Measuring a Year in Socks -- Jonnah Mellenthin-Perkins
A lot of people say that all you really need for running is a good pair of shoes. I’d go one step farther and say that you also need a good pair of socks. Your shoes touch the trail or road and your socks touch your feet. If you don’t start with a good shoe/sock foundation, it will ultimately take away from your entire running experience.
Last year I had the opportunity to work with the design and development team at Wigwam Mills as they were creating a brand new collection, SynchroKnit. This sock would ultimately end up being the sock I would have designed if I was able to create my own: extra snug around the arch, cushy in the forefoot, no tearing in the toe (like ever), no slip into my shoe, and super importantly, fun colors. It was so interesting to learn what goes into the engineering of the perfect sock and to have the opportunity to give input and feedback - such a game changing experience. Wigwam has been an incredible partner for me as an athlete, and our connection feels particularly important because they are a family owned business based in Wisconsin that has deep environmental integrity and practices.
Running didn’t take over my life until I found trail running back in 2012. Distances that would have felt unattainable became possible in the context trails. I found new speed I didn’t know I had inside me and many of my personality quirks suddenly had a home in trail running. For those of you who aren’t familiar with trail running, it actually includes much more than just running on a trail: hiking, navigating, scrambling on all fours, and marching through rivers. A better name for trail running is off-road running because as soon as you leave the pavement or track (and gravel depending who you ask), you are trail running.
For the past decade, my life has been consumed with our family farm. Every decision I made came down to the parameters of our organic vegetable operation in rural Blue Mounds, WI. The farm dictated my training, racing, and too often left me injured or burned out. As my running life developed and more opportunities to travel came my way, the farm life became more challenging to juggle. This past year, I largely stepped away from our family business to give the adventure life a shot.
So far I have been on the road for 11 weeks this year for training, racing or outdoor industry related work or projects. I have been fortunate enough to have my kids with for some of those trips and even luckier to have a family who supports me when they can’t come along. Through all of my adventures this year, I have learned that traveling minimally is so important for being nimble on the road and not being bogged down with too many choices. I have also found that the higher quality gear I have, the less I need, or even want. Ultimately our possessions end up owning us.
Since January I have spent time in Utah, New York, Minnesota, California, Oregon, and Colorado going from conferences to camping trips to fancy dinners to races to training camps to photo shoots to industry parties. After coming off of so many years of being grounded in agriculture, this felt like a massive career change. My first few weeks on the road I would pack multiple pairs of cushy new Synchroknit socks, still bound in their packaging, to get me from the meetings to the trails. But when I would get home and dig out my dirty laundry it became clear that I only wore the same few pairs of socks over and over again.
You may not be able to tell by looking at me, but I am pretty much a major scrub. I don’t waste time with bathing unless I am super dirty or it’s been more than a few days. I take a similar approach to laundry. If I have the chance, I would opt to rinse off in a lake or river after a long day on the trail or at the farm. So when I open up my duffel after a few weeks on the road and find four pairs of dirty, well-loved socks, that totally matches my minimal washing and grooming tendencies. I do tend to get my feet wet on runs whenever possible so I suppose that does serve as a kind of washing.
These four pairs of socks carried me over desert, mountains, prairie, mossy forests, and icy Wisconsin roads. Now that traveling has calmed down for the year, I have paused long enough to add in a few more pairs of Synchroknit into rotation, but I still find it mind-blowing that those few pairs carried me through my year of adventure. With 2020 stacking up to be even wilder than this year, I think I’ll pick five pairs to be my companion socks.