Is it just me or is it hard to find THE perfect pair of womens trail running socks?
For several years now I’ve been wedded to Balega socks for running. Specifically the womens’ ‘Enduro quarter-length’, and ‘ultra light no show’ socks.
I love both styles, having found the fit to be perfect with no moving, ruckling, chafing or blisters, and the socks last for years if you look after them, however I’ve found that with some close-fitting shoes, such as my Salomon S-Lab Sense Ultras, the Enduro socks are thicker than is comfortable, and the Ultra Light socks, while comfortable and performing well, are low-cut and allow stones/mud/twigs etc in more than is ideal when trail running.
So… I went on a quest for a new pair of thin womens trail running socks (or at least socks that would be suitable for trail running), which would be comfortable in my close-fitting trail shoes, reduce the amount of ‘bits’ that end up in my socks, and still perform well in terms of fit, breathability and warmth. Here’s a summary of the various brands and styles I tried out, and my thoughts on each.
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IceBreaker Ultralite Merino
I’m already the proud owner of some lovely IceBreaker merino tops, which are great for active adventures, including as base layers for skiing. So I was excited to find these ultra-lite merino socks in IceBreaker’s Chamonix store earlier this year. They were the most expensive of all the socks I tried, but I justified it because I had an enjoyable experience buying them in a nice Icebreaker shop in my favourite mountain resort, plus, they’re made out of merino!
While I was hoping these would become my go-to running socks, I found that when worn running, my feet got a bit warm, and the merino did not seem soft enough for the bottom of my feet, which are very sensitive to friction forces. I do, however, love these socks for wearing for other activities and just normal wear on weekends, as they are very thin, light, and have a good length, coming up to just above the ankle.
1000 mile socklet: Multi-Sport Ultra Performance
I was interested in these socks as they have a unique design incorporating copper fibre technology embedded into the socks, which is apparently effective against the bacteria and fungi that cause odour. They are also a more ‘traditional’ sports sock, being plain (white and blue) rather than of the jazzy, multicolour variety.
The 1000 mile socks have a good arch support, which I like as I often find that, when running or lifting weights, the high arches of my feet could do with some extra support to reduce the potential for aching afterwards. However, like the IceBreaker socks, I found that, while these are good for lots of different activities, and are comfortable, they were not the best for me to wear when running, as the material (which is 35% cotton) was not soft enough on the bottom of my feet or heels, when running further than 10k.
Balega Enduro womens’ low cut (new style)
I bought these online, thinking that because they looked different to my existing Balega socks, that they would be thinner. Oops, they are essentially an updated version of the thicker Enduro socks I already have, although it wasn’t the end of the world, as these fit nicely when worn with my road-running shoes (currently On Running Cloudsurfers), as there is a bit more space in them to accommodate a ‘normal’ thickness sock. Plus, they’re really soft and comfortable, keep their shape well, and match my Cloudsurfers’ colours!
Compressport – Matterhorn Ultraks race-branded
We received so many unexpected freebies at Matterhorn Ultraks, one of which was a pair of Compresssport trail running socks, with the Matterhorn Ultraks branding. While Ali’s fit him well, and he wears them regularly, mine, despite being my ‘size’ are much longer than my feet. Bizarre, as the next pair I tried (below), are also from Compressport and fit me – so it’s a bit of a shame these little race souvenirs don’t fit properly. I just wear them to look cool around the house instead.
Compressport Trail Pro racing socks
Another great shop in Chamonix is Ravanel & Co. It is a treasure trove for kit-loving trail runners like us, as they stock such a wide range of brands and products – we simply don’t have stores like that at home. After spending at least an hour of a rainy day browsing all the different race vests, bottles, socks and other accessories, I settled on this pair of funky womens trail running socks. The great thing about buying something in a real store is that you can touch and feel the product to assess if it meets all your requirements, so I knew that they were long enough, thin enough, soft enough and the right size. The only thing I wasn’t so keen on was the colour (it was the only pair in my size), but that’s mainly because it clashes with my red Salomon Sense Ultra trail shoes!
Interestingly, while these are the same size as the pair I was given at Ultraks, these fit me perfectly. They’re a relatively tight, snug fit, however this is nowhere near the compression you get with compression socks or calf guards, and, when you have such a thin pair of socks, it needs to be a snug fit to ensure they don’t ruckle up or fall down. The only area they’re not snug is either side of my achilles, behind my ankle bone, however this doesn’t seem to affect how they fit. As hoped, they have been great when worn with those close-fitting shoes, and long enough to minimise any pressure on the heel and avoid getting debris in the socks. Result!