Our Favorite Running Socks
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Injinji Performance 2.0 Socks Review
Injinji toesocks. You know, the toe wranglers. The socks that make your toes look like wriggly, colored sausages. The socks that garner attention from everyone, anywhere.
When it comes to running and other outdoor play, two types of folks can benefit most from these lil’ buggers: people who get toe blisters and/or the people who could use a little space between their toes for better foot function.
Let me begin by saying that if you are one of those people who doesn’t get blisters on your toes (or elsewhere on your feet), I hate you. Just kidding. Sort of. In his book Fixing Your Feet, Jon Vonhof (An aside, if you’re an ultrarunner, backpacker, fastpacker, hiker, speed mountaineer, or adventure racer, this book will change your outdoor life.) says that the trifecta of heat, friction, and moisture, when present for an extended period of time, is the root cause of all foot blisters.
Injinji toesocks have been around for years, but the company is releasing their Performance 2.0 line in early 2013. While their toesocks have always endeavored to eliminate or reduce all three sides of the blister triangle via their fabric type and toe-encasing design, Performance 2.0 socks add models with more fabric choices, new features, and different lengths that allow you to wear the right sock for your needs in specific environmental conditions. The Performance 2.0 line also introduces a wild array of colors that many folks will find aesthetically pleasing.
The Performance 2.0 Line Summary
The Performance 2.0 line includes six sock categories: Run, Trail, Compression, Sport, Liner, and Yoga. This review focuses on the sock categories that are most applicable to runners – Run, Trail, and Compression. Here are the available models in these categories:
Performance 2.0 Run
Socks in the Run category are organized into three weights: lightweight, original weight, and midweight. All Performance 2.0 Run socks are made of a blend COOLMAX XtraLife (the time-proven, moisture-wicking fiber that here includes strands of CORDURA for increased durability) and Nuwool (Injinji’s own Merino wool) fibers. The midweight sock additionally offers midfoot and heel padding. Each sock weight is presented in two lock lengths, mini-crew and no-show.
Performance 2.0 Trail
Injinji’s Trail socks are all midweight socks with midfoot and heel padding. They’re made of COOLMAX XtraLife and come in mini-crew and micro lengths.
The Ex-celerator 2.0, Injinji’s new compression sock, is made of LYCRA Energy, which is basically LYCRA with graduated compression. As a compression sock, it comes in over-the-calf length only.
Biggest Changes in the Performance 2.0 Line
Those who are familiar with Injinjis will find a couple notable changes and upgrades in the Performance 2.0 line. Let’s start with the most obvious: color. Injinji began its life offering socks in black, brown, and white, then later expanded into gray, pink, green, and a couple blue shades with their Performance line. With Performance 2.0, we see even more colors and color combinations. If you like bright, Injinji now has it. And, don’t worry, these running socks still come in those traditional colors, too.
The crew-length socks of Injinji yore are now gone, and the cuff of all the sock models has been upgraded with extra elasticity. The Trail socks have a double cuff.
Injinji has been experimenting with wool in what was called the Outdoor category of socks in their Performance line, but now it shoes up in all the Performance 2.0 Run socks.
Also, all of the Run, Trail, and Compression sock models offer a mesh top, from about the crease between the top of the foot and the lower leg to about the start of the metatarsals, with a wider weave that’s designed to offer greater heat and moisture transfer away from the foot.
Finally, a band of light compression runs around the foot, via a tighter fiber weave, and under the arch. This band is meant to deliver a teensy bit of support to the arch and to help keep the sock in place on the foot.
Performance 2.0 Fabrics Review
Most “technical” socks these days are focused on reducing via fabric the heat and moisture that builds up around an athlete’s foot. There are a lot of fabrics, natural, human-made, and a combination of both, that seem to do the trick for certain people. Some love wool, while others can get away with cotton. I’ve been at this outdoor thing a while – I went on my first backpacking trip and ran my first marathon when I was 18 – and here’s what I’ve learned about sock fabric and feet: wear what works for you. Every foot is different in terms of the amount of heat and moisture it produces in a given environment and, even more, every foot can tolerate a variable amount of heat and moisture before it starts to blister.
With the Performance 2.0 line’s Run, Trail, and Compression socks, you’ve got three fabric choices: the combo of COOLMAX XtraLife and Nuwool in the Run socks, COOLMAX XtraLife in the Trail socks, and LYCRA Energy in the Compression socks.
As such, the socks all feel a little different afoot. My favorite material among these three is hands-down the COOLMAX XtraLife/Nuwool blend found in the Run socks. Wool, wool, wool, we outdoorsy folk love wool’s functionality in terms of its ability to wick moisture and retain heat even when sopping wet. This fabric blend, though only partly made of wool, still behaves like it. My internal body temperature runs cold and my feet favor wool-blended socks when conditions are cool and wet because my feet don’t begin to feel like hard cement blocks I have to lug around.
As temperatures increase, the less sock I want around my feet. I found each of the three Run sock weights, lightweight, original weight, and midweight, to have applicability in variable temperatures. I notice a distinct lack of sock volume in the lightweight Run socks; they have a whisper-y, almost-not-there quality about them.
If you’re like me and have been wearing Injinji socks for years, you might notice that the Trail socks, which are made of COOLMAX XtraLife, can, when paired with a smooth insole, can feel a little slippery underfoot. I wear a couple different kinds of after-market insoles, and had a bit of sock-against-insole slippage when running downhill with certain insoles and the Performance 2.0 Trail sock. But, my foot quickly adapted to and wasn’t bothered by this. In fact, a couple runs later, I had forgotten all about it until I looked back at my review notes.
I’m a huge fan of compression socks in general, so I love the Ex-celerator 2.0 concept and these socks work for me in a variety of workout conditions. Their graduated compression is noticeable but also noticeably less compressive than other compression-sock models made by other companies. Finally, I cared for their LYCRA Energy fabric the least when it was wet, as I found my feet and lower legs feeling colder than the rest of my body. This late fall and early winter, I’ve taken to doing my speed workouts on the gym treadmill because the out-of-doors is turning snowy and icy, and I’m almost always wearing my Ex-celerator 2.0’s there.
Performance 2.0 Features Review
First and foremost, I have to sing hurrahs and high praises for the both the new cuffs and the arch-support bands. Hurrah and high praise, for these are far and away the best Performance 2.0 upgrades! I’ve been an Injinji fan and wearer for years (Though not exclusively as it’s my foot manifesto to wear lots of different kinds of socks under the premise that exposure to variable conditions will condition my foot to better tolerate variability. Take it or leave it, it seems to mostly work for me.), since I received my first then-peculiar-looking-to-me pair in the race-schwag bag of one of my first ultras. I’ve long loved them for their ability to encase toes and, thus, eliminate toe friction – My toes are long and aligned closely with each other, and this combination provides for lots of toe-blister opportunities – so I’ve tolerated their less-awesome, now-historical aspects.
Historically, previous Injinji sock iterations have sagged and slumped on my feet and those of a number of people with whom I’ve spoken. In wearing the older-model Injinji socks for hours and days (Yes, days. I wear my socks for multiple days between washings as long as they aren’t terribly dirty.), I experienced their temporary structural breakdown. That is, they stretched out and, as a result, sagged and moved on the foot until they were washed and dried again. However, the improved cuffs and arch-support band create a stable and unmoving ride. Really good stuff, Injinji, your users asked and you answered.
In concept, I like the mesh tops of all the Run, Trail, and Compression socks for moisture and heat transfer, but I haven’t yet tested the socks beyond a two-hour run in about 90F and high-humidity conditions. I’m planning to wear the original weight Performance 2.0 Run socks to the 2013 Marathon des Sables, a pretty darn hot race and, thus, an excellent test of the mesh top.
Next, I want to give props to the Injinji peeps for the addition of padding in the Performance 2.0 Run midweight socks as well as the Trail socks. The padding just plain feels delightful and even better at the end of an ultramarathon-distance run when my biomechanics begin to falter and my feet come down a little harder than they probably should. I’d love to see a padded midfoot and heel in the other running socks of the Performance 2.0 line, too, but I also understand that Injinji has to offer diversity for other foot needs.
As I said earlier, I have long toes that lay in contact with each other unless I’m doing yoga or running on a technical trail where my toes are spread apart and gripping at the ground or my shoe for balance. Wearing toesocks does two things for me: eliminates toe-contact points and further encourages me to spread out my toes when I’m running. When it comes to Injinji toesocks, the proof is in the dang pudding: I’ve still never had a blister in them.