An amateur runner’s product review
Socks are just socks, right? Well, if you’ve been running for a while, chances are you’ve developed your own personal preference for performance socks. My current favourites are Wright socks for their soft, double-layered and blister-minimizing properties, and the Injinji toe socks that separate each digit within its own cloth cocoon for the same objective.
True, premium socks cost more than the average pair but I believe, when worn with properly-fitted running shoes, it is money well spent, especially if you’re on your feet a lot from training for a marathon or trail runs that go on for hours.
Then you have the compression socks – one brand that comes to mind is Compressport; I use their calf sleeves and I like them a lot, though I haven’t gotten around to trying out their socks. 2XU from Australia also makes compression socks that many of my runner friends swear by.
And then there’s Zamst, a Japanese company producing sportswear dedicated to helping athletes perform their best using medical and product expertise. Started in 1992, Zamst is a brand of NIPPON SIGMAX group, a leader in Japanese orthopedics since 1973.
The company specializes in products like knee braces, compression calf and arm sleeves, compression socks, wrist/shoulder/knee wraps, waist belts and even ice bags for recovery.
I recently received a pair of compression socks from the local distributor for Zamst, and today I am here to tell you my unbiased opinion and experience of running in them.
The socks in question were the Zamst HA-1 Mesh model. They rise just above my ankles and were in a very handsome shade of royal blue. My socks size was a Medium (24 inches) based on my running shoe size of US 8 Women’s. The distributor informed me that putting them on was going to feel a bit tight at first due to its compression but once I have them on and started running, the material would conform to my feet and feel comfortable.
The HA-1 socks are made of cotton, acrylic, polyester, nylon, and polyurethane. They are meant to provide support to the foot arch and Achilles tendon (the tough band of tissue connecting the heel bone to our calf muscles) as well as heel stabilization. These product attributes are meant to aid runners with conditions such as Plantar Fasciitis (PF) and shin splints.
According to the product description in the Zamst booklet, the way the socks are made supports and lifts up the arch of the foot. In addition, the knitting technique of the socks improves heel stability and thus “reducing the load on the plantar arch for better performance.”
Further inspections on the socks reveal a “R” and “L” labelling on the top sides of the sock, indicating that they are meant to be worn on the corresponding foot as they are designed anatomically correct.
When I put the socks on, it felt a bit stiff at first but as soon as I got them on entirely, I noted a slightly tight and hugging feeling over my feet. I also noticed that the socks were slightly long over the top of my toes as I tried to match up the position of my feet to the design of the sock, but it was a matter that I could overlook; the tiny oversize did not impair my running.
To get a better overall feeling of the socks I tried them in three different settings on different days over a span of a week:
On tread mill at the gym (short interval run)
I did some intervals (interlacing quick runs and slow jogs) to put the socks to its debut test. Initially I felt good but somehow over time the bottom of my feet on the sides were feeling a bit stressed for some reason, like there was pressure building up there more than it should. By the end of the trial run of about 40 minutes, I had surprisingly developed a slight cramp in my right foot. It was interesting to note.
On the road for a short run (7km)
Having used the socks on the ‘mill, I chucked the socks in a round of laundry and tried them out again after they dried, this time in my running shoes on the tarmac road. Initially that same sensation I had from my first try came, that minor dull pressing at the bottom outer sides of my feet. But then about after 15 minutes the sensation went away. I could run comfortably in the socks, but even with the slight pressure from before, it didn’t hinder my run, just made me a bit more conscious that I had on a pair of socks that I needed to get used to.
On a trail run (10km)
And finally on my last test drive, I took the socks out for a spin on one of my trail runs that lasted 2 hours. Obviously I used my trail shoes for this experiment. This time the slight pressurised discomfort at the bottom of my feet came and lingered for about 10 minutes before dissipating as I got warmed up, became more active and ran further. I was still getting used to the socks and the time for the feelings of uneasy compression to go away was shorter than the last two tries; I call this progress.
What exactly is this ‘dull pressure’ that I am feeling with these HA-1? I really couldn’t tell you scientifically why I was experiencing what I did with regards to my feet. My gut-feeling conclusion was two-fold:
- I don’t suffer from any particular symptom of plantar fasciitis or any other known runner’s foot ailment so perhaps the stiffness of the socks was giving me ‘too much’ support or lift under my arch?
- For every try that I used the socks, the time it took for the uncomfortable feeling under my feet to go away shortened. This could mean that my feet were getting used to the socks, and/or perhaps the fibre has softened after a few washes and contoured better to my feet.
On other properties of the sock, I found the HA-1 to be effective at wicking away the sweat from my feet, so there were no blisters or hotspots to speak, which was fantastic.
Colour-wise the HA-1 comes in a bevy of choices, ranging from pink, yellow, blue, red, black and white. I personally loved my blue ones and they wonderfully matched my blue running outfit that I wore for a recent photo shoot for a couple of Dutch journalists who were in KL to do a piece on female runners and running trends in Malaysia.
Apart from the fact that the HA-1 socks gave me more compression than I was used to initially, I found them to be a comfortable and versatile pair to wear on any type of run, provided I gave them a time allowance to settle in.
I would consider running a full marathon event in them, but only after I’ve given the HA-1 a go on a long distance practice run of at least 30km.
According to a review on Ultra168, the reviewer recommended the socks for folks who are in early stages of (or experience mild) plantar fasciitis and needed support to alleviate the pain felt in their heels.
Originally priced at RM109 a pair but now available for only RM98, folks with virtually no signs of foot injuries may not be rushing out to get these socks, but if you’re a runner with confirmed diagnosis of mild PF and are looking for some additional support to get you through your gait, then the Zamst HA-1 socks are worth looking into.
Thank you EgoNutritions Sdn Bhd for the chance to review their product.You may purchase the Zamst HA-1 socks through their website. Follow ZAMST_my on Facebook for the latest in Zamst products and more.
I first picked up running in 2011 after losing 20% of my old weight through playing dance and fitness video games. My favourite running mantra these days is “MAKE IT COUNT!”
To get in touch, email me at fairy[at]myindo.com or tweet me at @runfairyrun. Thanks for stopping by!