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Best Socks For Your Feet That Won’t Break The Bank

You already have the shoes. Now for the next most important piece of gear for your feet: socks.

Socks are your first line of defense when it comes to blisters and other foot problems. You wear them during the toughest conditions including heat and during exercise. Plus, they’re on your feet for hours on end. So, you’re best off choosing a comfortable pair that are built to last.

Below we round up some popular athletic socks for when you exercise.

Darn Tough

Darn Tough are premium Merino wool socks that go the distance. Each of their products are guaranteed for life. A personal favourite is the Vertex 1/4 Ultra-Light (ankle-length). The Ultra-Light is the perfect height of a sock and the material is thin but also withstands “tougher than hell” conditions. Ankle length cuts are perfect for winter when you’re wearing long tights since it eliminates exposed skin.

Injinji

Injinji, known as toe socks, are the most fascinating brand featured on this list. The unique approach to socks, in part because each toe is isolated from each other, helps prevent blisters while “while freeing them [toes] to splay and align naturally for better comfort and feel.” Their socks come in a variety of heights including hidden, no-show, micro, mini-crew, crew, and over the half, as well as in various materials depending on the purpose, whether that’s trail running or as a liner. Our personal recommendation is the Run Lightweight No-Show.

Lululemon

As Lululemon continues to go all-in on running, the Vancouver-based athletic brand continues to put out stellar accessories. Lululemon’s socks, which can be described as thinner and softer than many other running socks, are offered in primarily no-show length for women. For men, there are a few other options if you’re into the higher cut (which to mention can be good for trail running when there’s harsher terrain and brush). You can purchase a three-pack for as low as $28.

Smartwool

Smartwool is known as the Merino wool brand. The outdoors-focused brand makes some of the best socks you can find including the PhD Run Light Elite Low Cut Socks, which are made of 52% Merino wool, a natural fibre made from Merino sheep. The material is super soft, cancels out odour, and is perfect for all-around conditions in Canada including in the summer and winter. The way it does this? The fibre helps regulate body temperature by adjusting to the surrounding conditions. Smartwool also offers men’s- and women’s-specific fits.

Stance

There are few trendier apparel companies right now than Stance, and they’re dominating the athletic sock market as a whole. Widely available at stores across Canada, Stance socks are accessible to all runners. The Uncommon Run Tab is a favourite among wearers as they’re lightweight and fit just right based on the contours of your feet. The Uncommon Run Tab also has a nice “tab” on the heel providing additional coverage. At $20 a pair, Stance is on the pricier side among socks but don’t be skipping out on costs when it comes to socks when you’re spending $100+ on footwear.

Balega

You’ll be pressed to find better socks than Balega. They feature moisture-wicking fabric, ultralight material, blister resistance thanks to natural mohair wool, and they’re odour-free. Balega is a household name in the running industry and trusted across the board for being a top-notch sock. Each sock comes with a contoured fit and deep heel pocket as well as ventilation pockets for breathability. We recommend the Balega Enduro Quarter for your sock needs.

Drymax

As the name suggests, Drymax aims to keep your feet drier than leading competitors. Minimizing moisture within your shoes is essential when trying to prevent chafing and blisters. For that reason, Drymax is one of the best in the business. Try the Maximum Protection Running Sock if you experience blisters on a regular basis and are looking for a premium product. The material is soft and the length is just right, reaching just above the ankle.

Steigen

Steigen socks are designed for high-performance athletes. But just because they’re meant for the pros, doesn’t mean the rest of us can’t benefit from the no-blister, breathable and low moisture socks. The lightweight socks come in a variety of cuts so it feels like you’re wearing nothing at all. For those looking to brighten up their wardrobe, go with the half-length eye-popping Fluro Red Running Socks.

Feetures

Backed by a lifetime guarantee, you know Feetures last you for hundreds, if not thousands of kilometres. Feetures mixes targeted compression, a seamless toe, and super soft fabric to create the perfect athletic socks. What’s particularly great about Feetures is that there are multiple categories for different purposes. From performance-based to plantar fasciitis relief to everyday usage, there are plenty of different styles and purposes that Feetures covers. Go for the Elite Light Cushion Quarter if you’re looking for a nice balance of comfort and cushion.

You can find a selection of socks and get a feel for them yourself in person at Feet First Clinic at 2481 Bloor St W. We’re open 10 a.m. – 7 p.m. on weekdays and 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. on Saturdays.

8 Races To Run This Summer In The Greater Toronto Area

Summer is the hottest time of year on the Toronto running scene – in every sense.

With a race just about every weekend, there are as many options as one could hope for within the city itself, as well in surrounding areas of the GTA and beyond. You can escape the inner core of Toronto by racing in the suburbs or on the trails, or you can race downtown and experience what it’s like to run on deserted streets that are typically packed with vehicles.

June 21, the first day of summer, is quickly approaching. If you’re still in the planning stage of figuring out your summer schedule, this list of eight reputable and well-organized races is a good start.

Below are our picks, in chronological order, of events within the GTA.

June 22 – Pride and Remembrance Run

One of Toronto’s most beloved road races is the Pride and Remembrance Run, a 5K which takes place during Pride Month and a day before the Pride Parade. The race begins at Church and Wellesley and heads east for two loops of Queen’s Park before returning to where you started. The race, now sponsored by local retailer BlackToe Running, is offering medals to all participants this year and even has its own beer called fab! lite.

July 1 – GGS Law Canada Day 5K

What better way to kick off Canada Day than with a road race. From the same organizers as the Chilly Half-Marathon comes a Canada Day celebration with a flat and fast out-and-back 5K in Burlington, Ont. The race is a short drive from downtown Toronto and runs along Lake Ontario during one of the nicest times of the year.

July 20 – MEC (Trail) Race Four

MEC offers the most affordable races of anyone in Canada and the race series comes with no frills. At just $20, the MEC Race Four (Trail) is a great introduction to off-road running in a low-key but well-organized environment. Kortright Conversation Centre provides an escape from city life just north of Toronto and the race includes a 7K and 12K on non-technical terrain.

July 28 – Beaches Jazz Run

Hosted by the Toronto Beaches Runners Club, the Beaches Jazz Run is another grassroots event that’s popular among the running community. Entry fees are on the pricier side ($55-$79 for the 5K and half-marathon) but the event is well run, there are multiple race kit pick-up locations – a must in Toronto traffic – and the course on the Martin Goodman Trail and on the Leslie Spit can’t be beaten.

August 24 – Toronto Women’s 10K/5K

The Toronto Women’s Run Series is the most popular women’s race circuit in the province, if not the country. The supportive and friendly environment is great for first timers and the event is held in the peaceful setting of Sunnybrook Park, relief from many of the city’s road races which are held on major roads. The 5K/10K on Aug. 24 is the second of three events the series hosts throughout the summer and fall.

September 8 – Longboat Toronto Island Run

Secluded on Toronto Island, just a minutes boat ride from the downtown core, the Longboat Island Run is a local favourite and often times a tune-up race for many runners pursuing a fall marathon. One of the best parts of the experience is riding the ferry to and from the island along with the hundreds of other runners. The course is extremely flat and a post-race BBQ is offered for all participants.

September 8 – B&O Yorkville Run

The B&O Yorkville Run, a truly premium running event, doubles as the national 5K road championships which attract the top runners to Toronto from across the country. Registration costs $125 + HST plus a $100 minimum fundraising donation for charity which is recovered from the extravagant race kit every participant receives: a duffle bag with a technical shirt, Barry’s Bootcamp class pass, a spa gift card for the St. Regis, and much more.

September 21 – Oasis ZooRun

Hosted by Canada Running Series, the top running circuit in the country, the Oasis ZooRun features a challenging but unique course through the Toronto Zoo. Run past exotic wildlife and take on the undulating hills during the 5K and 10K on the final summer weekend of 2019.

Gearing up for a summer race? Visit Toronto’s Feet First Clinic for the latest footwear and much more.

Signs You Need A New Pair Of Shoes

Running/walking is a simple activity. There’s very little gear required.

Footwear is the exception. Shoes are your most important piece of gear, providing protection over the course of several hundred kilometres and helping lessen the impact and damage to your body. Most people go through a few pairs every year, and some even every month.

As you pile on the mileage, your shoe’s structure, and thus effectiveness, break down over time. Your shoes won’t feel the same out of the box as they do after 300-500 kilometres. It’s important to know when you need a new pair of shoes to help avoid injury and that starts with knowing what to look for in your footwear.

Below are some signs that your shoes could be due for an upgrade, and what to do to help lengthen their lifespan.

Culprit #1: A reduction in bounce as well as aches, pains, and sore joints.

Typically, running shoes can last between 500-750 kilometres. Over time, the cushioning breaks down and it no longer provides the same amount of energy return as it did right out of the box. If you feel your shoes are feeling flat, and don’t have that same type of bounce, it’s likely time for a new pair of shoes.

There are however ways to extend the lifespan of your shoes.

Try: purchasing two or three pairs of shoes at a time, and alternate use. Giving your shoes a day or two in between runs allows the cushioning to return to form, and lengthens its life. Purchasing in bulk can also be beneficial if your favourite shoe is discontinued or altered, which is commonplace as new iterations of models are released every year. Plus, bulk purchases can lead to lower shipping costs – per unit – if ordered online.

The type of shoe and amount of cushioning also plays a role. Minimalist shoes have less cushioning and thus you’ll feel the effects at a faster rate.

Your weight can also come into play. The heavier you are, the greater the load, and thus the quicker the foam cushioning will compress and break down.

As you can tell, there isn’t one reason why your shoes wear down over time but in fact many.

Culprit #2: Wrinkles across the foam on the mid-sole and heel of the shoe.

You may notice a shoe is breaking down by feel. Additionally, as is the case here, there are visual cues that make apparent the condition of your footwear. When your shoes’ foam begins to crease and wrinkle, it’s a sign that your shoes are beginning to age. However, this cycle is totally normal and doesn’t necessarily mean your shoes are toast.

Try: running on softer surfaces more often to alleviates the impacts that go through your shoes. Running on grass, gravel, and dirt is easier on your shoes – and your body – versus asphalt or concrete.

Culprit #3: Uneven wear patterns

Try: avoid wearing your running shoes casually throughout the day because added hours break down shoes at a faster rate. Your gait while walking is different than running too so you might be wearing your shoes out in unusual and unwanted patterns if you use your primary trainers as hybrids.

Uneven wear patterns are not necessarily a bad thing, but you should take them into account because it might be easier to troubleshoot an injury. Look for areas that are bare of tread like a car tire.

Culprit #4: Damaged heel counter and frayed edges.

The heel cup around your Achilles can break down, which can lead to chafing and blisters.

Try: avoiding tied laces when putting on and taking off your shoes. The laces are there for a reason. If you consistently slip your shoes on and off while tied, you’re likely adding more pressure to the heel counter and the inner material of the shoe. Tie and untie your shoes before and after each use.

Avoid using the dryer if your shoes get wet too as heat can break down the upper material as well as the cushioning of the shoe.

Culprit #5: Tears in the upper.

Look for rips around the toebox, as well as along the sides of your feet as that’s where the upper attaches to the midsole, leaving the seam vulnerable. To avoid blisters, and other foot problems, it’s important to find a shoe that fits right for the shape of your foot.

Try: changing to shoes that better suit you. These days, many brands offer wide versions of most models, and some brands are known for making wider shoes including Asics and Altra, both of which provide roomier a toe box compared to other brands.

Need help deciding on a pair of new shoes? Need a gait analysis done? Visit the clinic today.

Shoe terms you should know, explained

Invest in items that separate you from the ground, they say. Your bed, car/bike tires, and, of course, shoes. When it comes to selecting the right shoe, however, there can be a lot of (confusing) jargon associated with footwear, and feet in general as they pertain to shoes, from the type to the actual descriptions of a footwear’s construction and anatomy.

Familiarize yourself with all shoe jargon with this glossary of shoe terms.

15. HOW TO CHOOSE SHOES – INFO G

Running Mechanics

Gait: The way in which you run or walk. There are a number of primary descriptions including being a heel-striker, midfoot-striker or toe-striker, which specifies the first point of contact with the ground upon impact. Because people have varying gaits, there’s no one-size-fits-all shoe. Your pronation (see below for that explanation) is influenced by your gait.

Pronation: The side-to-side rolling movement of your foot when impacting the ground. Naturally, the foot has an inward-rolling motion, meaning you land on the outer part of your foot, and proceed to roll inwards until your foot is flat on the ground, before subsequent take-off.

Overpronation: The tendency to over-inward roll upon impact and through to take-off. You’re likely to see additional wear on the inner edge of your shoe’s cushioning.

Supination: The tendency to under-inward roll – in other words, to outward-roll – upon impact and through to take-off. You’re likely to see additional wear on the outer edge of your shoe’s cushioning.

Arch: Your arch is the curve of your foot that is either normal, high, or low. Often, you can determine whether you have flat feet or not through the use of a foot arch test, which involves wetting​ the bottom of your feet, and stepping on a piece of paper to see the outline of your foot. If you’re unsure, check out your local foot specialist shop like Feet First Clinic. 

 

Shoe Infrastructure

Upper​​: The material that wraps the foot and attaches to the midsole. This is the bulk of the shoe excluding the midsole and keeps your foot in place.

Overlay​​: The overlay is an additional layer of material on top of the upper. Overlays are useful for extra support, varying breathability and sometimes used to add a waterproof element to a shoe, like, for example, Nike’s “shield” running shoes which offer protection against rain and snow.

Eyelets​​: Shoelace holes.

Tongue​​: The tongue is the material that sits on top of your foot and under the sock laces non-slip-on shoes have a tongue.

Sock liner​​: The sock liner is the shoe’s inner material. The material is called a sock liner because it wraps around the foot like a sock. The material is often a few millimetres in thickness and can wear down and suppress over time, moulding to your foot.

Toe box​​: The area at the end of a shoe which houses your toes. The width of the toe box is particularly important for people depending on whether they have narrow or wide feet. Remember, the width of your foot is important too, and not just the length (size).

Drop/offset​​: Most shoes, besides Altra, have a drop greater than zero. The drop of the shoe is the difference in heel height versus toe height. If the shoe has a drop of 8 mm, for example, the heel is 8 mm higher than the height of the toe where the foot sits.

Outsole​​: The outsole, also known as the sole, is the base of the shoe and features treads and grips that are the shoe’s last line of defense between you and the ground.

Midsole​​: The midsole of a shoe is where the cushioning lies. Your foot sits on the midsole, separated by the in-sole (the removable sole inside your shoe), and provides the support you need. Often times, the midsole is made of ​Ethylene-Vinyl Acetate (EVA).

 

Shoe type

Stability​​: Mild pronators, or heavier-set runners, should consider stability footwear as the shoe doesn’t have as much support as a motion control shoe, but more than neutral footwear. Stability footwear often features extra support (called a medial post) on the inner side of the shoe side to prevent arch collapse.

Neutral​​: Shoes with neutral cushioning are built uniformly with no additional features to compensate for your gait/running pattern. Cushioning is often softer than motion control and stability footwear and is designed to absorb impact rather than correct running form. Regular pronators and supinators should consider neutral footwear.

Motion control​​: Motion control shoes are pretty self-explanatory; they’re designed to control the side-to-side range of motion of your gait. So, if you overpronate, motion control shoes have systems in place including stiffer heels and additional support on the inner medial side of the shoe to prevent additional inward roll beyond what is normal. Mild- to severe-overpronators should consider motion control shoes.

Orthotics​​: Custom insole inserts based on your feet designed to provide corrective measures to your running gait.

All these terms are good to know when deciding on a pair of shoes. For more in-person assistance, to have your gait analyzed, feet properly measured or to see if custom orthotics are right for you, check out Toronto’s Feet First Clinic on Bloor Street West. You can contact us at 416-769-3338(FEET).