Joy of Sox – a little luxury for your feet

Open any cycling magazine, and you’ll see pages and pages of ads for all manner of cycling gear designed to make you ride faster and farther, more efficiently and sometimes with more comfort. Then look at the prices. Yeah, that’s a let down. We all want that edge, but not if we’ll need a 2nd mortgage.  Surely there’s a piece of equipment that anyone can afford, and will immediately offer a performance advantage, isn’t there?

Socks. Yes, socks! Once upon a time, our athletic sock choices were white cotton with stripes, white cotton without stripes, or black nylon/polyester. Now we’ve got Lycra®, CoolMax®, nylon, merino wool, silk, alpaca, spandex, and all manner of proprietary blends and ingredients to make the strongest, lightest, best fitting, heat-regulating, moisture-wicking, most comfortable socks your money can buy. And they’re not even expensive. Socks in this review run from about $6 up to the $20 range, and there are different options to suit your needs, budget, and fashion sense. I put them all through their paces, and there’s not a single pair that isn’t a winner – they’ll all make your feet (and wallet) happy.

If you look at a plain cotton sock, it’s got very little shape, with basically just a toe and a heel section at either end of the body. And it’s probably the same density throughout. Turn it inside out at the heel, and hold it up to the light. If you see tiny spots of light, don’t expect it to hold up too long under the pressure of running or cycling. A quality sock has very dense stitching in the fore and aft areas, to provide cushioning that doesn’t mat down or hold moisture. The best designs use different fibers and layers, different weaves, and different densities, all aimed at providing comfort while controlling the dual enemies of our feet – moisture and heat, which can lead to blisters and decreased performance.

My unscientific testing consisted of biking, hiking, and walking, in a variety of footwear. I’ve also noted which socks serve more than one purpose, and should mention that each pair spent a few 14+ hour days in my work shoes, which breaks down cheap cotton socks into a damp and uncomfortable mess. While this would hardly be considered a comprehensive long-term test, consider the fact that one of the companies reviewed here has been in business for over 100 years, and all the others have at least a couple of decades of experience. They’ve clearly demonstrated that they will stand the test of time, with some even offering lifetime guarantees.

Also worth mentioning, nearly every brand profiled has made an impressive commitment to the environment through various means, be it manufacturing processes, the use of renewable resources, or something as simple as soy ink for their packaging. They all use state of the art technology and materials, with many of them holding patents for design, machinery, processes, and natural or synthetic fiber blends. Check out each manufacturer’s website for more details, as well as their complete line of socks.

Some notes on materials:

Merino: Very fine wool, it repels dirt yet can absorb moisture. Doesn’t itch like regular wool, and is a renewable resource.

Alpaca: Similar to wool, but warmer, its lack of lanolin makes it hypoallergenic. Also a renewable resource.

CoolMax®: A highly breathable synthetic fiber widely used in sportswear due to its ability to wick moisture from the skin so it can evaporate, leaving you dry and cool.

Spandex: Also known by the brand name Lycra®,  is an exceptionally elastic synthetic fiber that is used in small quantities to help socks stretch to fit the contours of our feet while still retaining shape.

Nylon: A staple of most socks these days, nylon offers excellent strength and wear resistance, with minimal bulk.

Check back daily, as this review runs all week long.

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