow on the top edge or they can be decorated with tiny crystals, obviously not on the part that goes inside the shoe, as that would be most painful to wear.
They could very well be called baby socks, as this is what they look like. Bobbysocks are usually thick and they have a little cuff at the top, which is not necessarily meant to give you extra warmth, but it makes them look nice.
These socks are usually worn indoors. Comfy and stylish enough for a casual meeting with friends, as well as the perfect kind of socks to curl up on the sofa and watch TV.
Choose something funny, with a cute print. They can be worn without slippers, but it would be best if they had non-skid soles.
It’s a question of style. Loose socks are perfect for informal occasions when you want to appear laid-back as well as trendy. As the name says, they’re loose, not tight-fitting like regular socks. They can vary in length, but you should go for calf or knee-high so they stand out.
Such socks go well with a knee-high skirt or dress. Since the print cannot really be seen on such socks, best to choose a pair in a single color that matches your skirt, as well as the shoes.
Trouser socks are the perfect solution when you want to wear a classy pair of trousers, at the office for instance, and you are smashing new shoes. You cannot possibly wear regular socks, so you’ll need either sheer or opaque trouser socks.
These socks are made of thin and silky fabric so that they look great with pumps or any other type of office shoes. Depending on the length of the trousers, the socks can be ankle-high, mid-calf, or calf-high, for modern pants that don’t go all the way to the shoe.
For a formal occasion, dark socks are the norm, but for everyday use, you can choose flesh-colored trouser socks.
Types of Socks for Men
Toe Cover Socks
When you buy toe-cover socks for the first time, it’s guaranteed they’ll make you laugh. It’s quite funny to be able to wiggle your toes in these socks, which look very much like gloves.
However, their purpose is not to keep you entertained but to protect your toes when you go jogging or on a long hike. The whole point of the toe cover socks is to wrap each toe in a protective layer of fabric and prevent skin-on-skin friction.
If you don’t want to get blisters or rub your toes raw, toe-cover socks are the perfect solution. And they do come in various lengths, to go with various types of shoes.
OK, don’t expect magic here, this type of sock is not truly invisible, but they do know how to stay out of sight. Invisible socks are something you want to wear with a nice pair of loafers to look cool and laid-back.
Loafer socks are usually made of thin material, good enough to absorb sweat, without making your feet too hot. It’s the kind of socks you can only wear on a casual occasion, like going out with a couple of friends on a hot summer night.
Definitely not something you can wear for an important meeting. People might guess you’re wearing invisible socks, but, still, the exposed skin of your feet is a bit too laid-back for formal meetings.
You might call these undersocks. Liners are very thin socks that can be worn under any regular pair of socks.
They’re very thin and comfortable and are recommended for men with sensitive skin on their feet. Liner socks will absorb any moisture so you won’t feel all sweaty inside your shoes.
A pair of loafer socks can easily double as liner socks if they are thin enough.
Also known as low-cut socks, ped socks only go up to the ankle, which makes them a great choice for loafers or other types of casual shoes.
Low-cut socks are best for athletic shoes. Some types of ped socks have a ribbed edge at the top, which prevents them from slipping. Many socks tend to do this when you wear them for running and it’s not at all a pleasant feeling, not to mention the risk of terrible blisters.
Not suitable for formal occasions no matter how hot it is and how much you hate the idea of wearing socks in such weather.
This type of sock goes a bit over the ankle, barely reaching the shins. Quarter socks are ideal for sports and they offer special protection for the delicate skin on the ankles. Quarter socks are also recommended when you wear a new pair of loafers and you don’t want to get blisters.
Since they’re a bit over the ankle, the top of the socks will show over the shoes, just to make it clear that you are, indeed, wearing something.
You don’t need to bother whether they match the shoes, quarter socks are only for informal occasions so it really doesn’t matter if you show a bit of color.
Now, this is a decent pair of socks you can wear on any occasion without raising any eyebrows. As the name says, these socks go to the midpoint between the ankle and the knee.
Mid-calf socks are the most popular type of socks among men because you can wear them in any situation. They’re the perfect length for a business suit, but you can also wear them with jeans or shorts.
Mid-calf socks come in a wide variety of fabrics and prints. For the cold season, wool socks are preferable, but for the warm months, you will a very thin fabric, preferably in natural fibers.
This has less to do with the length of the socks, it’s about where and when you can wear them. Executive socks are a must for formal meetings and for companies with a strict dress code. Such socks are usually longer than mid-calf socks, reaching almost up to the knee.
With such socks, you can be confident you won’t reveal any little bit of skin no matter how you sit on a chair. You can cross your legs all you want, and the executive socks are long enough to cover your legs.
Obviously, such socks usually come in dark colors, maybe with a bit of geometric pattern, but nothing too fancy. Serious socks for a serious meeting!
Dress socks go best with, you guessed right, dress shoes. They are recommended for formal occasions, from business meetings to social functions. Quite similar to executive socks, dress socks are usually in somber colors.
They need to match the color of the trousers, maybe a shade lighter or darker, but as close as possible. If you want to avoid complications, just buy dress socks in a solid color, without any distracting pattern.
They’re not much fun, but they are elegant and make you look stylish.
Casual, do we need to say more? For informal occasions, you’re free to wear whatever socks you want. You can choose socks in a bright color, with a fancy print, with polka dots.
It doesn’t matter, your friends won’t judge your dress style. Well, they might judge you if the socks clash with the trousers. Make sure to choose colors that complement each other.
Casual socks can be ankle-high or cover the calf completely, whatever feels comfortable to you.
What Are the Types of Socks Functionality?
While they appear no different than regular socks, diabetic socks are created with the particular needs of people with diabetes in mind. Diabetes can cause peripheral neuropathy which affects the leg and especially the foot.
Diabetic socks have flat seams in the toe area to prevent sores and irritations. Also, such socks may have cushioned heels for extra support and comfort.
To prevent nasty infections of the foot, diabetic socks are made from ultra-absorbent fibers, treated with an antimicrobial that doesn’t go away when you wash them. Diabetic socks may also offer a bit of compression to improve blood flow in the leg.
This type of socks is recommended for people with blood circulation problems, which can be caused by a variety of diseases, like heart failure or thrombosis. Typically, compression socks are knee-high to prevent blood pooling in the leg and edema.
Compression socks are made of elastic fibers applying gradual pressure on the leg. This reduces the size of the blood vessels, forcing the blood to return to the heart instead of pooling in the legs. The pressure is higher in the lower part of the leg, around the ankle, and eases up progressively.
Even though they’re a medical device, compression socks look just like normal socks and come in many different colors.
People who suffer from plantar fasciitis are often advised to wear pain reliever socks. Sometimes referred to as jogger’s heel, plantar fasciitis causes pain in the arch of the foot.
Strenuous physical exercise, like hours of jogging, can indeed cause foot aches, but at the same time pain reliever socks are recommended for people with a sedentary way of life or suffering from obesity, which can also cause heel problems.
Pain-relieving socks offer extra support and padding in the sensitive area. Since they are often toeless, these socks are also known as foot sleeves. They also offer a bit of compression, to prevent swollen feet.
Cold Therapy Socks
These are special socks that can be used with chilled gel-packs to provide instant relief to people who complain of sore feet, whether this is caused by a disease or by too much effort. Such socks are sold with reusable gel pads that are kept in the freezer.
There are two types of pads, large pads that are placed inside the socks and under the feet, or smaller half-pads which can be used to relieve pain in the toe or heel area.
Applying cold pads on the foot helps reduce inflammation or the swelling caused by a foot injury or sprain. They are also useful for people suffering from diabetic-related neuropathy.
Leg Warmer Socks / Knit Dance Socks
Leg warmer socks are made of knitted wool or polyester fibers. They’re very useful for a dance class as they leave both the toes and the heel free, so you can arch your foot any way you like without your moves being hindered by the fabric.
They can be either calf or knee-high, but they can also go over the knee. The fabric is stretchy to allow free movement and they have a reinforced elastic band at the top to keep them in place.
They also serve an aesthetic purpose so they come in many different colors and patterns.
Grip Socks (Anti-slip Socks)
While you see mostly children who cannot be bothered with slippers wearing anti-slip socks, they are very useful at any age. They’re good for the elderly who are prone to slipping and falling, but they can be worn by anyone, just because it’s more comfortable to go without slippers.
Usually, such soles have rubber bands or dots on the soles which adhere to hardwood or ceramic floors and prevents slipping. They are mostly worn in winter so they are extra thick and very comfortable.
Just because this is something you’ll wear indoors, this doesn’t mean that grip socks need to be boring. On the contrary, they come in bright colors with funky prints. They can have ribbons or dog-ears, generally, they’re cool which makes them very popular among young people.
Would do you do when you go out jogging and it starts to rain? Many outdoor fun activities can be ruined by wet feet and this is where waterproof socks come in. They usually have several layers, an inner one in natural fibers, like wool, to keep the foot warm and cozy, and an outer one made from a waterproof material to keep you from getting wet.
Since their purpose is to keep your legs well protected, most waterproof socks go knee-high so your calves stay dry. As they come in several layers, such socks tend to be a bit bulky, but that shouldn’t be a concern.
You just want to have a fun day and keeping your feet dry is more important than looks.
Athletic Socks (Running Socks)
Picking good athletic socks can make all the difference whether you’re in a competition or running just because it keeps you in shape. What you need is a pair of socks that keep you warm enough on a cold day, but also prevent overheating.
Athletic socks need to be highly absorbent because with a lot of effort your feet are bound to get sweaty. At the same time, running socks need to be as comfortable as possible, which means soft and with perfectly flat seams to prevent blisters and hot spots.
On cold days, you’ll want knee-high socks that offer good protection against the elements, but in fair weather, mid-calf socks should be enough.
Heavy Work Socks
When you work outdoors most of the day, or when you go hiking or camping, you need good shoes but also heavy-duty socks. Heavy work socks need to be soft and comfortable to wear for many hours.
They need to be made of a breathable material, to prevent sweating and nasty odors. Look for natural fibers if possible which are better than polyester at wicking out moisture.
If you’re going to be on your feet all day, you might want to look for socks that offer a bit of compression, to keep the blood flowing if you don’t want to get heavy swollen feet by the end of the day.
Yoga socks are quite similar to knit dance socks as you’re looking for the same thing – something to keep your legs warm while allowing you total freedom of movement. Most yoga socks keep the whole foot covered, but there are also some toeless models, whichever feels more comfortable to you.
As opposed to leg warmers, which go up to the knee or even higher, yoga socks are usually low-cut. Also, yoga socks have reliable non-slip soles so you can practice your routine without having to worry you might slip and hurt yourself.
Keeping your feet warm is a priority when you go skiing. Ski socks need to be thick and preferably made of wool or cotton. Natural fibers are to be preferred because they’re more absorbent and let the skin breathe.
Since you’re going to be out on the slopes for many hours, your ski socks should be knee-high. Some types of ski socks offer extra padding for the knees, shins, or ankles to protect your legs when you go snowboarding or skiing.
Extra padding is also useful to protect against blisters, which are always a risk when you wear heavy ski boots.
What Are the Types of Socks Materials?
You know cashmere is soft, very very soft, which makes it the perfect material for heavy-duty socks. Cashmere fibers are more resistant than wool so your socks won’t wear out easily. At the same time, cashmere has great insulating qualities.
This type of fabric will keep your feet and legs warm on cold days, and cool on a warm day. What can you want more from a pair of socks? A bit pricier than other socks, but a great investment if you’re an outdoorsy sort of person and need comfortable and reliable socks.
Cotton fabric is known to be highly breathable which is very important when it comes to socks. Cotton is also very absorbent so your feet will stay dry, not to mention is a very soft type of fiber. The only problem is 100% cotton socks are hard to find.
Mostly, you’ll find a fabric made of cotton mixed with synthetic fibers which add a bit of elasticity. Cotton socks are extremely popular (and affordable) which is why you’ll find them in any length, not to mention colors and funky prints that make them a great fashion accessory to have in your wardrobe.
If you haven’t tried bamboo textiles so far, you should really give them a try. Bamboo socks are made from rayon, the fibers extracted from bamboo, and these are extremely soft. This material is super-absorbent, better even than wool or cotton, so it will keep your feet dry.
Bamboo rayon is naturally antibacterial, which is great news when it comes to socks as it is the proliferation of bacteria that makes feet smell. At the same time, bamboo rayon socks look great as this type of fiber has a natural shine.
If you’re looking for warm winter socks, you should get yourself woolen socks. They’re more affordable than cashmere and keep you just as warm.
They’re good at absorbing moisture (better than cotton, actually) and allow the skin to breathe, so your feet won’t get all sweaty and stinky.
At the same time, wool is soft and feels most comfortable to wear, which is why it is used for many types of socks of various lengths, from middle-calf or over-the-knee.
Polyester has a bad rep as it is a synthetic material. However, polyester fibers feel just as cozy as natural fibers and are more affordable. Polyester socks are actually pretty good at absorbing moisture and they also dry easily, which is a plus as compared to other types of socks.
At the same time, polyester fibers are extremely versatile, so they can be dyed in any color, which sort of explains the many colorful prints you see at the store. They’re great for normal, everyday use, for both men and women.
Also known as lycra, spandex is a type of synthetic fiber used in clothing types that require a high level of elasticity. If you want to have socks that will fit tightly without wrinkles, spandex is a great choice.
For socks, spandex is usually mixed with cotton or polyester fibers. Most types of compression socks use spandex fibers since they can be relied upon to put some pressure on the legs and keep the blood flowing. And spandex feels great to wear as the fabric is soft and lightweight.
Silk fibers are surprisingly resistant, which makes them a great choice for socks, which see a lot of wear and tear. At the same time, silk is smooth and gives a luxurious feel when you put such socks on your feet.
As this fabric is naturally glossy, silk is often used for trouser socks and other types of socks that show under a skirt or dress.
And, yes, they’re not just for women. Men can wear silk socks too, especially for formal occasions when you want to make an excellent impression.