At one time or another, either out on the hill or in a running race, we’ve felt the burning, rubbing, and pinching of an unwanted intruder – the blister. Often small and innocuous looking, but very painful, they can in extreme cases spell the premature end of a trip. The bastards. I most recently felt the wrath of a blister whilst completing the Welsh three peaks, and was left hobbling in agony for the last few kilometres down from the summit of Snowdon, instead of being able to bask in the late evening alpenglow and savour the finish of a mighty day out.
Through a fortuitous Twitter exchange with US adventurer Karts Huseonica (@karts999) and a company called ArmaSkin I was offered the chance to test their flagship product (an anti-blister liner sock) on an expedition to Norway. Could it be the blister solution I badly needed in Wales? Here are my thoughts, but first some basic facts.
- ArmaSkin socks are made in Australia, and are available to purchase for £27.95 (including VAT and P&P) in the UK
- The socks are designed to be worn as a liner sock
- The socks are available in short (similar to a ‘pop sock’) and long designs, and in black and white colours
- The socks are machine sewn by a human, not a robot (I think this gives higher quality stitching)
- They are 87% polyester, 16% spandex, and 5% silicone
- They have a ‘si fusion’ inner coating which sticks to the foot to prevent friction. This inner also wicks moisture to the outer layer keeping the foot dry
- They have a smooth outer fabric that minimises friction between the foot and shoe
- The stitching is strategically located micro flat stitching for a contoured fit that eliminates pressure points
- The socks weigh approximately 20g (per sock)
- They are machine washable and can be tumble dried on a low temperature
I tried the long black socks. First impressions of the packaging are really positive, the branding looks quite neat, and the colour scheme and matte finish give you the sense that it is a well made product. There is some useful text on the side of the box with instructions on how to put the socks on. Sounds silly but there is a technique to rolling them on to your foot for the optimal fit. You can find further instructions on the ‘how it works’ section of the their website. There is a diagram and some explanation of the mechanics of how the socks work. There is also a statement suggesting that they have been tested in extreme conditions by athletes, explorers, soldiers and the like. I can testify that the Armaskin team and many folk worldwide have done a great job with testing the socks, and you can see some of the testimonials and current expeditions using the socks on their website.
The mechanics of how the sock combats blisters rest on the stitching, the fabric and the inner coating. As I have recently taken to machine sewing some of my own outdoor gear I was particularly impressed with the micro flat zigzag stitching. So many outdoor garments have poor quality stitching, but these are certainly not one of them. As for the ‘Si fusion’ hydrophobic inner coating, I was a little bit skeptical at first as it’s all too common for seemingly pseudoscientific (though I don’t believe this is the case here) words to be used to sell products to the unassuming masses. The proof in the pudding however is testing them out in the real world.
I went headfirst into using the socks this April on an 8 day ski expedition across the Hardangervidda plateau in Norway. The conditions here are similar to the polar regions, although I encountered fairly temperate weather. I tried out the socks on a number of the days (with athlete’s foot powdered feet) underneath vapour barrier liners, with additional large woolen oversocks, and some pretty serious ski boots. This proved to be pretty hot in the warmer than expected weather and I experienced some serious sweating. My feet did however feel very fresh with little smell at the end of the day. I would not however recommend this footwear combination, and would do away with the liners in such temperate conditions in future. In more extreme cold I would be tempted to stick with liners and ditch the socks and run the risk of blisters, over the much more deleterious outcome of frozen feet (which liners mitigate against by blocking moisture from reaching the outer socks and freezing up).
Most recently I took the socks out for a blast around the Edale valley in the Peak District. This time I wore the socks alone in a pair of light trail shoes. When you first roll the socks on you would be right in thinking they are a little tight, but after a few minutes you forget you are wearing them. I found them a pleasure to walk in with no friction whatsoever thanks to the smooth outer fabric. My feet also felt very cool, and comfortable throughout the day, and as in Norway very fresh when taking the socks off. The only downside was that pairing the socks with shoes that were a little too big meant my feet were slipping around inside the shoe, and I wouldn’t have fancied tackling a tricky scramble with this setup [note: this would not be an issue if worn as intended as a liner, but I often like wearing liners only in warmer weather]. The most important point however was that there was no pinching, rubbing or burning in sight and the blisters were kept well at bay. I can only wish that I had been using these on my Welsh three peaks jaunt.
If I were given free reign I would be tempted to add a few more colours to the range, and finish the top of the sock with a rolled stitch or piece of material. I do know however that they are continually looking to innovate the product so I guess we will have to watch this space.
In summary it does exactly what it says on the tin – they give you good protection against blisters. If you are a perennial blister sufferer then these might well do the trick for you. If you are not then I would say these are a nice luxury if you want to pamper your feet, but not a necessity if you are on a short day hike. If however you are looking at long distance walks or running events the socks are only a small outlay to mitigate against the risk of blisters.
Next Review: I’ve tested a whole range of gear and food over the past two years and so I will be trying to publish more reviews in future. Next up will be Netherlands based outdoor location tracking services Follow my Challenge. If you would like me to test and review your latest product do drop me a line here.
Disclaimer: The manufacturer sent me free socks to test out in Norway, and they have promoted my expedition and adventures via their newsletter, twitter feed and website. They did not ask for a review in return.