More technical fabrics and compression enter hosiery

Brands will continue to test consumers’ appetite for more technical socks in 2012/13. Plus, sock companies are looking to jump on the compression trend, and for women, continue to ramp up the fun and flirty style in all lengths.

Throughout the month of February, SNEWS will recap its coverage of Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2012 with select stories from the O.R. Daily we published at the show Jan. 19-22. It’s an opportunity for you to catch up on stories you might have missed in O.R.D., and for us to update and upload the articles to our searchable archives.

Brands will continue to test consumers’ appetite for more technical socks in 2012/13, particularly their willingness to pay $25-$30, even $60, for a pair. Plus, sock companies are looking to jump on the compression trend, and for women, continue to ramp up the fun and flirty style in all lengths.

Veteran Smartwool is taking its merino wool to a whole new level with next season’s PhD Performance Socks, which provide compression that is snug but not constricting.

“For Smartwool the trend that we’re looking at is looking at new technology and pushing the boundaries of merino,” said Smartwool spokeswoman Molly Cuffe. “We’re binging technology to create better fitting, comfortable sock that lasts as long as possible and at the same time make it look beautiful.”

The company has enhanced its signature 4 Degree Fit System (called the 4 Degree Elite Fit System) in the new PhD socks. This construction uses four elastic bands that gently wrap and support the foot, allowing for greater stretch and recovery as the foot flexes. Plus, the Mesh Vent Zones at the top of the feet help wick moisture and control temperature. This technology is featured in the women’s Women’s PhD Ski Medium (MSRP $25.95, photo, right).

Lorpe takes specialty to heart with its new Polartec Ski Ultralight (MSRP $50) and the Polartec Ski Light (MSRP $60), which both focus on moisture management with their stitched-sewn, three-layer makeup of Polartec Polar Stretch, Polartec Polar Dry and Lycra. “Moisture management is the key factor,” said Imanol Muñoz, Lorpen’s global director of sales and marketing. “Moisture creates many of the problems many sportsmen suffer and the trend is to solve that problem and keep users’ feet drier and less exposed to having blisters and frozen toes.”

Also for skiers, Fits Socks introduces its new super thin, fine merino wool Pro Ski Sock (MSRP $23, photo, left) a product influenced by the desires of ski boot fitters.

Compression, which is meant to help alleviate swelling and promote blood circulation, is increasingly working its way into outdoor socks. To be sure, most isn’t medical-grade compression, but the brands claim it can help.

Dahlgren Footwear is offering a compression sock for the first time, said President Kris Dahlgren. The men’s and women’s Multisport Compression sock (MSRP $30) made from merino, alpaca and recycled polyester offers the company’s patented zone construction Eco Dry moisture management technology in the socks transfer zones. Point6 also enters the category with its new graduated 5000 Compression Ultralight sock (MSRP $38, photo, right). The sock is tighter close to the ankle and looser up toward the knee, promoting blood flow from the lower leg up for better muscle recovery, said Betsy Seabert, Point6’s international sales and marketing director.

“We’ve had so many requests for [compression socks] because it is a trend and athletes are looking for it,” Seabert said. “There is opportunity for additional design and we’re starting with one style for the season but I think that category will continue to grow.”

For women, many sock companies are offering new colorful sock lines chock full of prints and designs. But fun colors in no way sacrifice performance, Dahlgren said — it’s the same mix of alpaca and merino yarns that are warm, wicking and durable. Darn Tough Vermont is showing new crew socks for women (MSRP $19) that feature flowers and polka dots. And knee-high socks for women are on the comeback trail, harking back to a popular style a few decades ago. Offerings are coming from Goodhew with its Elevation Graduated Compression Sock (MSRP $25), as well as Fit Socks, Point6 and others.

Fox River wants to give outdoor enthusiasts the same sock performance in their every day lives that they enjoy while out on the mountain in its new Everyday Merino collection (photo, left). The ultralight, comfortable socks come in bold colors, new design and feature the URFit memory-knit construction and spandex compression zones and graduated compression. But Fox River didn’t ignore performance on the mountain next season, as is apparent in its women’s Snow Series, which are designed to cross over many activities. This over-the-calf collection are made with full-foot spandex compression support, and blends of merino wool, recycled eco fibers and silk.

–Ana Trujillo