Socks or No Socks in Triathlon

At Life of Tri, we often say that transition is the 4th discipline in triathlon. If mastered, its an area where you can make quick gains, knocking minutes off your finish time. Getting faster in both transitions (T1 & T2) isn’t about training for hours on the bike, in the pool or on the track, but having a well thought out strategy, and knowing a few tricks of the trade. Knowing your equipment order is vital but one simple decision could save you vital time: ‘socks or no socks?’

Let’s put this into perspective.  This is about endurance triathlons like iron or middle distance because we believe comfort outweighs any marginal time gains. However, let’s consider this over sprint or Olympic distance. Watch any ITU race and the pro will not waste valuable seconds with socks. Their cycling shoes are on in an instance! Wet socks are a real struggle to slide on and sit right.

Going sock free shouldn’t be something you do without practising first though. The risk of blisters increases as activity generates heat, moisture and friction. And let’s be sensible about this, socks were designed to combat blisters.

However, if going sockless is for you, here is Life of Tri’s top tips for ditching the socks but staying blister free:

Lubrication – rubbing wet or moist skin will increase friction. Couple that with salt from sweat or a sea swim, and you have a recipe for disaster. A lubricant like Vaseline can reduce irritation from rubbing. Add this to the key areas where there is increased skin to skin or skin to shoe contact.

Powder – use of talcum powder will help absorb any moisture protecting it from chafing. Like the use of wet lubrication, a powder will reduce rubbing in contact areas. With the added bonus of combating smelly shoes.

Hydration – this seems logical when you think about it, but when you are dehydrated your skin will dry up (increasing the risk of irritation from rubbing), but more importantly your feet swell through the loss of sodium. Keep the fluids topped up and use salt products (if the distance requires it).

Taping – some athletes go to the extreme and will tape their feet with ‘duct tape’ prior to the start of the race. We aren’t sure if this is the best course of action. However, if you decide this is something you want to try, skip the flexible moving part of the feet because duct tape isn’t known to facilitate good running mechanisms.

Can’t do without socks – try this selection of tailor-made triathlon socks

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