Of all the gear we use, nothing gets more day-to-day wear than our socks; when we find a killer pair, we don’t isolate their use for only for outdoor pursuits. If you share our passion (or if you’re in the market for the perfect pair of socks for hiking or biking or backpacking), 2013 will indeed be bright. We’ve been testing several pair of Keen’s new Olympus socks, and they’re some of the best that have ever graced our feet. Made of 45% merino wool (the miracle fabric that gives ya no-itch, warm-when-wet, wicking comfort, and doesn’t retain odors), these babies also boast high-tenacity nylon fibers integrated into the heel and toe for extreme comfort and durability. The asymmetrical socks are designed to fit on your right or left foot (with handy R and L stitched inside a yellow triangle at the toe), so they don’t bunch or sag, and the seamless toe assures you don’t get clumps of fabric underfoot—a surefire way to develop blisters. And the “wunderseam” that marries the fabric at the toe slides under your foot, a perfectly unobtrusive solution. Finally, mesh panels allow for essential venting. Best yet, these things are destined to last a long time. Those nylon fibers are, weight-for-weight, stronger than steel. We’ve been wear-testing a few models (both the Lite Crew as well as the Medium Crew, which will retail for $22) into the ground while hiking, biking, climbing, traveling, and wandering the city and Suburban Streets, and they fit and function as if they were brand new.
Available spring 2013
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Proof that you’re a true gear-head? You have a thing for socks. Not the loose-elastic cotton variety of your youth, but the brave new world of high performance footwear that provides a technical marriage between between your feet and your shoes. If you’ve reached that level of appreciation, you’ll love Darn Tough. As the name of the Vermont-based company implies, these are likely the most durable hiking socks you’ll ever own. We put a pair of the merino wool Boot Socks through an unrelentingly arduous series of activities (traveling, backpacking, cycling, day hiking) and our feet were perpetually comfortable. Unlike other brands’ socks, which often rely on a collage of different-density yarns across the toe and under the instep, the Boot Socks let natural merino do most of the work. The pre-shrunk wool fits like a second skin and enhances durability. High-density terry loop pads adds a bit of cushioning in the foot and shins that won’t flatten out over miles of use, the toe and heel pockets are form-sculpted for a glove-like fit, and the ribbed knitting means that they’ll ride just as you want them to, and never slip down mid-stride. In addition to the Boot Sock, we’re big fans of the Argyle Crew Socks, which blend fashion with function to create a go-to travel sock that’s the perfect mixture of merino, nylon, and spandex.
As we continue to test the Darn Tough socks, we’ll add updates on their durability and confirm that they live up to the company’s name (and it’s lifetime guarantee) .
While we love cotton t-shirts, cotton socks should be retired to historical museums along with monocles and hoop skirts. To understand this point of view, try Lorpen’s new Comfort Life Socks. We love their bright colors, snug-but-not-too-tight fit, and versatility. The socks come in both merino wool and modal (a super-soft cellulose fiber spun from beech trees) yarns. Both concoctions proved to be virtually indestructible, with a measurable benefit in moisture absorption to provide a sweat-free fit. We also like that the low-volume weave fits well under casual shoes. Both the merino and modal versions include about ten percent Lycra to add stretch and maintain shape. The modal socks didn’t shrink at all after a dozen washer/dryer cycles, but we recommend hang-drying the merino versions. The colorful stripes add a bit of playfulness to any wardrobe, although our testers voted for the retro peace sign design two to one. The Comfort Life Socks come if a variety of designs, in both men’s and women’s fit.
In the pursuit of sock nirvana, the old tricks (like using a wicking inner liner underneath a thicker sock) have given way to a heady mixture of tech fabrics, woven together in a topographical maze of various thicknesses that combine powers to create the best custom boot-friendly fit. Why the evolution? Because too much sock equals numb toes due to lack of circulation; too little leaves you with cold feet, shin bang, and blisters. Take the Ski Light Socks from Point 6. The 62 percent no-itch merino wool content is duckling soft, while the remaining blend of nylon and spandex means you can toss ‘em in the washer and dryer. And our cold-weather testers report that the socks maintain shape after dozens of wear-and-wash cycles. On a recent trip to the Wasatch Front Range, one tester wore the socks in 5 degree temps, blasting down the slopes during the day and chatting with a busy ice sculptor during an even-colder outdoor party. Admittedly, her boots were warm, but she swears the socks added a good 10 degrees of comfort.
Made in men’s and women’s fit in various colors
Sock technology has increased by leaps and bounds over the past few years. Picking a sock for your activity is equally as important as picking footwear or gear. Made with 100-percent spun merino wool, the 1.25-inch cuffed Ultra Light Mini Running socks fit better than any synthetic or cotton model we’ve tested. Advanced knitting techniques make possible woven-in arch and ankle braces for support and fit, plus ventilation panels across the instep for added breathability. The heel and toe are reinforced with nylon for durability, and toe seams are hand-looped, meaning there’s no irritating ridge under or above your toes. They are machine washable but we recommend line drying.