SPRING, SUMMER, WOOL... Here in the Pacific Northwest we've had a couple of late-Summer heat waves so it's hard to imagine - but Autumn is right around the corner and with it comes wool sock season. What is wool sock season? Here in Oregon and Washington it is about 7 months of cool to cold, wet, drippy, rainy, slushy and generally overcast weather that the rest of the country might refer to as Winter.
With these conditions it is the little things that brighten your mood and make you more comfortable. One of those little things for me is a good pair of mid-weight merino wool socks. Not the thick, heavy, itchy "ski" socks that we all remember from days gone by; no, there is no reason to wear that stuff any more. They would get so water-logged if your shoes or boots got wet that you would be carrying around what seemed like an extra pound or so in your shoes and then your feet would get cold. Not to mention that they itched; stretched out and got saggy; and were just generally bad socks. No, these new generation of wool socks are blends of newer materials like polypropylene, lycra, spandex, olefin, and other comfy, stretchy, and quick to wick and dry materials which make them far more functional and comfortable.
But, many of you who have not tried them yet (or have not read my other Swiftwick review...) may still be asking yourselves; “What’s so great about some socks?” Well, Swiftwick has your answer.
AT THE FOOT OF THE MATTER I’ve actually been wearing the Swiftwick Merino socks for quite some time now. In fact; my immediate family all got these for Christmas one year! The Merino wool is itch-less and Swiftwick’s blend wicks, disperses, and dries faster than other wool brands I have tried; making them perfect for everyday use in our fall and winter climate which can often see wet weather and temperatures irritatingly close to freezing for long periods of time.
At the end of a long, cold, rainy Portland day I can come home and slip my shoes off and still have warm, dry socks on my feet for lounging around at home. Sweet! Not to mention they come in great styles and colors so they look good too. Swiftwick has an attention to detail that few companies match. And with their custom program; available for the merino socks too, you can outfit your team or create a cool fundraiser for a project.
ITS ALL ABOUT PERFORMANCE But, this review isn’t about lounging around at home, looking good, or fundraising. You want to know how they are for riding, right? My most recent ride with these socks was below 40 degrees, overcast, breezy but still dry except for the occasional puddle on the road. I was wearing my Merino socks, Shimano M-300 shoes, and Pearl Izumi Gavia shoe-covers; not bundled-up by any means. The shoe covers kept the wind at bay and let the socks do what they do best – insulate and keep my feet dry from perspiration (yes, your feet can sweat in the cold – sometimes that is actually the cause of cold feet if your socks don’t effectively wick, disperse, and dry). My feet were as comfortable as on a 65 degree spring day with my regular socks on! What a welcome comfort to walk through the door at the end of 2 hours and slip off the shoes to comfy toes instead of icicles.
The downsides: They're a little thicker than a high performance sock like the rest of their lineup; and thicker than many other mid-weight wool socks like some of my other favorites from DeFeet and Pearl Izumi. This means they'll take up a little more room in your shoes - so if you're already lacking volume there these may raise some comfort issues (but if you don't have enough spare volume in your shoes for a slightly thicker sock - you're probably wearing a shoe that is a little on the small side - but that's another post entirely...)
Also; while these have proven to be pretty durable, my original pair of grey merinos are starting to show some signs of age. To be fair; these socks are 2+ years old and get some pretty frequent use and usually for a full day in addition to being called up for cycling duty, but the black spots you see at the heel and ball of the foot in the photo are thin spots that showed up late last winter. there is still enough material there that they're warm and I am not worried about holes forming yet - but we'll see what this winter brings.
THE FINAL LAYER These socks are a great first-layer for any cold-weather activity or just basic every-day comfort on our drippy or snowy winter days. They’ve proven to be super durable too – making them worth every penny of the +$15 tag you'll find on most of them. They are available in several lengths: the 4" cuff is pictured and my favorite length, although I think I'd really enjoy the 7" or longer for skiing.
The bottom line is that if you're considering these socks and came here looking for a review - turn off your computer and go buy them. Now. (Then come back and read some more of my blog.) If however you are in a different camp and maybe haven't even heard of Swiftwick, do the same - you won't regret it! Their packaging claims they're the best socks you'll ever wear - guaranteed; and I'd say they hold up to their promise.
Own some Swiftwick Merino socks? What's your experience? Share in the comments...