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Swiftwick Flite XT Trail

photo: Swiftwick Flite XT Trail running sock

Up your socks-game with a set of all-around socks that can be stretched into service for almost any three-season activity.

Pros

  • Slip-free, snug fit
  • Medium padding
  • Blister-resistant, even while wet
  • Stink resistant materials
  • Made in USA
  • Flex and compression zones

Cons

  • Claims ankle support but only provides compression
  • Limited colors; two shades of grey, not fifty
  • Pricy

I can wear shirts that don’t wick sweat away and I’ll be fine.  I can put up with a crappy, $3 vinyl poncho. I can tough it out when my pack tries to wear a hole in my hide. However, if my feet aren’t happy, I’m MUCH less fun to be with.  This is why I no longer complain about paying for great socks.

The Swiftwick Flite XT Trail socks qualify as great socks. This isn’t my first pair of their socks. I own four other pairs of their socks, including one pair that I’ve been running and working out in weekly since 2019 (its 2022 rn). In my opinion, buying quality socks (and shoes) probably gives you the best return for your money over any other piece of outdoor gear. I might let the kids borrow my Costco socks (we all have the same foot size) but I will not loan out my Swiftwick ones. 

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Manufacturer claims:

  • FLITE XT TRAIL is the most technologically advanced sock for stability, ideal for hiking and trail running.
  • AnkleLock Technology supports ankles during quick movements on varying terrain.
  • GripDry Fiber in the heel and forefoot keeps you stable in your shoes.
  • Natural Merino wool with a full Olefin footbed moves moisture away from your feet, keeping them dry and blister-free even during the longest of treks.

38% Nylon / 24% Merino wool / 22% Olefin / 13% Polyester / 3% Spandex

Olefin? I had to look that one up. Olefin is basically another name for polypropylene fiber. It adds extreme durability, doesn’t soak up water and it’s lightweight.

Ankle support? Kind of a tall claim for a pair of socks don’t you think?

I didn't notice any additional ankle support in these socks vs traditional socks.

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swiftwick.com actually has some great info on protecting your feet. It's worth the read, especially if you're new to this game.

 

Testing Conditions

I’ve worn these socks at least twice a week as my primary running and workout socks over the past two months. As fast as I wear them, I rewash them and wear them again. Being early in my training season, my runs aren’t especially long but they are often rainy.

I also wore them on a wet weekend of turkey hunting with non-waterproof shoes. It rained all weekend and temps were below freezing at night. Each morning began with a stroll through wet grass which immediately soaked my socks. I then proceeded to trapse around the Northeastern corner of Washington State in search of love-sick gobblers. I put over six miles on the Flite socks in one day, every inch of it was while my feet were wet and cold. 

I wore the Flite socks with the running and hiking sneakers I usually hike and run in. I don't really use hiking boots anymore, but I could see wearing these with my ultralight mountaineering boots for alpine approaches.  

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Headed out for a little run

 

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True to the fit chart

Forgive my baseball analogies below. The Flite Sox reminds me too much of a baseball team. These socks are designed for hiking and running, not baseball ;)

Fit

The Flite socks hit a nice opposite-field double in this category.

The fit chart for the socks said I should wear a size medium. My feet are size 9 ½ which is at the top end of the fit chart for medium, but I don’t regret the choice. They are snug, not tight, and never bunch up anyplace on my feet, even after half a dozen miles while being wet. Props to the Grip Dry fibers!  Contoured compression is the key. The Flite socks use several different weaves and materials in critical locations to grip themselves fast to your flippers like an addict grips his first cup of morning coffee.

The Fites are unisex, which simplifies things for me, but ladies take care since US shoe sizes are different for men and women so picking the correct size might be a little tricky.

I’d describe them as medium compression which agrees with the manufacturer’s claims. Medium cushioning is also a fair assessment. 

If you prefer, the Flites come in a shorter ankle length as well, the Flite XT Trail Two. I tested the taller Flite XT Trail Five. It helps to know that Swiftwick names its socks by cuff heights, the number of inches they rise above the ankle.

 

Comfort

The Flite socks quickly steal third in this category.

The Flite socks proved to be true to their claims about hugging the heel, supporting the arch and gripping firmly to the balls of my feet.  Even before I began to sweat I felt the fabric snugly cup my heel and, when wet, they never left a saggy gap where friction could try to separate my hide from the tissue underneath.

 

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Wet, but blister-free

 

Performance When Wet

The Flite socks drive a solid single to left-center field here. 

This is probably the most important category to me. My feet were either soaked with frigid dew or my own sweaty exudations every time I wore them. As you walk around, your feet will drain you of anywhere between a half to a whole pint of sweat in a day. Basically, your feet will ALWAYS be somewhat wet while you wear shoes.

I wore the Flite socks wet over six miles in one day paired with crappy, worn-out running shoes. My feet were cold because it was 35-45 degrees F, but I had no skin slippage on my little paws. If I’d done that in my Costco socks I’d be wearing sandals for the week after.

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These feet are happy

Blisters

Now Flite socks grit their teeth, squeeze the bat, and pop an outside hanging curveball to the right field corner where it bounces off the wall just inside the foul line, scoring the other two runners and earning a standing double.   

Reading the Swiftwick website gives a lot of insight into preventing blisters and underscores their dedication to giving you socks that are good for your feet. My older Swiftwick socks even came with a moneyback guarantee regarding blisters. 

Full disclosure here, I don’t get blisters as bad as some people do. Wearing K-Mart boots (Texas Steer brand) all over the wet forests of Western Washington when I was young probably had something to do with that, but I fully expected at least one blister from turkey hunting since I walked hither and yon in wet socks, but I got none.  

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Add fast-drying to the benefits

 

Drying Time

After stacking up a 3-0 count the Swiftwick ignores conventional wisdom, swings at the next pitch; a changeup right down the middle and clears the bases with a frozen-rope screamer over the center field fence. High fives at the plate; happy, but not surprised.

After a wet, six-mile walk I slid my shoes off, set my feet over a campfire, wiggled my toes and ate some crappy freeze-dried food and the socks dried enough to be very wearable for an evening of clucking, cackling and purring to a wise, old gobbler who, sadly was too content where he was to come visit me. 

It may have been the rapt conversation I was having with the turkeys, but I never gave my feet a second thought as I sat, leaning against a tree with my previously soaked feet which had quickly dried over the fire. The sun set, I left my friend in his roost and went back to camp empty-handed again.

Sliding Down

After the previous bell-ringer, the pitcher, a little rattled, walks the Swiftwick Flite socks, who promptly dashes towards second upon the very next pitch. A rocket throw bursts from the catcher but hits a little high in the shortstop’s mitt and the Flite socks dive, head-first under the tag, safe on second.

If anything makes me hate socks more, it is bunching under my arch or near my toes. The Flites, with their kung-fu grip never moved a millimeter. The mix of wool and petrol-derived fibers don’t sag when wet and they stay where you put them. Slipping socks can conjure blisters like a genie from a lamp. Props to Swiftwick here once again. 

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dig those compression zones!

 

Warmth

After fouling off the first two pitches into the press box, the Flite socks lay down a pretty bunt; dribbling down the third base line. In a loudly contested call, the umpire calls the Flite socks safe on first; the tie going to the runner. 

My feet were cold as heck in these socks when temps were in the low-mid thirties and the grass was wet but let’s be fair; the Flites aren’t designed for warmth and my shoes were about as waterproof as a screen door. These aren’t the socks you need for warm toes, they’re the ones you pick for heat and sweat.

Having said that, even though my feet were cold and damp, the wool and manmade fibers refused to hold onto excessive cold water, and this helped keep the shivers away.

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That place between minimalist and bulky

 

Cushion

The Flite socks earn a walk here; nothing fancy but it advances the players and adds to the bases. 

I’d describe the heel and frontal cushioning on the Flites as “medium.” Ultralight socks don’t absorb enough sweat for me, and heavy padding ruins shoe fit in my judgement. The medium cushioning makes the Flites extremely versatile—good enough for most activities. My legs were a little sore after the weekend, but my feet were fine.

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Smell that pic? No? It's because these socks don't hold odors!

 

Odor Control

The vindictive pitcher, tiring of the long inning, streaks a 90+ MPH pitch right into the kidneys of the Flite socks. The socks resist the urge to charge the mound, shakes it off and trots to first, filling the bases. 

When evening came and I finally removed the Flites inside the confines of the sleeping quarters (my station wagon) there were no complaints from my son about the scent. Wool is fantastic at resisting the microbial growth that causes body odor.

I accidentally left the Flites in my car after the trip and the car sat in the sun all day. When I opened it up again absent was the usual smack in the face of cooked, stinky socks.

Style

A new pitcher warms up, takes the signs from the catcher and zings a high, inside fastball which the Flite socks swat like a fly between the infielders into shallow left field. One runner scores and the bases remain loaded. No clutch, heroic grand-slam, just a little single.

To answer your question, YES, style matters in outdoor equipment. Spouses, paramours, strangers and family members will see you in these socks. Looking bad is still a gross misdemeanor and the fashion police always lurk in the timber, judging. Hiking bro-rules still apply: Rule #1 Always look cool. Rule #2 Never get lost. Rule #3 If you get lost, refer to Rule #1. 

The Flites fit that nice niche between low-cut no-show socks and those awkward crew-height socks that only stay pulled up if you have no calves.  This also helps them go with slightly taller boots if you choose.

Color-wise, the Flites are rather vanilla. That will please many, but if you’re the prancing, “look at me,” type (I might be) you may be disappointed by the lack of loud branding and colors.  You have the choice of grey and greyer.

Durability

Before the coach can call up the Mighty Casey as a pinch hitter to clear the bases the weather closes in and the game is called early, mercifully for the opposing team. 

I have had absolutely zero wear damage from these socks in the month or so I have worn them, and I still have Swiftwick socks that are more than three years old. Hiking in them and getting dirt and mud inside them could have caused damage to lesser socks but the Flites are still rather pristine. Still though, I expect my better socks to last multiple seasons, so I’ll keep updating this review as I test the Flites more over the next few seasons. 

The $26 price tag might scare some off but, if they last as well as my other Swiftwick socks they'll be there for you for years to come, making them worth the price.  

Errors

I don’t really buy the claim that these socks, or any socks, provide ankle support, but I’ll give them a pass on this assertion because the Flites are so great otherwise. 

Who Needs These socks?

Who DOESN’T? Do you hike, walk, fish, go to the gym or just hate blisters? Get a pair. Excluding snow sports, you can get away with wearing the Flites for almost any activity. You can even wear them at work if your dress code is business casual or below. Do you wear work boots? Even better! I’ll gladly use them as my approach socks this summer on the Cascades volcanoes. 

Overall

In a ball game against their competitors the Swiftwick Flite socks would win by mercy-rule. They’re just excellent socks that work for a wide variety of tasks.

Swiftwick has a “Best socks you’ll ever wear” guarantee, and I don’t disagree.  I used them as intended and also abused them in conditions they were not exactly designed for, and they held up just like a good utility player. These socks are all-star candidates from the American League (made in USA).

Experience

I own several other Swiftwick socks as well as socks from lesser brands. Fitness runs, trips to the gym, and a weekend of chasing turkeys gave me a good test of these socks.

Source: received for testing via the Trailspace Review Corps (Sample for testing and review provided by Swiftwick)

About the Author

Jeffrey Ediger has worked his way up from backpacker to mountaineer over the years. He prefers climbing the volcanic peaks but still enjoys rock climbing and alpine hiking. Since 2014 Jeffrey has reached the summit of Mount Rainier six times, as well as most of the other big mountains in Washington and Oregon. His climbing style leans towards fast and light. He reviewed his first piece of gear for Trailspace’s Review Corps in 2013. Jeffrey is a corporate trainer by day and a father to eight children all the time.

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Specs

Price MSRP: $26.99
Materials 38% Nylon / 24% Merino wool / 22% Olefin / 13% Polyester / 3% Spandex
Cushion Medium
Compression Moderate
Origin Made in the USA from domestic and imported yarns
Product Details from Swiftwick »

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