Some minimalist runners can't stand socks. While the construction of some socks can be restricting on the toes, I prefer the comfort of a nice sock and enjoy the blister protection they provide.
When I was offered a pair of socks to test and review I was initially hesitant. I am more attached to my brand of socks than my shoes. With shoes I rotate to several brands and models, but with socks I tend to stick with a brand I trust.
My initial hesitation was decreased upon learning that the test socks were made by Zensah, the company best known for their calf sleeves - a product that was essential during my early running days, and that I still wear today. I was excited to see what they had to offer, especially since the socks are marketed to minimalist runners. According to Zensah their Minmalist Running Socks"... are quite simply the best thin running socks ever made".
That is a pretty bold statement; time to see if the product can back that up.
Close examination of the socks indeed suggests a very high quality product. The construction includes several distinct zones made of and accented with different fabrics or weaves. The socks are tightly woven and feel light, durable, and soft.
Zensah Minimalist Running Socks distinct fabric zones. The gray material is slightly thicker and softer to add minimal cushioning only where needed.
Fit and Length
The socks fit very well. They are shaped to eliminate extra material that could bunch up in corners or at the heel. They stretch well throughout and allow the foot and toes to move freely. In the forefoot and heel they offer a light cushioning without significantly affecting the fit of shoes or ground feel. Over the top of the foot is a thin mesh which allows for breathability and a pleasant cooling sensation (I would expect these to perform well on warmer runs). The sock has a specific cut for each foot that angles out from the big toe to the pinky. This foot-specific cut helps to keep excess material at a minimum.
The socks could be a tiny bit longer to guarantee they never fall below the shoe line. During my testing they did seem to hold their position, so this may not be a significant issue.
The foot-specific cut can be clearly seen in this photo. There is a transition between two materials above the toes, but no noticeable seam.
The length puts socks just above the shoe-line, little shorter than I would prefer, but they stayed in place during my test runs.
Blister Management (Seams)
A big reason I wear socks is so that I can avoid blisters, and these socks deliver. Unlike many socks with a noticeable seam over the top and outside of the foot, the Zensahs have their biggest seem on the underside of the foot. The seam is far enough back that it sits where the toes begin to lift up off of shoes and is barely noticable. Very nice.
Bottom of the sock (inside-out) showing position of main seam
Since all of my testing was done on roads, I have not been able to assess their moisture performance in extreme conditions (trails, stream crossings, mud, etc.). However, they have handled sweat and rain (drizzle) very well. After several medium length runs (7-9 miles) my feet have felt dry and comfortable. I believe the combination of high quality yarns along with the mesh-top helps with this. I may just feel confident enough to wear these socks for my next sloshy trail session.
I am quite pleased with the Zensah minimalist sock design and would definitely recommend them to friends or readers. They have earned a place in my rotation, and I have started to wear them to some of my races. I would be comfortable with them up to a half marathon distance, and after a few good tests in messy conditions I may move these right into the same level as my current favorite.
My biggest suggestion... make them in more colors, especially black as I personally prefer non-white socks.