A while back, I wrote a column for Competitor Running titled “It’s Just a Sock,” where I took runners to task for buying gear and equipment they don’t really need.
In the words of the Great Cher Horowitz: “That was way harsh, Tai.”
Blunt? Yes. But the truth needed to be spoken. The only reason the running industry is filled with snake oil is because we keep buying it. We try to purchase speed and comfort instead of working for it, and that ish has got to stop, do you hear me?
That’s not to say that every product is useless. Obviously, you want to buy a good pair of shoes that fit your feet. You need a supportive sports bra if you want to run comfortably and confidently. The right pair of socks can keep your tootsies blister-free.
But don’t expect the shoes, the bra or the socks to keep you make you faster, compensate for biomechanical weaknesses or keep you from getting injured. If you want those things, you’ll have to run hard, strength train and be smart about recovery — no special equipment needed.
This common-sense approach is why I become such a curmudgeon whenever I have to review a running product claiming to be a shortcut for hard work. I sometimes think my bosses give me these assignments just to raise my hackles. Case in point: Stable 26 socks.
Let’s start by looking at the claims the product makes on the box:
Sounds pretty good, right? Except it’s all a bunch of crap. (Told you I was a curmudgeon.)
The unique feature of Stable 26 socks are the silicone inserts placed in targeted locations to help runners “attain the perfect fit.” According to the marketing materials, these pods fill in the “negative space” between foot and shoe; as a result, runners should have more momentum and power because of this “enhanced connection between foot and footwear.”
As a sock, the product is fine. The socks fit well, the fabric feels nice, and the product has the seamless and moisture-wicking properties necessary for a pair of running socks. In that sense, yes, some of their “benefits” claimed on the box are accurate … mostly. If you’ve already got a pair of running shoes that fit well, the special pads on these socks actually make the shoes too tight, which, in turn, can cause friction (and, yes, blisters).
But “better balance and proprioception?” “Reduces running injury risk?” “Faster run times?” Really? C’mon. I ran the same speed, experienced the same aches and pains, and tripped just as many times while testing these socks as I do on runs with “normal” socks.
But one runner’s anecdotal evidence isn’t science, I know, so I went to the research journals to see if there were any studies done on this kind of corrective technology. When I couldn’t find any, I contacted Stable 26. They were quick to reply with a cut-and-paste response about the magic of these socks, but when I asked for the actual studies and data to back up their claims, I got radio silence.
That speaks volumes, doesn’t it?
Don’t waste your money on Stable 26. Buy shoes that fit, find a pair of running socks that won’t cause chafing, do strength work for injury prevention, and stay away from snake oil.
What other running products have you tried that turned out to be snake oil? On the flip side, what has been worth your money? —Susan