Swiftwick SUSTAIN Zero with Repreve

Last year, Tamara and I both reviewed some Swiftwick Merino blend socks, and came away equally impressed. By combining the benefits of a natural fiber with good design and quality construction, Swiftwick has created a line of socks sure to please everyone from the casual athlete to the hardcore weekend warrior. Thankfully, they’re not the kind of company willing to sit around and bask in praise. Because within our demographic (outdoor enthusiasts that are environmentally conscious), high quality and performance is not enough to carry a brand. A true commitment to sustainable practices is required, and Swiftwick delivers on that front as well. Which is why we were not at all surprised to see them team up with Repreve, the main component of their Sustain line of performance socks.

Swiftwick’s SUSTAIN line are the only socks available right now that are made in the USA from Repreve’s post-industrial recycled nylon. That gives them quite a bit of environmental cred, although it would be meaningless if they didn’t perform well too. So we tested them, mercilessly. My favorite part of testing is to wear the same pair (without washing) for a week straight, through a variety of footwear and activities. From there, I can look for strengths and weaknesses. To be fair, if a sock ripens and offends the nose after several days, or starts bunching and sagging, it’s not necessarily a failure. We just have to assess the reasonableness of what it was put through.

Swiftwick SUSTAIN Seven with Repreve

Swiftwick differentiates socks in each line by their cuff height, with the Zero pretty much a “no-show”, One being an ankle sock, Four about the height of cycling socks, and Seven reaching mid calf. This test included all four available options for the SUSTAIN line (which are only available in black or white), but additional heights and colors are available for their other socks. What are they like? Well, they’re really thin, yet have some very dense padding at the heel and seamless toe. That’s pretty much my ideal sock right there, but it still takes more than that to win me over. (Especially since they are not available in my preferred two inch height)  There are different blends, but they are all roughly 1/2 nylon, about 1/3 Repreve, with the remainder olefin and a little Spandex thrown in. Overall, I get the impression that the fibers are somewhat finer than a typical nylon technical sock, which makes them feel a bit softer.

Swiftwick describes them as having a “Sculptured Footbed”, and that sums up the fit perfectly. Too much stretching can feel overly snug, too little can lead to extra material that gets bunched up, especially if moisture management isn’t there. But all four heights that I tried fit really well, with no bunching after several long days. And they stayed dry, even after an afternoon at the gym, chasing my wife on a treadmill. Walking around the house without shoes at the end of the day, I did notice what I thought was a damp sensation, but was actually just coolness, thanks to some effective wicking action. This helps prevent stinky bacteria from throwing a party, as it thrives in warm, damp environments. It also makes them a great choice for running and cycling, as they don’t interfere with lightweight, close fitting shoes, so I expect this to be one of my favorites as mountain biking season gets into full swing this summer. The taller ones are right at home in light hikers too, which I tested them in for a few days. As long as you’re not looking for a thickly padded sock, these are great for work or play, although I might suggest switching back to a Merino blend for better temperature regulation when it gets cold again. If they hold up as well as they fit and wick, they’ll easily be worth the $11.99 to $16.99 MSRP. And I expect they will. www.swiftwick.com

– Brian

About Repreve:

Repreve’s main ingredient comes from recycled plastic bottles. In a perfect world, we wouldn’t be using so many disposable bottles to begin with, and their business model would fail. The good news is that they are actually thriving while keeping those bottles out of landfills and the ocean. In 2012, more then 629 million bottles were diverted from the waste stream, and re-purposed into clothing, car interiors, and other products. An imperfect system, but as long as other companies continue their wasteful practices, it’s good to see someone stepping in and helping to reduce consumption of resources while lowering manufacturing emissions. I support their efforts, but wish they didn’t have such an endless supply of materials to work with.

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Alex William

Thanks for the great review Brian! That description of the cool sensation and the blocking of odor bacteria was perfect. I am looking forward to getting some of these.

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