The 6-year sock roundup

An inevitable part of moving, beyond surliness and interrupted internet access (and thus blog posts) is a reexamination of all your possessions. Or perhaps it is really a first examination, carrying something up the steps in a shopping bag does not rate for introspection compared to carrying everything in an endless train of boxes. The inevitable angst of moving is not so much in the simple amount of stuff, discouraging though that is, but in being faced so baldly with how many of the intimate details of our lives go unexamined.

Part of my sorting was to collect and then go through my immense pile of socks. A few of them are over five years old, but most have accumulated during that manageable chunk of time since we moved to Arizona in 2006 and made adventuring a serious second full-time job. What follows is a partial discussion of what got binned, what I’ll but more of, and why.

The relevant meta is that I’ve increasingly come to believe that wool or nylon socks as primary insulation is an inefficient system. As secondary insulation, where warmth is won via moisture buffering and protection from abrasion, they excel, but if you’re piling on thick wool to keep your feet warm there are other methods you ought to examine. Either neoprene for the wet, or foam boot liners for the cold. I dislike the thick, loopy construction of insulating wool socks. They hold moisture and the interior structure exacerbates maceration via texture. This bias is reflected below.

The best (the socks I kept, and will buy more of):

-DeFeet Wooleators are the number one sock. An excellent combo of performance characteristics and durability. We received several pairs as gifts back in 2008, and only one has died in the intervening years (holes in the achilles). Impressive.

-DeFeet Activators are the best bargain going if the ankle height works for you (15 bucks for 3 pair). Impressively durable, and great for liners in Hydroskin socks or in hot weather.

-Patagonia Ultralight ski socks are excellent knee high socks for colder weather and ski boots. They stay put, are not as thin as Smartwools, but can stand more than one season.

-Injinji originals and lightweight socks (in coolmax, not wool) are pretty good durability wise, and I find the toe separation fantastic for serious mileage. The thin ones wear a bit fast, but are the best solution available at the moment.

-Bridgedale Coolfusion were a sleeper success.  Good padding without being sponges, fantastic durability.  A win.

The worst:

-Smartwool toe socks stick like glue when wet, and get holes super fast.  Fail.

-Darn Tough full cushion are 2/3 sock and 1/3 plastic bag.  Horrid breathability.  I did the 2008 Coyote 2 Moons in them, but only because I forgot other socks.  I’ve been unimpressed with the lighter Darn Toughs, which I have killed easily, and not liked enough performance-wise to take advantage of the warranty.  Save your money.

-Smartwool UL ski socks work great, but wear through the heel in 2/3 of a winter.  All the thicker knee-high smartwools sagged, which is intolerable.  Smartwool generally is falling behind the curve, with products that never seem to be better than average.

The average:

-Thicker socks from Smartwool and Thorlo stay in the quiver as sleep socks, for wearing to work, or padding around the house.

And now for something also geeky, but otherwise completely different:


12 responses to “The 6-year sock roundup”

  1. Why no Drymax love? I’ve had the ultralight Hyper Thin socks as my go-to’s all year. They’ve been through muddy conditions, multiple fords, and a single pair was phenomenal through all of Hardrock. Ultralight, ultra-breathable, no blisters, and dry incredibly quickly. When I bought these, I assumed that being so thin would resign them to lasting a couple of months. This has simply not been the case, so what’s not to love? Granted, these are not the socks you want in the winter/spring when going through deep snow, but in all other conditions, I will never consider another sock. With a nice snug fit of La Sportiva X-Countries/Vertical K’s, these Drymax Hyper Thin’s have proven to be a dream come true.

    1. I’ll have to check them out. Their thin ski socks look good, and seasonally appropriate.

  2. Found the Injinji socks very comfortable, but only lasted one trip before two holes and the elastic giving out at the top. Trying Darn Tough Micro Crews at the moment, but only one trip so far. DeFeet Wooleators are available here in New Zealand, so I am going to give them a go. Andy Skurka also likes them.

  3. I have a pair of the Drymax Trail 1/4 socks and by God do they smell after a run or two, they don’t provide the level of funk masking that I get with a pair of Defeet wool socks. From a functionality point, the Drymax socks are pretty badass and if you’re doing any faster paced high mileage days, they’re pretty spot on with a proper fitting shoe. If I’m planning on multiday use, I stick with Defeet Wooleators, hands down, they handle repetitive wear without wash better than the synthetic drymax. The Darn Tough V’s are a stellar as well, a good backpacking sock, great durability for the heavier models, but the thin stuff they make straight sucks.

  4. +3 for Drymax socks. They’re expensive but worth it, and are the only thing I’ve found that works for me in wet conditions. Although I’ve also learned the hard way that toe socks don’t work for everyone. I wore Injinjis for the 80 miles I did of the TRT100. I’ve never had so many painful toe blisteres before or since.

    I also dislike wool socks, all wool socks. Wool is constantly wet and abrasive. So I guess I have unconventional preferences when it comes to socks.

  5. You and Skurka both like the Wooleaters, so I guess I need to try some. I have mostly Smartwools. The PhD fit better than their hiking socks, imo. The thin and medium ski socks have also been fine, and for summer the lightweight quarter crews are my go-to. I wanted to like Ininjis, but they seem to spread my toes further than they want to go and give me forefoot pain. I have yet to find a sock solution that works as well as just taping my feet against blisters.

  6. Ditto on the Defeet socks. I have been using them since 2004. I am repeatedly surprised by the rate of deterioration of other socks worn by other people.

  7. Never tried Defeet, but share your experience with the Smartwool’s wearing out super fast. Darn Toughs on the other hand have been extremely durable. Haven’t tried their full cushion socks so I don’t share the plastic bad experience. Had that with synthetic Fox socks though.

    1. I used a pair last winter and I’m a big fan now. The deep heel cups are nice.

  8. I can’t kill my Defeets. Smartwool last about a year.

  9. Thanks for the heads up on the Wooleaters. I was only able to get some ankle height ones here in New Zealand, but have been very impressed so far. Very breathable and quick drying. They look thin, but seem tough so far. I have just seen that they come in a high top version, which will be even better.

  10. […] a significant performance advantage. Good socks are the example on my mind, as I need some more Wooleators. Quality non-cotton undies, tubes, Stans fluid, UV protectant spray for your boat, and ski wax are […]

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