When essential tennis gear comes to mind, racquets, strings and shoes top the list. What I’ve learned is that if you haven’t already added good socks to the list, get out your pen now. When I was a kid, I played in whatever socks my parents bought me, which was usually whatever came in bulk and was on sale. I don’t blame them because, like many kids, I ruined socks faster than Carl Lewis could run 100 meters. (Yes, I’m hinting at my age. And, yes, I grew up many a year before Usain Bolt came onto the scene.) Unfortunately, these socks my parents lovingly provided me were usually uncomfortable to wear for a tennis player and did their part in creating blisters.
Now that I’ve learned socks are not like shoes and should not be worn on the sidewalk or dirt and I’m in charge of my own sock destiny, I’m much more selective in my choice of socks both on and off the court. Because we’re here to Talk Tennis, I’ll stick to my favorite court socks. There are a few key features I look for when choosing tennis socks:
1. The fabric must be soft. There’s nothing worse than socks that are rough so if I happen to slide around inside my shoes, my feet are rubbed raw.
2. The toe seam should not be felt. Some socks don’t have toe seams, which is wonderful, while others have huge tie-off knots. Those knots rub on my toes and not only serve as an unneeded distraction, but also can lead to blisters or skin irritations.
3. The socks must be the right thickness, not too thick, not too thin. I understand sock thickness can be a controversial subject. Some like the thick cushioned socks for a variety of reasons, and I actually like the heavy cushioning when I go backpacking for protection and comfort. However, I have wide feet and wearing really thick court socks only makes most tennis shoes feel narrower. On the flip side, I do like some cushioning. Socks are too thin to me if I can feel a shoe’s insole and they fail to absorb any sweat.
4. The socks must be offered in a no-show cut. OK, I’ll admit this comes down to vanity. The vanity decision is twofold. First, I’m not very tall (5’4″), so I like the no-show socks because anything higher makes my legs look short. Second, sock tan lines can be horrific.
5. Socks should be offered in multiple sizes. Women’s socks are often sold as “one size fits all.” I have small feet and wear a women’s size 6 shoe. The general sock size, which is often labeled 9-11, hangs off my feet like I’m a little kid wearing my mom’s socks. A women’s 9-11 is supposed to fit a women’s shoe size 5-10. There’s quite a gap between a size 5 and a size 10, yet a sock is supposed to please both? I don’t think so. (As a side note, where do sock sizing numbers come from? They should match shoe sizes. Let’s simplify life, people.)
I don’t think that’s too much to ask. Hey, it’s only five bullet points. Not to mention, I ardently believe our feet are worth pleasing. I’ve been lucky to try many socks at Tennis Warehouse. One of my favorite brands, one that meets all the criteria, is Feetures! Here’s how the Feetures! socks perform in each of my categories.
1. Check! The Feetures! socks are smooth against the skin and comfortable throughout my tennis sessions or workouts. I’ve put them through the wash numerous times, and they have held up well. I find that some socks will get rougher in time, and the fabric will thin as well. I’ve had some of my Feetures! socks for about a year, and they’re still in rotation.
2. Check! The toe is seamless so there is absolutely no rubbing. It’s bliss.
3. Check! There’s plenty of cushioning without being too bulky. The cushioning is also in the right place: under my feet. The top has mesh panels for ventilation, so my feet don’t feel overheated. I also like the arch band that keeps the socks snug against my feet.
4. Check! Actually there are two options from Feetures! for a no-show cut. There’s a standard no-show sock, but there’s also the No Show Tab Socks. I prefer the latter. Tennis shoes often have high heel collars to provide more support on the court. If socks sit too low, a shoe can “eat” the socks, meaning they slip into the shoe and the back of your heel gets rubbed raw. The Feetures! No Show Tab Socks prevent this. The little cushioned tab at the back does wonders for keeping socks in place during play. If you haven’t tried a tabbed no-show sock, I recommend giving it a whirl. Your Achilles will thank you.
5. Check! The Feetures! brand offers small through extra large socks. This will satisfy everyone from a women’s shoe size 4 up to a men’s shoe size 16. I’m sure everyone would appreciate socks that actually fit their feet.
So that’s it in a nutshell. The Feetures! No Show Tab socks in particular meet each of my sock demands. If you haven’t tried a pair of truly good socks, I urge you to try a pair. The initial cost may be more, but my experience is that they also last a lot longer so it evens out in the end. Not to mention, the way your feet will feel is, well, as they say: priceless.