Can You Go Swimming in Socks?

swimming in socks

In the privacy of your own pool, you can swim wearing whatever clothing you want; you’ll be the one dealing with the consequences. If you are a guest at a public pool, then you have to follow the facility’s dress code.

Adhering to the pool’s dress code is extremely easy. You are only allowed to wear proper swim attire, i.e. clothing that is designed to be worn in the water, otherwise you may be asked to change your clothing to one that is swimming-friendly or to leave the pool entirely.

For instance, you’re not allowed to wear regular shorts at the pool, only swim trunks, briefs, one piece swimsuits, or bikini bottoms. In a similar vein, you can’t just wear regular socks into the pool; you must specifically wear dedicated pool socks, sometimes referred to as aqua socks.

Swimming in regular socks has many downsides like waterlogging and increasing drag which can make it hard for you to stay afloat. Some additional concerns are how it can negatively affect the pool by introducing contaminants, clogging up the pool filtration system, and having it slip off and float in the pool, raising hygiene concerns. Pool socks can avoid all of these downsides, so why would you want to swim in any other type of sock?

In this article, we will be comparing what it’s like to go swimming in socks, both regular and water socks. Spoiler alert, the comparison is fairly one-sided with water socks being the clear winner, and regular socks providing basically only downsides. Read on to find out what exactly these are.

People wear socks in the pool?

This may come as a surprise for some, since swimmers so rarely wear socks in the pool, but yes, you can wear socks in the pool as long as they are swim socks.

Pool management can sometimes prohibit other swim attire if it isn’t one of the universally accepted ones like a one or two piece bathing suit, swim trunks or briefs, and a swimming cap.

If you wear anything else, even if it is designed to be worn in the water, it is at the pool staff’s discretion whether it’s allowed and dress codes can vary depending on the pool.

For instance, not all swimming pools allow rash guards or swim leggings to be worn since they can get waterlogged as well. Some pools allow swim diapers for babies, whereas some don’t allow swim diapers (and therefore babies) in their pool. Where do swim socks fall in this?

Generally speaking, swim socks are probably allowed at most pools. If you’re unsure, look up your local swimming pool’s dress code online, email the pool management, or give them a call to confirm if water socks are okay.

A better question to ask is, why would you even want to wear water socks while swimming? There are plenty of good reasons.

Swim socks are made of a non-absorbent quick-drying material like polyester or neoprene so they don’t weigh you down, they are stretchy and sit comfortably on the skin, they can keep your feet warm as well as add an extra layer between your feet and the dirty floor, plus they increase your grip and add some superficial protection. What’s not to like?

Why regular socks are not ideal to swim in

Aside from the fact regular socks are banned from the pool, if you were to ignore the rules or swim in socks at your own pool, you’ll quickly understand why they are banned in the first place. They cause problems with waterlogging, which increase drag and weigh you down, they contaminate the water, and they clog up the pool filter. Let’s discuss each point in more detail.

They add unwanted weight

Most socks are made of wool, cotton, some blend of the two, or a similar material. These materials are notorious for absorbing water. You can feel the extra weight immediately, making it hard to stay afloat and go swimming.

The most extreme example of this is if you were to jump into a swimming pool with all of your regular clothes on (don’t actually do this), it’ll feel like you’re carrying an extra 50 pounds. For this reason, any non-swimwear attire is banned because it poses such a significant drowning risk.

They introduce outside contaminants

The swimming pool already has a plethora of bacteria and pathogens that the free chlorine in pool water is trying to eliminate. Contrary to popular belief, chlorine can take a long time to kill these pathogens, sometimes up to several days.

Therefore, the pool water is not as sanitary as you think and you can still contract waterborne diseases or spread it if you’re not careful. That is why you should always shower before you enter the pool, why you shouldn’t pee in the pool, and why you should not wear your dirty socks while swimming.

I’m not saying that your socks specifically are the cause, but if there were no rules forbidding socks and people with less than ideal hygiene wore socks in the pool (for whatever reason), then swimming pools could be ground zero for the next deadly virus outbreak.

As effective as chlorine is, it doesn’t work miracles, and introducing more pathogens just uses up the free chlorine in the pool water faster, further increasing the likelihood that certain pathogens will survive and spread.

They clog pool filters

When you shed hair in the pool, where does the hair end up? There’s a reason that there aren’t clumps of hair floating along the surface of the water; they eventually make their way to the pool filters and are removed from the pool.

That said, pool filters have a limit to how much junk they can hold. At some point, they can reach capacity and clog up. Then you will start to notice debris in the pool isn’t being removed from circulation.

Socks can contribute to clogging the pool filters much in the same way hair can. Cotton and wool, the most common materials found in socks, can break down into tiny fibers. These fibers add particulates into the water which decreases the water quality, and they can also accumulate in the pool filters and cause blockages.

They slip off anyway

Unless you are not kicking with your feet, you will find that the propulsion generated by your kicks, in combination with the weight of the absorbed water, will cause your socks to slip off. Many socks already have an issue with slowly sliding down anyways on land, and this problem is present underwater.

How would you feel if you were swimming and suddenly you swim face first into someone’s dirty sock? To say it’s unhygienic and gross is an understatement. If you wouldn’t want that to happen to you, don’t put others in the same position either.

What do regular socks even do for swimmers?

In this article, I have done nothing but talk down on the idea of swimming in regular socks. It’s not because I have an agenda, but rather, I cannot see (nor have I experienced) any upside to wearing regular socks in the pool.

What are they even doing for you? They’ll immediately get wet and provide you with no insulation whatsoever. They are likely to slip off while you’re kicking, so you will end up barefoot anyway.

They just weigh you down and make it harder for you to swim. And the cherry on top is that chlorine will deteriorate the fibers and the particulates will just clog up the pool filters faster. I see no upside, and I think any logical person would find this position to be indefensible, especially if they have gone swimming in regular socks before.