SockOff2011 continues after a long, reluctant hiatus! Due to the fact that I am still recovering from my injury, the hike was not exactly the same as my last Sock-Off test. This time I ventured out to the Overton/Go John loop in Cave Creek to log in 6.5 miles with my Injinji Lightweight Ultra-thin Toesocks. The terrain and hiking conditions were pretty much the same as the last hike with loose rock, gravel, sand and other aggressive terrain conditions. The shoes were still my handy Brooks Cascadia Trail Runners. The socks revealed some surprises for me and I am happy to release my findings…
Price and availability
Injinji synthetic toesocks pricing ranges depending on the style you choose. They range from very light no-show running socks to the heavier, crew-socks to full calf compression socks. The pricing of the socks mentioned in this review range from $10 to $16 which is very competitive for a specialty sock. This review centers around the Performance Series Lightweight Ultra-Thin Mini-Crew and the Original Weight Moderate Mini-Crew. Injinji has also come out with an Outdoor Series Original Weight Mini-Crew which I look forward to trying out. Injinji socks are available almost anywhere. Unfortunately, their full line is usually not in stores. I have found that even though I can buy these socks at almost any apparel store, they typically only carry one or two styles and only one or two colors. For the full spectrum of what Injinji offers, you really need to hit up their website.
Here’s a little about the product from the Injinji website:
Injinji has embraced the changing world, specifically identifying the need for a biomechanically and medically advanced product that would allow the foot to perform at its best. Makers of “The Original Performance Toesock”, Injinji modified the basic structure, shape, and fiber of the traditional sock. “Optimal foot health is a key part of our overall wellness”, says Jason Battenfield, CEO. “Our toesocks provide each wearer with proper toe alignment which improves posture, gripping and balance, strengthens the muscles in the foot and leg, encourages healthy circulation, manages moisture, and prevents skin on skin friction.”
Comfort and Fit
So, it took me a while to try these on. I have to admit, they sat for a while as I pondered the strange idea of a sock that wrapped around my toes. Once I began my recovery I found myself excited to get outside AND excited to test out these socks. So I took them with me over my Thanksgiving trip and tried them out on some basic, flat running trails. Initially putting them on is awkward. That first time slipping them on and trying to get your toes in each little pocket is taxing, but once they are on (properly!) the fit is pretty pleasant. I actually wore them around the house for a while before taking them out for a spin and I found them so comfortable I almost forgot they were on. This was not the case with the original-weight socks, you always feel those. But with the ultra-thin socks, it’s like not wearing socks at all. The synthetic material does have a lot of stretch to it, so the fit is very nice. They cling to your feet and conform to the shape of your foot instead of the other way around. I give them full marks for comfort and fit.
Padding and Support
Here’s where Injinji is weakest in my opinion. The socks are uniform in padding so they’re either thin all over, or thicker all over and don’t offer any technical support for specific parts of the foot. It’s a very minimalist concept for a sock. The ultra-thin would make a great running sock, in the right shoe and with on a paved route. For me, my trail runners are a little big to allow for padded socks when I hike, so there was a lot of extra room in the shoe with the ultra-lights on. They seem to fit much better in my road-runners which are a half-size smaller. They offer nothing for padding making them a very poor trail sock. The Original Weight socks are much more appropriate for the trail, but still lack the padding and support I like to have on rugged trails.
These socks were put through the paces much more than the Point6 socks I reviewed before. I took them out for two 6-mile runs and a 6.5-mile hike. One of the runs was in a rain storm, so I got to see how they handle being wet. The Light-Weight Ultra Thin’s were already showing signs of wear after the two runs. They seem to be wearing at the heel and at the top of the toes. I imagine the Original Weight socks will not wear out as fast, but the thinner socks don’t really seem to be holding up. They became saturated in the rain very quickly I did notice a little slipping on the foot when they were wet which worried me a little. When the run complete, I did not have any blisters or hot spots on my feet so I guess they did their job.
Overall Performance on the trail
Overall impressions are mixed. On the one hand, these are very comfortable socks to have on. The material between the toes is not as invasive or bothersome as I expected it to be. In fact, if anything, this is what makes the socks comfortable in the first place. The material is a mix of synthetics (70% CoolMax 25% Nylon 5% Lycra) that makes for a very comfortable sock against the skin. They are soft, pliable and breathable. However, they just don’t offer the padding or support that is ultimately desirable in an outdoor trail sock. This is why I am excited to try their Outdoor Series. If they can offer the kind of padding needed, these could be a great trail sock. I don’t even mind the fact that they are 100% synthetic because they do feel nice. I just don’t expect them to have the lifespan of a well-made 100% wool sock.
I had an extra pair of the lightweight socks when I did the hike so I offered them to my buddy who did the trail with me. I wanted to see if he would have a different perspective on the socks. He communicated a lot of the same things I mentioned above: shoe felt looser due to thin sock material, padding was not sufficient for rugged trail hiking, comfort and fit was very nice and the sensation of the sock around each toe was very comfortable once you got used to it. He speculated as well, that the socks would probably perform much better on pavement in a tighter shoe.
Stay tuned for my next SockOff2011 review featuring the Thorlo-CoolMax Synthetic trail running sock.