Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Salomon Socks Review: Introducing a wide range of technically advanced socks for running, hiking, and skiing,

Article by Sam Winebaum, Jeff Beck, Jeff Valliere, Dom Layfield and Michael Ellenberger


Salomon launches a wide range of socks for running, hiking, and skiing (nordic and alpine) for the first time this spring in the US. Available for many years internationally, they are manufactured in Europe by Salomon licensee Intersocks, a major Italian high tech sock manufacturer which crafts socks for Icebreaker, SmartWool, X-Bionic, Burton, and others and also has the licenses for the Salomon, K2 and Nordica sock ranges.

The line features a vast array of different fibers and technologies selected for each sport-running, (hiking, mountaineering and skiing) and purpose within the sport. The socks ,and soon gloves, use an oxide mineral embedded in the yarn called Quantum Energy that is said to self activate the body's natural energy flow and improve circulation with a warming effect when cold and a cooling effect when warm. It's also said to one of the most efficient moisture wicking fibers available. The NSO socks also use what is essentially a synthetic merino fiber (Nerinog), with the mid-range socks using a variety of other high performance fibers, with “real” Merino in some of the hiking socks.  The run socks we tested include silicone fibers or dots woven in to help secure foot to shoe, a technique which we found surprisingly effective.

NanoGlide is a key technology which is a permanent treatment which is supposed to reduce friction, control heat, and increase durability.

Nerinog is essentially a synthetic merino and is described as follows: “The distinctive features of the NerinoG(R) fibre make it particularly suited to the manufacturing of socks. Its top hydrophilic performance enables it to retain and expel liquids, thus sweat, ensuring maximum breathability, freshness,and dryness on the skin; its extreme softness lends it an unparalleled feeling of comfort and well being on the body. Another special feature of the new NerinoG fibre is its action against bacteria with their subsequent minimum proliferation.” The key top of the line performance socks in the NSO range: the Mid and Long are made of NerinoG.

General Characteristics and Fit
All of the socks we tested have an anatomical left/right fit. The hiking socks we tested are thinner than what one usually considers hiking weight.
Sam: At my size US 8.5 I found the medium, which is called out for a range of foot sizes from 6-8 to fit well, especially after some use with the large a bit to roomy,

NSO Line
The NSO line was designed in close collaboration of Salomon athletes including Francois d”Haene multiple time winner of the UTMB and of course also Kilian Jornet.
I believe these are Francois harrow feet above.

Each NSO sock is designed for a run distance length with their naming corresponding to ideal distance: Long, Mid, Short.

The NSO part is described on the hang tag for NSO apparel below and is implemented through an oxide mineral embedded in the sock yarn and in patches at acupuncture points in the apparel It isl called Quantum Energy and is said to: self activate the body's natural energy flow, improve circulation and have a warming effect when cold and a cooling effect when warm. It is treated permanently into the yarn of the socks. Who knows if it is effective but there is some science behind the approach and so far the socks have proven very comfortable and well temperature regulated.
NSO Leg-Up ($29.99)
Sam: The NSO Leg-Up is a more specialized sock which is higher than the others in the NSO line, with a thin high lady’s stocking like (but non compression) extension whose purpose is goal to provide higher leg protection (temperatures and trail obstacles). It can be rolled up and down and stay put as it has a silicone band above the ankle. It also has well placed silicone fibers, especially given how thin the sock is, in the knit around the arch to lock the foot in the shoe, an approach I found very effective in this sock especially in shoes which were otherwise to voluminous.
It is lightly padded at the heel and toe with thinner very stretchy material over the instep has in addition to the silicone fiber containing bands a combination of a raised grid profile and a smooth patch over the center lace up area. The fit is very soft and conforming with plenty of stretch. The overall construction reminds me of the thin Compressport Race socks with a bit more substance.

It includes the Quantum Energy ceramic treatment and is made of Microlan which is ultra soft and designed to have high resistance to wear and easy care.
Jeff V: I found the NSO Leg Up in size Large to fit my size 10 foot perfectly and an excellent choice for spring runs where temperatures fluctuate and are chilly early and it can be welcome to have them pulled up over calf, then as the day warms, they fold down cleanly and stay in place without the saggy fallen tube sock look.  
I found the silicone fibers (the gray stripes) to be very effective for holding the foot well in place, especially as Sam mentions in shoes that are a touch voluminous anyways, so a good option on warmer days when a thicker sock to compensate may be too warm.
The silicone fibers on my review socks have some frayed ends, but has not worsened over the course of several washings, nor has it been at all noticeable or problematic while wearing the socks. Though not compression socks, they look/feel like it somewhat, however I do notice that I have to stop periodically to hoist them back up, particularly on long downhills.

The NSO Leg Up are very breathable on warm days, however I do not find myself not reaching for them if temps are below 40 degrees.  Cushioning is also very minimal and for runs longer than a few hours, I’ll maybe reach for something a bit more cushioned underfoot to take the edge off.

NSO Long Run ($29.99)
The NSO Long Run was developed in close collaboration with Francois D’haene and is loaded with effective tech. It is made of Nerinog fiber and includes the Nano-Glide treatment  as well as the NSO Quantum Energy ceramic treatment.

Sam: The Long Run is my favorite NSO sock. A bit thicker than others in the line, the combination of raised grid pattern helps pad without interfering with breathablity with the silicone stripes around the arch really lock the foot into the shoe, reducing slipping and rotating. I wore them for a 20 mile road race and the Boston Marathon in a pair of shoes which were not only quite voluminous but also a half size large with no issues (blisters or irritation of any kind at all) and a great lock into the otherwise to large shoe.

Dom:  As Sam remarks, the Long Run is a fairly thick sock.  However, this is entirely in keeping with its intended, eponymous usage.  If you’re going to be running for 24 hours -- especially through mud and sand -- a flimsy, diaphanous, barely-there sock is not going to cut it.  I liked that the NSO Long Run was strongly elasticated, with a pleasing tension around the arch and supporting the ankle. Like a lot of Salomon products, it seemed a little over-designed (I’m skeptical, for example, that the red strips have any effect).  And the NSO “self-activating ceramic particles” pitch is such overt nonsense that I had to check whether it was April 1st. Regardless, this seems like a solid sock. Weight is 44.1 g (pair, size L), which is good for ultra-distance focused running socks, which are typically in 40-60 g range.  A final verdict will have to wait until I do a long race and find out how they perform after many hard hours. At this price, durability had better be good.

Dom: Screenshot from Salomon website, illustrating the kind of batshit-crazy nonsense that Salomon is peddling.  Harmless gibberish or intentionally misleading pseudoscience? My concern is that some people may actually believe this mumbo jumbo.

NSO Mid Run ($27.99)
The Mid Run includes the same array of technologies as the Long Run: NSO Quantum Energy, Nerinog fiber, NanoGlide and silicone strips in a slightly lighter sock.
The Mid Run is a great choice for warmer weather faster runs both road and trail

Jeff V:  Fit again is perfect in size Large for my size 10 foot, snug, but not tight with no extra material. Very light, thin and space age in looks and construction, I find these to be my go to for warmer, faster runs where I want minimal weight and all performance. These socks stay perfectly in place and hug the ankle snugly just over the ankle bone for no dirt or pebbles to find their way inside.

NSO Short Run ($27.99)
Light and somewhat shorter than the other NSO socks, the Short Run is a great option for road running and short fast trail runs. It includes the silicone lock down bands of the other NSO socks.
Michael: I am a big fan of the Run Short. While the length is in that strange middle ground (not no-show, not ankle), I certainly didn’t experience any slipping or hotspots. Equally critical, I could feel the midfoot support provide an added level of comfort and security. They’re not compression-level tight, of course, but I appreciated how snug they fit my feet.

Speed Pro Line

Speed Support ($21.99)
The Speed Support is made of Softair fibers which is described as follows: “Softair is a fiber that delivers a silky, natural feel to the body. While the softness is its main feature. Softair keeps dry,increasing comfort and performance even in extreme conditions. It is a smart fiber that, depending on its use, provides freshness or heat to the body.”
Jeff B - The Speed Support sock has a number of technologies converging to create a better overall experience.
Most notable is the 28 adhesive circles underneath the forefoot to create a non-slip experience. I didn’t notice any rubbing against the insole during runs. The added midfoot pressure with the elastic arch support was nice, and felt good in the late miles of a long run. Salomon used a thicker padding under the toes and ball of foot, with a thinner material to keep the sock from feeling hot and I think they nailed that. I have worn a variety of running specific socks (primarily Injinji, but also Swiftwick/Thorlo/Balega offerings) and these feel the most premium.

Michael: The Speed Support is a really interesting sock (something I wasn’t so sure I’d be saying). The midfoot, as Jeff noted, is quite robust, and really hugs your foot tight. The non-slip elements on the outside of the forefoot do create an interesting appearance, but like Jeff, I hardly noticed anything when running - but it was a bit of a surprise when I first pulled them on and walked on a hardwood floor! The overall sock is certainly on the thinner side, but doesn’t feel cheap or sheer - I expect this sock to last a long time!

Hiking Line
Outpath Mid ($18)
The Outpath Mid is made of Dryarn and includes the NanoGlide as well as a ResisteX copper treatmentsto fight bacteria and regulate temperatures among other characteristics, so it is clearly a high performance sock well suited to multiple activities.  

Jeff - This sock has become my go-to trail running sock. The extra height helps keep ankles and lower legs protected from desert debris, and while it is a very heavy duty thick sock, it breathes very well. Salomon has used a variety of materials with different thicknesses, and the result is a very form fitting sock that holds the foot tightly around the midfoot and forefoot without strangling the ankle. The fit and finish is very high end, and through several washes (and line dries, I’m not a monster) they still look and feel brand new.

Sam: While called out as a hiking sock, the Mid is definitely thin enough for most all running purposes and maybe a bit thin for hiking if you have fit your boots for heavier socks. It is the all arounder in the line. I have worn it for all types of running and due to the conservative colors  and calf height for everyday wear as well. It will be on my feet for our trek across Switzerland in May. Durability to date after several washes has been great although I do notice a touch of fiber pilling where the red sections meet the black at the ankles.

Outpath Wool ($20)
The Outpath Wool is a great  Merino all around hiking and colder weather running sock. Soft yet great fitting it is closer to the classic hiking sock but still thinner than a heavy boot sock thus also a great winter run, nordic ski or every day choice.

S/Lab Nordic Compression ($30)
Sam: Among the many samples Salomon provided was this beauty. The Nordic Compression has a comfortable level of compression, not vise like fit here but noticeable compression. Not overly heavy or warm they can easily be used (most) all seasons.
In my very old Salomon classic boots, which I was about to get rid of as they were sloppy and hard to cinch down without getting painful, I found the extensive silicone gripper strips made them fit like new again.
The gray pattern of snugger material with silicone fibers also provided some ankle and mid foot support  The Nordic Compression is one heck of a sock. It too along with the Outpath Mid will be going on our Swiss trek.
I wore them at a 25K trail race at temps in the low 50’s and they were ideal. Never to warm, no calf cramps, and with mud, cold, wet protection. If the upcoming Boston Marathon is wet and chilly they will join me. Warmer and drier at Boston my choice will be the NSO Long Run.

Ski Socks
Salomon also has a line of alpine ski socks. I gave my neighbor Steve a pair to try and this every day Deer Valley skier and former ski instructure pronounced them excellent.

Salomon socks will be available at the following retailers for the initial US launch
Backcountry (coming soon) 
Running Warehouse available now HERE (including NSO line)
Salomon (coming soon)
Browns Sport Shoe in Durango, CO
Gearheads in Moab, UT
Cole Sport in Park City, UT
If you are a retailer interested in carrying Salomon Socks contact
Read reviewers' full run bios here
The product reviewed was provided at no cost. The opinions herein are entirely the authors'.
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Salomon Socks including the NSO line ia now available at Running Warehouse HERE


Kakapo said...

Am sad to see you uncritically relaying Salomon's and the quack-prone wide-eyed clown Francois D'Haene's absolute lying nonsense about their "Quantum Energy" NSO snake oil. Their claims are not in any way based on any science, and are embarrassing to a once great brand. "Ceramic particles" are just clay material baked at a high heat to the point of vitrification (turning into glass). Nothing more. One might as well go around with some ground up floor tiles powdered into their socks. These are probably really nice socks, but you should have called them out on this. Their t-shirt with the same fake "tech" is also horrible and cringe inducing. They are becoming the Shirley Maclaine of running.

Jeff Valliere said...

Many manufacturers use a slew of catchy technical buzz terms and Salomon is not immune to saying fancy things to sell product. I will however confess that they are making some amazing products and for the most part, improving year to year and constantly innovating. Without a doubt one of my favorite brands, at least for the mountain running I most enjoy. Thanks for reading!

david said...

Pretty sure the tester has the S/Lab Nordic compression socks on the wrong feet. The promo photos show the color stripes on the inside of the foot and I think you'll see the grey compressive striping follows a more anatomically accurate positioning that way.