05 October 2014

Running Socks - Lightfeet Evolution

Unless you're a runner, you probably haven't thought much about the type of socks you wear. If you are a runner, however, odds are, socks are one of the first things you organise when planning a workout. In fact, for seasoned runners, offering advice to beginners, one of the first recommendations made is in regards to the quality of socks worn (RockcreekRunner has a great simple piece on the importance of good socks) . As runners know, quality socks that are lightweight, breathable, durable, manage temperatures and moisture, and are therefore comfortable is paramount in an enjoyable and successful run. Every year season +Runner's World Magazine advises of the best new socks worth trying out. Personal experience has taught me to actually be less willing to compromise on my socks than with anything else I take with me on my workouts. I can experiment with different shoes and clothing, but I have found that the tolerance window for socks is much narrower, and if I can I will run with Lightfeet Running Socks.

They come a pretty full range of colours
Lightfeet is an Australian company started in 2001 by Australian Sports Podiatrists Graeme Simpson and Dan Thomas. The goal was to design and manufacture solutions to foot problems alternative to expensive orthotics. Where the footwear (sandals) and insoles (sport, work, etc) address a larger range of the general population, the line of running socks is a very focused catalogue of  socks comparable to the likes of Nike, Asics, New Balance and the ever popular Thorlo and WigWam brands famous amongst the dedicated running communities.

$35 is a lot, but to be fair I've noticed I get usually 2000 kms (3 years for me) before they need replacing due to weakened elasticity, holes, etc. 
Like all running socks, the priorities are to keep your feet cool, free of moisture and minimise friction. Lightfeets achieve these goals through various technologies:
  • COOLMAX for moisture management and temperature control
  • X-STATIC for anti-odour and antimicrobial protection via 99.9% silver thread (exclusive to EVOLUTION which is what I wear)
  • Arch support contours to the shape of the arch to hold the sock in place
  • Padded protection to provide cushioning and reduce friction under the heel and forfoot as well as across the metatarsals to prevent blisters
  • Airflow venting and mesh for fresh air circulation between toes and forefoot
  • Seamless technology to prevent friction and pressure points
  • Anatomical design with specific left and right foot shaping for optimum fit
  • Made in Australia 100%
  • Designed by Australian Sports Podiatrists
  • RRP of $35 AUD ($30 USD at time of writing)
Left and right sounds gimmicky but it really makes a difference. These are very similar to Thorlo's Experia range. There are others, but the anatomical left/right design is a stand out distinction

What stands out the most about these socks is the fit. The band around the midfoot add a slight amount of compression allowing for a noticeably more snug fit. The anatomical design seemed gimmicky at first, but the benefits are very apparent when you actually put them on. As you can see, the air vents as well as the overall construction of the sock follows the shape of each foot to ensure that all of technical features are placed at the most appropriate spot of the foot. This is most easily seen across the top of the foot at the base of each tow, where the webbing is. Left and right fitting socks mean the mesh air vents are perfectly aligned with these contours.

It's tough to see, but there are small vents just above the green/gray border. The left/right design allows them to slow right at the webbing in between each toe. 

Of course, the bulk of the benefits in good running socks are most apparent while running. The most positive comment I can make on Lightfeets is that they are almost completely absent in attention when I'm running. There' no discernible friction, sweat, heat or blistering  with these socks. Obviously, the shoes factor in a lot as well, but compared to the dozens of other comparable socks I've tried, the Lightfeets are among the best in keeping my feet dry, airy and blister free during my run.

The arch band, bottom cushioning and breathable upper are clear here
Last week, I went on a spur of the moment 5km jog with a generic pair of Nike running socks I own. Almost immediately, I noticed my foot sliding around upon impact and could feel the resultant heat building up from all of that friction. When finishing up, taking my shoes off revealed two very wet socks as well as slight callousing on the inside of the ball of my foot at the base of the big toe. While none of this was detrimental in any way, the run was definitely a little more difficult and uncomfortable than it needed to be. Now, whether you're a competitive marathon runner or just hoping to survive 15 minutes of light jogging, anything that can make the run safer, more comfortable and less painful, is essential if you want to continue long-term.

These are the mini cuts. The red pair is mini-crew which is about 2 inches higher up which I prefer but were not available at the time of purchase. 
Amazingly, the experience is completely different with Lightfeet socks on. Workouts are still challenging, but rather than being hampered down by a developing blisters or skin irritations, I can focus my thoughts on my pace and breathing, take in my surroundings or just let my mind wander. Running is just better. So the next time you're looking for running fear, don't forget to pick up a few pairs of quality running socks. Lightfeet is of course my favourites, but any of the brands I've mentioned make great ones, and if you have a shoe shop near you that specialises in running, they're sure to have a good selection. They need to be lightweight and breathable, control moisture, and minimise friction - these are the keys to look for.

The Chill agrees