Sock loyalty – is there such a thing? Is there really more than one ‘good’ running sock? Why are many people are loyal to their favorite socks?
It started with a simple email to one of the ultrarunnng forums:
“I’m so VERY disappointed today. My loyalty to a running sock company is unfortunately coming to an end given their recent business practices and unprofessionalism… it might be time for a change. So I’m hoping some of you could recommend a good running sock for me. I am NOT at all interested in Smartwool (NFI)… been there, done that. What I am interested is a sock that offers amazing cushioning, breathability and if needed, warmth. I’ve been running in a pair of Coolmax socks (NFI) for the last 2 years made by this local company… I’m sad to be searching yet it must be done… I loved the Coolmax with cushioning… it was PERFECT.”
Then the responses started – one after the other – for days. I found them interesting and fun to read. Being a sock lover, I decided to pay close attention to what these athletes were saying. I knew there was something to learn.
Right new, here is what people wrote, in sock company alphabetical order.
I wear Drymax socks every day of my life for everything that I do. They are the only socks I wear. When it comes to running ultras, I have yet to get a significant blister since I have been wearing them.
Another vote for Drymax. Ran Leadville in one pair, no blisters, nuf said.
I have no problems at all with Drymax. To me, they’re a godsend. OTOH, I had all sorts of blister problems with Injinji and they started falling apart on me after only a couple hundred miles. Those Smartwool micro-crew socks used to be great for me, but now, not so much.
Injinji socks worked great for me at three straight races.
Badwater (one pair the whole way); Leadville (one pair even with water crossing) and UTMB (one sock change). For some reason my feet took a beating at Keys 100 this year, but I think shoes were the issue, not socks (which were Injinji).
I get blisters with ALL socks EXCEPT injinjis, and with injinjis, I get no blisters.
I like my Injinjis, but I’ll only wear them during a short race, or on short easy runs because of how unpredictable their wear is. Put me in the category of always wearing Injinji socks. I have several pair that have been around since I started wearing them in 2003.
Injinjis! Not much in the way of cushion, but pretty comfy, nonetheless. The merino wool version keeps me plenty warm in single digit temps.
You’ll get very mixed reviews about the Injinjis. IMO, they’re fabulous. I probably have 30 pairs of them, and I wear them pretty much all the time, regardless what I’m doing. As far as lifetime goes, I have pairs that have seen thousands of miles of running and are still hanging in there. Others will report sock failures in the first 100 (or fewer) miles. Not sure whether their socks were a different material (there are several alternatives), they just got a lemon, the socks are better suited to certain running styles or anatomical properties, or what. Anyway, one very strong vote “for.”
Another vote for injinji. They are all I wear. Never had a blister. I’m not big on cushion. I wear minimal shoes (race flats, VFF’s etc) all the time except on fancy date nights. Performance style wears longer than the other materials in my experience.
I tried a pair of SmartWool socks several months ago and haven’t had a problem since. I really like them a lot!
Smartwools that I ran my first marathon AND my first ultra in without any blister problems at all. Now I can’t even wear them in a 5K. I don’t know why they changed. And I sure wish I could get away with 47-cent tube socks from Costco.
Here’s my two cents on the gear in question… Socks: Smartwool – end of story. Their cycling socks offer the perfect length for trail running. They bounce back after every wash and last quite a long time. Breathable in the summer, and retain their warmth during the cold – even when you go stream crossing in the winter. Don’t try that with a synthetic!
I’d like to recommend Swiftwick socks. I got a pair early this fall from a race & wear them every time if they’re clean (sometimes even when they’re dirty). Really cushy. They hold up really well in the cold/wet too.
I got a pair of socks from TNF this fall that are moving up my favorites list too.
My vote would be for Thorlo’s, Level 3 Running.
I have been wearing Thorlo crew running socks for 16 years and 30,000+ miles with nary a blister. Excellent cushioning.
I love my UnderArmour socks.
Wigwam wool-polypro blend socks were the best ever. ‘Twas also about 15 yrs ago I went around to all shops in the SF Bay area and bought what they had left of the Marathon Racers. Now down to about 5 new pairs and several used. Save’em for 100s.
I have some Wigwam Ultimax wool blend socks I got *15* years ago that are still running strong.
I love the Wigwam Ingenious socks.
For me, you can’t go wrong with Wright socks, Drymax and I been using Wal-Mart Coolmax for years.
I have found the double-layered Wright socks – and Glide – just about eliminated my problems with blisters.
Who wears socks?
Then there were a few general comments about the subject:
If this conversation has proved one thing, it’s that what works for any one person won’t necessarily work for any one other person. You just have to try different brands until you find one that works for you.
Lots of folks on the list have strong opinions about their socks, and you’ll always get the old school tube sock crowd chiming in. It something works, why change it (don’t fix things that aren’t broke is always my first advice)… but if your socks are not working try other options.
The only problem is that that doesn’t work for everybody. I got a pair of Drymax socks (from the great Drymax folks, who were there at ATY last December), and while I liked the socks a lot, I ended up with a tremendous blister on the ball of my left foot from the socks sliding around. They may have just been the wrong size, I don’t know, but when I switched to my then-standard double-layer Wright socks, things settled down.
So what have I learned? Socks are a very personal choice. We pick them based advertisements, emails like those above, suggestions from others, and simply by what is available at our local stores. There are many good socks to choose from. Some will work for your feet while others won’t. Questions include how much cushioning do you need? What weather will you be running in? Will there be water? Do you need any unique features like toe socks or double layers?
Companies want to make their socks the best. Many shoe companies have socks made that carry their name and many companies are trying to tap into the outdoor sports market. The choices are many.
So, are some better than others? IMHO, yes. Injinji socks are great for those prone to toe blisters, Drymax socks excel at moisture control, and Wright Socks offer double layers. Many others are made with almost equal part of different fabric components. While they may have areas of different thickness of cushioning, vents, and a variety of percentages of components, they are all very similar.
If this post inspirers you to try one of the socks mentioned, ZombieRunner carries most of them. And Don and Gillian at ZombieRunner are good people too.
Disclosure: I receive sock samples from Drymax, which I use at the races where I provide foot care services and I also give samples to athletes. I also have an affiliate relationship with ZombieRunner and earn a small amount from referrals.