Saturday, February 25, 2012

Review: Injinji Toesocks

From the time I started running, I have had problems with blisters.  Blisters on the bottom of my feet, blisters on my toes, If you describe them, I've probably had them.

In search of a solution, I tried a number of different synthetic fiber socks.  Some I liked better than others, but the sock I ultimately settled on was a pair of lightweight Merino wool blend socks from Patagonia.  (The exact model has been discontinued, but I believe that these are the replacement.)  They fit great, kept my feet drier than any synthetic fiber, and eliminated all of my blister problems but one.

The remaining problem was with my middle toe on my left foot.  During my long runs, it invariably develops a huge, blood filled blister at the front of the toe.  I have no clue why - the toe is normal sized, doesn't curl in any direction, and generally appears normal.  While the blister hurts, it doesn't impede my running, so I've pretty much learned to accept it.

OK, enough about my toe problems.  Lets talk about this weekend's run.  Last time I ran, I discovered that my wool socks had worn through, which happens pretty quickly with wool socks.  Time passed, and I failed to get down to Patagonia to replace them.  So, Friday night I ducked into a running store near my work - and found myself staring at a bunch of brands of socks I'd never tried before.

I ended up picking up the Injinji Performance Series Original socks, because I was intrigued by the five-toe design.  Note that Injinji doesn't market the five-toe design as a solution to blisters.  Rather, it claims that the reason for the design is that, by allowing the toes to spread out, it "allows proper alignment for stability, gripping and balance."

I don't know if I achieved any better stability or balance, but I can attest to the fact that my toes were able to to spread out inside my shoes much more than they were used to.  In fact, I could feel my big toe touching the side of the toe box, which never happens with regular socks!

Some people claim that these feel a bit strange at first, but for me they felt perfectly natural (perhaps because I am used to walking around the house in bare feet.)  The only fit issue was that the there is too much space for my little toe.  But even though there was some loose sock at the end of the toe, it didn't cause any problems.  Also the "Mini Crew" version comes up higher on my ankle than I expected - but its a perfect length for keep debris from getting into the socks, so I actually really like it.

But the big question is, how were they for running?  Well, they felt great the whole time.  (I got the "original" level of cushioning; they also come in lightweight and midweight.)  Just as importantly, after 18 miles, I came back without a single blister - not even one on my middle toe.    Wherever it was rubbing the problem, the problem is solved.

For now, I am loving these socks.  The only caveat is that today was a cool day - so, we'll see how well they do keeping my feet dry (and thus, the bottoms of my feet blister-free) when it gets hot.  The Performance Series of socks is made with 70% CoolMax fiber, which has been pretty good to me in other products, but not perfect.  I suspect, in any case, I'll want some of the "lightweight" ones once it warms up.

It turns out, though, that there may be an even better sock for me:  Injinji also makes an "Outdoor Series" of socks, that are made with 70% NuWool (which in turn is a combination of Merino wool and other fibers).  I hope I'll get a chance to try them out and report back on them...

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