Way back in June 2011, I reviewed several sock brands which I had rotated throughout that spring season, praising those I liked best and eschewing others. I chose to revisit this topic, not because I have some sort of technical sock fetish, but because what truly makes a trail running sock stand out is durability. Spending over $10 on a pair of socks that doesn’t even last a year feels like a betrayal, and one company’s socks have withstood the test of time better than any other in my collection.
We all have favorites. Some trail runners swear by Merino wool, some like a thin and barely there sock, while others are looking for compression. Over the past two years, I found myself reaching for my Swiftwick socks to the exclusion of the other myriad brands and models in my collection. They are the only brand of socks that remain hole-free from my initial sock review, and given the relative thinness and softness of the fibers, this has been nothing short of amazing.
I decided to reach out to Swiftwick several months ago to profile some of their new models available and to do some additional testing. Swiftwick is located in Brentwood, Tennessee and all of their manufacturing is done in Tennessee. Their Performance Line socks are knitted at 200 needles which they claim is the tightest knit in the sock industry. This tight knit also allows for no seams on any of their socks and very little debris getting in around the foot. It also enhances durability a great deal and makes for a softer sock.
For runners who like Merino wool for its warmth and wicking ability, the Swiftwick Pursuit Zero ($16) is made from 21-gauge American Merino wool. Absolutely seamless, the Pursuit has a compression cuff that ranges from zero to 12 inches. These are the socks that turned me on to wool simply because they really hug the foot and they never feel like the bunch up in my shoes, even when wet. This model has been my daily running sock in summer and winter since I received my first pair in March of 2011 and I’m still running daily in the originals. They have held up incredibly well and remain relatively odorless through camping trips where I’ve worn the same pair for three days at a time.
For those of you who like a ‘no-show’ look, the Pursuit Zero barely pokes out of the top of the shoe but still has a small compression cuff to keep it from being a quitter. For runners looking for a winter sock or a bit higher cuff to keep out debris, check out the Pursuit Four or Seven.
The Swiftwick Aspire One ($14) is Swiftwick’s second most minimal sock, with the most minimal Pulse being made to wear with track spikes. The Aspire will appeal to runners looking for a very foot-hugging experience, or those with narrow feet that find that socks bunch up on them. The construction on this sock is ballistic, but very soft due to the tight knit of the Olefin fiber. For those of you unfamiliar with Olefin, it is an amalgam of Polyethylene and Polypropylene fibers which stays very dry and is resistant to abrasion. This would be a great choice for a hot-weather ultra when you want your feet to stay dry and a thinner sock to allow for some swelling and breathability.
This sock was the surprise of the bunch. The only sock on the market created from REPREVE®’s post-industrial recycled nylon, the Swiftwick Sustain Four ($16) is an eco-friendly runner’s dream and the double-density footbed combines recycled nylon fibers with Olefin to provide a second-skin fit. The longer I ran in this sock, the more I was impressed by the four-inch compression cuff which kept dirt and debris completely out but also protected against the errant rock or outsole scuff from my opposing foot.
I must qualify by saying that this is the first compression sock I have tried, so my opinion here is undereducated. What I can say about the Switftwick Performance Twelve ($25) is that it is an incredibly durable, full-length compression sock without any rubbing or discomfort from seams. A combination of Olefin, nylon, and spandex fibers are woven very tightly throughout the sock with a slightly thicker cuff at the top which keeps the Performance Twelve firmly in place. I appreciated the denser knit which provided some warmth on days when it was warm enough for shorts but I would be kicking up slush onto my calves or post-holing through snow. I also noticed some of the benefits of the Performance Twelve’s compression, and during long runs and long ascents I noticed that my calves were less fatigued.
I swear, I don’t have a sock fetish. Three years ago, if you would have told me that I would pay $16 for a running sock, I would have considered myself a yuppie and guessed that I won the lottery and switched to triathlon. But, I’ve tried most of the performance socks out there and the construction, fit, and durability of Swiftwick socks far exceed those from other brands. I don’t have a single running sock that has lasted three years, and the fact that durability comes in a very soft Merino will have me reaching for the Pursuit as my go-to ultra sock for years to come. The simple fact that I can buy one pair of Swiftwick socks for every two or three pair in another brand more than makes up for the price. It makes me feel like I’m consuming less, and with a sock like the Sustain I can even wear recycled fibers. It is an added bonus that a runner can dial in their cuff of choice from a zero to 12 inches in almost every sock.