Sunday, March 14, 2010

A Favorite Thing

When it comes to gifts, in general, socks are below the Father's Day Tie on the "thoughtful" scale. Unless the recipient is a runner and the gift is perfectly fitting, just the right height, soft yet supportive, not-a-bad color running socks. Then you will get thanked many times, almost to the point of discomfort.

Runners care about their socks. We're prone to toe nail loss, random foot bleedouts, blisters and plantar issues. I'm going to brag a little here and say I'm one of the few marathoners I know who finishes each season with all my nails and no blisters. Then again, maybe I'm just not trying hard enough.

My point is, when I say that these Nike socks are my favorites, I don't say it lightly. I say it in a voice that Moses might have used when he came down from the mountain. "You shall try these socks!"

Here's what I like (and I'm trying to think of something bad, just to seem balanced. We'll see what I've got by the end.)
  • Lefty Righty. These socks were the first that I ever saw with the left foot, right foot fit. And you don't have to guess which is which because there is a tiny R and L on the bottom (framed in photo, so you don't miss it). The first time you wear them, you notice it right away in the hug of your arch. When you've been wearing the same pair for three years, you appreciate the fact that they haven't become shapeless blobs.
  • Arch support. Nike makes these in varying degrees of support. The super supportive ones were a bit too cinching for my high arched foot. These moderately supportive ones give me just the right lift.
  • Quality. Did you notice above that I said I've been wearing a pair for THREE YEARS? The sock in the middle of the picture would be a pre-schooler if it were human! I wear it at least once a week and yet it's just gotten a little fizzy. It's still the right shape and pleasantly supportive.
  • Cushion. The Goldilocks of cushioning - not so much that you can't get into your shoe, not so little that you wonder why they bother marking it in different colors.
  • Colors. The version that I think is for women is white with some light blue and pale gray. There's a band of orange on the inside cuff. No pinks or purples, no kittens, no cute phrases. The guy version is white with orange and gray. Not black and the word Extreme has been left off. The super supportive one is white with grays. In other words, all three could be worn by either gender with comfort and pride. There may be more colors out there, but I don't want to become that creepy chick who hangs out in sock aisles all the time so you'll have to find out on your own.
  • Easy to find...now. When I first started wearing them, it was tough to find these little guys, which is why have pairs that are made for men (with small feet) and a pair that is overly supportive. Basically, if I saw them, I bought them. Now, any running shop worth its name should carry them.
  • Good seams. I'm never sure what the phrase "the devil is in the details" means, but I guess that's what could be said here. Part of what gives us runners trouble, with our feet and with chafing in general, is bad seam placement. These socks have good, clean seams in the toe box - not too much excess on the inside and no pointy corners where the fabric meets.
  • Right height. A lot of socks do this well, so it comes last. The Nike footie stays on, mile after mile, year after year. The anklet hits just above a common Achilles blister spot and just below nerdy. Fold it down to lower your tan line and show off the orange detailing on the inside.
Oh! I thought of a con. Nike socks are not indestructible. The one in the picture above is also three years old and a spot over the big toe looks like it might wear through soon. (Sniff)

So, now you know: if my birthday is around the corner (it's not) and you're looking for the perfect present, the answer is socks. Specifically, these Nike socks.

Ok, signing off before I appear to have a fetish. Wishing you happy feet and happy trails!