It’s possible to run sockless without developing blisters or experiencing chafing—but you’ll need a few tricks up your sleeve before you try.

n the 1980s, Nike came out with a new, lightweight running shoe, marketed as “the shoe that fit like a sock.” Most dismissed it as nothing more than a lark—after all, who would dare go running without the protection of socks? As it turns out, a lot of runners. It’s taken more than 30 years to perfect the design, but today, it’s clear the sockless trend is here to stay.

Should you ditch your socks?

The sockless approach isn’t for everyone, but some runners may find it to be just the ticket for comfort and performance. Some reasons runners ditch the socks:

  • A better “feel” for the road or trail
  • Increased ventilation for hot and sweaty runs
  • Moisture management (especially in races where feet get wet)
  • Second-skin fit may reduce blisters
  • One less piece of gear to worry about
  • Faster bike-run transitions for those who race duathlon or triathlon

No socks means shoes matter more.

Not all shoes are made for sockless running, so your current pair may not work for your bare ambition. How to tell if a running shoe is a good fit:

  • Seamless upper: No seams means no friction—a must when going without a sock to serve as a buffer between skin and shoe.
  • Mesh or knit material: Thin, well-ventilated and moisture-wicking materials pull sweat away from the skin to keep your tootsies happy and dry.
  • Snug fit: The shoe should conform to the contours of your foot to reduce slippage.
  • Tongue: If the shoe has a thick, puffy tongue, it’s not designed to be worn barefoot. Look for a thin, soft, pliable tongue or—better yet—no tongue at all.

There’s the rub.

Until your feet adjust to their sockless surroundings, it’s important to take extra care to prevent blisters from forming. Your anti-blister plan:

  • Ease into the process by going for walks in the running shoes you plan
    to wear.
  • Build into running with short runs on flat surfaces.
  • Gradually add longer distances and varied terrain, taking care on surfaces that may cause friction (running downhill, for example).
  • Treat your feet before every run—a variety of blister-prevention methods are available to fortify the skin.

Smells like…greatness?

You may love running without socks, but you probably won’t love how your shoes smell. Without socks, your shoes will marinate in any sweat, bacteria or fungus introduced by your bare feet. Though there’s no one proven rule for managing the smell, runners have come up with creative solutions for their stank shoes, including stuffing shoes with newspaper after every run to absorb moisture, spraying shoes with rubbing alcohol or vodka, placing shoes in the freezer between runs to kill bacteria and storing shoes with inserts made of cedar or activated charcoal.

Going Sockless

Shoes to try:

Prevent the rub: