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The Best Socks for Every Kind of Shoe, According to Stylists

You'll want to balance style and comfort when it comes to your sock choices.

Even when you've crafted the most meticulous of outfits, complete with the perfect pair of shoes, socks tend to be an afterthought. However, stylists say that choosing the right socks can greatly enhance your ensemble—not to mention provide a functional boost that will keep your feet comfortable throughout the day. The trick is knowing which socks to wear with every type of shoe, balancing practical considerations with your own unique sense of style. Not sure where to begin? Read on to hear from fashion experts about the best socks to wear with every kind of shoe.

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Boat shoes

Pairs legs of man and woman legs in red and blue topsiders on white yacht deck.
Max Topchii / Shutterstock

Ideally, you should be able to wear boat shoes sans socks without causing your feet to sweat and blister. However, some people find that this is exactly the price you pay for that casual maritime look.

"Boat shoes are a summer staple and were designed to be worn on deck without socks, but the modern urban environment isn't always so kind on bare feet," explains Sally Samuels, head designer for the menswear line Savile Row Company.

She says that if you experience any discomfort at all while wearing boat shoes, no-show socks are the way to go. "Choose a pair in breathable cotton to keep your feet cool and comfortable."

Women's dress shoes

Woman with Many Pairs of Heels
Moustache Girl/Shutterstock

Women's dress shoes such as high heels and flats are traditionally worn with no socks at all. However, if your key concern is comfort, you may wish to opt for tights or no-show socks, experts say.

"No-show socks can be tricky because they need to provide protection and comfort without being bulky. Look for lightweight options that come in a breathable cotton or a cotton-polyester blend if you want something that has a little more stretch," says Amara Rajie, the in-house stylist for Hyper Arch Motion shoes.

She adds that the most important feature of no-show socks is a non-slip grip on the inside of the heel. "There's nothing worse than being stuck with a sock that's constantly sliding down underneath your foot!"

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Men's dress shoes

A man in a blue suit ties up shoelaces on brown leather shoes brogues on a wooden parquet background

If you're planning on wearing dress socks, choose a pair that's as elegant and refined as the shoes themselves, suggests Samuels.

"The rule is to match your sock color to your trouser color to create a seamless line that extends the appearance of your leg, making you look taller and sleeker," she says.

Samuels says that Merino wool or cashmere socks are ideal thanks to their lightweight warmth and breathability. "These materials also offer a subtle sheen that's fitting for formal occasions."

Besides creating a sleek silhouette, men's dress socks also serve several practical purposes, "such as protecting your feet from rubbing the insides of your shoe, keeping feet dry to prevent bacteria growth, and adding warmth in colder months," adds Rajie.


Older woman in athletic wear tying sneaker
Nastastic / iStock

Experts agree that when it comes to sneakers, the best socks have ample cushioning and are made with breathable, moisture-wicking materials.

"If you are hiking up a mountain or running a marathon in sneakers, please wear the socks that perform best for that activity," says Kriena Nederveen, the New York and Los Angeles-based stylist behind Cle D'Or.

However, she adds that style considerations factor in more when you step outside the world of athletic shoes.

"With most lifestyle sneakers I prefer a no-show sock. If you are wearing high tops, you do not need to worry about this," she tells Best Life. "There is a trend of wearing white socks pulled up mid-calf with oversized shorts. If you are under 30 and know what you are doing, go for it."


Woman trying on black flat shoes

Loafers are another shoe that can be worn with a variety of socks, says Rajie.

"It all comes down to personal preference. In colder months, the best socks for loafers can look more like socks for dress shoes—longer in length, thinner, and made of high-quality materials like cotton or merino wool to keep feet warm," she explains.

"In the warmer months, loafers can be worn with no-show socks similar to heels or flats," she adds. "Once again, the most important characteristic of no-show socks for loafers is making sure they have a non-slip heel grip to avoid sliding underneath your foot."

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woman wearing blundstone boots sitting by a lake
Leah Sanderson/Shutterstock

Whether you opt for rugged hiking boots or sophisticated Chelsea boots, thicker socks are generally a good idea, says Samuels. "They provide cushioning, prevent chafing, and insulate your feet against the cold."

She adds that looking for light materials like Merino wool can offer warmth without excessive bulk. For hiking, you may even want to consider specially designed socks with reinforced heels and toes and compression bands around the arch for extra support, she says.

Nederveen adds that boots with heels can benefit from one additional feature. "With heeled boots, you will need a no-skid pad or your foot will slide forward and your toes will jam."


Close up of a woman's feet wearing black espadrille sandals
Maryviolet / iStock

Some style experts say that socks with sandals are decidedly in among the high-fashion set. However, in most crowds, the look remains polarizing—and the experts we spoke to warned that most people will look uncoordinated and uncool wearing this particular pairing.

"Please do not wear socks with sandals!" says Nederveen. "This is a pretty universal rule. The one exception is slides with a right chunky sock, but you need the attitude required to pull off this look."

Samuels adds that wearing socks with sandals also undermines some of the shoes' biggest benefits. "The design and purpose of sandals are to keep your feet cool and aired out so wearing socks with them not only looks awkward but also negates their practicality."

Lauren Gray
Lauren Gray is a New York-based writer, editor, and consultant. Read more
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