X-SOCKS AIRFORCE 1 SOCKS
TEST SERIES BY JOHN R. WATERS
December 30, 2008
CLICK HERE TO SKIP TO THE FIELD REPORT
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John R. Waters
White Lake, Michigan USA
5' 9" (1.75 m)
178 lb (80.70 kg)
My backpacking began in 1999. I have hiked rainforests in Hawaii, Costa Rica, and Puerto Rico, on glaciers in New Zealand and Iceland, 14ers in Colorado and Death Valley's deserts. I hike or snowshoe 6-8 miles (10 km-13 km) 2-3 times weekly in Pontiac Lake Recreation Area, with other day-long hikes on various SE Michigan trails. I also hike in Colorado and am relocating there, which will increase my hiking time and trail variety tremendously.
My daypack is 18 lb (8 kg); overnights' weigh over 25 lb (11 kg). I'm aiming to reduce my weight load by 40% or more.
PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS
Year of Manufacture: 2008
Manufacturer's Website: http://www.x-socks.com
Listed Weight: N/A
Measured Weight: 3 oz (85 g) (XL)
Colors Available: Black/Gray and Dark Gray/Light Gray
Color Tested: Dark and Light Gray
Size Tested: 10-12.5 XL
Guarantee: 2 Years - "If your X-Socks are not top quality, please send us the socks (washed) with the purchase slip and the reason of your dissatisfaction. We will then send you a replacement pair as soon as possible."
"Tech Composition: 26% Nylon, 22% Merino wool, 16% Robur, 13% Mythlan, 9% Elastane, 7% Silk, and 7% Silver Nodor. Materials: 42% Nylon, 22% Merino wool, 13% Polypropilene, 9% Elastane, 7% Silk, 6% Polyester, and 1% Silver." (quoted from X-Socks website)
Picture courtesy of backcountry.com - official online retailer for X-Socks
INITIAL IMPRESSIONS-Aug 2008
On the website, the only picture of the Airforce 1 socks isn't even a picture; it's a graphic outlining all the various features of the socks. There's not much to go on as far as the visual appearance of the socks. So, I was pleased to see the neutral gray color; a darker gray band which encompasses the toe box, wrapping under the outer sole and terminating at the heel, tipped with a small orange toe band.
"TK AIR FORCE 1" is stitched in dark gray on the other side of each sock along with "L'" or "R" indicating on which foot the sock is designed to be worn. The cuff of each sock has the X-Socks logo stitched in dark gray and a bit of orange.
When viewed straight out of the retail hangtag packaging and from a slight distance, the X-Socks Airforce 1 socks look like an ordinary mid-weight mid-calf sock. It was only when I examined the socks up close and felt all the various ridges, bumps and stitching that I could imagine their potential.
According to the X-Socks website and the retail packaging, there are twelve different features that together make these socks "Advanced Foot Protection". Upon initial inspection, I can clearly discern several of them such as the "Heel Protector", the "ToeTip Protector" and the "AirConditioning Channel". Others are not so noticeable, like the Traverse Airflow Channel System" and the "Achilles' Tendon Protector". And then there is the "X-Cross Bandage" which I can't see any indication of at all!
All of these features appear to be the results of various materials, stitchings and weaves which create vertical and horizontal bands in the socks. They start at the top with a "Self-adjusting Cuff", go vertical with the Rod-Padding and "AirConditioning Channel" ridges and continue onto the footbed with various "protectors" there. What these all accomplish will be discovered and reported on during my testing.
READING THE INSTRUCTIONS
Since this test is about socks, no instructions are needed, right? Well, yeah, except for washing instructions! The washing instructions were listed on the outside of the retail packaging using the international symbols for machine wash, permanent press cycle with 40 degree water, no bleach, no ironing, no dry cleaning and no tumble dry. I actually had to look up the symbols since there was no verbiage, but I learned something. Now the trick will be to not throw them in the dryer with the rest of the wash. Surprisingly, there is no mention of having to wash the socks inside-out as is the case with all of my other technical socks.
To register for the 2 year guarantee, there is a coupon inside the retail packaging as well as online registration. On the packaging of each pair of socks there is a serial number on a holographic label which also lists the size of the socks and "Made in Italy". This serial number is needed to activate the guarantee. It was very simple to complete the website form. I'm not sure how I (or X-Socks) would know which of the two pairs of socks belonged to which serial number if I had to replace one of them though.
TRYING IT OUT
Pulling on the Airforce 1 socks I could see immediately how the socks are tapered to be foot-specific. When the socks are on the correct feet, the toebox conforms to the curvature of my toes, longer on the inside of the foot and shorter on the outside of the foot. If I try to wear the socks on the wrong feet, there is extra material that bunches up over the little toe side of my foot and the orange toe tip is skewed. This orange tip when on the proper foot covers only three toes from the inside big toe outwards.
My feet slid into the socks easily and when fully pulled up the socks reach about 2/3s up to my knee. I couldn't feel any noticeable bumps or threads even though there are lots of fuzzy threads ending inside the socks. I've found the same sort of fuzzy threads in most of my other technical socks also.
There is a nice sensation of padding under my toes, but I didn't notice much difference between the outside and inside of the sole even though the padding continues from the toebox along the outside of the sole. The heel cup fits well and pads my heel.
The only initial minor irritation was a tightness at the cuff. I will see if it becomes a problem or if it loosens up a bit as get out on the trails and I wear the socks during various activities.
I wear my hiking boots/socks a lot. Not only do I wear boots on day and weekend hikes and while snowshoeing, but thanks to my work, I will be in Colorado for most of the next 4 months, hiking several miles almost everyday (60 or more miles (97 km) per month) to and from destinations that cannot be reached by vehicle. I wear hiking boots/socks almost every day on rugged trails and rough bushwhacked paths. So it's especially important to me that my footwear be very comfortable and well built. Since I encounter lots of rocks, my footwear must be durable and supportive enough to protect my feet scrambling over bedrock, through plenty of cactus, and the slick conditions of snow, ice and slippery mud as well.
Over the next four months, I will be hiking several times a week mostly in southeast Colorado with at least 2 days of each month dedicated to overnight backpacking (weekends). Plus, during the course of business, I have to hike into remote locations often for antenna/tower work. This has me climbing up rocky random paths and remote access roads which are not maintained. I always wear hiking boots and mid-to-heavy socks in these situations and may hike 4 or 5 miles (6-8 km) each day through this terrain, putting on as much as 30 to 40 mi (48 to 64 km) each week and 60 to 80 mi (97 to 129 km) or more each month. My feet get quite a work-out. During these hikes, I'll carry a pack with as much as 25 to 40 lb (11-18 kg) of gear while scrambling over very rocky sloped and slippery terrain.
Terrain will cover everything from flat sandy BLM trails to the shale-y mountainous Cooper Mountain region in Colorado. Also, lots of mud! Elevation will range from a low of 5000 ft (1524 m), and up to 13000 ft (3962 M).
I plan to wear the X-Socks Airforce 1 socks as much as possible throughout the testing period. I normally wear a heavy weight sock, often with a silk liner. I will be wearing the X-Socks Airforce 1 Socks both with and without a silk liner depending on weather conditions and will report on fit and comfort variations.
This concludes my Initial Report on the X-Socks Airforce 1 socks. My Field Report , after my first two months of testing, is below.
FIELD LOCATIONS/CONDITIONS-Oct 08
The past few months I've been wearing these on trails and hiking in mostly 70 F to 90 F (21 C to 32 C) weather in dry humidity in Arizona and Colorado. They've seen probably over 40 miles (64 km) of use, including 7 miles (11 km) in and out of the Grand Canyon, over 20 miles (32 km) on trails in the rim country of Arizona, as well as dozens of miles/kilometers on bushwhacked hikes in Colorado and in my normal work days here in this beautiful countryside. All the testing has been done within full sized lightweight boots at altitudes from 4500 to 7700 ft (1400 m to 2300 m) above sea level. They look smart enough to wear with casual shoes though.
PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD
Socks. What can be said about a good pair of socks? I would think that a sock is a sock, but after wearing and testing many different styles and brands, I can now say that there are differences. It's like the quest to make a better mousetrap, I guess.
The X-Socks are like none I've worn before. It's the first time I've had to remember which foot to put a sock on since each pair has a left and right sock. They are clearly labeled, and if I am paying attention they actually make it on the correct foot the first time. When they are on the wrong foot I know right away. The toe on each one is tapered, shaped to the little toe, so if it is on wrong, it's apparent way before it's pulled down to the heel.
I guess because the structure has what appears to be so much extra elastic, when one is on the wrong foot; the muscles in my foot seem to be pulling in the wrong direction also. So I've never managed to make a mistake of wear them on the wrong feet.
I will say this though. I was sent two pair for testing. On one trip I only needed to bring one pair along with me in my bag as fresh pair. I grabbed two right feet. That didn't work. So they'll need special attention for packing. Fair warning.
The X-Socks advertise a "memory" and I was really curious as to what they meant by that. Heck, all fabric kinda stretches and changes according to size after frequent use. But these socks stay form fitted and do not stretch out and get loose. For example, whenever I get two pairs of socks for testing, I wear the heck out of one pair and continue to compare it to the unworn pair to see how much it changes. Do they shrink, get floppy, lose color, etc.?
|Worn vs. Unworn X-Socks||The X-Socks have stretched just enough to conform to my calves better than the unworn pair. I was concerned when I first received these that they would be way too tight and as a result would stretch out and fall down my leg as I walked. I have some other socks that creep down. My favorites (I shall not mention names here) do not do that, for example. The X-Socks do not either. |
They mold themselves to the shape of my leg. It's similar to what I think wearing support hose would feel like. They wrap themselves firmly around my leg and do not feel like they will falter and they do not. My foot feels firm and trim as it goes into my boot. There is no fabric excess to create hot spots inside my boot. It's feels like the sock was sprayed on. So there is no foot wiggle inside the sock and little chance for blistering as a result.
|I managed to soak them on a few stream crossing. My boots and the X-Socks were dry within 40 minutes in Arizona at 73 F (23 C) at approximately 6300 feet (1900 m) above sea level. When they were wet I never felt squishy inside my boot. I could tell I was wet because my feet were cooler, but I didn't feel like I had a wet sponge under foot. They handle the wetness quite well. I'm not happy that the boots allowed that much water in, but that is another story.|
There are some loose threads coming out along a few of the seams. When compared to the unworn pair (see photo) you can see them dangling. I'm not sure if this is normal or a sign of wear or manufacturing issues. I know there are always loose threads in clothing, but these were not there before.
|Loose Threads inside X-Socks|
In all so far I like them. They have a different feel than normal socks, but I can get really use to it. I especially like that they do not allow my feet to be surrounded with loose excess fabric. I'm not sure I like or understand the implications of having such form fitted material on my feet for a long time. They leave quite an indent in my leg when removed, but nothing that feels uncomfortable. Since I've never worn support hose, I may be experiencing that same affect. I will continue to wear them though because I like the way they feel.
I'll need to test these in colder weather now and we'll be getting that starting this month with temperatures dropping into the 20 F (-7 C) range at night and snow coming within the next month. My concern is, will the X-Socks be warm enough because they are not as heavy as my wool socks. So these may not be all season socks. I'll report on that in my final review
Please see below for the results of my last two months of testing the X-Socks AirForce 1 Socks.
LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS
I've continued to wear the X-Socks when hiking in Colorado at altitudes from 5600 ft to 8000 ft (1707 m to 2438 m) and in temperatures from 8 F to 76 F (4 C to 42 C) and humidity from 6% to 83%. In all, I'll estimate that I've walked in these socks for well over 60 mi (97 km), wearing different types of hiking boots, from light-weight to winter hiking, and over all sorts of terrain from level to rocky inclines.
PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD
The X-Socks have been comfortable, but I am concerned with the stringing inside the left sock. The pictures below show that there is significant pile along many seams. Some of those excess pile loops being rows that are from 1/2 to 3/4 in (1.3 cm to 1.9 cm) high. There are loops of thread that I can put a few fingers through. The photos tell the story best. These long strings lump together and create internal bumps that I can feel. This is only occurring in one sock. However, the other socks all have a lot of shorter stringy threads as well, just nowhere near the size or quantity of the left sock. I'm not sure if I will hurt things by cutting them down or not.
|Loose Threads inside X-Socks|| |
|Loose Threads on Left Sock|
When I test socks, I keep one pair in reserve as a new pair to see what changes happen to the pair I wear in excess. The X-Socks new pair and the pair I've worn are the same size: length and width. They show little difference in shape. If I were to mix them up, the only difference, other than the bottom of the heels look more worn, would be the smell.
I have worn these socks a few times at temps down to 8 F (4 C) with cotton sports socks pulled over them for extra warmth. I can't put liners under them because they are so form fitting. However, regular socks will fit over them without the X-Socks bunching up due to their tight fit. I was comfortable at that temperature with the over-socks in regular hiking boots. My feet were cool, but not cold enough to worry about frostbite. I would not hike at sub-zero temps with the X-socks all by themselves. These are not the warmest socks to winter hike in.
I still value their formfitting aspect most, because practically all "sock squirm" is eliminated and it's sock squirm that can create blisters and hot spots. So for warmer weather hiking, these have worked very well.
I was visiting my son in Denver for Christmas and I was helping my 7 year old grand daughter put her socks on. "Now make sure you put them on the right foot. You don't want to put those socks on the wrong feet!" I said. "Oh Grandpa John, that's silly! Socks can go on any feet!" Then I lifted up my cuff and showed her my X-Socks. Probably changed her life forever.
This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.
Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.
While the X-Socks didn't really change my life, I enjoyed testing them. I will definitely continue to wear them in warmer weather until they fall apart.
My thanks to Backpackgeartest.org and X-Technology for the opportunity to try out this unique product.
John R. Waters
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