Anyone who has ever run for more than a few miles can testify that you are only as good as your feet; once you start getting blisters and hot spots, your run is close to done. And forget about walking properly for a few days after you really tear your feet up!
When I purchase running socks I tend to make my way to the local running store. I'll check out the selection, and usually make my choice based on two criteria: 1) seams, and 2) material. Running socks have to be nearly seamless if I'm going to spend my money on them, and they had better be made out of a material that is moisture-wicking such as CoolMax.
Several weeks ago I was given the opportunity to "test drive" socks from Fresh Gear Athletic Wear. Never heard of them? Neither had I. I was happy to have the chance to check out new gear, but at the same time I was skeptical of trying something new. At the store I have the chance to touch and feel products before making a decision; what if I received a shipment of these new socks and didn't like them?
Fresh Gear provided pairs of their 1/4 length, no-show, and no-show toe socks
When I opened the box from Fresh Gear I was pleasantly surprised. Their socks were straight-forward, plain white with an "FG" logo near the top. I took a closer look at them and noticed on the "normal" socks (non-toe socks) that they had an arch support band approximately halfway down the foot. The soles of the socks were thick without being overly soft, and the tops of the socks had a breathable looking mesh.
The arch support band is clear on both the 1/4 length sock...
and the no-show
Wrap-around arch support
The mesh upper is pretty noticeable
The final thing I took a look at before trying the socks out for a test run was the content label: 42% cotton, 37% CoolMax, 14% acrylic, 4% nylon, 2% latex, and 1% spandex. This sounded like a pretty good mix of materials to me, so now it was time to see how the socks held up (and treated my feet!).
In all, I ran in the Fresh Gear socks for a little over two weeks. In that time I literally forgot each time I ran in them to note how they felt. Now that may sound like I wasn't paying attention, but then I realized: what more could I want from a sock than to not notice it's there? Especially when I start my runs specifically with the intent to notice them?!
Fresh Gear socks came through with flying colors. I never experienced a single blister or hot spot while wearing them and they were comfortable while running and while kicking around the house post-run. They stood up to everything I threw at them, to include long runs, treadmill runs, tempos, and hills. They did their job, and they did it well. They protected my feet and did it without reminding me they were there, which is pretty much the biggest compliment I can give a sock!
After using the socks I took advantage of Fresh Gear's second big selling point. Each Fresh Gear sock is covered with Permara Antimicrobial Protection, a feature that Fresh Gear claims eliminates 99% of bacteria and fungi that cause socks to smell. This is one of the first sports products I've used that actually wants you to wash them in bleach. According to the Permara website
"Each time a durable product is cleaned or laundered with an EPA-registered chlorine bleach, such as Clorox® Regular-Bleach, the germ-fighting power is renewed like a rechargeable battery and the recharging capability lasts over the useful life of the product. Permara™ is a safe, yet highly effective solution to providing antimicrobial protection on durable goods."
Long story short, the socks smelled fine out of the wash, even after getting used, abused, and left in a hamper for several days pre-wash. They even helped my shoes smell better. I'm the type of guy who can smell up a pair of sandals, so you can imagine what my running shoes smell like. After a few weeks of running in Fresh Gear I noticed that the smell in both pairs of my running shoes was basically gone. I'm not sure exactly how these socks pulled that trick off, but I'm going to roll with it!
Along with the normal socks, Fresh Gear also sent me some of their toe socks to try out. These no-show socks (also available in 1/4 length) are truly no-show: they barely work their way over your heel! I tried them with some normal shoes and didn't care for the feel, mainly because they'd fall down if the shoes were not super snug on my foot. With Vibrams, however, they worked great (which made sense, considering they're toe socks).
Fresh Gear No-Show toe socks
They truly are no show!
The no-shoes in VFFs: You can barely see the sock by my heel
Honestly, I use VFFs for walking and working out, so I can't give a great review on the toe socks running-wise. I can say that yes, they did fit perfectly in my VFFs and did not affect the sizing. Like their "normal" counterparts I forgot I had them on after a while. It was nice to have a little protection for my feet in the VFFs, and hopefully having a sock that prevents odor can minimize some of that famous VFF-stink that comes from physical activity and no socks! Anyone who has used VFFs knows what I'm talking about; even washing the shoes doesn't take that smell away!
Overall I can say that I have been very pleased with my Fresh Gear experience. I came into the situation not knowing what to expect, and can honestly say that I have been happily surprised. These socks are the right mixture of comfortable and durable, and with their ability to minimize odor-causing bacteria they even go a step further than most socks in their usefulness! I logged over 100 miles in the socks prior to writing this review, and did not suffer a single issue with my feet in the entire process. What more can a runner want from a sock?!