Thursday, July 11, 2013

Gear Review: Balega Socks

Balega Enduro 2 Quarter socks with Drynamix
MSRP: $11
Produced in Cape Town South Africa
Distributed from Hickory, NC
Company Website
Product Page

I had been e-mailing an old friend of mine about outdoor business issues here in Colorado a few months back, when I noticed her signature at the bottom of her e-mail had changed. I noticed the new company she worked for, called Balega, and checked out the website. Socks.. When it comes to adventuring in the outdoors, there is a rather important saying, "Your heels are your wheels." Therefore, we never can check out too many brands to determine what will work for us, and take care of us, the best.

So I asked her if she wouldn't mind kicking me a pair of socks. I specifically asked for a pair of Balega Enduro 2 Quart socks as they sounded closest to the Darn Tough's I've been wearing, every day, since 2008. She gladly sent me a few pairs, free of charge, to check them out. There was no catch, I didn't even promise a review. But I feel I'd be cheating my readers if I didn't tell you about them.

Some of you, who have been reading here for a long time now, may remember my experiment with Smartwool and Darn Tough Socks. Since then, I've worn Darn Tough religiously, aside from the Smartwools I've worn to bed. I could never replicate that particular "Science Experiment", Darn Tough generally works for me, so I had to put a lot of faith into these new socks if I was going to trust them. So, I really went out on a limb. I wore them here and there while training, but the big runs I wore them for were my High Line Canal end to end 100K run, The Rockin K 50 Miler in Kansas, my Grand Canyon R2R2R, and most recently the North Fork 50K. Between training and the aforementioned runs, I used the same exact black pair of socks for each run. Basically, I beat the crap out of them, then threw em in the wash. I then took a separate pair of Balega socks, and just wore them around the house, did yard work in them, went on walks etc... basically I wore them every day for a week, washed them, then wore the same pair for another week. So.. 2 weeks, same pair of socks..

Note: I wore these socks as part of a larger sock review on as well. You can read Craig Lloyds sock review HERE.

Durability: 5
Oh yeah, these socks pass the test. I put them through hell. No holes, no wear spots, no pulls, no random strings hanging off, no stretching, and they return to form after the wash rather than being deformed. My ONLY complaint would be from the pair I wore every day. There was some matting of the socks fibers on the foot pad side of the sock. Just normal wear from the compression of walking. So, it shows me that over time, these socks will indeed lose their cushion. But it'll take some time.

Fit: 5
Like a glove. These things fit me like a sock should. Perfectly. There's no extra space on the heel, no extra space or bunching in the toe, just.. perfection.

Comfort: 5
This is pretty important to me. I need a sock that I can wear for 24+ hours straight all the while pounding on trails. With that, they'll stay comfy from start to finish. I was shocked when they passed the comfort test on the High Line Canal and again in the Grand Canyon. No better tests.

Breathability: 5
On hot days they keep my feet cool. I like that they're comfy in offering cushion and support, yet don't overheat my feet as cushion socks tend to do. I think the stitching does cause a problem with debris though.. see below.

Wickability: 5
Get em soaked, they shed the water and dry quickly. If your shoes dry, the socks will dry with it. The breathability helps avoid some sweat issues, which is also a testament to the wickability of the sock. Unless I was walking through a stream, my feet were dry, cool and happy.

Debris: 2
The Grand Canyon offered the best test of this. The stitching of the sock invited a lot of that fine Grand Canyon sand into my socks. So.. whatever debris (sand) made it through the mesh on my running shoes, also made it's way into my sock.. then caked itself under the ball of my feet where a tiny sand castle began to form. This was my only problem with the sock. Something that Darn Toughs do well is keep debris out.. but this isn't a huge enough problem to make me dislike the sock. I just make a point to not run on the beach.

Overall Design: 4.5
Hey, I really love these socks. So much so that I'm considering wearing them for the entirety of next weekends Vermont 100 Mile Endurance Run. It takes a lot for me to want to wear a pair of socks, and trust them, for 100 miles. I've worn Darn Tough religiously for 5 years.. Balega just took over the thrown. Welcome the new king. Balega.