Running Socks Review: Injinji and DeFeet
Posted on April 01 2014
I’m going to start this review by stating that if weather and shoe comfort permit, I prefer to go without socks when I run. When socks are warranted (e.g., in winter, in a shoe with an abrasive interior), I prefer socks that are cheap and minimal. Just enough to create a friction barrier between my foot and the shoe it sits in.
I’d also like to add that in my experience, cheap doesn’t necessarily equate to poor quality. I’d estimate that for 75% or more of my runs I wear thin C9 by Champion socks that I buy at Target (3 pairs for $9.49). I’ve been running in these regularly for years now, and I don’t think I’ve had to retire a single pair yet. No wearing down, no holes, no thinning. Amazing socks for the money (as a side note, other places to buy socks cheap are The Clymb (on-line) or a local TJ Maxx or Marshall’s store).
So with the above as a preface, I’m going to say that the socks I’m reviewing here are relatively expensive and for the most part unnecessary for most of my needs. But, there are times when I do find them useful, and I’ll try to explain the value of each.
I’ve used Injinji socks for quite a long time. I started using them back when they were pretty much the only option for a sock that would work with Vibram Fivefingers – the socks have individual toe pockets so a thin pair would fit inside the toe shoes. But, as I started wearing them with other shoes I discovered that they did a great job preventing toe blisters, which used to be a big problem for me on long runs and in marathons. I think I’ve worn Injinjis in my last 3-4 marathon races, and I can’t recall the last time I got a blister on my toes from running (gaining a better understanding of proper shoe fit for my feet has helped with this as well).
Several months ago Injinji sent me a selection of new sock models to try out. Included were a few pairs of light weight and original weight Run 2.0 mini-crew socks (below left image), and a few pairs of Trail 2.0 Midweight socks (below right image; Disclosure: these were media samples and were provided free of charge).
All of the socks that Injinji sent feel thicker, and all seem better made than my older pairs of Injinji socks (I first reviewed them back in October, 2009!). I tend to prefer the lighter weight, no-show models myself, but the Trail socks have a nice thickness to them, kind of like a more traditional wool running sock. The drawback with Injinjis is that in winter, I actually find that running in socks with independent toe pockets leads to cold toes. It’s analogous to wearing gloves versus mittens – mittens keep my fingers much warmer because they allow skin-skin contact. Similarly, a traditional sock (even a thin one) without toe pockets keeps my toes warmer on cold, winter runs. As such, the thicker material of the original weight Run 2.0 and Trail 2.0 doesn’t do much for me except as a thicker friction barrier (could be good for hiking). I don’t tend to use them for running very often (thick socks also make for a tighter fit in shoes).
What I like most about the Injinij socks is that the toe pockets don’t squeeze my toes together as some tighter weave socks can. I’ve grown to hate almost any kind of constriction at my toes, be it caused by socks or shoes, and the Injinjis shine in this regard.
I should also point out that my wife is a big fan of Injinji socks, if for no other reason than the fact that she can wear her toe spacers over them inside her shoe (she uses Correct Toes when she runs since they seem to help with her neuroma pain).
So the big question for me is would I regularly pay $12-15 for a single pair of socks? Probably not. But I do like to have a few pairs of Injinjis in my sock drawer for those long runs and races where I do worry a bit about toe blisters.
I was contacted last year by a rep from DeFeet asking if I’d be interested in trying out some of their socks. To be honest, I had never heard of the brand, and I rarely accept socks for review since there really isn’t a whole lot to write about a pair of socks (hence why this review is about half a year late!). I agreed to give them a try, and just as Injiniji did they sent me a selection of their running socks to try out (Disclosure: these socks were provided free of charge as media samples).
I’ve tried all of the socks that DeFeet sent. They’re all plenty comfortable, they seem well made, and there’s really nothing bad to say about them other than the fact that like most specialty socks they are pricey (over $10 a pair). Of the pairs that DeFeet sent, my favorites are the D-Evo Low Cuff socks (side note: I find their naming scheme a bit confusing). The D-Evo socks are made of CoolMax EcoMade Fiber, which is made from recycled material – kind of cool to have comfortable socks derived from plastic bottles. The D-Evos also come in a Merino wool version for a few dollars more. I’ve actually mostly used them for casual wear this winter since they have a nice thickness to them, but I’ve used them for running a bit as well.
The other socks they sent were in the DV8 line (images below). These are a bit thinner than the D-Evos, also made of CoolMax EcoMade Fiber. The DV8s come in a wide variety of colors and cuts (tabby to crew), and I prefer the thinner feel of the DV8s over the D-Evos for running.
So there you have it, all of the socks mentioned here are solid options for running socks, but for me personally I find it tough to justify a big investment in expensive socks (some may disagree, which is fine). I find it worthwhile having a few pairs for specific uses, but for the most part I’ll stick to cheap and thin for most of my needs.