I was pretty excited Christmas morning when I saw that Santa put three new pairs of running socks in my stocking. Oh all right. I actually helped Santa out by purchasing them myself and stuffing them in. But if Santa had known how important socks are to a runner, then he totally would have done it himself, I’m sure. Of course, Santa’s not a runner (although he should be with all those cookies he eats), so he doesn’t get it.

Socks have become one of my most important pieces of exercise gear. I never would have thought that I would care so much about the piece of cloth that acts as a barrier between skin and shoe. But if I could go back to my first year of running, I would’ve put a lot more thought into it.

That year left me with lots of blisters on my feet. I basically got one blister per toe after each run, and then I’d get a big one on the insides of each of my soles, as well. I couldn’t figure out why, and for a while, I even came to accept it as just a part of being a runner. Then I found out that some runners don’t get blisters on their feet at all. Say what?

I had expensive socks with extra cushion in the toe and heel. The package said they were for running, so I believed it. I blamed my foot blisters on my shoes.

I tried out several pairs. I always got blisters. As my first year of running progressed, I learned that anti-chafe lubricants, like 2Toms SportShield, could be used on more places than my chafing thighs. It helped a lot in between my poor little toes. But I was still getting big blisters on the inner sides of my feet.

During my second year of running, I bought a pair of compression socks. They are thinner and tighter on your feet (and on shins and calves, which is why I got them). I wore them on a 16-mile run. Afterward, I noticed something: no new blisters. Could it be the socks?

Yes, yes, it could. Turns out that little piece of cloth between skin and shoe is very important. Are you wearing the right socks?

Go here for some tips on what to look for when buying the perfect pair of running, cycling and hiking socks.