This is the author's collection of running socks—after he weeded out single socks and about 50 pair he doesn't wear. Photo: Brian Metzler
This is the author’s collection of running socks—after he weeded out single socks and about 50 pairs he doesn’t wear. Photo: Brian Metzler

After a long run last weekend, I came home and cleaned out my running sock drawer.

Yes, seriously, I have a running sock drawer (actually it’s a 20-gallon plastic tub with a lid) and, yes, seriously, I spent a few hours cleaning it out.

(OK, it wasn’t the most fun way to spend a Saturday afternoon, but at least it was after a long run.)

What did I find out? Apparently, I’m a sock hoarder. Yup, on a quick count, I had more than 180 pairs of running socks. Thus the need for the bin.

I could be accused of having some kind of sock fetish, but I have less than a dozen pairs of non-running socks—and some are still in the wrappers—so it’s really just that I wear running socks most of the time.

(On more than one occasion—including when I interviewed for my current job—I have worn black running socks with formal attire, but inside out to not show a brand’s logo. Usually it’s been because I tend to pack multiple pairs of running socks when I travel and often just forget to pack standard black “dress” socks.)

One of the reasons for going through the sock bin was to weed out the numerous single socks that seemed to have lost their mates, thanks in part to: a) the laundry room sock gremlin; b) my 1-year-old Airedale Terrier that has a habit of taking single socks and burying them in my garden; c) the black hole of race-day duffle bags in my garage.

Believe me, it was hard getting rid of some of those singles, because several were among my favorites. (I don’t know about you, but I just cannot wear socks that don’t match—especially on a run.)

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The next step was trying to thin the pile by eliminating socks I just don’t wear or don’t like. You’d think I’d be able to narrow it down to a more manageable number, maybe in the 20-25 range, right?

Nope. Just as with running shoes, I’m very particular when it comes to what I put on my feet. I consider socks like a second skin and they’ve got to work in harmony with the shoes I’m wearing, on the terrain I’m running and in the weather I’m enduring.

There’s no formula, but picking my socks for a particular run is a conscious effort that is largely determined by my feet. It depends if I want more or less “feel” for the ground and control of the shoe I’m in. But it also depends on if I’m going to be running in hot weather or on roads, dirt paths or rocky trails. Some call it proprioceptive awareness or the sensory interaction with the ground. I just know my feet know best.

I eventually removed 50 or so pairs of socks, but even that was so hard to do. I really like a lot of those socks—some of which I know date back to the late 1990s despite a lack of evident wear-and-tear. In fact, I recalled specific runs or races I ran in some of those socks. Others I took out were virtually brand new, but for one reason or another they are just socks I don’t like to run in. (I have to admit I loathe socks with super-soft interiors—especially those entirely made from synthetic materials—that allow my foot to “swim” around. Bleccchhh!)

(No, I didn’t throw the socks in the trash. I’ve washed the socks and, along with 30 pairs of recent wear-tested running shoes, I will soon be donating them to One World Running, a Boulder, Colo.-based organization that provides previously worn shoes and other running gear to people in need.)

Most people have their preferences in the socks they like to wear, and, as runners, we definitely should. Some people like no-show socks, some like above-the-calf compression socks, some like something somewhere in between. Some people like wool, others like cotton, others like synthetic blends. To each their own. My trouble is that I only have two feet.

So now I’m down to about 130 pair of running socks. I know, I know, that’s still ridiculous, but I just couldn’t part with any more at the moment. Maybe that’s a tell-tale sign of a bigger problem. Perhaps I need to see a socks addiction therapist.