Springtime is upon us, with a fresh crop of sock options at your disposal. Here are some noteworthy items we’ve been testing this spring. Can we interest you in some alpaca wool?
Swiftwick Pursuit Seven ($22)
Fabric composition: 63% merino wool, 35% nylon, 2% spandex
Swiftwick’s new Pursuit series socks are made with a high percentage of merino wool and designed for four-season performance in a number of athletic pursuits. Socks in this line are constructed with the company’s standard compression fit that wraps to the contours of your foot, with medium cushioning underfoot, and upgraded with a reinforced heel and toe for durability. We love merino for its natural performance and odor-resistant qualities, and these socks use fine-gauge wool that has a very comfortable feel against the skin with no itching. Pursuit series socks are available in a number of heights, with corresponding numeric product names, ranging from Zero (no-show) to Twelve (full calf height); the Seven we tested is a traditional crew height.
Smartwool PhD Pro Endurance Print Crew ($26)
Fabric composition: 57% Merino, 38% nylon, 4% elastane, 1% polyester
Last year Smartwool developed the PhD Pro Endurance sock with pro ultrarunner Rob Krar, and in addition to its technical features, gave the model an artistic desert color scheme as a call-out to Krar’s home trails in Arizona. This season Smartwool adds a women’s-specific design with a narrower heel and slimmer overall profile than the men’s version, and a tough-but-tender wildflower color scheme. Both men’s and women’s versions use Indestructawool technology that creates a thin fabric with impressive durability. There is minimal added cushioning in these socks which have a comfortably snug fit, with mesh ventilation zones for moisture management and breathability, plus an elasticized flex zone at the ankle joint to further stabilize the fit. These are the thinnest socks in our test group, but have held up very well to high mileage so far.
Darn Tough Element Crew ($21)
Fabric composition: 53% nylon, 43% merino wool, 4% lycra spandex
The Element is a new model in Darn Tough’s Athletic line, which are designed for multi-sport activities and perform very well as dedicated running socks. Fine gauge knitting results in a silky skin feel, and the fit stays dialed-in even under wet conditions, with no slipping or bunching. A mesh instep provides increased breathability, and an elasticized performance zone wraps the midfoot with increased support to diminish foot fatigue. Horizontal striping around the top of the sock gives the Element a cool throwback vibe, and these even come in white versions if you want the full old-school gym class look. Element socks come in four different heights, from no-show to over the calf.
Drymax Speedgoat Crew ($15)
Fabric Composition: 65% Drymax Olefin, 20% polyester, 8% nylon, 7% elastane
The Speedgoat sock has been around for many years, designed in conjunction with Speedgoat Karl Meltzer, but this spring the model gets a manufacturing upgrade as well as two new height options and updated color scheme. In the time since this sock was first introduced, Drymax has developed the ability to twist together smaller yarns, which gives a softer feel than early editions of the Speedgoat, with the same durability and moisture transfer technology, which is dependably among the best in this category. Our longtime Drymax users found this sock to have a more snug and tailored fit than previous models. This model is part of Drymax’s Lite Trail lineup, and is now available in mini crew and full crew in addition to the traditional quarter crew height.
Fox River Mesa Crew ($20)
Fabric composition: 44% nylon, 33% polyester, 15% alpaca wool, 4% acrylic, 4% spandex
The Mesa is one of three different product options in Fox River’s new RunStrong line inspired by Olympian Billy Mills, which benefit Mills’s nonprofit Running Strong for American Indian Youth program. RunStrong socks come in three thicknesses; the Mesa is the medium thickness option, and the only one that incorporates alpaca wool in its construction (See more about alpaca wool in our next item). Mesa socks employ 37.5 technology in the yarn for thermoregulation close to 37.5 degrees Celsius, which is the sweet spot between insulating and overheating. A URfit system combines contoured construction with spandex compression for enhanced arch support, mesh panels carry air upward for cooling and ventilation, and a reinforced heel and toe give added durability. Fox River created this line as a tribute to the legacy of distance running among Native Americans, and donates $1 from every pair sold to Running Strong, helping meet survival needs and creating opportunities for self-sufficiency in American Indian youth.
Follow Hollow Performance Alpaca Socks ($25)
Fabric composition: 80% baby alpaca wool, 15% nylon, 5% spandex
If a little alpaca wool is good, a lot must be better, right? From an insulation and comfort standpoint, absolutely. Follow Hollow is a brand new company that launched with a Kickstarter campaign in late 2019, and the Performance Alpaca socks are their first footwear product. The wool is sourced from Peruvian Alpacas – and don’t worry, they’re full grown. The “baby” fabric designation means small micron fibers, which result in a plush soft feel against the skin. Alpaca wool is thought to insulate up to three times better than sheep’s wool, while remaining lightweight and durable. It contains no lanolin, which makes it hypoallergenic and odorless, and has one of the highest natural moisture wicking properties of all natural fibers. These socks get slightly frizzy, but hold their shape well. The toe seam has a more prominent feel than we like, but otherwise these are a great choice for cold, wet spring outings.
Rockay Razer ($21)
Fabric composition: 51% Econyl regenerated nylon, 45% recycled polyamide, 4% recycled elastane
Rockay’s mission is to create performance running apparel while helping make a dent in the world’s environmental crisis. The company manufactures only with 100% recycled materials from plastics and ocean wastes. The Razer is a thin sock with a somewhat coarse feel, but which wraps around the foot very securely, especially through the reinforced arch support area. Breathable mesh zones on top of the foot move moisture effectively, light cushioning adds a bit more comfort in impact areas, and the Razer is treated with Polygiene anti-odor technology to keep them fresh from one run to another.