24/7 Hour-to-hour, how do consumers spend each day? For what duration do they actually wear a certain type of sock? Darn Tough Vermont wanted to maximize the potential of consumers pulling on their brand’s designs, so they tackled the question head on, explained Lyn Feinson, director of design and development. Feinson researched exactly where people were spending their time in a 24-hour period. Running and biking were two of the most widely participated activities, she pointed out in reference to surveys conducted by the Outdoor Industry Association (OIA.) People might bike or run for two hours a day, and then sleep for eight hours. That leaves 14 hours of general ‘life’ — work, school, going out on the town, etc.
Feinson found that, in general, people are drawn more toward lighter weight yarns for workout sessions. The brand launched a lightweight run collection in spring 2016 called the Vertex Running Series. In its first year on the market, the popularity of the design contributed to an 80 percent increase of total sales in the brand’s endurance/running category compared to the former year’s sales marks in January 2015. Looking ahead to 2017, Darn Tough took the DNA of the run collection and created a new bike lineup for road cyclists using the same ultralight yarn, close-to-body fit and fine knit upper. The new bike category “has a really nice, sexy fit and feels great, like you’re wearing nothing. It’s ultralight and ultra thin for road biking, because cyclists require very little between shoes and foot. We also have maximum ventilation, which helps with hot foot, and we designed the height to be around the height of a cyclist’s shoe,” described Feinson. Also for Darn Tough, the brand addressed the other 14 hours of of the day by adding a lightweight, durable line of men’s lifestyle socks in the Elemental series. Compression, Contour and Comfort Not only compression but contoured fits are attracting customers. Balega has steered away from using the term “compression” to describe a “contoured” fit — also achieved with elastic, but with more focus on the structure of the sock matching the foot than an overly tight fit, Pictor said. Comparatively, medical-grade graduated compression socks have an application for recovery and helps to aid muscle fatigue, she said. Also focused on a performance fit, Smartwool launched its latest PhD performance sock collection — including a run pair — with a super-light knit that is constructed using a 200-needle-count machine. To knit a pair on a 200-needle-count machine, explained Kerry Nester, president of Farm to Feet, requires a longer run time and costs more, but it’s worth it. (For consumers, the cost difference exists but isn’t standout. For instance, the Damascus was knit on a 200-needle-count and retails for $23. Comparatively, the same product on a 144-needle-count would retail for $20.) Nester is excited to be using the machine, now, for application in outdoor performance socks. The machine uses a finer yarn with a lower micron — a 19.5 micron versus a 22 micron on the other knitting machines, he said. The result is a softer, more durable and more luxurious sock. Furthermore, the machine “allows for very intricate stitches, detailed logos and graphics, and select cushioning serving any purpose that you see necessary,” Nester said. Lead photo courtesy CEP