We sell a reasonable quantity of technical running socks each year, yet attend any running event and the majority of participants are wearing c - - p (sorry, nontechnical, basic socks)! Why?
Why, when a cheap cotton or non-technical sock can cause a blister (a major nightmare for any runner) and why, when a good technical sock will perform, wash well and retain its qualities for hundreds of miles, whereas a cheap sock will wear out, become hard etc after far, far fewer miles and so, in essence, be a false economy?
Runners will spend well over £100 for a pair of training shoes, yet for an extra £10-£12 many will not wear a technical sock, which as stated above, can help to prevent blisters. It doesn’t really make sense.
Our feet have 250,000 sweat glands and these excrete as much as half a pint of moisture a day and when we start exercising our feet will sweat even more. When the skin of the feet is continually rubbed against a shoe, sock or rough surface a blister can occur. Excessive moisture due to sweaty feet or wet conditions can soften the skin and make it more susceptible to friction and, in turn, blisters. If, like a wet cotton t-shirt sticking to the body, the sock will absorb the perspiration; it will become wet and stick to the foot, which can then lead to friction and in turn can then cause the blister.
Before trying to explain why all runners don’t wear a technical sock, let’s look at exactly what the qualities of a technical sock are. Socks that are made from synthetic fibres (not cotton), ‘wick’ the moisture away from the feet, helping to keep them as dry as possible. Other key features are the anatomical shape, which helps to prevent the sock from bunching up, a seamless toe construction and an arch-grip support. In addition, a ‘Y’ or ‘W’ heel construction, vent flex notches and zonal cushioning are also attributes. A smooth, soft yarn can also be important.
Our Twin Skin, double layer socks, are regarded by many as being the most effective for helping to prevent blisters as if there is any friction it will occur between the two socks and not between the skin and the sock.
Different levels of cushioning, while perhaps not as important as the key features above, are becoming more of a focus for sock brands and socks are available from ultra- lightweight to maximum cushioning offering the runner the option to run in a sock to suit his/her preference or the terrain that they run on.
Socks have developed over recent years, both in terms of the technical yarns, features and trend, but the key benefit remains the same.
It wasn’t that long ago that the majority of socks were white, and available in one/two different leg lengths, but nowadays, they are available in a wide range of colours and designs, and a variety of different leg lengths, including: no show, socklet, quarter, anklet, three-quarter and classic.
There are many yarns that offer technical qualities, such as Coolmax, Drirelease, Merino, and Tactel which coupled with LYCRA really do the job.
So, returning to the point why don’t all runners wear a technical sock, because surely it makes sense to do so.
All sport, and in particular, specialist running stores, will carry a range of technical socks, yet far too many do not attempt to even mention the benefits of a technical sock, let alone sell the customer a pair. The sock complements the shoe and should not be seen as an irrelevant extra sale. It’s actually a service and a customer shouldn’t be let out of the shop without a pair of technical socks with the pair of new trainers!
The sock needs to be mentioned before the customer actually tries the trainer on, as it’s too late introducing the conversation at the checkout. I was recently in a key specialist running store and the owner of the business sold three pairs of shoes, whilst I was there, but despite having a very good range of technical socks on display, did not mention the sock once and the three customers left without even being made aware of the benefits of the socks, let alone buying a pair. The retailer potentially lost £35 of sales!
The shop assistant needs to ask questions, such as ‘do you wear a technical sock’ or ‘you should try a technical sock before I give you the trainer to test’ We provide free ‘try-on’ socks for this purpose, or an ‘off the shelf’, no obligation option, so that the customer can try on the exact sock that he/she prefers. Then if the customer tests the shoes out on the in store treadmill, they are getting the best possible experience.
Shop owners should really monitor their shoe/sock sale ratio and a great exercise is to see how this percentage increases once all staff engage in the above. One store that we did this with increased their sock sales by 70 per cent in one week!
It could be argued that a technical sock is the second most important piece of kit after the training shoe!