GEAR REVIEW – A mountain enthusiasts view on investing in your piggy bank.
A piggy bank, not the cute, chubby curly pink tailed one that jingles, we’re talking about the one that houses your little piggies that take you from your couch to the top of it all. As endurance athletes, we compete to win and rely on our bodies to function at 110% every day, training or race day. We put countless hours on our feet, whether it be a 50-mile marathon training week, a 100-mile century ride or a 6-mile uphill slog to the base of an alpine exploit. It wasn’t until recently that I started to invest in my very own piggy bank. I figured a sock was a sock, and boy have I paid for this in the past. Sock bunching, stretching and slipping down my heels have resulted in enough sores and blisters that I now consider my socks a piece oftechnical gear. I wouldn’t show up to the Eiger or a marathon wearing everyday jean shorts, so why would I show up wearing your run of the mill cotton socks?
I now consider myself a sock aficionado of sorts and have spent probably too much time testing out every kind of top end athletic sock on the market. Which brings me to Swiftwick. Who? What? Yeah, I can not believe I had never heard of the company before either. Swiftwick is a “made in the USA” company which manufactures high end compression socks, and not just the knee-high compression socks you see out there. Swiftwick manufactures variable height footbed compression socks that stay on and don’t shift. I put this claim to the test last weekend with the Swiftwick ASPIRE Zero and was so impressed, I tested out the PURSUIT One socks during the week. Truth be told, I’ve been finding excuses to do laundry so I could wear them all week!
Swiftwick ASPIRE Zero, below ankle ($12.99)
The ASPIRE Zero sock is from the ASPIRE line, which is a thin and light sock with no toe seam, a compression footbed and minimal cuff. The Zero refers to a no-show sock that sits just below the ankle.
We tested this claim in the Swiss Alps this past weekend. I wore the ASPIRE Zero sock for two rainy days trekking through over 5,000 vertical feet of dirt, mud and snow. The socks did not shift. The socks refused to stay wet, despite repeated soakings, and more interestingly did not stretch. At the end of day one, when I usually need to change socks, the Swiftwick ASPIRE Zeros looked and felt like when I had first put them on.
Day two dawned and I slipped the same socks back on. At the end of day-two, still no hot spots, no bunching and no stretching! I was sold.
The ASPIRE Zero is Swiftwick’s second most minimal sock, and ideal for hot weather sports or when you need wicking protection. The ASPIRE Zero incorporates Olefin, a Nobel prize winning fiber that retains <0.1% of its weight in moisture and is very wear resistant.
Swiftwick PURSUIT One, ankle ($16.99)
Like the ASPIRE Zero, the PURSUIT One offers the same footbed compression technology. The PURSUIT One is from Swiftwick’s PURSUIT line, which is made of high end Merino Wool and brands itself as the only 200-needle compression wool sock on the market. The One refers to its one-inch double cuff that sits just over the ankle, offering compression not only in the footbed but also at the ankle. Both the PURSUIT and the ASPIRE socks come in heights varying from zero to 12 inches (0, 1, 2, 4, 7, 12).
We tested this bad boy out on an aggressive group cycling ride covering 50 miles of gruesome ascents, jaw chattering descents and all out sprinting flats. The Merino wool used in the PURSUIT socks are of very high quality and the fabric weave is so tight that there was absolutely no stretching or itching. Just as should be expected of high quality Merino wool, they kept my feet cool while I was ascending steep hills in the heat and kept them warm when I dropped in the shade or during long, windy descents. Like the ASPIRE Zero socks we tested, these socks did not bunch up or shift in the slightest during my three hours of intense cycling. They have officially been inaugurated into the kick butt section of my sock drawer.
As for the length, the ‘One’ fit right over my malleolus, the protrusion of the ankle, which gave me just enough coverage to protect the front of my ankle from chafing on my cycling shoe’s tongue and a little compression at my ankle, which is recovering from a fracture and torn ligament. The PURSUIT sock offered a bit more padding on the footbed than the minimalist ASPIRE, which makes the PURSUIT great for longer distances and more variable climates.
This is my go to cycling and trekking sock for below the ankle approach shoes. For higher profile boots, I may have to get my hands on a pair of PURSUIT Sevens to test while alpine climbing, as I have no doubt they would replace my current premium Merino wool sock line-up.
Bottom Line – Bring all ten of those piggies to the fancy store and buy yourself a pair (or ten) of Swiftwick Socks.
Addict Disclaimer – Thrillseekers Anonymous was provided with Swiftwick socks for this review. The opinions expressed above are my own and reflect my experience with the Swiftwick ASPIRE Zero and PURSUIT One socks. No one can buy my love!