Saturday, August 27, 2011

Drymax Running Socks and TNF Sentinel

Some of my friends had been asking me about my secrets for having ZERO blister after reading about my unsuccessful attempt at last month's Canadian Death Race.  Well I'm not too sure what's my secret.  It could be due to my hardened feet although it was more likely due to the type of socks and/or shoes that I wore during the race.  You see, despite CDR being a wet, muddy race this year, I completed 110km out of 125km using just 1 pair of socks and 1 pair of trail shoes!  :)

Drymax Socks
The first time I heard of the Drymax socks was while reading my first subscription issue of the 2011 Mar's Ultra Running magazine.  The advertisement included the feet of Jamie Donaldson after she had completed the 2008 Badwater race - a pair of blister free feet immediately after 135 miles through Death Valley.  She said "...... In 2008, I made the switch to Drymax Maximum Protection socks and have been blister free with zero tape or lube ever since.  I love my Drymax socks!"  "Hmmm, that sounds great!" - I thought to myself.  Although I won't say I was bothered by persistent blister problem, it was always nice to find a product that claimed to be the best in the market.  This year, I had zero blister after completed Mar's 16-hour Twilight Ultra Challenge (85km), Apr's TNF100 Philippines (100km) and May's Comrades Marathon (87km), while I had a couple after completing Jan's Hong Kong Ultra Trail (100km) and Jun's Sundown Ultramarathon (100km).  The worse was Feb's Bataan Death March (100 Miles) as I had more than 10 blisters on both my feet, despite changing to a new pair of socks and shoes.

I decided to give Drymax socks a try.  With my 20% discount from signing up TNF100 Singapore, I went to Funan Centre's Running Lab and bought 2 pairs of Hot Weather Running Drymax Socks (S$29 a pair) and 2 pairs of Hyper Thin Running Drymax Socks (S$19 a pair).  (Running Lab also sells the Running Lite-Mesh Drymax Socks for S$16 a pair on top of these two versions of the Drymax socks.  The Lite Trail Running Drymax Socks has also arrived since mid-August for S$19 a pair.)  I tried both version of Drymax socks for most of my runs in July, including the last TNF Run Series - Woodcutter's Trail Run.  Drymax looked and felt more thick than my other running socks and I had my doubts early on as I loved thin socks.  But after wearing the socks in my running shoes, I didn't felt as thick.  In fact, the socks was fitting, soft and breathable.  The Woodcutter's Trail Run was the longest distance I ran using the Drymax socks - about 14km.  The socks did what it was supposed to do and given the distance I ran in, I would give Drymax socks a solid but not so spectacular 6/10.

Hot Weather Running Drymax Socks

For CDR, I chose to wear the Hyper Thin version instead of the Hot Weather version since it was cooler in Canada and less humid than in Singapore.  During the first 3 Legs of the race, I stepped into numerous mud pools along a distance of 67km.  At the Leg 3/Leg 4 exchange area, I took a longer rest to refuel.  I checked on both my feet and they were perfect.  No blister.  :)  I decided to push on using the same socks and shoes.  For the rest of my journey up and down Mt Hammel and up to the carpark just before the river crossing, I covered another 43km, mostly in raining condition.  Occasionally, small stones and pebbles would jump into my shoes.  I pushed on until designated check-points, where I could remove them.  At the emergency aid station where runners were permitted a drop bag, I wasn't able to find mine for a change of dry socks and shoes.  To save time, I pressed on after removing more stones and pebbles from my shoes.  My final 7km (from start of Leg 5 to carpark before river crossing) was the worse as the trail was so soft and slippery.  In a few occasions, my feet sank into the mud and I had to grab on to whatever I could find to pull myself up the short segment of slopes.  When I got back, I thought I might have a few blisters but magically, I had none!  Drymax scored a perfect 10/10 for me!

Hyper Thin Running Drymax Socks

The North Face - Sentinel Trail Running Shoes
As one of TNF Run Leader (more of sweeper role), I was given a pair of TNF Sentinel Running Shoes.  I felt great the moment I tried on the shoes, and even greater when I took it for a trail run.  It also felt lighter than my other TNF Rucky Chucky Trail Running Shoes, although both weighs 10 oz (per side).  While Rucky Chucky looked and felt rugged and heavy, Sentinel looked and felt lighter and had sufficient support to execute nimble, fast footsteps.

My Blue Color TNF Sentinel (also available in Aloy Grey/Blitz Blue or Q-Sliver Grey/Melon Red)

I didn't have many opportunities to try it out in Singapore before CDR and I certainly won't run into puddles of water or muddy terrain unless I absolutely could not avoid them.  But during the recce for the Woodcutter's Trail Run and the actual run, chances presented as we tried our best to jump over the muddy terrain.  At the end of the run, I didn't feel my feet being overly hot or having excess water (from sweat and water in the muddy terrain).  So I guessed this meant that the TNF Sentinel had enough breathability due to their so called "multiple-weave engineered mesh found on the shoe's upper".  Whether it was on dry or wet road, dry or muddy trail, the grip of the TNF Sentinel did a fine job.  Going up and down steep incline was okie too but it was slightly more tricky on sandy, dry steep slopes.  Tough trails (those strewn with rocks or roots) were also easily overcome but that's if you run / jog at my kind of slow speed over the rough terrain.  All in all, I'll give the TNF Sentinel a strong 7/10.  (Note: as all of us have different feet type and shape, its very hard to recommend a good running shoes, as compared to recommending a good pair of running socks.  Socks are soft and will wrap around and fit onto the shape of your feet but for shoes, it's the other way round.  I.e. you have to find a pair of shoes that your feet will fit into it.)

So there you have it: was it the Drymax socks that gave me a blister-free experience in CDR or was it the TNF Sentinel?  (Hint: TNF never claim they produce blister-free shoes but I'm sure running in a great pair of shoes with the right design, breathability and material won't hurt your experience. :p ) Now, you can be my judge! :)


midnightrunner said...

DryMax socks is not available yet here in the Philippines. :( Though some runners are selling them and they are a bit overpriced! Hay.... :( If you happen to swing around here for race, can you get me three pairs and will pay you upon receipt?

Ripley said...

Sure... :) As of now, its Dec 11... But that depends on my current injury... :(

Ripley said...

i'll be going to manila in jan 2012... care to drop me an email or give me your email address?