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Reviews > Clothing > Socks > Injinji Performance Mini-Crew Socks > Test Report by Ray Estrella
I've been backpacking for over 30 years, all over California, Minnesota, and many western states. I hike year-round in all weather, and average 500+ miles (800+ km) per year. I make a point of using lightweight gear, and smaller volume packs. Doubting I can ever be truly ultralight, I try to be as light as I can yet still be comfortable. I start early and hike hard so as to enjoy the afternoons exploring/chilling. I usually take a freestanding tent and enjoy hot evening meals. If not hiking solo I am usually with my brother-in-law Dave or my twin children.
Manufacturer: Injinji Footwear Inc.
Quick & Dirty, Nitty Gritty
Although the Injinji mini-crews feel a bit strange when first putting them on they are not noticeable after I have my shoes on. They prevent between-the-toes blisters better than anything I have used. It is hard to get them clean "looking" and they aren't the best at odor-control, but I am a true fan of them. Please read on for the details.
The Injinji Original Weight Mini Crew toesocks (hereafter called the mini-crews or socks) are socks with something different from all the other socks I have. Well five things different to be accurate. That is the toe sleeves each one has.
Injinji does not call them toe sleeves though. They call it an Anatomical Interface System. Here is their explanation of it. The "Anatomical Interface System (AIS) is engineered to separate your toes with a thin, anti-friction membrane that is both lightweight and breathable. Seamless in construction, the tetratsok forms to every contour of your foot. This allows for true restriction free movement from your heel to five toes, encourages healthy circulation, and eliminates skin on skin contact between your toes to prevent blisters from developing."
The socks, part of the company's Performance series, are made from Invista's COOLMAX fabric to the tune of 70%. 25% is listed as nylon with the final 5% being Lycra. The material is soft and smooth, not coarse feeling.
Even though I have been using Injinji's products for some time now, looking at the construction of these socks still amazes me. The socks are made with a single-ply weave. The individual toes are seamless, coming right from the body of the sock. And the body has no seams even where it forms the heel pocket, what Injinji calls the Vector Heel. Even where the top turns inside and down to form a 1 in (2.5 cm) dual-layered welt band (to help keep them up) it has only been attached to the inside of the sock. There is nothing on the sock to put any pressure on my feet. About the only thing that looks like a seam is at the very end of the toes. Here is a shot of them.
A red sewn-on label sits on the outer side of each sock. I say the outside because if it is positioned to the inside of my ankle I will have a heck of a time getting them on. This is because the socks have to be made Right and Left to make the anatomically correct toes work.
The mini-crews come about 2 in (5 cm) up on my ankle.
The package (which opens up and contains a wealth of information) recommends machine washing them with warm water and line drying.
Well that's about all I can think to say about the mini-crews. Time to get them in the field and see what they can do. Please come back in two months to see the results.
The test pair of mini-crews have been on five 2-day backpacking trips and a few day-hikes, all in Minnesota. No single day has been more than 4.5 miles (7.25 km) in length. I have about 11 days with them on so far. Temperatures have ranged from 34 to 80 F (1-27 C) and there has been rain on about a quarter of the days. Locations have been along the Red River of the North, Paul Bunyan State Forest and three state parks on the North Shore of Lake Superior. The picture above was taken at one of the McCarty Lakes. Only the right mini-crew is being worn. (The other foot has a compression sock and brace.)
Other mini-crews owned have seen much more use in California to the tune of at least 450 miles (725 km) much of it during 20-30 mile (30-48 km) days. Temperatures there ranged from freezing to 118 F (48 C). Much of the use was on the Pacific Crest Trail in the southern third of the state.
After being selected to test the Injinji mini-crews I suffered an accident that saw my ankle and lower leg severely damaged. As I have been using the same socks for many years we decided to incorporate the data of my earlier mini-crews as they have a lot of long-distance use. While I am getting back out right now my distances are curtailed as are the amount of days I can spend hiking before giving the foot a rest.
What can also be seen is how hard it is to get dirt stains out of the fabric. That sock has been bleached a couple times (including right before taking the picture) and even soaked in an oxygenating cleanser and that is as good as it gets.
Because they worked so well I bought two more pairs in black. Much later I bought three more in grey. The only reason I have to keep buying more is because I keep losing just one sock! Both pairs of my black mini-crews had the left sock go missing. Either the washing machine ate them or when aliens are not busy dissecting cattle and probing humans they teleport my small socks.
Besides wearing the mini-crews by themselves I have also used them under crew-length hiking socks as a liner to prevent blisters and in one case to take up room in a pair of boots I tested that were too loose. They work very well for this application, although Injinji now offers a Lighweight series that works even better.
Another use for the mini-crews is with Vibram Five Fingers footwear. As they have separate toes also a "normal" sock can't be used. Here is a shot of some mini-crews being used with Five Finger KSO Treks in California's Sespe Wilderness. (Yeah that is a kilt…)
The mini-crews do an excellent job of wicking moisture, be it sweat or water. My most comfortable days are when I use them with a highly breathable shoe, like the Oboz Hardscrabbles I tested. (See review.) When paired with a shoe like that my feet just about stay dry.
The only thing negative I have to say about the mini-crews is that they are not the greatest in the foot-funk department. They don't come close to controlling foot odor the way my wool socks do. I would love to see Injinji team up with X-Static for a future version.
That is it for now. Please come back in a couple months to see how the single test toe-sock does for me. I will leave with a shot with the kids on Minnesota's Temperance River.
In Minnesota I have worn the Injinji mini-crew on 5 two and three-day backpacking trips. Most were on or near the North Country Trail in the Chippewa National Forest. Two were cut short by massive flooding that made me return to the car to try to find drier sections. One 3-day trip was spent at Lake Bronson and Old Mill State parks, the last was in Smokey Hills State Forest where the picture below was taking at Elbow Lake.
A couple new states got added to my hiking list also. I went to North Dakota for an overnighter at Lake Sakakawea State Park (note spelling) which is the western terminus of the North Country Trail. I hiked 6 mi (10 km) of the NCT and another 4 mi (6 km) of trails in the park itself. It was hot and muggy, 81 F for a high and only 67 F for a low (27 - 19 C) with 76% humidity. It sprinkled during the night.
The next three days (two nights) were spent hiking on the Maah Daah Hey Trail in Sully Creek State Park, Theodore Roosevelt National Park South Unit, and the Little Missouri National Grasslands, along with the Petrified Forest South Trail in the Teddy R. It too was very hot with temps from 92 down to 55 F (33 - 13 C) and humidity of 68%.
Then I drove to my friend and fellow BGT tester Richard Lyon's place in Bozeman, Montana. He picked a couple day hikes in the Bridger Mountains for us to go on. The first was the Trail Creek Cabin trail, and the next day we climbed the highest mountain in the Bridgers, 9700 ft (2960 m) Sacajawea Peak (named after the same native American woman, different spelling), my first summit of the year. The temps were pretty warm 91 and 95 F (33-35 C) in town although it would have been a little cooler at the elevations we were at.
Over the course of the Long Term Report period I have had to still limit my use of the Injinji mini-crews to just the right sock. But my distances are up, getting as many as 12 mi (19 km) per day, but the average has been about 6 mi (10 km) per day. This is a picture from the longest day as I head up the trail along the river (on the other side of the trees) in Lake Bronson State Park. By the way, no vehicles use this trail, that is what mountain bikes do. (Just sayin'…)
While we don't normally do comparisons I have been forced to do so wearing one crew length compression sock and the one Injinji mini-crew. (I look like the old man who can no longer dress himself.) As my daily distances go higher I started getting blisters on the compression sock-clad foot. The Injinji foot has not had as much as a warm spot develop, which just continues the streak as I have never had a blister using any of my other pairs either.
I spent three backpacking trips in areas of major flooding after some huge storms hit the north-central and north-eastern parts of the state. In fact the trip with the kids to the North Shore saw us just make it out two days before a storm dropped 10+ in (26+ cm) of rain on Duluth and the area we had just been. Adding in our normal 2-3 rain-falls per week to ground unable to absorb the moisture it already recieved meant very wet trails for me over the next few weeks. Even at places I was turned back because of water so deep I couldn't see the trail, I still was soaked getting to those points. Here is a shot at one of the North Country Trail access points near the Boy River.
The best (worst?) example was a day at the Goose Lake Hunter Trail system. This loop-backpacking trip utilized the North Country Trail (regular hiking trails), the Woodtick Trail (glorified dirt road) and the Goose Lake Hunter Trails. These are wide trails made by cutting the trees from the path and then clearing deadfall and mowing the brush down at least once a year. They normally only get used in the fall but I have found they make a good way to do loop-hikes. The problem was that this year the Forest Service had too much on their plate to do any clearing and cutting so they were a mess. Plus as I found out they were under water. I just couldn't see it as it was so over-grown, the brush was past my waist in places. All told I went nine soggy miles (14 km) that day before I could stop for camp and put on dry socks. The Injinjis made a noticeable difference in protecting my wet toes compared to my left foot that had the toes rubbing each other all day.
Another great example was a day on the Maah Daah Hey Trail in Sully Creek State Park and the Little Missouri National Grasslands. This was a hot 11 mi (18 km) day that I knew had a river crossing, but was not really sure where. (The Ranger Station turned out to be the Ranger's own cabin and he had no maps or other information of any kind for sale or free, hmm). It turned out that it was about a half-mile (0.75 km) in to my day's hike! So I had wet shoes right from the get-go there too. But since I was not getting my feet wet further the Injinjis wicked away the moisture very well and my foot was actually dry by the time I made it back to camp. The other foot was moisture-wrinkled and getting a blister on the heel when I peeled off the compression sock. Here is a shot of the Injinji crossing the Little Missouri River. Do you see it? ;-)
Interesting note: the post visible at the left side of the picture is one of the thick Maah Daah Hey Trail markers. Even though they are 6x6 in (15x15 cm) thick and buried deep the bison (buffalo) still break them as I found when I passed piles of extras along the trail. Thank you to whoever replaces them as it would be a hard trail to follow at times without them.
I have done my mini-crew-as-a-liner trick too. The only shoes I can wear right now are my loosest fitting ones because the damaged foot is still huge. (And may be for the rest of my life they say.) This means that the right foot has too much room without a thicker sock. So I have just been adding a thin wool sock over the mini-crew which works great. When I do this my feet are actually drier at the end of the day as the absorbent wool sock pulls the moisture that the mini-crew does such a good job of wicking to the surface.
I just about can't tell the difference between the old and new socks now. Both are very stained and the newer one is shrinking to the size of the first one. That is OK as it still stretches to fit when I wear it.
The odor problem is much more noticeable as I have been getting longer trips in. Trying to get as much hiking in as possible I spent a half-day on the trail before driving to my friend's place. As Minnesota is a no-shoes-in-the-house state (but not California where I grew up) I removed my shoes as soon as I came in so as not to insult. Ha! I had to beg a shower immediately before his huge dog buried me as a piece of carrion. (Hi Babar.) I really wish they could work more with wool or imbedded silver in their socks. It would make a product I already like a lot so much better.
Well that is the end of this review. While the test is over my use of the Injinji is not. I expect to be playing This Little Piggy while in the field in the future. My Thanks to Injinji and BackpackGearTest.org for allowing me participate. I leave with a shot of my best day of the year, at the top of Sacajawea, my first peak in a long time.
This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.5 Copyright 2012. All rights reserved.
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