The most visible difference between all socks, athletic or dress, is the length. However, it is a mostly aesthetic choice. There are two main athletic activities in which a certain length of sport sock is appropriate: when wearing some sort of shin guard, and when running. The when worn with shin guards, knee-length socks are typically required so that they double up, over the guards. While running in the winter, knee-length socks can warm the legs as a substitute for running tights. In the summer, low-cut, anklet, or quarter crew socks are best for avoiding excess material around the legs. Apart from these two circumstances, the real difference among athletic socks is the material.
Types of sports socks fabrics
Cotton, Cotton socks are inexpensive, but can lose shape quickly. Moreover, the fabric can absorb a disproportionate amount of water. This is bad for sports, since sweat from your foot will collect in your cotton socks. Your feet will also be emitting heat. The combination of water and heat creates the perfect environment for blisters and fungus, so athletes should avoid 100% cotton socks.
Wool, Wool socks are useful for some cold situations; but, like cotton, they absorb water. Wool socks do however, retain the ability to insulate when wet, but this can lead to the undesirable hot-and-sweaty scenario. Both cotton and wool can become irritable.
Nylon, Nylon is a polymer known for its durability and resistance. It is well-suited for socks that undergo lots of pulling and stretching. However, it absorbs a relatively large amount of water compared to other synthetics.
Acryllic, Acryllic is a warm, wool-like polymer. Acrylic socks can retain their elastic shape amidst pulling; plus they wick sweat away.
Polypropylene, Polypropylene is a “super” waterproof fiber with extreme moisture-wicking abilities. Polypropylene socks are also terrifically warm; and sometimes used as inner sock liners.
Olefin, Olefin is a synthetic known by the name “Coolmax,” the defining ingredient of many sport socks. Coolmax is one of the best fibers at both repelling water and passing the water through itself to the outside of the sock.
Teflon, Teflon is added to waterproof the sock without affecting breathability. It also resists friction.
Profilen, Profilen is a key ingredient in DryMax socks. It has the lowest friction coefficient (used to calculate how much energy is absorbed through friction) of all these materials.
Gore-Tex, Gore-Tex is an expensive waterproof material, used primarily in boots that can also be used for very thick sport socks.
Kevlar, like Gore-Tex, is thick and expensive. A light and strong material most known for bullet-proof vests, it is especially suited for athletic socks that prevent abrasion to the leg.
X-Static, is a fiber made from silver that is woven into socks. Its anti-microbial nature helps sport socks prevent odors and fungus.