The smartly designed, high-performing Flite XT Zeros from Swiftwick are definitely not cheap socks, but you’re paying for the research and the tech that has gone into them, and if blisters are the bane of your running life, then the cost could be worth it – just make sure you look after them.
Great breathable design
Excellent, secure fit
Reduces slippage and in-shoe movement
Wicks moisture well
No odor control (smell may build up over time)
All synthetic materials, with no recycled content
Offers no protection from aggressive flora
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Swiftwick Flite XT Zero Tab: first impressions
The very first thing you see when you clap eyes on the Swiftwick Flite XT Zero Tabs is a loud claim – actually, make that a 'guarantee' – that they’re the BEST SOCKS YOU WILL EVER WEAR. It’s a bold statement, but to be honest, I’d expect them to be pretty damn special for the cost.
• List price: $19.99 (US) / £34 (UK)
• Gender specificity: Male / Female
• Sizes: Small / Medium / Large / Extra Large
• Materials: Nylon (62%), Olefin (21%), Polyester (13%), Spandex (4%)
• Length: Zero (ankle)
• Colors: Black / White / Gray
• Compatibility: Trail and mixed-terrain running, plus summer walking and general use
To see whether they live up to their price tag and big boasts, I’ve been wearing a pair of Swiftwick Flite XT Zero Tab socks during multiple trail running adventures over the last few weeks, to see whether they really are among the best trail-running socks out there, but more of that below. First, we’ll take a look at the tech that goes into making them.
The Flite XT Zero Tabs are a very low-cut, medium-cushioned sock designed for running and other high-intensity activities, mainly in the summer. You can, of course, wear them whenever you like, but across the top of the foot are three bands of mesh that make them highly breathable and quite cool to wear in warm weather.
To help support your feet during the repetitive movements that runners execute when pounding the paths and trails, the socks have AnkleLock Technology, which consists of a layer of highly elastic material (Spandex) that wraps around your ankle – always a trail-runner’s most vulnerable joint.
Elsewhere, a nanofiber-based material called GripDry is woven into the heel and forefoot of the sock, which supplies grip and reduces slippage. All this is blended with Swiftwick’s signature Olefin fiber, which wicks moisture away from your foot.
Swiftwick Flite XT Zero Tab: on the trails
As mentioned, I’ve been hitting my local hills, woodland paths, fields and beaches in the Swiftwick Flite XT Zero Tabs for the last few weeks, mainly for trail running, but also a bit of road jogging and general walking.
A lot of thought has clearly gone into the design of these socks, and I’ve been impressed overall by how they look and feel on my feet. I’ve been running in primarily warm conditions, and I’ve got to say the breathability of the Flite XT Zero Tabs is excellent. However, I do have a few concerns about how robust the mesh elements on the top of the foot will be after repeated use on terrain where – no matter how good your trail running shoes are – grit can inevitably get in and cause havoc and damage (I’ll report back on this).
The hold the Flite XT Zeros have on your feet is also impressive. By minimizing foot movement within your shoe and keeping your skin as dry as possible with their moisture-wicking capabilities, these socks do lower your chances of suffering blisters and other rubbing injuries – and for some people that alone will make them worth the asking price.
Personally, I think the claim that they’re best socks you’ll ever wear is a bit of a stretch, and I’d like to see some more natural fabrics in the material mix (merino for example), for both their comfort values and their ability to stop the buildup of bad odors over time.
Author of Caving, Canyoning, Coasteering…, a recently released book about all kinds of outdoor adventures around Britain, Pat has spent 20 years pursuing stories involving boots, bikes, boats, beers and bruises. En route he’s canoed Canada’s Yukon River, climbed Mont Blanc and Kilimanjaro, skied and mountain biked through the Norwegian Alps, run an ultra across the roof of Mauritius, and set short-lived records for trail-running Australia’s highest peaks and New Zealand’s Great Walks. He’s authored walking guides to Devon and Dorset, and once wrote a whole book about Toilets for Lonely Planet. Follow Pat’s escapades on Strava here and instagram here.