Small details are important, although I think many people over look them. Its easy to spend hours pouring over big details, or even the small details of big things, but hours looking at the small details of small things, well, they are just small things right, so how important can they be?
Planning is also important – I learnt that at mountaineering school. Planning means that you are well prepared for when things get interesting, for example, if you’re half way up a mountain and it starts to snow, or you lose a walking boot down a craggy ravine, or if you get back to your car to find it surrounded by angry and aggressive squirrels. The right kind of planning would mean you have the right of resources to hand, like a coat, or a spare walking boot, or squirrel traps and bait.
Details and planning, they make all the difference, especially when it comes to running kit.
We spend a lot of money, and time getting our running equipment right, the right shoes, the right shorts, buff, top, coat, some of us even make sure this all coordinates. And then we rummage around in the sock box and chuck on a pair of £1.99 socks. What could go wrong? After all, a £90 pair of perfect running shoes is whats important when it comes to what goes on our feet.
For many years I’ve not paid a great deal of attention to socks, I wear almost them every day, but mostly they are hidden under my desk, and I don’t notice them. I kind of forget about them. And, something really irked me about spending £9.99 on two little items, when you can get six of them for the same price somewhere else. How could something so small be so expensive1.
When I was Hope24 bound, I ran in my 99p Lidl running socks most of the time, and to be fair, they were actually fine. By fine I mean, they functioned perfectly well. Using the word fine makes me think of Fine Beans as compared to say Green Beans; I’ve never really been able to tell the difference. And besides, they are all referred to rather generically as ‘grass’ at home.
But, having a hunch that small things might help, I looked at whether there might be better sock options for a 24hour race, and well, I settled on Drymax Socks, as everyone whose anyone all said they were the bee’s knees. I don’t mean here that Drymax socks were actual bee’s knees, but that they worked at a level or two above being ‘absolutely fine’.
I liked those Drymax socks, they actually lived up to their fast wicking, hydrophobic sales talk and I generally had dry, comfortable feet. Even when running through knee high (not Bee’s knees high though) wet grass. My only issue with the Drymax socks though was that when summer came, they were a little too warm, so for a while, I reverted back to my Lidl socks.
Then the nice people at Craft Sportswear sent me a pair of Craft Cool Run Socks (disclosure – these were free media samples). RRP is around £8/9 a pair on the internet. I really like these socks – they are comfortable, fit well, look great, cool even, and are really, really thin, and have a small amount of compression which means the sit well and stay put. They are left and right specific, which I didn’t work out for the first few runs, and that might explain why I kept getting lost while running that week. These socks are really close to running sock less. I’ve used these on a whole range of different runs – short and fast tempo runs to long slow trail runs. I have had almost zero issues with them. By this I mean, on runs under 10 miles, they are perfect. Runs over 10 miles and I get a little hotspot on the edge of my little toe – nothing major, and it might be shoe specific as well, but it is sock specific.
I need to do some more testing, but for the time being these socks remain my go to race socks.
More recently, Swiftwick, an American sock company sent me some socks to try (disclosure – these were free media samples). When they approached me to see if I wanted to try their socks, I wasn’t sure, wasn’t sure I needed anymore fancy American socks, but I did a bit of digging, and it turns out they are really quite popular, and well, lots of people have raved about how good they are, and how hard wearing2 they are. That all sounded good, so I said yes, and a while later I had a letter from a (once ‘jewel in the crown public sector’) postal company, telling me that I had a customs charge and admin fee to pay. Which I did.
Three pairs of socks and a pair of arm warmers / compression sleeves. As far as small details go, I really, really, liked the look of these. I had to resist the urge to try them all at once.
I have run in a combination of the Aspire Zero Fusion in groovy blue and the Aspire One as well as the Pursuit One, which are a merino wool blend.
Swiftwick have this easy guide to sock height – none of this confusing ‘quarter trail extended crew’ business, but rather a numerical system – zero being below the ankle, one being just above, two being a bit higher and so on, I think they go all the way to twelve. I imagine it must be hard work getting a pair of twelves on3.
I have never run in below or just over the ankle socks – I’ve always found them uncomfortable, leaving me with an odd sensation that they are always falling down, or not quite pulled up enough. Well, the Aspire Zero (which comes in a funky range of colours) stays exactly where it should. Its the same story with the One. Once on they offer a level of comfort that you don’t notice – this is good – they disappear in a good way. The packaging comes with a grand promise of no blisters, and this had been my experience so far.
So what more could you want in a pair of socks? Apart from how the sales bulb describes them…
The ASPIRE™ Line is thin and light for serious runners and cyclists, yet still perfect for athletes of any sport. Our Managed Compression™ prevents bunching and hot spots by supporting all 3 arches in the foot. Our Linked-Toe technology prevents blisters by eliminating bunching in the toe-box. The result is a sock designed to fit your feet perfectly while helping you do what moves you.
I wore the Pursuit One on my recent Micro-Adventure with the wild things – they were perfect in my Skechers GRU, and never once were they uncomfortable, in fact, they were really comfortable. Turns out, this might be why “The PURSUIT™ Line is the world’s first 200 needle compression sock made from all-natural Merino Wool”. I have decided I need more Merino Wool in my life
So. yeah, I am convinced, and converted – these socks are way better than most others I have run in, and its now time to throw out all those 99p Lidl running socks (and to be fair, most of them are at least 5 years old). I have to say, I do feel all grown up and well prepared now, having thought this through in so much detail. Its good to have go-to-socks.
Swiftwick also sent me a pair of arm compression sleeves. As a young cyclist, arm and leg warmers (no, not the 80s roller disco variety) were part of my regular armoury. But, I’ve not had a pair for ages. Now, Devon is a pretty temperate place, but the mornings can be a little chilly in spring and autumn.
Rocking my new Salomon Sense Mantra 2 – review coming soon – these were not free media samples… I’m a size 42 Salomon, hint hint
And summer it turns out. I am getting better at dressing for the second mile, and I am finding a pair of arm sleeves is a perfect way to do temperature control
By way of final verdict… will I buy some more Swiftwick socks – absolutely yes – I quite fancy some number fours – in both the Aspire and Pursuit variety for the coming winder months.
Right, now to find those squirrel traps and bait so I can get back in my car.
1 I only have small feet, size 41/42 to be precise, so I mean, IF I was a size 13, then I might not mind spending more money and the perception of value might change. As it is, I could probably use a size 13 sock as a sleeping bag, not a very warm one mind you.
2 I was reading yesterday about a cyclist who gets through 80 pairs of socks a year. I mean, WTF, 80 pairs? they are washable you know.
3 Turns out the numbers are all about inches. doh! the Twelve is a 12 inch compression sock!