Tuesday, 2 February 2016

The worst job in running - Feetures socks long-term test

Being my running socks must be one of the most unenviable jobs in sport.  Unlike most courteous running sock owners who bash out the miles on trails and roads, I insist on dragging them through stinking peat bogs, gravelly granite and sodden moorland instead.  If the Buddhists are right then I sincerely hope that when George Osborne and David Cameron pop their clogs they get reincarnated as a pair.  Until then I'll definitely keep using Feetures.
They spend a LOT of time in here!
A couple of years ago I ran for Northern Ireland at the World Long Distance Mountain Running Champs at Pikes Peak in Colorado.  The fact that the race was 13.5 miles ALL uphill wasn't an issue, but with the finish line at 14,115ft in the crawl inducing, oxygen lacking air I knew that my chances were limited.  Knowing that there was no sensible way to acclimatise I instead focused on preparing all the controllable variables as professionally as possible.  I ran multiple ascents of Slieve Donard back to back, dropped my bodyweight to its lowest safe limit and then started to search for the marginal gains.

When it came to socks I'd always raced in my lucky pair with the orange stripes on.  They'd been with me for 100% of my race wins and so were clearly dripping with lucky charm (neatly ignoring all the defeats they also witnessed).  However, being black and made of heavy cotton I thought they may not be suitable for the thirty degree Colorado heat and so decided to get some 'proper' running socks.  A quick e-mail to 2Pure, the extremely generous Feetures distributors, and six shiny new pairs of Feetures Elites appeared in the post.

First impressions weren't that exciting, after all they're only socks and I tossed them in the garage with my hefty pile of running stuff.  When it came time to try them, closer inspection revealed they were more interesting than initially anticipated.  For a start the socks are left and right specific, and why not?  After all, shoes are totally different for individual feet and they aren't designed to mould to the skin like top quality socks are.  They also feature reinforcement where needed in the heel, sole and toe box whilst being at their thinnest on the top of the foot for some breathability.

Putting them on was a pleasure, silky to the touch they hugged my feet with just a hint of compression and no sign of blister inducing slack spots and once I started to run I became an instant convert to the concept of specific socks for specific tasks.  The inaugural test was a jaunt over the peaks with plenty of uneven, technical ground and a range of surfaces.  What immediately struck me was how much my shoes were slopping around on my feet where they'd never previously felt loose.  The fixed proximity of the sock to my skin highlighted my inadequate lacing, I just never noticed because my socks used to move with the shoes.  Re-lacing my Inov8's generated a whole new level of control that's virtually eliminated the ankle rolls that previously blighted me.

That was eighteen months ago and the six pairs have all had a thorough testing during that period.  From thirty degree heat in Italy to minus ten in Ireland my feet have never felt excessively uncomfortable from the conditions.  Their longevity has been pretty astounding and although the silky feeling is a distant memory they still feel good on my feet and remain very snug fitting.  They are showing no signs of wearing through in any areas despite having been used around sixty times each on average.  Put like that they'd have only cost me 25p per pair per run and are still going strong.  The equivalent would be like a pair of shoes lasting me for over 300 runs and that's definitely a pipe dream!  It's not just the running either, that's sixty washes each too and considering a pair of socks I won from another major running kit manufacturer shrank after just a few spin cycles it further demonstrates the quality of the materials.

Not much else to say really.  Since using the Feetures Elites I've suffered far fewer ankle injuries, no blisters (despite regularly running for up to four hours with wet feet) and feel I have better control in techy ground.  I never expected any of that, I was just looking for some cooler socks.  Spending 15 quid on a pair of socks seems a bit excessive but there are discounted bargains out there and the longevity has been remarkable.

In short, I totally recommend buying some for any running applications, I can't ever envisage running without a pair ever again.  They've been THAT good.

As for the lucky socks, I've taken to wearing them on Saturdays to make Wolves win the football.  A brief look at the Championship table clearly shows I must've used up all the luck already.

Feetures are at www.http://feeturesrunning.com/ and if you want to sell them then contact http://www.2pure.co.uk/.

I know I got them for free but I definitely wasn't asked to write this review and if I wasn't so impressed with the socks (and currently injured, and if the weather wasn't so awful) then I'd never have bothered my arse writing this!


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