Why Do Soccer Players Cut Their Socks?

You may have noticed when watching a soccer game that occasionally, some players are wearing socks that seem to be in terrible condition. The socks can contain multiple holes, or even have the entire bottom section missing. Some people might conclude that these are just old socks, however, the players will actually cut holes in their socks intentionally.

Why do soccer players cut holes in socks?


Those players with particularly large calf muscles will cut holes in the rear of their socks to relieve the pressure. Professional players will usually receive a brand-new pair of socks before every game. New socks will not have had time to be stretched out, so can feel quite constricting.

Manchester City player, Kyle Walker is renowned for playing with socks that are full of holes. After one particular game, the soccer pundit and ex-professional, Jermaine Jenas provided an explanation:

"It's about functionality. He obviously thinks his socks are too tight so he cuts holes in them to help the circulation in his calves so he doesn't get cramp."

- Jermaine Jenas

Increased grip

Traditional soccer socks tend to be quite coarse and thick, for maximum durability during a soccer game. However, this material can also be uncomfortable and slippery when worn with cleats. To counteract this, players will sometimes wear a more traditional sock, or even a specialized grip sock, underneath their soccer socks. They will then cut the foot area from the soccer sock, resulting in a 'hybrid' sock, which is has increased comfort and grip on the foot, but strong and durable around the shins.

There is also evidence to back these claims up. A study by Charlotte Apps of Nottingham Trent University demonstrated that grip socks can improve performance and reduce in-shoe foot displacement of the forefoot in male and female sports players.


In addition to the reasons above, players have also been known to cut the bottom of their socks for commercial purposes, to reveal the branding for the undersock which they are wearing. This was particularly noticeable during the World Cup of 2018. Many high-profile players, including England's Dele Alli, Raheem Sterling, and Eric Dier, were cutting their official team-designated socks, to reveal the Trusox socks underneath, which were clearly recognizable due to their distinctive branding. However, this kind of advertising is not permitted within the laws of the game, and the teams were hit with fines of $70,000.

In another example, during a match between Juventus and Borussia Mönchengladbach, Juventus player Alvaro Morata was ordered to leave the field by referee Bjorn Kuipers, in order to change his socks. The reasoning was that his undersocks were a different color from his team's socks.

What are the rules regarding holes in socks?

There is nothing specifically stated in the rules of the game that restricts players from cutting holes in their socks. However, in doing so, they may be breaching other rules. One issue would be if the holes were big enough that the color of the sock was now difficult to interpret. Having contrasting colored socks for each team is essential for the referee to easily differentiate players on the field. If the player is wearing a different colored undersock which is visible through holes in the outer sock, then the referee may object.

"The two teams must wear colors that distinguish them from each other and the match officials. ...If tape or similar material is applied externally it must be the same color as that part of the stocking it is applied to"

- IFAB - Football laws, rules and regulations

Another issue is that the holes in the socks reveal the branding of an unofficial manufacturer's product being worn underneath, which is against advertising rules.

"Players must not reveal undergarments that show political, religious, personal slogans, statements or images, or advertising other than the manufacturer's logo. For any offense, the player and/or the team will be sanctioned by the competition organizer, national football association, or by FIFA."

- IFAB - Football laws, rules and regulations