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Socks – they often have an unsung role in the athlete’s outfit, but the right sock for a very specific job can make a huge difference.
Sometimes socks should be comfortable, sometimes they need to be bulletproof… or at least cut-proof.
When Ottawa defenseman Erik Karlsson had his left Achilles tendon sliced by Pittsburgh forward Matt Cooke’s left skate during the 2013 NHL season, players went to equipment managers asking for a sock to protect themselves. By the 2014 Sochi Olympics, multiple Olympians from the US, Sweden, Russian, Czech and Finnish teams were wearing new cut-resistant socks composed of Kevlar® and copper. The value of the protection these socks offer against serious calf and ankle injuries is being considered for other sports, including baseball, where cleat spikes have injured players. Kevlar® materials have also long been used in motoring sports.
One drawback to the tougher materials of cut-resistant socks is the extra heat they create inside skates or shoes – they simply hold in more body heat.
The socks (now available from several manufacturers) can still be cut if there is enough pressure per square centimetre – say, with the pint of a knife instead of a skate. According to anecdotal reports from hockey teams, if a skate goes heavily across a player’s calf or Achilles tendon, there’s enough protection to only leave a mark instead of a cut.
If feet could talk… well, now they kinda can via this sensor-filled sock, an attachable anklet and a smart phone app that coach users on their running technique as they run. (Sensoria also makes a Fitness Bra that works in a similar way – which is maybe a little creepy!)
E-textile sensors count steps, measure speed and track calories, altitude, and distance. More impressively, the sock has an advanced ability to track cadence, foot landing technique (e.g .heel striking) and weight distribution on the foot to help identify injury-prone running styles (heel striking, over pronating, etc.) – something that no other footwear has attempted. The electronic anklet communicates this information to external devices so you can hear real-time analysis via Bluetooth enabled smart phones.
The socks have been linked to use by American Football stars such as Manti Te`o, both for the development of speed over the 40-yard dash and for the prevention and recovery from Linsfranc injuries, where one or more of the metatarsal bones are displaced mid-foot. There’s been a sharp growth in the number of these types of injuries in the NFL in recent years.
On first release, Heapsylon have bundled four pairs of socks with the attachable anklet for US$199. The Sensoria Fitness app will be available for iPhone (iOS 6 and above), Android (OS 4.3) and Windows Phone 8.x.
Nothing quite looks or acts like this sock, which combines recovery, active performance and practical protection. This is modelled on 2XU’s Elite Compression Socks, which are a hybrid between active and recovery wear. The dual function is possible thanks to the combo of graduated compression to improve circulation for faster recovery, combined with gradient compression and spiral fabric in zones that are placed strategically to support the lower leg muscles and tendons. The Alpine version comes with some extra features, plus a look that seems to come from an intergalactic spaceship’s uniform. There’s a low-profile padding added to shin and foot bed to offer enough protection (against boot rub for skiers, or rocks and sharp bushes for hikers/trail runners) without adding extra bulk. Another clever addition is the flexible tongue zone, which sounds kinda naughty but is really very sensible – it provides a flexible and thin fabric at the top of the ankle/foot, which eliminates the bunching up of material that tends to cause uncomfortable pressure where the boot tongue tucks into the boot. Add to this the strong support and compression around the ankles/Achilles region to provide for better circulation and stability, and you have a great sock for those long days out on the slopes.
This is a sock that will provide a huge benefit for people prone to fungal or bacterial infections, or those who spend long hours in wet or moist conditions without the ability to change socks frequently.
The ancient Greeks used copper to heal and disinfect thousands of years ago. Skip forward to 2008, when the American EPA approved copper as the only metal in the world recognised to help prevent pathogens, and tests performed by the Food and Drug Administration proved copper to be an antimicrobial and anti-fungal element. Methods were then developed to work copper into the weave of fabrics. Copper was incorporated into tent fabrics for Israeli army tents, which were plagued with bacteria and fungi – they were an instant success. Then during the Chilean mine collapse in August 2010, which trapped 33 miners underground for 69 days, socks made with copper oxide were donated to the miners, who were reporting horrible foot fungal conditions more than 700m below ground level. Their skin issues resolved after a week of wearing the socks.
A sock that keeps your feet free from fungi and bacteria means less smelly feet, but the copper component of these socks can also be a great benefit to diabetics, as they reduce the risk of potential skin breakdown and infection.