Socks. They seem so simple but have become very complex. Socks in their most common form are a tube (of sorts) that is knit from fabric and pulled on your feet while wearing shoes. They sound simple. It is the types of fabrics and how they are made that has become complex.
There has recently been a lot of discussion on the use of lubricants and powders with socks, and more specifically, Drymax socks. I posed the question to Bob MacGillivray of Drymax Socks. Here is his response. I will have additional comments at the end. I have taken the liberty to underline what I feel are the highlights of what he says.
About your question regarding lubes and powders and Drymax; It is our belief, which science backs up, wicking socks made of Polyester (this includes CoolMax), Wool, Bamboo, Acrylic, etc., rely on capillary action which is highly inefficient inside a shoe because where would the water go other than to be held against the skin? It can’t evaporate. So many people try to overcome this failure by slathering their feet with lubricants and/or powder.
Drymax socks work in an entirely different manner. The inner layer of our socks is made from Drymax which has zero molecular charge and are Super Hydrophobic (water hating). This allows the Drymax fibers to act like a squeegee mechanically lifting moisture from the skin transporting it to the polyester outer layer that is hydrophilic (a water loving wicking material that most of our competitors use against the skin) which is used as a reservoir to hold moisture away from direct contact with the skin.
Using powders or lubricants can have a tendency to clog the Drymax fibers inhibiting their ability to properly move moisture away from the skin. This doesn’t matter with wicking socks because once you’re wet, you’re wet and lubricants are your only relief to the frictional heat created by wet feet, the socks have failed at that point.
By wearing Drymax socks runner’s feet stay drier. Skin doesn’t soften up nearly as quickly and frictional forces don’t have such a negative effect on the feet therefore lubricants aren’t needed.
(editor’s note: Here is the link to the Drymax web page that describes the blister cycle).
At a run like a 135 miler through Death Valley we would strongly suggest using our Drymax Maximum Protection socks. These are very special and unfortunately very expensive socks. They are knit with both Drymax and PTFE Profilen (aka Teflon) fibers 360 degrees around and against the foot with polyester to the outside. The reason why we use PTFE fibers is because they are the only other fiber that also doesn’t carry a molecular charge and has similar hydrophic characteristics as Drymax. This PTFE fiber also has the lowest coefficiency of friction of any fiber on the market reducing frictional heat; this combined with the lack of moisture negates the need for lubricants.
The Drymax Maximum Protection sock is incredibly expensive to knit since PTFE is about 16 times more expensive per pound than Drymax fibers and about 30 times more expensive than polyester. It is also very difficult to knit since it is so very slippery. Make no mistake, this is 100% PTFE not some silicone coated fiber like some other manufacturers use. The wear characteristics on these socks have proven to be impressive and last longer than many of our competitors making the replacement of these socks far less common than competing cheaper socks. In addition, we have a 100% money back guarantee. If for any reason a runner doesn’t like them or any of our Drymax socks they can return them to us and we will issue a full refund, no questions asked, however we love input so any constructive insight given is always appreciated.
On all of our most recent packaging we have added the statement about not lubricating and not using powders.
Now, my comments. The ultra list on the Internet has had comments from runners asking about the use of lubes with socks. Above is the recommendation when using Drymax socks. If you use other, wicking type socks, the use of lubes or powders is almost mandatory since you don’t have the combined action of water-hating inner fabric and reduced friction from the PTFE fibers as you do with Drymax.
Over the years I have worn a lot of different companies socks. Many are very good and work well for day-to-day use – whatever your sport. Every so often along comes a great product that set itself apart form the rest of the pack. I believe Drymax socks are one such product.
The comments from runners, many of whom are world-class front-of-the-pack runners, have shown the value of Drymax socks. Are they worth the approximately $23.00 cost? It depends on how much value you place on finishing well. For runners, adventure racers, fastpackers, and other athletes, spending a bundle of money on your adventure, I advise not to skimp on socks.
Still unsure of their value? Here is a link to the Drymax Sports blog. You can read about who is wearing Drymax socks. Karl Meltzer just won the Hardrock 100 with Drymax socks. Scroll down the blog and see how the socks fare in races this summer.
Zombierunner.com carries the Drymax line of socks, including the maximum Protection sock described in this post. Zombierunner is a good source of things for your feet and most other aspects of your sport.