In my review of WillowAce alpaca socks, I discussed how bad my foot issues have been when hiking. Taping, using Hiking Goo, and trying new shoes have reduced the problems to bearable, yet still unpleasant levels. The Willowace socks were much better for my feet than previous socks, but they are tied, and perhaps exceeded, by Creepers socks. In this post, I’ll detail why that’s true, but give some downsides, too. Below are pictures of my foot problems.
As I noted in the previous post, on a hike in the middle of August, the Gaia track of which is below, I was finally driven NUTS by the pain. (I will link to the review of the hike when I get it posted.) The trip was hot and my toes rubbed so much that I thought I go mad. I taped, re-taped, and taped some more. Nothing worked.
Since 2019, I have been using very expensive “Darn Tough” socks, which have very nice padding. These socks are great, though they tend to get more pilling than I prefer, and like any sock, can lodge pokey debris in the threads, especially in the thicker, padded areas.
Having lost my mind from the pain of the Marten Lake hike, I ordered the oddly named Creepers and WillowAce socks, which are both competitors to Darn Tough. You can see the WillowAce socks I ordered below; some were for my mom and wife. I used a promotion to get the cost down a bit, but they were still pricey. The small socks were for my wife and mom to test out.
With a hike of over 60 miles coming up, I was excited to try the new socks, though I had some trepidation. I also changed my shoe to the Altra Olympus 5, which is somewhat like the Hoka Speedgoats that had caused me foot damage in the past. With a missing big toenail from an injury on my hike in the Gros Ventre, I wanted some extra footbox room, though the lesser lugs and increased stack height and cushioning (as compared to my Colombia Montrail FKT’s) had me a bit concerned. A sloppy, big toebox and a high ride make for less precision with one’s footing. Regardless, when the review of the 60+ mile hike hits, I’ll have more details in the narrative. For now, the track is below. It’s missing some mileage due to me forgetting to track with GPS at times; the total distance was some 65+ miles. I used the WillowAce socks for around 40 miles, and the Creepers the rest of the time.
Additionally, I used the Creepers socks on a couple more hikes afterward. The biggest hike I used them on afterward was over 50 miles:
In total, I have over 100 miles now just using one pair.
During the trips above, the weather was stormy the majority of the time, with moderate rain (in the meteorological, 7900.5E sense, which means it was really quite heavy in the backpacking sense) occurring often, and when that wasn’t true, intermittent drizzle or 35kt+ winds battering one about. The weather got below freezing a bunch, and I found myself in ice and snow. I also had a few days that were quite hot.
Below are some pictures of the various styles of inclement weather I took the socks through, though mostly I kept my phone tucked away during the rain.
Creepers socks are not padded at all, to the point that you’d almost consider them for skiing, but more on that later. Despite not being padded, I found that I ended up really liking them and didn’t get any pressure pains from the lack of padding. With a less-padded trail shoe, this could be a bother. My mother wore them with some Colombia Montrail FKTs (not a hugely padded shoe) and didn’t have any complains about how padded they were, though.
One downside that we both noted was that the socks can press into the area between toes during extended, long downhill segments. Despite this, I only found myself stopping to adjust once every 10-15 miles or so. That’s less than I have to adjust to remove debris from my shoes, so it didn’t become an extra task.
During the rain and cold, I never found my feet cold, my feet did get pretty dang cold, but during the hottest parts of the hike, the socks were a darn blessing! As I don’t use GTX style shoes, my feet often end up soaking or cold. Regardless, I did not find myself shying away from using them due to weather or temperature.
Below: Some of the pretty terrain we covered, and the Creeper socks. You can see that they are very thin and do have material that peels away. It did not affect their usefulness for me over 100 miles.
The Creepers did seem to develop a smell easier than some socks I’ve used before, including Darn Toughs and WillowAce. I noted that on all of my trips, typically beginning at mile 30 or so. It wasn’t horrible, and really smelled more like Parmesan than anything else…which is I suppose how I smell.
Below: A comparison of my new shoe (left) and old shoe (right), my missing toenail but a tape-free foot, the socks about 20 miles in and not pulled tight, so that you can see their toebox, and the socks tightened down and wet at mile 50 or so, followed by a picture of some of the terrain I descended on a dry day, and completed by a before and after picture of my feet and weight. While my feet were in great shape at the end, my body was doing even better, as I lost 8lbs of weight!
On one 60-miler I brought my Darn Toughs and my Creepers to compare the difference, as I was worried that maybe I was being biased by comparing the Creepers with the WillowAce socks, and bringing Darn Toughs with Creepers would provide equal bias by which to make a more accurate comparison. By the first day in my Darn Toughs, my pinky toes were squished and I was developing blisters. Again I was hiking in rain, cold, and some snow. I tried them for a total of about 23 miles before stuffing them in the very back of my pack and switching to Creepers, as the pain was rather unpleasant. I think it really comes down to the toebox of the Darn Tough socks being too narrow for my splay. I took the Creepers the rest of the way, largely through precipitous terrain and off-trail, and didn’t suffer; my toe pain eventually subsided.
I don’t think that these socks are a ski sock, mainly due to how they can compress in between the toes during steep downhill. I will try them out at Targhee or Jackson Hole Mountain Resort just to say that I did it, though.
I use them sometimes, though not often, which I’ll detail more below. Due to the fact that it takes longer to put them on, I find myself mostly seeking them out for hiking.
So far the socks have held up well to the abuse I put them through. Unlike Darn Toughs, these are not advertised as being darn tough. They do peel (see the gallery up-page) and have special cleaning requirements, which my wife has ignored on her and suffered no great problems from the fact. At over 100 miles, I don’t have any holes in them, which is shocking. My mom got no holes in hers, either, but she didn’t like the bunching in between the toes. My mom does not use heel-retention lacing, which may have made her movements worse.
Last thing on durability: because I don’t have to tape my feet, the socks don’t get caked-on leukotape adhesive, which makes for a much more pleasant experience. Regardless, the potential decrease in longevity is worth the reduction in foot damage, at least to me.
On most hikes now, I find myself bringing my Creepers socks. They weigh almost nothing and prevent 100% of my foot pain. I give the Creepers a slight edge over WillowAce socks, while my mom leans the opposite direction.
I love my Creepers socks. They remove all of the foot pain from hiking, and I’ll be sticking with them as long as they are in business.