Our Shred Shield™ anti-wear technology was designed to help you go far—and in some cases, extraordinarily far. The latter is true for ultrarunner, Seth Swanson. Together, we created a pair of socks that could endure even the toughest challenges. This small innovation had a big impact—significantly increasing the durability in the toe area of our ultra light socks. This technology allowed Seth to run over 1,000 miles in a single pair of socks.
Little did we know that when we sent Seth a pair of Smartwool socks a few years back, they would have such an impact. Seth isn’t any ordinary runner. In fact, he’s just the opposite. A Montana-based athlete for The North Face with top finishes in races across the globe, he’s quickly rising to the top of ultrarunning. For as competitive and challenging as ultrarunning might be, for him the beauty of running lies in its simplicity.
However, when it comes to socks, the bare essentials weren’t cutting it for him. To his friends and family, it’s no secret that his socks seemingly always have holes in them.
“I literally run a pair of socks ragged and then alternate feet so that the largest holes move from the big toe on one foot to the pinky toe on the other, just to eek out a few more miles.”
As a result of voluminous running miles, Seth’s toes are frequently missing toenails or donned by black and blue nails which form into armored talons—as they have been lovingly referred to by his fellow ultrarunners, family and friends. His “talon toes” or “eagle claws” meant that there wasn’t a single pair of socks on the market that stood a chance to Seth’s talons—until our product design team took on the challenge of reimagining durability and utilizing Seth’s extremely complex feet as their tester.
“I received a pair of pre-production socks from Smartwool and after slipping into them, I knew they were going to be something special,” Seth tells.
“They were thin enough to not be overly sweaty or cause bunching and hot spots, but had just enough reinforcement where they were needed most—in the toes. Knowing I had something special, I largely reserved these for races as those long hours and distances tend to demand extra support. Typically, a 100-mile race would require a single-use sock as they would be destroyed by the finish. In 2017 alone, I ran nearly 400 miles of races in that single pair of socks without the slightest chink in the armor. No blisters, no holes.”
Seth's socks before running 100-mile race.
Seth's socks after running 100 miles.
He was so excited on the socks that he sent them back to us, in hopes that he would get a few more of these off-the-market socks. We sent Seth the same pair back, and he took them to the beautiful mountain town of Cortina d’Ampezzo in the Italian Dolomites for the Lavaredo Ultra Trail race. The 119 km course boasts more than 5,850 meters of ascent with a max time limit of 30 hours. Seth took 2nd place in 12:34:41, just about 2 minutes behind the leader. And you can bet, he did it all in that exact same pair of socks we sent back to him.
“I can’t thank Smartwool enough, the blue toes saved the day again, these things don’t quit!” Seth wrote in a letter after he finished the race.