Saturday, December 3, 2011

Injinji Outdoor Series Toe Socks Review

As promised, here is a follow up to the review I did on the Injinji Performance Series Toe Socks in mid November.

As you know, I love trail running and climbing the Manitou Incline in my huaraches from Invisible Shoes.  As winter has arrived, I've been looking at ways to keep running in them, but trying to stay warmer at the same time! After trying the Performance Series, I talked to the folks at Injinji and they were kind enough to send me two pairs of the Outdoor Series to try out.

The key difference between the two series is in the fabric content.  The Performance series uses a blend of 70% Coolmax (poly fiber), 25% nylon, and 5% Lycra. The Outdoor series uses 70% nuwool (Injinji's Australian merlino wool instead of the Coolmax).

Although both series boast the patented 5-sleeve seamless design for the toes, I found that I had a much easier time getting a nice fit from the Outdoor series, versus the non-wool Performance series. They had a really nice feel to them, and I seemed to have an easier time getting all toes in snug, and them staying there (my little toe seems to not want to part with his neighbor very easily).

For my first test, I ran a 5K in the neighborhood, on a slightly breezy day, with the temps right around 35F (2C). I wore one Outdoor Series original weight mini-crew on one foot, and the same weight in the Performance series on the other foot.  From a warmth perspective, I noticed a significant difference between the two.  Primarily, when the breeze kicked up, I could really feel it much more in the Performance series sock, but it was barely noticeable in the Outdoor.  The cold I could feel coming up off the frozen pavement was more noticeable in both, with only a very slight advantage in the Outdoor. I've noticed that even running with the 6mm "Contacts" from Invisible Shoe, the transfer of cold off of frozen surfaces is pretty quick. Guess I need to keep my feet moving more quickly!

In addition to the "original weight" socks, I also tried out the "Lightweight" Outdoor Series sock, in a "no show" cut.  As you can see in the picture, this cut rides lower than the mini-crew. I originally avoided that cut, thinking it may not work as well with my sandals, but as you can see in the picture below, the design works very well with the heel cords on my sandals.  I took these socks up the Incline, and 3.5 mi down the Barr Trail one early morning when the temp was right around 32F (0C) when I started. As you would expect, the "lightweight" version was thinner than the original weight, however to me it felt like I got the same temperature control out of them.  My feet stayed warm, even through the wind, and I really like the feel of the thinner material.  One concern I had with the original weight material of these socks was the fact that it muffled some of the groundfeel that I was used to. With this thinner material, that was much less noticeable.

Injinji notes that the Outdoor Series materials are designed to provide good temperature control, providing warmth when it is cold, and cooling when it is warm.  Granted, if its warm, I'm not going to be wearing socks, so I can't speak to that.  But I do know that the wool blend in these socks is terrific.

Finally, on Friday I ran the Incline/Barr Trail again, with sub-freezing temps, and about 3+ inches of new snow. Because of the snow/ice, I opted to run in regular running shoes, yak trax, and the original weight Injinji Outdoor Series.  Again, the socks were very comfortable, and I had no issues staying warm.

So, after all this fiddling around, I am going to stick with the Outdoor Series, Lightweight, no-show cut version.  I really like the warmth I get from them, combined with the very comfortable fit and minimal interference with my sandals. They are absolutely worth the few extra $'s over the Performance Series.  I've heard from other runners that they really like these socks in regular shoes also, as the toe sleeves help prevent blistering.  I'm guessing that the lightweight versions may also work with with VFF's, however I don't have any experience in running in those, with or without socks, so I can't comment.

On a side note, I did follow the manufacturers recommendation to hand wash these socks in mild soap, and to let them air dry (easy to do with Colorado's single digit humidity). I figure at $12-$16 per pair, I'm want them to last!  Also, I've found that after repeated wearing, the socks begin to take shape to your foot/toes, and each time I put them on, it takes less time and they stay put.

Wow.. ok, if you've taken this much time to read about toes socks and minimalist sandals, then you are as crazy as I am :-)

Good luck, stay warm, and happy running!

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
--Robert Frost


  1. Just thought I'd chime in and let you know that I've got a pair of the blue performance socks (Coolmax) from over 2 years ago that have been through wash after wash and mistakingly thrown into the dryer. They're nearly as comfortable as the day I bought them. There aren't any thinned spots at all. I also have a pair of the old smart wool outdoor socks from last year and they've been through the washer and dryer a few times as well without a problem. I don't advise it as they are a bit tight after they get out of the dryer. And I usually air dry them when I catch the laundry or when my wife thinks about it. There is a slight thinned spot on one of the SmartWool socks from a rough area in my Vibram Bikilas, otherwise, best durable socks I've ever own.

  2. That's great to know, since I'm good about taking care of them now, but that probably won't last, and they end up in the wash... kind of like the "no eating" in the new car syndrome.. never lasts! Thanks!

  3. I've always thrown mine in the washer/dryer. What are ya gonna do, right? They're still fine after last winter.

  4. My experience with smartwool casual socks (not the PhD running model) is that it's of only moderate durability. Both ordinary and the toe socks (mini crew). Heel and area under ball of foot have little wool left after maybe 50h running and walking - the nylon mesh is still there though, keeping the sock together. After reading this review, I will try the injinji wool and synthetics models. Comfortwise I find the smartwools to be very good though.

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