Racing a triathlon without socks can save you valuable seconds in transition, but that’s no use if 4km later that same athlete bounds past as you hobble along, losing minutes with blisters and a bleeding toe from rubbing trainers.
Running 5-10km at your best pace without socks should be no problem, but there are some things you can do to make this as comfortable and risk free as possible…
Firstly, consider your shoe choice carefully. Modern triathlon shoes are created with sockless running in mind, and often feature suitable lining and stitchless uppers to remove the risk of rubbing. However, shoes simply designed for running might not include these considerations, so don’t assume your trusty training or racing shoes won’t rub.
And during racing your feet may swell so you might want to go half a size up when selecting race shoes. This point also relates to how you set your laces. Tightening them as normal will probably be too tight and it’s advisable to loosen the lace very slightly from this point.
Putting talc into your shoes as you set up your transition area is a must. It’ll dry your feet and reduce rubbing (be sure to shake it all around the shoe). Using Vaseline on particular pressure points is also a great way to stop rubbing. You can tape areas liable to rub (kinesiology tape works well), too.
If allowed, set your shoes up on a towel so you can step on this. This works both to dry the feet and also remove things like gravel. Make sure your toenails are neat and, if your feet are a little hobbit-like, consider removing excess hair so this doesn’t rub or catch.
If taking part in a middle or long-course race, socks are worn by almost all athletes and, in this case, talc in your socks is the norm. Most of all, whatever event, practise all aspects in training so that nothing is a surprise on race day.
Joel Enoch is a sports scientist and triathlon coach who’s helped athletes of all abilities reach their multisport goals.