For years I have had issues with shoes and socks causing me extensive problems. After some hikes in 2017, my right foot got so torn up that it now has permanent pad deformities due to scar tissue formation. Had I used better socks and shoes, it’s unlikely that this would have occurred. All of this has happened despite me changing shoes, buying expensive socks, and taping my feet like crazy. Below are pictures of some of my common foot issues, including smooshed toes and holes torn open in my feet. The amount of leukotape I have gone through has probably robbed me of a million dollars in retirement.
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 Creeper 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. All in all, they cost about $60, which is far less than I would have spent on a comparable number of Darn Toughs.
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 which 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.
During the trip 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. Temperatures often dipped into the lower 40s, though it never hit freezing.
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.
The WillowAce Alpaca socks were not as thickly padded as my Darn Tough socks, but with the Altra Olympus shoes, I didn’t notice at all. The Olympus shoes easily get soaked, so I did about 25 miles in wet socks. Although WillowAce says that the socks are naturally hydrophobic, and perhaps they are, the torrential rains I went through meant that even my soul was waterlogged. Despite that, I was surprised and delighted that I didn’t have to tape my toes or feet (other than the area with scar tissue, which must be taped when it gets wet to prevent it from debonding), and I didn’t get a single blister. The socks rode very well.
During the rain and cold, I never found my feet cold, even when my hands and arms felt like they might shatter. During the 15% of the trip which was hot and arid, my feet never felt hot, either. Overall, these socks regulated as well or better than the Darn Tough socks. During my last day, which featured 22.8 miles at once, my feet were pain-free the entire time.
Also, as a point of comparison, I loved the Creepers for how smooth they felt, but the Creepers bound in my toes during steep, technical, off-trail, downhill portions of my hike. It was only such that I would need to adjust them once or twice a day, but the WillowAce’s didn’t have that issue.
Below: Some of the pretty terrain we covered, and the Creeper socks. Separate review of them and some Peruvian Connection alpaca socks coming.
Also, I had to use envirofriendly camp soap to wash my Creepers, but the WillowAce’s never developed any smell. I am not certain if the Creepers were at fault, though, as I was using them atop my padded slip-style camp shoes, which can develop 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!
These socks are not a ski sock.
My wife has used these a lot as a daily driver now. She is due to have our child in 3 months and says they are comfy for her.
So far the socks have held up well to the abuse I put them through. I checked them daily to see if they were starting to fall apart, and they were never any worse for the wear. The Olympus shoes have a downside of letting a great deal of debris enter the shoe, but as you can see from the pictures in the gallery up-page, the WillowAce socks accepted the abuse without failing. I will update this post at the end of this hiking season, and then update it again next hiking season.
WillowAce’s socks present a great alternative to the expensive Darn Toughs. If you want an ultra-cushioned sock, they might not be for you, but otherwise I was happier with them than my Darn Toughs. This isn’t a knock on Darn Tough, which is an incredible brand, but for my foot’s needs at the time, and the shoe I’m in right now, the WillowAce socks have been preferable. I will likely buy more of them as gifts for my other outdoor-oriented friends.
I love the WillowAce socks and am glad that I gave them a go. For under $60, I’ve made myself, my wife, and my mom quite happy. I’ll let you know if my opinion changes with more wear.
Note: WillowAce sent a 20% off-code as I think they want to get the word out about them. I got this code after I wrote this review and wrote it as a neutral party. I was not going to post it, because you can save 25% when you buy 3 pairs, and 30% if you buy 5 pairs or more if you are buying for the first time, using their codes “SS25” and “SS30,” respectively. They also have a summer sale for now (August 2023) using code “SS20.”
IF the summer sale doesn’t turn into a fall sale, and IF you only want to purchase 1-2 pairs and are a first time buyer, you can use the non-time limited code they sent me, “LUCAS52065.” However, I feel that the 20% off standard code is likely to stick around in some form, and so far I think that the socks are nice enough that one would not regret using the SS25 or SS30 codes. I used SS30 for my purchase.
I have an aversion to affiliate marketing (it feels like trying to monetize your friends), so I want to make the above information very clear. At the same time, being a lover of SlickDeals, it would be inappropriate to not provide the LUCAS52065 code in case the SS20 really does go away. (Though all us SlickDealers know that it’s always worth typing in “WELCOME20″ at checkout on any website just to see if it works, assuming the helper extensions fail.”)