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Review: AFX FreshGear Toe Socks

by Brian Patterson » on Jan 10, 2012 2

A few weeks ago the guys at Permara reached out to us about their new toe sock product, the AFX Toe Socks.  The socks have five individual toe pockets (just like the recently reviewed Injinji’s) so they are a natural match for the FiveFingers community.  Beyond that, they have a special “Renewable Antimicrobial Protection” applied to them that sounded intriguing, particularly because so many people have to deal with the FiveFingers smell issue.  The guys even issued us a challenge:  “Wear the socks for five days in a row and see if they stink.  We call this the Permara challenge”, they said.

I was intrigued.  They must really stand behind their product to issue a challenge like that.  I agreed that we’d give them a solid test drive, and they kindly sent over a few pairs to try out.

Because Injinji’s are the most popular toe sock amongst our community, you’ll see a lot of references and comparisons to them in this review.  Here are our thoughts.

The Socks

As I’ve said before, I’m not a huge materials guy, but I know a lot of people are.  The breakdown of these socks are:  95% cotton & 5% Spandex.  For comparison, Injinji’s Performance Series are 70% polyester (CoolMax – which give it the moisture wicking feel), 25% Nylon, and 5% Lycra.

The AFX Toe Socks don’t have that moisture wicking feel that CoolMax provides, but they definitely feel more sleek and sporty than a traditional pair of white cotton socks.  In fact, these socks are pretty thin and lightweight, which is good because it means it probably won’t screw up your FiveFingers sizing.

Putting them on feels very familiar if you wear FiveFingers and/or any other toe socks.  While you can’t just slip them on and go as with ‘regular’ socks, it only adds a few negligible seconds onto your morning routine to fit each toe into its proper pocket. Once they are on, they are really comfortable.  For some reason, I’m always surprised at how much more comfortable toe socks are than regular socks.  It’s a really natural feeling; your toes can spread and move instead of being all scrunched together.

The socks fit snug yet comfortable on the toes.  At the tip of some of my toes I did notice a slight corner rather than a fully rounded edge.  This was very slight (I could see it, but I couldn’t feel it when wearing them), but it’s there.

The Different Styles

The AFX socks come in ‘No Show’ and ‘Quarter Length’ styles.  The No Show socks are cut really, really low, and are perfect for FiveFingers.  The Quarter Length will work with your FiveFingers as well, but they do show a bit.  My preference is to wear toe socks that don’t show with my VFFs.  If I have to wear toe socks that show, I really prefer for them to be the same color as the VFFs I’m wearing so it looks color coordinated, which brings me to my next point.

The quarter length socks on my feet

These are the no-show socks - you can see how low they are cut

Another angle on how low the no-shows are

The AFX socks currently only come in white.  For me, this means the ‘No Shows’ are my go-to because you can’t see them at all with FiveFingers.  The white color sock is a limitation of sorts because of the anti-microbial recharging process detailed further below, which requires that the socks be washed with some bleach.  The AFX guys have assured me, however, that they are currently experimenting with other color-fast materials so that they can produce socks in colors other than white (hint: I want black).  In fact, they have produced socks with a gray logo that wasn’t damaged by the bleach, so I’m hopeful that lots of color options are right around the corner.

Wearing Treksports with the No-Show Socks; I'm pulling the upper back and still can't see the socks.

The portion of the quarter length socks that are visible when wearing Treksports

The Anti-Microbial Treatment

I’ve mentioned the Anti-Microbial treatment a few times.  I was really concerned that, with perhaps such a powerful treatment applied, that I may feel a film or residue on the socks (maybe something like Scotch-guard), but that turned out to not be the case.  If I weren’t told there was a special Anti-Microbial treatment to these, I would never have guessed it just by feeling or smelling them.

The quarter length AFX socks after having been 'recharged' a few times. They look like a pair of any other socks (except for the toes)

The real magic to me with this treatment they apply is that it is easily rechargeable.  We have all bought other products with special treatments, only to have them fade away after repeated wearing or washing.  The promise of Permara is different:  if you wash the socks with bleach, the anti-microbial treatment is recharged and like new.  I put this to the test in the challenge.

The Permara Challenge

You must by dying to know how the challenge went, right?  Wearing the same pair of socks, all day, every day for 5 days straight sounds ridiculous and like a perfect recipe for disaster.  I was skeptical for sure, but I did it.

At first I thought it’d be difficult to wear a pair of white socks all day.  After all, I go into an office several times a week and we dress business casual so I often have to wear dress socks.  When I relayed these concerns to Jeff (VP of Operations at Permara), he suggested that I put them on inside of the dress socks; at first that sounded odd, but it worked just fine, so no issue there.  After I got into the swing of things, wearing them full-time wasn’t an issue. I even wore them at night when I was sleeping a few times.

So what was the end result?  They didn’t stink.  Like, not at all.  It is actually fairly incredible.  The bottoms were certainly dark and grimy, and yet they smelled neutral, not flowery or rosy, but not stinky either.  I think this is a big testament to the strength of their technology.  Obviously most people won’t wear socks five days in a row without washing them, but it goes to show that even 1 really heavy-use day isn’t going to make these socks stink.

The big claim of their patented anti-microbial treatment is that it is rechargeable by simply washing the socks normally, but with bleach added to the cycle.  We don’t typically wash with bleach, so I don’t know a ton about it, but we added about 1/4 cup to our load of whites that included the AFX Toe Socks.  Then, after doing this, I did the challenge again!

Yes, same challenge, same results.  After wearing the now washed socks for another 5 days straight, the socks still didn’t smell.

I’m going to continue to experiment with the socks to see how far I can push them in terms of wearing them or washing them too many times.  The way the technology has been explained to me, there is no reason that these can’t continue to be recharged over and over and over.  But I’m going to have fun trying to break it!

Final Thoughts

First off, I am almost certain that these will help people dealing with FiveFingers funk.  Not only will they inhibit the stench from getting to your FiveFingers in the first place, but I have a sneaking suspicion that they may also help eliminate any smells that are already on the FiveFingers since they’ll be right up against them.  We’ll be putting this to the test to see if these socks can also eliminate these smells that are embedded into the FiveFingers.

I also think that this treatment has lots of uses. The Permara brand makes all sorts of items with it beyond the toe socks; they have an entire athletic sock line-up as well as Diabetic socks. They’ve also applied their anti-microbial tech to t-shirts, undergarments, towels and linens.  I could envision a treatment of this technology directly to the FiveFingers, although we’d need to get past the bleach issue.

I’d personally like to see more color options, but again I do realize the limitation with having to recharge them with bleach.  Based on my experience thus far, these socks do come highly recommended by me. The next time you need a pair of toe socks, you might want to try a pair of these from Amazon and see what you think.

Finally, the Permara guys have agreed to hang around this post and answer any questions you may have – just put them in the comment section below.  You can also find them on Facebook and Twitter.

Full Disclosure: received this product for free to review, but the opinions shared are my own and honest.

Submitted Comments

  1. Stefanie says:

    I had bought 3 or 4 pair of the AFX FreshGear Toe Socks to wear with my Jaya’s in the summer. They were still great in that they could not be seen, but I had two pairs wear holes through the big toe =(

  2. Iñaki says:

    I live in the UK and I can’t possible find these socks over here. I tried Amazon but they don’t ship. Anybody any idea PLEASE??
    I will be more than pleased if somebody can help me with any website where I could get them from (don’t forget I am in the UK)
    thanks, thanks

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