Seeing as this is our first blog post after Christmas, it feels appropriate to do a review of some socks!
Many people understandably think that shoes are the most important piece of a Sport Walker’s kit and yes, in many ways, they are but even the best shoes will only work as well for you as the socks you wear in them. Getting your sock strategy right then (yes we really did say ‘sock strategy’) is arguably as important as choosing the right shoes.
So when we were sent some new athletic walking socks by the nice folk at Newfeel (Decathlon’s fitness walking brand), we were really interested to see how they stacked up, not just against against some key performance tests but against their running socks, which we’ve used here for years.
Let’s be honest, it’s unlikely that you’ll ever use just one type of sock for every Sport Walking situation and this is where the Newfeel socks have really carved a niche for themselves in our gear armoury. We were sent three different pairs to try: the WS900 – a really lightweight sock, the WS500 – a mid thickness sock and the WS580 – a thicker cold weather sock.
The WS900 proved ideal for those hot mid-summer short training walks, where even we just opt for a single thin sock and some fast and super light shoes. In addition to this, they also worked well as a thin base sock, when that was what we needed.
The WS500 mid weight sock was a really great all rounder. It was an excellent thicker single sock for slightly cooler days and was also a great over sock to the 900s, giving more thickness but good breathability on hot days when we needed double socks.
Finally, the WS580 has become our ‘over sock’ of choice for long training walks in autumn, winter or spring. They actually feel the best of any top sock we’ve used in our main ultra shoes but we suspect they may be a little on the hot side for summer ultras.
What we found with all three socks was that they are extremely well designed, well made and robust. They are super stretchy but with a very strong ‘rebound’ so they stay tight and close fitting and the ergonomics are also extremely good, with compression bands across the foot to keep them really tight and snug. On the design front, the multi-panel construction is most striking on the WS900 and if you turn them inside out you get a better idea of how each of the panels and the compression bands fit together.
All models are designed to reduce blistering however you wear them and when you put them on for the first time you can understand why. They’re extremely comfortable and because they’re so close fitting you never get any problems with the sock moving as you walk, causing that tell tale light burn you feel pre-blistering.
The WS500 is made from 87% Polyamide, 9% cotton and 4% Elastane, while the winter WS580 has a lower Polyamide content (68%), with 27% wool and 5% Elastane. The super light WS900 is just a blend of 96% Polyamide and 4% Elastane. Care and washing of each of the socks is as you’d expect, with low temperatures and tumble drying, except for the winter sock which can’t be tumble dried because of the wool content.
What we like the most, is that these are socks designed by athletic walkers for the needs of athletic walkers and that’s really valuable. In many respects, a walker’s sock presents more complex requirements than a running sock. The foot is often in contact with the ground for longer and the roll through from the heel to the toe means that there is a greater potential for hot spots to flare up and cause you problems.
Now, we’re big fans of ‘double socking’, something anyone who uses walking boots will understand. But most people would assume that running shoes (which is what it’s best to use for Sport Walking) are just worn with a single short sock. Not in our world! Using two socks gives you several advantages: first, it really helps with blister prevention, second it helps with additional cushioning, especially for longer walks and third, it can make getting a precise close fit with your shoes easier, as you can vary the sock thickness to get a truly snug fit.
To start with though, whether you’re using two socks or just one, it’s essential that the sock that connects with your foot, is tight fitting, stretchy (but not too much), reasonably cushioned and highly breathable. If your ‘base sock’ is lacking in any of these areas, that’s where everything can start to unravel.
All three of these socks perform extremely well as either single socks, ‘base socks’ or ‘over socks’, although none of them have been able to replace our ‘base sock’ of choice for ultras or long training walks (only because of our specific needs though). Despite this they have all become valued socks for all other uses and now we wouldn’t swap them!
In sort, these are some of the best walking socks we’ve used and although, like us, you might not use them for everything, we’re pretty sure they’ll become a valued part of your Sport Walking gear too.