We know that socks really should be considered equipment and not just some ol' something that gets pulled out of the bottom of the drawer. We've worn sport-specific models, as well as ones made from all different fibers and mixes, plus women's- and men's-specific versions. But Asics has gone an entirely new direction, making technical socks that are tagged for specific foot types or designed for specific foot needs or shoe types.
With furrowed brows, our testing team has been wearing these socks off and on for months, walking and running, young and old, during long and short workouts, on dirt and pavement, and in hot and cold temperatures.
"They all felt different, but I don't think they did a darn thing in regard to more or less motion control," stability or cushioning, said one tester.
The Kayano Ped (also comes in a quarter version we didn't try) seems to be the most technical, in that it is engineered and woven anatomically, with one designed for the left foot (note the L woven into the toe area) and one for the right foot (yes, there's an R so you don't get them mixed up and walk in circles all day). They are named after the company's ever-popular stability shoe, the Kayano. We normally don't like ped socks -- we get shivery behind the knees thinking about them because it reminds us of tennis clubs, little ladies in white, mint juleps and pink balls of fluff at the back of the ankle. But these are different. The top is more like a boat shape with a curved area of thicker padding across the back to keep them up, as well as a matching curve across the foot. They're also extremely colorful, like bumble-bees. All our testers loved the fit on the foot, the wicking and comfort. Did they provide more "stability" as they are said to do? Didn't feel a difference, testers agreed, but they are still one of the favorite socks in the drawer now.
The Nimbus Quarter (also comes in a ped version we didn't try) matches up with the Asics Nimbus cushion shoe. Oddly, we had quite a difference in opinions among testers here, with one for example saying they didn't wick and felt clammy, another saying they felt too cushy and thick, and another now nearly swearing by them. So go figure. The quarter height is nice -- not too high or too low.
The Motion Control sock didn't win a lot of fans among our testers at least. It is said to provide a snug fit that offers "proprioceptive support" for the foot and lower leg (that means it's supposed to basically help keep you upright and your lower legs and ankles aligned). Fit was mediocre (after we had been spoiled by the anatomical snugness of the Kayano sock), although one tester thought the fit was good. Called out as a slight negative was the height of the quarter top -- too tall for our wearers' tastes, but most just rolled it down to make up for it.
Basically, these socks a great direction with some real plusses and a few minuses. In sum, we say: They're socks. Wear them as great socks. But, no, you can't forego the shoes now. As one tester wrote, "If it takes a whole lot of shoe to provide stability, how are they going to do it in a flimsy sock?"
SNEWS Rating: 4.0 hands clapping, on average, with the Kayano ranking 4.5, the Nimbus a 4.0 and the Motion Control a 3.5 (1 to 5 hands clapping possible, with 5 clapping hands representing functional and design perfection)
Kayano Ped, $14 (Quarter, $15)
Nimbus Quarter, $12 (Ped, $10)
Motion Control, $12
For more information: www.asicstiger.com