Gear Closet: Socks for Outdoor Adventure
L: Keen; R: 2XU
When we think about performance apparel for our outdoor adventures we always seem to gravitate toward the latest in tech shirts, shell jackets or footwear. After all, those items are typically some of the most important pieces of gear in determining our enjoyment of our favorite activities. One article of clothing that can have a big impact on performance but is seldom considered at all is our socks. Keeping our feet healthy and happy is vitally important to many of our outdoor pursuits and our selection of socks can play an important role in making that happen.
Here are two excellent pairs of socks that your feet will be happy are in your gear closet.
2XU Performance Running Socks ($44.95)
As I mentioned a few weeks back, I'm a recent convert to the great performance gear that 2XU makes for runners, cyclists and other outdoor athletes. I've been using a pair of their excellent shorts while running and a set of compression socks for post-run recovery, and both have performed beyond my expectations. In fact, they're so good that they set my expectations quite high for their new Performance Running Socks, which are designed for use both while running and in recovery afterwards.
Made from lightweight and highly breathable fabrics, these socks are extremely form fitting—which is exactly the point of compression gear. The Performance Sock is designed to promote increased circulation in the calf which can make for better performance, particularly on longer runs. They have the added benefit of reducing fatigue, which aids in quicker recovery time and fewer injuries.
I've been putting these socks through their paces on my longer 8-10 mile (12-16 km) runs and I've found them to be very comfortable to wear. The weather here in Texas has been warm already this spring, but the socks have wicked away moisture and kept my feet dry, while still working their compression magic. I'm not sure I'll want to wear them in the heat of summer, but they work well in moderate temps for sure. I didn't find that I was running any faster while wearing these socks but I can say that I did notice a difference in how my legs felt the next day when I was ready for another run. I didn't experience the same level of muscle fatigue and that helped performance in the days that followed and allowed me to extend my distances too.
Comfortable to wear, fight fatigue and allow you to run further and more often. What more could you ask?
Keen Olympus Hiking Socks ($20)
New this spring, Keen is introducing a line of socks for hiking that are designed to be both super-comfortable and very durable. The company's proprietary Dura-Zone fabrics are woven into the heel and toes and are reportedly "weight for weight" stronger than steel. I'll have to take their word on that, but I can say that while testing these socks on multiple hikes, they didn't show a single sign of wear and tear. I get the sense that when you buy a pair of these socks, you'll be using them on many adventures to come.
Like most of Keen's hiking socks, the Olympus come with both a left and right footed version. That may seem like a bit of gimmick, but trust me, you can certainly tell a difference in how they feel on your foot. Socks that are specifically tailored in this manner are more comfortable and cradle your foot to perfection. After you wear them once, you'll probably wonder why every pair of sock doesn't come with a left and right model.
One of the worst things that can happen while hiking or backpacking is getting blisters on your feet. The Olympus socks are designed to remain stable and not shift about, which is usually the cause foot irritation to begin with. I wore these socks fresh from the package and in a new pair of hiking boots that I was breaking in for the first time and even though I tackled some challenging trails, my feet came away none the worse for wear. The soft and thick fabrics that Keen has used here are extremely gentle on the feet and they provide more cushioning when traversing rocky ground, something we have in abundance in the Texas Hill Country.
Now that spring has arrived, you're no doubt thinking about getting back out on the trail for some long hikes in the warmer weather. Do yourself a favor and pick up a pair of these socks before you hit the trail. You'll be glad you did and your feet will be happier than ever. It'll be the best $20 you've invested in a long time. Particularly when you're still using them many years and miles from now.