Backpacking Gear Review: WillowAce “THE ALPACA SOCKS”

Backpacking Gear Review: WillowAce “THE ALPACA SOCKS”

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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.

Hiking Application

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 odor.

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!

Update on 10/3/23: I did another 60-miler and this time 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. Then, after that, I took my WillowAces out for one more weekend of hiking and used only them. The only issue that developed was some slight irritation that came from me putting one sock on slightly askew one morning, leading the toebox sewline to develop a pressure ridge on my foot. This was more my fault than that of the sock. It was well below freezing when I put them on underneath two ultralight down quilts, and I was lazy and not looking.

Skiing Application

These socks are not a ski sock.

Daily Application

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. Unfortunately, the entry of debris ripped my Altras apart, though I managed to get a warranty claim filed.

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.


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 am 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 think that people with toe splay should look into WillowAce and see if they work for them. I will likely buy more of them as gifts for my other outdoor-oriented friends.

Final Rating

Rating: 5 out of 5.

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. I got this code after I wrote this review and wrote it as a neutral party. They don’t seem to actually have a true affiliate program set up, so if you use it, they won’t actually pay me anything, anyway . 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.”) And again, WillowAce does not send payments to me when people use this code. (I am not certain why they actually offer affiliate codes…and I’m not really affiliated with them. If they ever do send me some sort of kickback, I will update this post, and whatever I got would go to fund the site, which generates -$500 a year for me.)

14 thoughts on “Backpacking Gear Review: WillowAce “THE ALPACA SOCKS”

  1. Thanks, Douglas. I am glad that they got to you, though I had never considered calf size, as I don’t have large calves! From now on when I review socks, I will ensure that I mention more than just my deformed feet. GB and happy 2024!

  2. Willoace looks tempting, but I keep hearing internet buzz that it’s another of the here-now-gone-later internet retail companies that charge your card and then make you wrestle them to get their product in your hands, and it miay not be the product they advertise. It seems too much risk to deal with.

    1. Could be—I do not understand their business model, and I prefer socks made locally. For people like me with my deformed feet, they are something of a Godsend—though as I noted, Creepers are my slight preference. The downside with Creepers is that they are so much work that I never wear them as a daily sock, and they are quite delicate and thin.

  3. Good luck getting the lifetime warranty honored from the “company based in USA” but goods made in China WillowAce. Who knows how long they’ll last.

  4. I am interested in knowing how the ankle socks work out. I have only tried the longest ones so far, but when I wear loafers, it would be nice to have a good ankle sock. I’m currently on some old ankle socks I got from Ross back in 2017.

    1. So far so good with the Willow Ace ankle socks. I have worn ankle socks for many years. My calves are large and anything taller cuts off circulation. I’m liking the Willow Ace very much. I wrote them upon receiving my socks (after 60 days) and they were very apologetic and assured me it would ‘never’ happen again. They also claim they were simply overwhelmed and have since moved to larger facilities and hired more people. They also sent me a duplicate order at no charge. That says a lot. All good in my book and speaks volumes about their integrity and their focus on customer satisfaction. I will continue my evaluation over the next few weeks of wearing and washing and follow up with a review. Appreciate your input and articles. Have a very good 2024 Lucas!

  5. Tammy, I am delighted to hear that I am not crazy in my opinion on these socks, and glad that you liked them. WillowAce seems like a strange company (quite cryptic), but since the socks feel good and stand up to abuse, I’m fine with that.

    1. I am happy to report that after 60 days I finally received my 5 pair of Willow Ace Ankle Socks. I am anxious to try them out and let my wife try a pair as well. If she likes them, we’ll get her some too. You are right Luke. I think Willow Ace is a small company and I read a ‘family’ business too. It took nearly 45 days for them to accept that my original order was somehow lost and replaced it with a new order. Even the USPS was messing around with it for some reason which caused an additional delay. I suspect Willow Ace over booked orders and just didn’t have the inventory to ship as they normally would. I will never know as Willow never said what the issue was. I suspect the socks are very good. They feel awesome! I will indeed write a review once I try them out. I’m also hoping the delay in arrival was a rare and untypical experience based on other reviews. I look forward to discovering these are ‘exceptional’ socks and wish Willow Ace much success and prosperity which will be good for everyone. Happy trails!

  6. Placed an order in Nicember and it did take a long time to receive them but so worth the wait! I ordered again after Christmas and got these very quickly. Love these socks!

  7. Placed my order with Willow Ace on November 12, 2023 and still waiting. 5 pair, black, ankle length. I’ve spoken via email multiple times to Emma and Tanner in Customer Service and still . . . no socks! There is no excuse. They confirmed my ORDER #11485 on November 12, 2023. I do want these socks, but I want to caution other buyers. Something is not right with this company. Hope they prove me wrong, but my patience is running out and they are no longer responding to my emails.

    1. Douglas, thank you for posting this. That’s distressing to hear–I am glad I have not had such an experience. Maybe you could screenshot this conversation we are having and reach out to them with it. I have never made money or gotten free products from WillowAce, but I have ordered from them a few times, and don’t want to be supporting a company that isn’t honest or perhaps is not prepared to follow through.

      In the meantime, if you have not, I would definitely dispute the transaction with your credit card company. I hate having to do that, but have done it a few times.

      If you are OK with toe socks, Creepers socks might be worth your time. Or if you want something plush, look into Peruvian Connection. My wife loves them, especially now that she is recovering from major surgery. Of course she’s Peruvian, so that might affect her view. Anyway, Creepers are ultrathin but prevent blisters, while Peruvian Connection is like wearing a pillow made out of a warm cloud.

      Unfortunately, WillowAce has been way better for me than (I forget the name of the Danish socks I have) and Darn Tough.

      Please let me know if this does not get resolved.

      If WillowAce reads this, please help Doug. If people are buying your socks because of a review I wrote, I don’t want them getting scammed, or feeling like they are.

      1. Dear Luke,

        Thank you for your encouraging reply. My last email to WillowAce requested a ‘replacement’ order or a full refund. Lo and behold, today I received a notice from WillowAce indicating a replacement order is being prepared to ship at zero cost to me. I am hopeful!

        It seems they are finely doing the right thing. A bit late in my book, but none the less, they are doing something rather than nothing. I look forward to writing a review and joining the many others who claim these are amazing socks. Whatever got them moving I am thankful for. Hopefully my situation is a rarity where for unknown reasons my order slipped through the cracks and they made it right. I’ll let you know when the socks arrive! Thanks again Luke for your reply.

        1. Douglas, it is my pleasure, and I am glad that they are finally doing the right thing (it seems like they are a small company and I suspect that they have supply-chain/quantity/shipping issues, much like I have found GastroGnome to have). Please let me know how you feel about the socks when you get them. I would like to verify that I have not somehow bamboozled myself into liking a product more than I should…as you probably gathered, I have ridiculous feet and thus might be liking a ridiculous sock because it’s a good match.

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