What are Ankle Socks?

Ankle socks are one of the most misunderstood socks in the dresser drawer.  Higher than a pair of no-show socks yet shorter than a crew sock, the ankle sock rests just above the talus (ankle bone). 

While you could wear ankle socks for various activities, most fashion experts agree that ankle socks are best for athletic use only.  

Today, we’ll explore all things ankle socks – let’s begin.

How Long are Ankle Socks?

Ankle socks rise between 4 to 6” from heel to cuff, just above the ankle bone.  For comparison, low cut socks rise 2.5,” and crew socks rise 11”.

What to Wear With Ankle Socks

You must carefully consider your clothing and shoe choices when wearing ankle socks.  Here are a few tips:

When NOT to wear ankle socks:

Casual Shorts: While it may make sense to wear ankle socks with shorts, they remain visible above the shoe collar, given their height.  Instead, consider wearing no-show socks.

Pants: When wearing pants, the skin above the ankle sock isn’t noticeable when standing, as we demonstrate here:

ankle socks are hidden while standing

However, once you sit down, the pants rise a few inches, causing the skin between the pant and the sock to be visible:

when sitting with ankle socks skin exposed

This is a common problem, especially when wearing aggressively cut pants.  Instead, consider wearing crew socks.

Sandals:  Under no circumstances should you wear ankle socks with sandals, flip flops, etc.  

When you CAN wear ankle socks:

Athletic Activities:  Ankle socks work well for athletic-centric activities, including running, hiking, soccer, and more.  The modest cut never gets in the way of equipment while allowing more skin exposure to keep you feeling cooler.  

As you can see in the picture below, running shoes often have a much higher collar, which covers up more of the sock, leading to a more pleasing appearance:

ankle socks are for working out

Given these advantages, you’ll find that most running socks are ankle socks for this reason.


Whether you want to know more about this sock type or perhaps the details of specific features, here’s a diagram outlining ankle socks:

ankle sock diagram

Here’s more to learn about these features:

  • Cuff: This area along the top of the sock provides security by preventing the sock from slipping off while wearing.
  • Instep: This material is often lightweight to allow for ventilation for your foot.  Adequate ventilation prevents sweat and odor.
  • Toe Seam: Socks are made on a circular knitting machine.  The seam is where the sock is sewn shut.
  • Toe Pocket: This may have a reinforced fabric to prevent holes from sharp toenails.  A toe pocket should be wide enough to accommodate all your toes.
  • Heel Pocket: A recessed area that allows your heal to rest while also reducing movement of the sock when wearing.
  • Arch Support: Provides moderate compression for comfort and a better sock fit.
  • Transfer: The transition of the fabric between the instep and sole.
  • Sole: This fabric along the bottom of the sock is often reinforced for both durability and walking comfort.

Common Materials

Many companies will use performance fabrics when making ankle socks because they are often worn for athletic purposes. Therefore, expect to find cotton, polyester, rayon, and spandex in most ankle socks.  

These materials can increase airflow between your toes, preventing foul odors, moisture buildup, and blisters.

Are Ankle and Quarter Socks Different?

Ankle and quarter socks may or may have the same height.  When labeling socks, it’s up to the company.

When visiting a local department store, we found the Champion Men’s Ankle Socks to be identical in ankle height to RBX Men’s Quarter Crew Socks:

These ankle and quarter socks are the same height

The takeaway: when you see the name ankle or quarter crew, expect the sock to raise roughly the same height up the leg.

Colors & Designs

Ankle socks come in various colors, designs, and patterns.  However, unlike the crew sock with exposed ribbing, ankle socks are nearly hidden within the shoe.  

Some may want to match the sock color to their shoe color or have some fun design for casual around-the-house wear.


Like most socks, ankle socks are often only available in size ranges, including 6-9, 9-12, 12.5-15.5, etc. When purchasing ankle socks, be sure to check the size chart as shoe and sock sizes often differ.


We hope this article provided helpful information and answered any questions about the ankle sock.

Theo Lawson

With a five-year background in men's fashion, Theo Lawson has shifted his focus to the world of socks. To him, socks are more than just a piece of clothing - they're a way to express yourself and make a statement.

To improve his knowledge, Theo consults with manufacturers and interviews industry leaders to stay up-to-date on the latest sock trends. His dedication to the field has earned him the trust of companies, celebrities, and sock enthusiasts, making him a true testament to the impact that one person can have when passionately pursuing their expertise.

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