Socks, even for minimalist runners, can make or break your run. Even bad everyday socks can ruin your day at work. For me, it took months to find the right running sock, and even when I found them, it was by accident.
You see, when I started running back in 2008, I was still under the spell of my high school running days when I'd pick shoes based solely on their "cool" factor. Thankfully when I visited my local running store VA Runner, they picked the best shoe for me. But that left me itching to pick something "cool" to wear. And man did those "elite" socks look cool. I mean, they're designed specifically for each foot, so it must be good right?
Wrong. Just because the sock has an L for the left foot and an R for the right foot doesn't mean it's the best sock out there for your feet. Granted, those anatomical socks worked well for me until last year. I rarely had issues with them, but I was also running slower and running shorter distances. As my mileage crept up and my speed crept up, I ran into issues. The big blowout was my first 50k race in August of 2010 when I wound up with blisters galore despite using all the BodyGlide I could stand. My problem? The socks. Read on to see why.
Asics (various styles)
Marking for the anatomical fit (L and R) and a ton of colors to choose from. There are also several variations to choose from as well.
They fit great. Tight fitting and anatomical, they fit your foot like a glove. Some of the models have a higher cuff while some have a more sculpted cuff.
I washed these like normal socks. Warm water and the dryer. The only thing special I did was I turned them inside out. After they got stuck on some Velcro during their initial wash, I opted to save the outer surfaces in an attempt to keep them intact.
These were great socks to run in. Unfortunately the key word here is "were." It took me nearly two years to finally figure out the main source of my blisters during my first ultra (DRHT 50k in August 2010). First I thought it was just plain old friction. I had lubed the crap out of my feet with BodyGlide and I felt like I was betrayed for the first time by such a wonderful product. Then I started to wonder if it was my shoes. The trail surface was flat but very rocky (it's an old railroad bed). Maybe my Saucony TR 4s didn't protect my feet as much as I expected them too. Then I began to wonder if it was my stride that was off. After all, I was really hurting when I finished and my knee and hip nagged me for many months after.
Turns out it wasn't the BodyGlide, it wasn't the shoes, and it wasn't my stride. It was my socks. And it was my fault for buying them. You see, I fell for the age-old trap of buying running gear because it "looked cool." And let me tell you, these Asics socks look cool. Cooler than cool.
But alas, it's the construction and design that did me in. Made of basic wicking material, the socks did great at keeping my feet dry. But the stitching and pattern inside created many raised surfaces. So imagine running on braille instead of a smooth sheet of paper. After 20+ miles it's going to eat your feet.
So in the end, they're great socks for a short run. Anything beyond an hour and you may run into some issues. After four hours, be prepared to suffer. After eight hours, you'll be in Hell.
Super-plush heal and toe. Very cushiony, like the inside of a sweatshirt. There's also a bit of arch support.
These fit a little looser than the Asics, but they are not anatomically designed. They are super-comfortable and have a ton of cushion on the heal and toe.
Like the Asics, I wash them inside out with my regular laundry (warm water) and use the dryer on them.
I never thought I'd say this, but these socks have a little too much cushion in them. I think they'd be great if they had a higher top, allowing you to wear them as hiking socks, but in a running shoe is masks a lot of the feedback you get from the road. Maybe if you need to mask the pain or something it would be okay. They also slide a bit when you wear them, so any long distance runs in them could result in some bunching or chafing (or both). Otherwise, these are great everyday socks.
Thinner than the Experia but thicker than the Asics.
They fit tighter than the Experia but not as glove-like as the Asics. This is likely due to the fact that they are not anatomically designed (although Saucony does have socks like that available). The cuff is a bit higher than both as well, leading to less bunching and slipping (and less debris when on the trails).
Just like normal socks, wash in warm water and dry in the dryer.
So far, these are the best socks I've found. If you look at the photos, you'll see how they have a smoother and less complicated inner-surface compared to the Asics socks and less cushion than the Experia socks. Yes, I am a Saucony snob and I'll freely admit I have some bias towards their products. But I'm not saying these are perfect socks. These are just the best I've found to far. They still slip now and then, especially when I do cross-training that requires me to use some extreme foot positions. So doing work on the BOSU or something may make my foot slip. But I haven't had any issues so far running in them. I've done over 9 miles on a trail and have not gotten a blister yet.
You can see my measurements in this gallery if you'd like.