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Reviews > Clothing > Socks > DeFeet Blaze > Andre Corterier > Test Report by Andre Corterier
DeFeet (Charcoal Wool) Blaze SocksReport Series by André Corterier
Initial Report (June 2007)
Field Report (September 2007)
Long Term Report (December 2007)
Personal Biographical Information:
Year of manufacture: 2007?
(1): The soles are moderately thick, still somewhat fluffy after having been washed.
(2): Forefoot and heel appear to be made out of a very similar material as the sole, though even thicker. This would seem to correspond to the areas in which socks (and feet!) experience the most stress. I'm hoping this will both allow the socks to last longer and cushion my feet better. The hangtag says these panels are "puncture-resistant". I'm not at all sure what to make of that. A thorn or needle punctures it quite easily (I checked). So what kind of "puncture" might the manufacturer (or marketing busybody) have had in mind? Is someone trying to tell me these socks won't wear through too quickly? All socks "resist" wearing through - though some do it for a shorter time than others. I guess I'll see how this pans out during the next four months.
(3): The greyish band around the lace pads looks thinnest and shows a rather open weave. This coincides nicely with the most open weave on my running shoes, in which I do most of my hiking nowadays. I am hoping that this will allow for good moisture management. These are wool socks, after all, and I will be testing them in summer.
(4): The lace pad is slightly thicker than the surrounding area, though not as thick as the sole. It's not a feature I find necessarily desirable in socks, as my running shoes do not exert the kind of pressure on my feet which would make me wish for cushioning in that direction (as opposed to the soles, where the combined weight of my body and pack exert enough pressure that I can't have enough, much less too much, cushioning). But this may be different in other shoes (I'll try this with my other shoes) and for other people. It doesn't appear to be an overbuilt feature, so I don't mind.
(5): I found the ankle area to be surprisingly thick. I sometimes wear running socks, and those tend to be really thin around the ankles. The Blazes are actually constructed of a double layer here. Effectively, it's as though a longer length sock had been folded down at the cuff with the top edge pulled down to a point about 2 fingers' widths above the heel area (and woven back into the sock's weave at that point). I am uncertain what this is meant to accomplish. I'm sure the manufacturer must have a reason for this, as it's a complicated thing to manufacture. Strangely, there's not even a marketing blurb hyping (or even mentioning) this feature. Without an idea of what additional benefit this might entail, it seems like dead weight to me.
I also note a stretchy band circling the foot perpendicular to its length, about halfway between forefoot and ankle, effectively wrapped around the metatarsal bones. I am guessing this is meant to keep the sock snug around all of the foot (and it seems to be doing that).
I've worn them without shoes and in dress shoes, but mostly in my running shoes (in which I do most of my hiking), but also in a pair of Columbia Black Rock XCR (waterproof/water vapour permeable) hiking shoes and with a very old pair of Teva hiking sandals.
The cool weather (down to about 5 C / 40 F) again was fine. It's weather in which really thin socks can make my feet feel a little cool in the thin shoes (the tops are about 50 % mesh), but they remained warm and dry (absent rain). I got a load of rain and hail dropped on me so suddenly that I was soaked before I could set up my hammock in order to cower underneath its rainfly (which was my rainy weather technique - given the time of year, I had left my rain gear at home). After the squall had blown past, I wrung the Blazes out and hung them from my pack while I continued in the other pair of socks. My impression was that, given the low ambient temperature, the Blazes did not let go of any moisture by air drying beyond what I had squeezed out of them already. So, once my feet were warm again, I put the Blazes on wet in order to dry them out by wearing them. Putting them on wet was difficult, particularly to get a fit without any small folds, because the sock material clung to the skin of my feet. But I managed eventually. The icky, clammy feeling I got when pulling them on went away pretty much the moment I started walking. While they seemed a little less comfortable to walk in when wet, there were no noticeable problems. Of course, it was still rather cool weather and any heat generated by my feet was countered by evaporative cooling, so one didn't have to expect blisters. Still, I am happy to report that no blisters or even hotspots occurred and that the socks were indeed considerably drier after two hours of walking (as were my shoes).
In warmer weather of the 10 to 20 C (50 to 70 F) variety, my experience was much the same as when dayhiking. It's not a particularly challenging temperature range, and there were no temperature-related issues. There was one issue related to terrain. I was following a trail for a few hours which had a lot of sections with a certain degree of lateral slant to them. While the Rheinsteig is pretty much always either going up or down, this section's trail was also inclined left-to-right as I walked across it. When walking across such terrain in light running shoes, I have a tendency to move my foot inside the shoes. As I put my foot down, the downhill side of its sole descends beneath the level of the uphill side until the sole is flat against the (slanted) ground. I guess it would be possible for me to roll my ankle all the way so that the sole of my foot stayed oriented with the sole of my shoes and make up for the angle required to keep my body upright with my ankles. That doesn't feel good, however. I believe heavier hiking boots are designed precisely to prevent this - by locking in the ankle, they require to keep the sole of the boot horizontal, so that one walks on the uphill edge of the soles on slanted paths. In my case, I make up for this "locking" of the ankle by keeping it semi-locked through musculature. This means that the foot turns a little inside the shoe. In these instances, I noticed a tendency for the Blaze socks to stay oriented with the shoe rather than the foot, which meant that the friction generated thereby was generated on the inside surface of the socks, rather than on their outside surface. This did not entirely defeat the purpose of wearing socks, and the sections of trail so inclined were short enough not to create serious hotspots, though walking them did feel uncomfortable. I noticed no such tendencies on sections of trail which were horizontal in lateral orientation, no matter how steeply they led uphill or downhill.
The weekend had temperatures well above 30 C (85 F) and, as luck would have it, this was the section of trail which was predominantly in the open, rather than covered by trees, so there was little shade to be found. My personal feeling was that 30 C (85 F) was about the upper temperature limit in which I found the Blazes to be comfortable. This was during early and late morning and after sundown. Between noon and dusk I began noticeably "swimming" in my shoes as the moisture generated by my feet to cool them down could not evaporate quickly enough. This wasn't really a problem on the horizontal sections of trail (luckily, the weekend stretch also featured some of those opposed to the Rheinsteig's more usual up/down/up/down combinations). On the inclines and declines, however, this led to some slight slipping inside my shoes (though I tied them tightly). This did not lead to hotspots as such, but I did notice a bit of pressure along the lace pad and experienced an uncomfortable tingling sensation on the entire soles of both feet. The effect described here was marginally less pronounced in the other pair of socks I had with me - slightly thinner with a smaller wool content - but still present. On the Sunday - which really lived up to its name - this turned into a marginally painful burning sensation which abated only slightly during rest breaks. I even tried walking barefoot for a while. This exchanged the burning sensation for various prickly, raspy, pointy and other marginally painful sensations *and* slowed me down, so I gave up on that. I expect I would have walked a little further on that day if this problem had not occurred, but I was already pretty beat any way so called it a hike in the early afternoon.
I should point out at this time that this was the first week-long hike I have ever undertaken. It was also the seventh day, and I'd been making pretty good mileage (particularly considering the ups and downs) every day, so I figure my feet were in for a day of rest no matter what.
On the up side, they have been comfortable in all other terrains and in temperatures from just below freezing up to 30 C (85 F). For wool socks, I consider this to be an impressive temperature range. They have also held up rather well so far. I've put a guesstimated 300+ km (200 mi) on them so far, about 200 km (125 mi) on the Rheinsteig with a LOT of ups and downs. They are fuzzing a bit underneath heel and forefoot, which indicates some thinning of the weave, but still provide some cushioning there (particularly after washing).I'd like to thank BackpackGearTest.org and the DeFeet company for letting me test these socks.
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