Friday, 3 June 2011


I mean, really.
How technical can you make a sock? I remember back in the day you had a pair of normal cotton type socks, and a pair of thick red ones, you put on your boots and off you went.
If you were REALLY rebellious, you might be able to find a pair of thick socks that WEREN'T red, ( still have a pair of turquoise ones stuffed at the back of a cupboard somewhere.
And then technical fabrics started coming in, and we had a choice of socks, and a choice of how many to wear. Some people still wear 2 pairs, a liner and a thick one, some swear by one pair, (be it wool or polyester), others are still staunchly advocating red socks and nothing but.
Old school. (Sorry, I don't own red ones)

Ive worn a couple of pairs in the past decade, some good, some bad, some horrendous, and this is a basic run down of them, with photos where I can find the socks to take pictures of.

1000 mile socks
Some people love these things, they swear by them. Bascially its a sock with a thin inner lining that is attached to an outer along a seam, and "floats" inside the sock. A sock within a sock. Theoretically friction takes place between the inner and outer sock.
In my experience, they are the worst things ever concieved and taken through to market. I wore them a couple of times and suffered the worst blisters I have ever had. As far as I am concerned they are a waste of money and are best left on the shelf.

Waterproof socks. Genius idea. Its a sock with a membrane that doesn't let liquid through. Excellent. However, they feel really odd, and I certainly wouldnt go a long distance in them without some kind of liner. I can vouch for the fact they don't let water through- mainly because I have commuted in them a few times- the rain ran down my legs and into the socks, and I ended up with a cupful of water in the socks which didnt drain out, not nice at all.
So, if you want waterproof socks- make sure that you are wearing trousers, and that water doesn't flow down your legs and into the socks- or you will have wet, cold feet. Not nice.
Personally, I see them as a bit of a gimic. I would only ever use them for cycling, never for walking or running, and their place at the back of the drawer confirms their place in the pantheon of socks. To me, a waste of money. (the gloves are a different matter altogether, and I shall talk about them in a different post).
Sealskinz- not quite new school foot mapping....

Now we start getting into those socks which have different weaves and thicknesses, the specific type I have here are Medium weight socks- called Endurance Trekkers. They are an elastic, wool and polyprop mix and have cushioning around the heel and toe areas while wrapping around the foot. I have had 3 pairs of these, the first bought in 1998, which were thrown away last year- and the other two still appear to be going strong. They have been through thick and thin, raced in, walked in, biked in and generally abused. The heels are still there, the sock is still fully integrated and I cannot think of a better general purpose sock.
My running partner says I must be mad to run in them as they look too hot, but I can safely say that I havent ever actually massively overheated with them on.
All in all. Awesome socks, and apparently indestructable. (the only reason I got rid of the first ones was because they had been washed and re-worn that many times they were beginning to literally stand up on their own).
Bridgedale trekkers. Still going strong. I have a confession. That green sock... thats the 1998 sock, I thought I'd thrown it out, but no, it battles on!

Foot mapping on a smartwool sock

I have a couple of pairs of these, from ski socks to running socks. The Mid-weight hiking socks are one of the new additions to my quiver and seem to be holding up well. The whole idea of Smartwool is that the socks are body-mapped around the foot with padding around the heel and the toe- a bit like the bridgedales, they hug the feet- (which is really quite comfortable and nice), and that they are primarily made of wool. (merino wool, for those of you who are interested- farmed ecologically and sustainably in America)- the whole idea of merino wool- especially with that in Smartwool- is that it is very fine indeed, none of that horrible scratchy itchy stuff from days of yore, but a fabric that is comfortable, soft and wicks moisture away quickly.
Excellent idea, and in the thicker socks seems to work brilliantly.
Heel on the back of a low cut Smartwool sock.

On some Smartwool socks I have found that the heels do wear rather damn quickly, having gone through the backs of a pair of them in about 6-8 months. When you're paying a tenner or more for a pair of socks, you do expect them to last a fair amount longer than that. However, others have withstood much more abuse. It may be luck of the draw, I'd appreciate some feedback from the guys at Smartwool about that...
Hole in the back of a High cut Smartwool sock.


The thicker of the Tekos are excellent and I have abused mine a fair amount in the last year. They are a much stiffer sock than any of the others that I have worn- by that I mean that the elastic appears to be a stronger material, and they even seem (to a point) a more difficult sock to put on- a wierd thing to say perhaps, but perfectly true from my point of view.

I have noticed that after some time wearing them, clumps of wool do come loose from inside the socks and fall out, not something that I have noticed from any other socks really- and I would imagine that this is because of the large loops of wool inside.
Synthetic on the left, wool on the right, both the same thickness, both worn about the same amount, but the wool showing MUCH more wear
Again, with the thinner versions- light hiker and runner socks, I have seen the heels go pretty quickly- so Im not the biggest fan of them, though while they last, they are comfortable and breathe very well.

Ive only had a chance to wear the low thin versions of these socks, and so far I am mightily impressed. There has been no wear through the heel, they are just as good as the day I bought them, and Im off to run a fellrace in them this evening. They work. Again a merino wool mix, but this time, as mentioned, no heel rub through. I'd buy these again over teko and smartwool light hiking socks every time.

I haven't talked about pHD running socks because I don't own any yet, and I know that Sealskinz have just released a new and improved hiking version of their sock- and at £30, its pretty damn expensive, so unless I get given a pair at some point, I'll be spending my money on something else that I need more urgently.

All the socks have been through much the same abuse, and I can safely say that anyone that tries to sell you a merino sock on the basis that it won't smell is a big fat liar.
If going thick, any of them will do, if going thin, I'd tend to head more along the Icebreaker route, and I will never skimp on buying a pair of socks. They are as important to a boot fitting your foot as the shape of the boot itself.
1 sock, 2 socks? you decide. personal preference is best.
and last but not least, MAKE SURE the sock FITS your foot.
You can spend a lot of money on socks, and if they don't fit, its a waste of time and money, and you'll end up paying for it in blisters and blood.

As a final note, I have recieved a text telling me that Falke socks are brilliant, though I haven't tested them myself, I know that the ski socks are awesome. Running and walking... who knows?

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