Wednesday, April 15, 2009

gear review: thorlo vs. darn tough vs. wrightsock

Inspired by my last 32 mile walk in cotton tube socks, and the suffering that it resulted in, I bought a couple pairs of new socks to try on my walks:

Thorlo medium cushioning walking socks

Darn Tough Micro-crew cushion
(charcoal, coolmax)

Wrightsock dual layer walking sock

It's worth noting that I've never paid more than a few dollars for a PACK of socks, so the idea of paying $15 for a single pair was a bit alien to me.

First, I read online reviews of "the best socks for long distance walking" on google, and I found some somewhat biased sounding reviews for Thorlo socks. Still, I set out to find a good deal on a pair.

I ended up at Oregon Mountain Community; which I found did not carry thorlo's. I described my needs to the salesperson, and she recommended the Darn Tough socks to me. I bought them, encouraged by the unconditional lifetime warranty, and have been very pleased with the two times that I wore them. I felt like they did a good job of wicking away sweat and keeping my feet dry, and I was very happy with the extra padding where I needed it most, and the thinner construction where extra material wasn't necessary. Still, I wanted to try the thorlo's after reading so much about them.

I later went to joe's sports, for their going out of business sale. With a little research, I realized that the discounts they were offering in their liquidation only brought their prices down to being comparable with OMC's normal prices, so I only bought socks there. They had thorlo medium cushion walking socks, which I thought sounded about right for my application. I wore these once, on one of my shorter walking days, and found that they not only created more sweat on my feet than the other socks that they promised these would out perform, but they also were way too bulky in places that bulk wasn't required. I later read on the thorlo website that they suggest you wear thorlo socks when you try on new shoes, to ensure the proper fit, but I'm unsatisfied with that order. I buy shoes first. I think a good quality sock should do it's job and still fit in my normal shoe. I shouldn't have to have a special pair of bigger shoes to fit my special socks. Anyway, on the one walk I took these socks on, I felt like my right big toe was very stiff, and not being allowed to move properly inside my shoe with each step. A little stiffness is normal, due to a past injury, but the bulk of the sock made what is usually a barely noticeable stiffness, into something significantly more annoying. When I got home, I felt OK; but later, after I went to sleep, I experienced significant pain and swelling around that toe, which sounds like a possible second metatarsal phalangeal joint fracture. This would be in line with the restriction caused by the extra material in the sock.

I also bought the wrightsock dual layer walking sock while I was at joe's. This was by far the thinnest out of the three socks, and possibly the most comfortable and best wicking out of the three pairs I tried out. I didn't get a chance to take these on too long of a walk to see how the lack of padding would rate these socks over the other two, but in my immediate trial, I was very pleased.

In the end, I'd say I'll probably end up saving my thorlo socks for a future, larger fitting pair of hiking boots or something, due to the extra thickness. I'd also probably save them for cooler weather, since I found them to create extra unneeded warmth around my feet in this spring weather. For everyday walking, under my normal shoes, in spring temps, they were too bulky and warm compared to the other socks.

The darn tough socks were very comfortable, gave me extra padding where I needed it, but didn't feel too bulky due to a good design that eliminated extra fabric where I didn't need it. I will wear these often, and feel good about doing so with the warranty that came with them.

As for the wrightsocks, I think these socks are very promising, and I was impressed with how cool and comfortable they were over the distance I tried them in. I'm also optimistic about the dual layer technology and the blister free promise they offer. We'll see how they do after my foot heals.