An expert explains why some Olympic gymnasts wear socks

While watching the gymnasts compete at the Rio Olympics, you might have noticed something interesting: some competitors wear socks, while others go barefoot.

Here’s Russian gymnast Seda Tutkhalian in her socks:

Seda Tutkhalian. Picture: Getty Images

Chinese gymnast Shang Chunsong wore her socks, too:

Shang Chunsong. Picture: Getty Images

Meanwhile, you might have noticed that Aly Raisman, Simone Biles, and the rest of the American team all compete barefoot:

Picture: Getty Images

INSIDER was curious what would make a gymnast want to compete with or without socks on, so we reached out to the head coach of the University of Arizona’s gymnastics program, Tabitha Yim.

Turns out, the main reasoning concerns friction and turns.

“The half socks the gymnasts wear help reduce friction and protect feet while practicing and performing these turning elements,” Yim tells INSIDER in an email. “Some gymnasts don’t need the socks because they do not perform any major turning elements while others feel the socks are distracting during their other skills.”

Yim noted that thanks to new rules, certain dance moves “that involve turning two or more revolutions on one foot,” have become much more popular. Thus, you’ll likely see more gymnasts wearing socks to avoid unwanted friction on the skin of their feet.

So ultimately while socks can help, wearing a pair won’t immediately turn you into an Olympic athlete.

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