Socks may be the unsung heroes of running, but Drymax Sports has achieved hero status through their running socks for trail runners and ultrarunners over the last 15 years. We all know how blisters and other foot-related drama can stop us in our tracks, and that means most of us spend many miles searching for the unicorn of socks to make our feet happy. I’ve worn Drymax running socks for over 10 years in all my trail running and ultrarunning, and they are as close to my perfect sock as I’ve ever found.
In this article, we break down the general technology, features, and performance of Drymax running socks, and we review the following five models in Drymax’s robust running line:
- Drymax Trail Running 1/4 Crew Socks;
- Drymax Lite Trail Running 1/4 Crew Socks;
- Drymax Lite Trail Running Mini Crew Socks;
- Drymax Extra Protection Running Mini Crew Socks; and
- Drymax Hyper Thin Running Mini Crew Socks.
Drymax Running Socks Technology, Features, and Performance
Drymax Sports has been making running socks since 2004, but started even earlier in the 1990s with the SecondWind Active Drymax Socks. The brand entered the trail running and ultrarunning markets in 2007, beginning with Lisa Bliss, former Badwater 135 and Spartathlon winner, and then Jamie Donaldson with her back-to-back Badwater 135 victories as well. Drymax Sports has since developed socks for golf, triathlon, the outdoors, cycling, professional and college team sports, and medicine.
In a nutshell, Drymax’s technology is all about the super-lightweight fiber used in the construction of the socks and the innovative knitting techniques that allow the socks to be seamless or nearly seamless regardless of the model. Because no anti-blister treatments or coatings are used, the unique performance aspects last for the life of the sock fibers themselves.
The socks are knitted from the inside-out according to anatomical, multi-sized, three-dimensional foot-form models and have an integrated arch band to hold them in place. This, in addition to the abrasion-resistant nylon fibers in the high-wear areas of the heel and toe, contribute to a highly durable product that holds its form for years. I have Drymax running socks from new to six years old, and though the old socks have lost some loft, they remain trustworthy on any run. The dollar-per-wear ratio is exceptionally in my favor.
The water-repelling drymax fiber makes up the inner layer of each thread and is surrounded by a nylon-covered spandex middle layer and then a moisture-attracting polyester fiber outer layer. This moves water away from the skin and to the surface of the sock where it relies on shoe ventilation to complete the moisture-management goal. Personally, I find them to move moisture out very well in all of my standard trail shoes. Post-race prune feet are rarely an issue.
With any Gore-Tex or waterproof running shoe, more moisture is retained in the sock itself once they get wet (usually from over the top of the shoe), but despite that, I don’t seem to have any increase in blisters or foot chafing, which I credit to the fibers themselves keeping the moisture sequestered. I’ve rarely wrung out a Drymax sock even after a hot-and-sweaty, stream-crossing-filled run, which I can’t say about other socks I’ve worn. I’ve also worn them in multi-hour winter romps without the benefits of waterproof shoes and had nary a blister.
Speaking of moist conditions, active odor control is infused into the drymax fibers themselves, which helps decrease overall odor retention—your mileage may vary on this one. I find it imperative to remove socks from post-run bags and put them in the washer quickly to prevent odors. As a testament to where they lie on the potential-for-stink continuum, my almost-teen son now has a couple pairs, and I make sure these are what we take on any camping trip for him. Parents of boys, I know you understand.
From a cushioning perspective, Drymax utilizes one of five different levels of density of fibers instead of a volume of padding to provide cushion. This allows you to choose the amount of protection you want without having socks that are too thick or thin to fit properly in your shoes. There is a noticeable difference between Drymax’s Cold Weather and Extra Protection models as compared to the Hyper Thin models, but not enough that it changes the size of shoes required to wear them.
Another nice detail using density instead of volume, all of their low-cut socks have an anti-slip wedge pad in the back aspect of the ankle opening to prevent the dreaded creep of the socks into the shoe while you run. Even with the Mini Crew models, my shoes never gobble up my socks while running.
Lastly, Drymax has long been a proponent of environmentally conscious manufacturing and the socks are made in the USA. Long-filament fibers are used which don’t shed, have longer lifespans, and don’t tend to break down as easily. This should lead to fewer socks in landfills. All fibers are solution-dyed, which means the colors don’t bleed in your wash and there’s purportedly no dye wastewater during sock production.
The Drymax Trail Running 1/4 Crew Socks ($14) are the tried-and-true Drymax trail running socks comparable to a high-cushioned sock from other brands but without any bogginess or excessive padding. In the newest version, denser yarns are used in high-wear places surrounding the foot for improved durability and the knitting advancements render these the softest I’ve felt against my skin in the Drymax running line. As I’ve had them for less than a year, there are no visual signs of wear whatsoever. These are my favorite socks to wear for shorter cold-weather runs or in mild weather when I know I’m going to be out all day and especially if there are a lot of rocks. The added cushioning seems to take the edge off of foot fatigue as the miles and vertical relief add up.
The cushioning comes from a density of at least 43,200 terry loops per square inch—all the padding without the thickness or flattening of said padding that can occur over time. The socks are constructed from 65% drymax/olefin, 20% polyester, 7% elastane, and 8% nylon, and have the standard Drymax Dual Layer Sweat Removal System. The newest version of this sock now has a seamless toe and a double-knit ankle portion, which conforms to the concavities of the lower shin and ankle better thus keeping out more debris. I still like to wear gaiters on trails with a lot of dust and debris, but I do like the improvements at the ankle here for keeping more gunk out of my sock. The crew-neck portion still folds over to make a shorter sock if desired.
I absolutely love the fact that the several colors offered are mostly variations on the color of dirt. These socks come in five sizes.
If you want a gateway sock into the world of Drymax, try these. The number-one selling Drymax trail running socks and my personal favorite are the Drymax Lite Trail Running 1/4 Crew Socks ($14). Like the Trail Running 1/4 Crew Socks, these are made from 65% drymax/olefin, 20% polyester, 7% elastane, and 8% nylon. These socks are still amply cushioned and protective but are slightly less dense and have a lighter overall feel than the Trail Running 1/4 Crew Socks. These are my go-to racing socks, and the only ones I bring if gear-bag space is short.
They’ve evolved from the 2018 model to also be a bit smoother and softer on the inside yet have more durability knitted into the seamless toe. There’s slightly more ankle padding within the crew-neck portion for better debris blocking, but the ability remains to turn down the ankle collar to let more heat out without creating a pinch point. Thanks to improvements in knitting technology, there are no more yarn ends against the foot, which decreases interior abrasion potential. Again, several earthy colors are offered in this model and there are four sizes.
If you need the perfect all-around running socks and you run primarily in warmer trail environs, you can’t go wrong with the Drymax Lite Trail Running Mini Crew Socks ($13.50). They are very similar to the Lite Trail Running 1/4 Crew Socks with a few exceptions—the short ankle portion the most obvious. The make-up of the socks are slightly different with 63% drymax/olefin, 22% polyester, 6% elastane, and 9% nylon, but my foot is completely oblivious to this. I choose these in hotter weather due to the shorter ankle top unless keeping debris out is more important, in which case I choose the Lite Trail Running 1/4 Crew Socks. I love everything about them and find their durability incredible—six years and going strong for some of my pairs.
Similar to the technology and comfort improvements in the Lite Trail Running 1/4 Crew Socks, these also feature a lighter feel, smoother interior, a seamless toe, and no yarn ends next to the skin. With four sizes and several earthy colors–two named after Ellie Greenwood and Speedgoat Karl Meltzer–you can even root for athletes with your sock choices.
The Drymax Extra Protection Running Mini Crew Socks ($30) are the new-and-improved offering from Drymax’s previous Maximum Protection models. They are Drymax’s gold standard in blister protection for extreme events like the Badwater 135 or in any wicked-hot summer climates as long as the extra cushioning density works well for you.
The Extra Protection Running Mini Crew Socks are a lighter and more ventilated version of the old Maximum Protection socks. I used the original Max Pro for hiking, but found them too thick for running and sometimes slippery feeling. The Max Pro had the polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) fibers surrounding the entire foot whereas the new Extra Protection Running Mini Crew Socks utilize these superhydrophobic fibers strategically along the bottom of the foot. This results in adequate prevention of plantar blisters while still improving weight, breathability, moisture management, and overall comfort. That slippery sensation is also eliminated. The socks are now made with 30% drymax/olefin, 22% polyester, 12% elastane, 4% nylon, and 26% PTFE, and they come in a couple colors and four sizes.
Though these running socks don’t have a seamless toe, I’ve been pleasantly surprised that I get no hot spots on the outside edge of my first toe regardless of shoe choice. I don’t use foot lubricants, but this sock is said to eliminate the need for them altogether. I can’t attest to that fact, but I can say that when I wear these for routes with hours of technical downhill, I get less irritation on the edges of my heels.
And now for the minimalist Drymax running socks that weigh next to nothing but still offer excellent moisture management and blister protection—the Drymax Hyper Thin Running Mini Crew Socks ($12.50). At only 12 grams per sock in a size large, these are the whisper-light socks of the running world. They’re constructed of 70% drymax/olefin, 14% polyester, 5% elastane, and 11% nylon. They have a bit more of a slippery feel on hard floors, but once inside a snug-fitting running shoe, the sock disappears and your focus is on your run. Somehow in socks this thin and light, Drymax still includes the Dual Layer Sweat Removal System, but this time, the knit is flat without terry loops and about as thick as a dime. Mesh striping further ventilates the socks and enhances the moisture and heat movement away from the foot.
I find these socks too thin for my style of trail running, but they are my favorite to wear with road shoes on dirt roads or crushed gravel and they’ve also become my go-to cycling socks since they fit easily in cycling shoes. Despite not feeling padded, they also provide enough protection with my well-cushioned road shoes to get the job done without any heat build-up. They’re also easy to choose for a treadmill run. The wider five-size range is nice for those at the longer foot end of the spectrum and the color offerings are a little more varied.
Drymax Socks Overall Impressions
Drymax Sports socks have been my favorite running socks for so many years. As a longtime user, I’m very impressed by the improvements made since the 2018 versions of these socks. The improved softness and knitting practices have enhanced the overall sock-wearing experience and the blister protection keeps shining through. The comfort and stretchy snugness of the 1/4 Crew and Mini Crew styles at the ankle are neither too tight nor too loose, which is great given the size changes that sometimes occur in the lower legs during ultramarathons and time spent in adverse conditions. To top it off, Drymax offers discounts for active and retired military, first responders, teachers, and medical personnel! Truly, my Drymax socks are the easiest choice I make regarding my gear on any given training run or race. If you don’t have a unicorn sock yet, here’s your chance.
Call for Comments
Calling all Drymax running socks wearers! Leave a comment to share which models you run in and your thoughts about them.
[Editor’s Note: If you’re affiliated (i.e., an employee, ambassador, etc.) with a brand, please share your relation in each of your comments on this article. Thanks!]