Spring Sock Review
June 8, 2011 by Tom Caughlan · 30 Comments
Socks can be an under appreciated factor in a successful training or race situation. The wrong footwear in particular conditions can leave you with blisters, allow debris in next to your skin, and then there is the absolute worst sock malfunction……Quitters! Nobody can stand the feeling of socks slipping down into your shoes causing hot spots and mental distraction. The good news is that there are no quitters in this bunch.
I have enjoyed testing socks from three different manufacturers, Swiftwick, Darn Tough, and Drymax, over the winter months and I was impressed with the construction and durability of each brand. It should be noted that despite putting each model through many training runs and washing them weekly, there was not a single durability issue among the bunch. Not even a loose stitch. All socks tested also have flat toe seems and I didn’t experience any rubbing anywhere on my feet.
All socks are made in the USA, and all feature product guarantees stating that if you don’t like them you can send them back for a refund or new socks. I guess you get what you pay for.
The Swiftwick brand sent me a few models to try out. Some consisted of merino wool, a tried and true favorite, and others were made of nylon and Olefin, which is a moisture wicking and abrasion resistance fiber that does not hold odors.
Zero Performance Olefin ($9.99)
The Swiftwick Zero Performance Olefin is surprisingly thin and represents the “warmth without the weight” idea of using Olefin fiber. The “zero” (i.e, no) cuff of these socks comes up just above the collar of my trail shoes and there was no slippage. When these socks got wet they did not hold any moisture and my feet were dry very quickly. One drawback, in cold and wet conditions my feet suffered due to the thinness of the sock. These socks have become my go-to for road races, speedwork, or anytime I’m wearing racing flats. I’ve also worn them almost every day for my runs now that the weather is warmer.
One Pursuit Merino ($16.99)
The Swiftwick One Pursuit Merino is still a short sock, the “one” refers to height and this sock is designed to sit at the ankle. A thin merino sock perfect for running, the One Pursuit Merino was my go-to sock for winter running and long trail runs when varying conditions were involved. No slip, and absolutely no debris getting into the sock.
Trail Running v4 ($13.95)
Drymax socks have a dual layer moisture elimination system is designed to repel water from the layers nears the skin rather than spreading out the moisture evenly through wicking. The Trail Running v4 sock comes up higher above the ankle, which is double padded for extra protection. These socks also feature a anti-microbial resin that fights odors. These socks are bulkier and more cushioned inside the shoe than any other sock tested, and I felt that this bulkiness effected the fit of my shoe. Some people prefer a thicker sock, and while I appreciate the extra cushioning, this sock made my shoes feel too tight at times.
Drymax Maximum Protection Trail Running v4 ($27.95 – best price on web $19.95)
The Drymax Maximum Protection Trail Running v4 sock was another 1/4 crew from Drymax that seemed to fit me better. In addition, the collar of the sock really hugged my leg to keep debris out. This sock also features the enhanced cushioning of a Drymax sock and it did keep my feet warm and dry. Of the two Drymax socks, I preferred this model which fit tighter and rubbed less due to the better fit. Certainly the most expensive sock of the bunch, but one that will last you for a lifetime.
[Editor's Note: The "Maximum Protection" refers to the inclusion of PTFE (what Teflon is made of), which minimizes friction and the blisters it causes.]
Reviewer’s Note re Drymax
It should be noted that many trail runners love Drymax socks, and that they sponsor more trail runners than any sock company I have seen. I just prefer, and have always worn, thinner socks. Drymax does make thinner socks, including the Lite Trail model, but they were not submitted for review. They have a guarantee on their website stating that if you are not satisfied you can send back your socks and receipt for a full refund.
No-Show Merino Mesh ($13.95)
Despite the unfortunate green and orange appearance of the Darn Tough No-Show Merino, this thin merino sock has become my favorite of the entire bunch. Thin enough to be a race sock, warm enough to be warn in cold or wet conditions, seamless durability, and the comfort of merino wool. The feeling of a natural fiber seems to be the ideal level of comfort for my feet. Combine that with thin functionality and I’m sold. The Darn Tough’s are also incredibly lightweight and were the only company that posts a “Lifetime Guarantee” on their webpage. The key word being “lifetime.”
Each of these companies makes fantastic products with guarantees, that will trump most of what you have in your sock drawer. Mine contains a lot of Smartwool socks, Nike socks, various coolmax and moisture wicking socks, and all the models reviewed above blow them away. Since receiving these socks for testing, I have not worn a single pair of my old socks, so I’d like to personally thank the manufacturers for providing such a quality product. Great socks make a difference!
Call for Comments
Have you ever used Swiftwick, Drymax, or Darn Tough socks? If so, what did you think?