Swiftwick launched their Aspire line of socks early in January 2011. Compared to their regular performance socks, the Aspire models have more “managed compression” throughout, use a 200 needle knit (tighter weave, more inherent compression, better durability) and a linked toe. The latter means there’s no raised seam anywhere on the toe, which makes them very smooth.
Bonus: They’re made in the USA with mostly domestic sourced components. They’re made of Olefin, which Swiftwick’s Sales VP Grant Castle says makes for greener overall construction because the dye is ingrained in the material without requiring post production dyeing. It also wicks mechanically, like wool, without requiring chemical wicking agents. They also use a high grade T6T6 nylon, which Castle says is more supple and durable, too.
The Aspire’s varying levels of compression and support are visible throughout the construction, from toe to ankle. This gives them a very snug fit that didn’t move around inside my cycling shoes or bunch at all. And, because they stay put, there was never any rubbing or discomfort that could lead to blisters.
I wear a size 13 US shoe and my foot seemed to be somewhere in between the ideal size for their Large and XL, with the comfort quotient making me lean toward the XL even though I could pull the heel cup up a bit too far behind my heel if I tried.
They offer a dizzying array of heights, ranging from Zero (left) to 12 (right), which sort of doubles as a compression sock. I tried an early version of their compression sock and, without any exaggeration, it took me 10 minutes per sock to put them on. They were simply too tight even in XL. They seemed to have sorted it out as these 12’s are much easier to put on but still tight enough to qualify as compression in my book.
Most of my testing was done while riding, but I did put a couple miles of running with them in the Keen A86 trail running shoe. To be honest, they didn’t work well with that shoe, but my hunch is it had more to do with the shoe than the socks…that model seems to work best for me with no socks at all. The problem? It felt like my foot was sliding too much inside the shoe, which makes me think the fabric interface between the insole and the sock was simply too slippery. It was a bit disconcerting.
Other than that, the Swiftwick Aspire is a phenomenal cycling sock and I highly recommend it.
Note: Since Interbike, Swiftwick has revised the 12 to have a taller, better compressive cuff that maintains the performance Aspire footbed.
Pricing ranges from $12 up to $35 depending on height.