Should You Wear Socks in A Triathlon? A Brief Triathlon Socks Guide!


You’ve spent countless hours training for your next triathlon, but as race day nears you’ll have to decide: socks or no socks? Everyone seems to have a different opinion on this seemingly simple question, so we’ll explore the two options here.

So, Should You Wear Socks in A Triathlon?

Many triathletes will skip the socks on shorter races (like sprint and Olympic distances) but will choose to wear them for longer races. It ultimately comes down to the athlete’s personal preference and comfort, but either way, it’s important to make sure you’re protecting your feet (not to mention shoes).

Why Triathletes Do Not Wear Socks?

A lot of triathletes will go sock-less in order to save time at the transition points. Socks aren’t needed during the swim portion, so the first chance to put them on would be during the first transition (T1). Putting socks on wet feet is unpleasant in even the best scenario – doing so while watching the valuable seconds tick by can feel like torture.

That’s why it’s especially common for triathletes to skip the socks in shorter races

Not only do those seconds take up a greater percentage of the overall time, it also means shorter time on the bike and the run. (Source)

Also, choosing to go without socks means having to pack one less thing. That’s one less thing you have to worry about forgetting. You can train without socks to get your feet and shoes broken in properly.

How to Put Socks on In a Triathlon?

If you do decide to wear socks, there are some tips and tricks that can help the transition go more smoothly – and save you some time.

Tip 1: Wear short socks

The shorter the sock, the less effort you have to put into pulling them over your calf. In other words, this isn’t the time to bust out your amazing, technicolor six inch cycling socks. Instead, focus on a sock that you only need to slide over your foot so you don’t have to deal with straightening a bunch of fabric (Source)

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Tip 2: Wear your socks before the race

After you’ve picked up your race packet and set up your transition area, you can put on the socks you’ll be wearing and keep them on for 10 to 15 minutes. Once you’re done, take them off and set them in your shoes. This will help mold the socks to your feet and essentially warm them up so they’re easier to slide on when the time comes.

Tip 3: Use baby powder

Roll your socks inside out and sprinkle them with baby powder. Once you turn them back to normal, the baby powder will be on the inside. This will help when you’re putting them on because it’ll lessen any friction you might have if your feet are still a little damp.

It’s important to flip them inside out so you can get a coating all over the socks – if you just dump the baby powder in, it’ll all end up in the toe spot, which isn’t very helpful.

Tip 4: Make sure your feet is dry

You’ll want to dry your feet as much as possible after the swim portion. Have a dry towel waiting for you after the swim to immediately rub down your feet in the transition zone. You can stand on it while you get everything else situated, then hop on the bike.

Some triathletes will have their cycling shoes clipped to the pedals to make for an even speedier transition. But if you do this, make sure you aren’t getting sand all over your socks before hopping on the bike.

You can also do socks for one portion of the race, but not the other. For example, you may be comfortable cycling without socks on but want them for the run portion. If that’s the case, you can still use the tips and tricks above but have them ready to go in your running shoes rather than your cycling shoes.

How Much Time Does It Take to Put the Socks On In Triathlon?

It can take only a few seconds or even up to three minutes to put on socks during the transition. To ease the time it takes you can use some of the tips above. The tip for wearing short socks comes from Ironman Hacks who took three minutes to put on his socks during his first 70.3 race. Even if that’s a slight exaggeration, any amount of time spent struggling with socks is time that affects your ending race time.

This is why so many triathletes will forgo socks, if they can comfortably do so. While handy tips and tricks can help make the sock transition smoother, nothing is faster than simply not worrying about putting them on in the first place. However, if you do decide to go barefoot, make sure your shoes will still fit properly. You’ll also still need to get them as dry as possible to avoid painful blisters caused by friction.

Regardless of which choice you make, you’ll want to practice the transition before the race comes. Go from a lake directly onto your bike and set up a transition space for yourself. That way you can make sure you have everything you need and find a way to set it up that makes sense for you.

Check out our post on What Is a Good Triathlon Transition Time? Factors, Tips, And The Do’s & Dont’s!

Do Triathletes Run with Wet Feet? How To Dry out Quickly

Triathletes do their best to avoid running or cycling with wet feet. Not only does it make putting on socks and shoes more challenging, but it can also lead to major blisters and pain from the friction. After the swim, you’ll want to dry your feet as quickly as possible. If there is a transition water bath available, you can use that to rinse any sand off your feet as you head into the staging area (Source).

You can have a foot-specific towel set up at your transition area to quickly dry off your feet. You should keep this hanging on a bar or somewhere on your bike so that it doesn’t get run over by other races.

You can stand on the towel while you get everything else sorted (helmet, bib, jersey, sunglasses, etc.) to give your feet as much time to dry as possible.

Then, as you’re heading out on the bike ride, slide your socks on or simply hop on your bike and go. The dryer your feet are for the cycling portion, the better shape they’ll be in for the run.

Things to Consider

Choosing whether or not to run with socks is a personal choice. While it definitely makes the transitions faster to go without socks, you don’t want to end up dragging your feet in pain if you weren’t prepared for the run portion. Always practice your transitions before any race and prepare your area accordingly.

Aprill Emig

Based out of Duluth, MN Aprill loves to write about the outdoors, education, and all forms of adventure. You can find her mountain biking, running, or playing roller derby.

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