When it comes to running gear, I am pretty flexible and willing to try out different things. Running in costumes kind of requires that. But I also recognize that running gear is a largely personal choice based on your own preferences and needs.
Thus, there are two things I really don’t stray from: Mizuno Wave Inspire shoes and Injinji socks. Not everyone appreciates each of their toes being individually wrapped, but I’m a big fan of toe socks. When you are used to toe socks, regular socks are like mittens compared to gloves. I have gotten so used to toe socks that I wear them all the time, not just during a run.
So, when Mike asked me to do a product review of Swiftwick socks (which do not come in the individually wrapped toe variety), I was hesitant to say the least. Sure, I had my reservations about running in something I was not used to, but I mostly felt I would have a hard time giving a truly impartial review. Ultimately, I figured there were certain things socks needed to do and I could give a solid review despite my own personal preferences.
I picked out a couple different pairs of Swiftwick’s running socks (Vibe and Aspire) to try out. Most of Swiftwick’s socks come in different lengths for each style (zero, one, two, four, seven, and twelve), which is a concept I like a lot. Finding a style I like and being able to get them in various lengths and colors makes it easier to put a costume together. Since I generally prefer a low cut sock, I tried the Vibe Zero and the Aspire Zero.
When I broke it down to basics, I decided socks really need to accomplish three things to be effective: (1) they need to adhere to your foot and slip against the inside of your shoe to prevent blisters; (2) they need to wick sweat away from your foot so you don’t end up with pruney toes by the end of a long run; and (3) they need to provide extra cushion between your foot and your shoe for added comfort.
I like toe socks so much because they satisfy all three of these things for each of my toes, not just my foot as a whole. My toes do not rub against each other, sweat does not linger between them, and each toe gets its own individual comfortable hug. That being said, toe socks do take a little getting used to and are not as easy to put on and take off, so I do understand why people prefer good old-fashioned foot mittens.
I knew jumping right into a long race with brand new socks was out of the question, but I figured a few short training runs around the neighborhood with each pair of socks would be enough for a thorough review. Staying close to home seemed like a better choice than hitting the trail and getting miles away from the house before I ran into any problems. This ended up being a good idea.
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (but not really)
Both pairs were instantly comfortable when I put them on my feet. Sure my toes were missing their familiar embrace, but the comfort level on the Swiftwick socks was very high.
Both pairs also held firmly to my feet and slipped well against the inside of my shoes. I did not work up enough of a sweat on any of my trial runs to really put them to the “pruney toe test,” but judging from the materials they are made from, I have no doubt they are up to the task.
All seemed to be going well for Swiftwick except for one thing. You know those corners of a traditional sock where the toe seams end? I always hated the extra material in those corners that make an uncomfortable little lump that always seems to rub against my toes. The pair of Vibes had that uncomfortable lump. Around the three-mile mark, I noticed a little discomfort against the big toe of my right foot. I stuck it out through my six-mile run, but I could tell it would have caused a blister if I had gone much further. The experience did not leave me with a good impression, but I did my best to stay objective for the next pair…
And I am glad that I did.
The Aspires are a success story.
They are thinner and do not have a noticeable seam at the toe, so there was no uncomfortable lump to deal with. I had a comfortable run and was genuinely impressed the pair. They passed all three of my criteria for an effective sock. This just goes to show that you need to try out different products and find what works best for you. In this case, the Aspires work better for me. Others may have a different opinion of what works for them.
Having been excited by the fit and feel of the Aspires, needless to say, if Swiftwick ever comes out with a pair of toe socks, I will absolutely give them a try.
When you factor in that Swiftwick is an American company that manufactures its socks in the U.S. and I would be happy to give them my money. While I am not willing to part completely with my toe socks anytime soon, Casual Runners who prefer a regular sock might want to check out Swiftwick Aspires.
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Neither Jake nor Casual Runner received any compensation for this review. The products reviewed herein were provided by the manufacturer for purposes of this review and the opinions are solely those of the author.