If you find a still photo of champion sprinter Usain Bolt, you'll notice he's not wearing socks. It isn't a trend he started: sock-wearing just isn't widespread among front-line sprinters. When they do slip into a pair, it's usually a thin version for comfort. Extra space in the toe area of racing shoes can cause a sprinter to slow down, and socks can help eradicate this problem.
Thin Racing Socks
Post Tech claims most sprinters go sockless because the feet should fit tightly into racing shoes, but not everyone thinks that's the right way to run. Dr. Nicholas Romanov, innovator of the Pose Method of running, recommends wearing thin cotton athletic socks for an optimal sprinting experience. Those socks absorb moisture and protect the skin from the inner-seam of the shoes. It also gives the sprinter an extra layer of comfort.
Some socks are made specifically to improve athletic performance, like those that claim to increase oxygen intake. Compression socks, also referred to as stockings, stop at the knee and maximize compression at the ankle. This skin-tight material is designed to create positive pressure across the valves in blood veins and increase blood flow to the heart. The School of Human Movement Studies asserts that some sprinters could use compression socks to decrease post-race muscle fatigue.
In 2009, German professor Wolfgang Kemmler tested compression socks on 21 moderately trained runners. The study concluded that the constant compression the socks induced on the participants’ calf muscles significantly improved running performance. Furthermore, the School of Human Movement Studies determined that sprinters who wore compression socks experienced a perceived decrease in muscle soreness two hours after a series of 20-meter sprints.
Maurice Greene wore plain old athletic socks when he set a world record in the men’s 100 meter in 1999. Since then, however, the effects of wearing socks on sprinting has proven to be insignificant. Some champions wear them, but most don't. Sports Fitness Advisor emphasizes sprinting technique, such as getting a good start, as the most effective way to become a better sprinter.
- Sports Fitness Advisor: How to Improve Your Sprinting Technique
- Runners Connect: The Science of Compression Gear for Runners
- National Institutes of Health: Effects of Compression Stockings on Running Performance in Men Runners
- Pose Tech: How to Wear Your Running Shoes
- National Institutes of Health: Recovery of Muscle Performance Following High-Intensity Sprint Exercise