Monday, January 17, 2011

Product Review: Swiftwick Socks

The Well Kept Wife™ stuffed my Xmas stocking with two pairs of socks by Swiftwick. These were also recommended to her by the good people of Gear West Triathlon. Since I don't start a new pair of socks until I wear out a previous pair, last weekend was the first chance I had to try this brand.

I have been very happy with my SmartWool socks. So this gave me a good baseline comparison. The only thing I can say about SmartWool is that I can usually get about six months of daily use out of them before they wear through. But they are comfy. So off I went on two runs this weekend. A 10K run indoors and a 5 mile run outside when the temperature was 12 above F.

The first pair of Swiftwick socks that I tried were the Four Pursuit Merino. These retail for about $18.99. The product is 60% Merino Wool, 30% Nylon, and 10% Lycra. The product name has 'four' as the sock has a 4" cuff. So it sits three-quarter-calf.

I really prefer a sock that rides my ankle. So I was not sure I would go for this high of a sock. But the company touts its sock  as being constructed to create managed pressure on the legs, ankles, and feet. Compression cuffs on each sock prevent unnecessary movement and supposedly promotes blood flow to the feet, actually improving your circulation in the lower part of your legs, thus increasing performance while you compete.

I used this sock inside for my 10K run on a small indoor track at the Plymouth Fieldhouse. Certainly not the greatest running surface, and packed with tight turns, it can be a bear on your lower leg and feet. At first, the cuff was noticeable. Again, I typically prefer no cuff but after a few laps I did not notice the cuff at all. It was only one run, so I cannot tout its ability to promote blood flow, etc. But the sock didn't bunch up. The cuff didn't droop. And it seemed to provide outstanding padding without being overly cushy.

The next sock I tried was the Swiftwick Zero Pursuit Merino. This sock retails for about $14.99. It is 60% Merino Wool, 30% Nylon, 10% Lycra. It has a no-show cuff, which sits below the ankle.

I wore this sock with a thin sock liner to run 5 miles in slushy conditions when the temperature was 12 above F. This is a great sock and rates right with the SmartWool sock. My typical SmartWool sock, by comparison, has 74% Merino Wool, 23% Nylon, 3% elastic. At times, that can be too much wool for me as my feet can really heat up. The Swiftwick sock seemed to have more compression qualities and fit really well around my heel. I have small feet so it is hard for me to find a sock that first from heel to toe. My foot stayed warm and I had no issues with wet, cold feet despite running through some slush runoff from our salt laden roads.

Some additional information on the socks, straight from the horse's mouth:

Our socks are knitted at 200 needles; the highest density you’ll find in socks. The higher the needle count, the tighter the knit. Our socks are so tightly knitted that no trail debris or foreign material can penetrate your sock causing irritation and blistering. This structure creates a second-skin feel, prevents shifting or bunching, and eliminates the risk of friction blisters while making your shoes fit more comfortably. Our high-gauge construction produces a softer, denser, and more durable garment with outstanding graphic detail. Wear Swiftwick, and you’ll buy fewer socks. It’s that simple.

Superior Climate Control

Swiftwick socks, named for their outstanding thermal properties, are available in two distinctly different blends — Merino Wool and Olefin. Both fibers have advanced wicking properties that when combined with our design will manage moisture, allowing easy evaporation of the sweat that travels along the surface of the fiber. Swiftwick’s combination of synthetic and natural fibers are up to 10 times more hydrophobic than cotton, preventing water absorption and moisture retention in the sock’s structure. Optimal foot health requires keeping feet dry and blister-free in all weather conditions.

Compression Technologies
Swiftwick uses finer grade, stronger materials – Olefin, Merino Wool, Nylon, and Spandex­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­—with a 200-knit construction to create managed pressure on the legs, ankles, and feet. Our compression footbed cradles your foot’s arch. Compression cuffs on each sock prevent unnecessary movement, making the sock the most form fitting on the market. It also promotes blood flow to the feet, actually improving your circulation in the lower part of your legs, thus increasing performance while you compete. Improved vascular performance and blood flow also means reduced leg fatigue, which speeds recovery after a long run or ride.

Engineered For Performance

Swiftwick socks provide your feet’s 60 joints, 200 ligaments and 35 muscles with the support of engineered performance in mechanical construction, fiber, and compression technologies. From the sturdy y-heel contour to our signature chassis—a thin, channeled upper—to our ‘window seam’ toe closure, our team constructs each sock for optimal breathability, durability, comfort, and support. We understand how to deliver a sock capable of dissipating damaging forces with high quality textiles, the right fiber composition in the right place, and construction techniques in manufacturing and finishing that make us confident when we say --

Swiftwick is the best you’ll ever wear… GUARANTEED.
You can't go wrong with either brand. If you are looking for a good sock that will also give you a bit more compression, then by all means try the Swiftwick's. If you are looking for a bit more cushion or a bit more wool then try the SmartWool socks. Having worn SmartWool while biking all last season, I am pretty sure the Swiftwick socks will serve me well in that sport as well.

Have fun!

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