The Balega Hidden Comfort wins our Best Bang for the Buck award because it is arguably the most comfortable sock in our review while retailing for around three dollars cheaper than average. Since we feel that comfort is ultimately the most important consideration for a running sock, why wouldn't we recognize the one that gives the best comfort for the least price? Similarly to how we felt about the Darn Tough Coolmax Vertex Tab No Show Ultra-light Cushion, our Top Pick for Comfort, this was a sock that we simply couldn't stop wearing, whether that was out on a run, walking around town, or simply lounging around the house. While we loved it for how easy it was to pull on at any time, and how great it felt to wear virtually all the time, we will admit that this sock didn't perform quite as well out on a run, and ranked near the middle of the pack in our overall rankings. Detailed below are a few reasons why you may not want to wear this sock every day you go running, but if you want the most comfortable sock for the lowest price, then look no further.
Balega Hidden Comfort Review
Compare prices at 3 resellers Pros: Excellent price, very comfortable, super stretchy
Cons: Likes to slip off the back of foot, padding not targeted to most important areas
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Our Analysis and Test Results
While we call this the "most comfortable" sock in our review, we actually have to say that it ties for the most comfortable with the Darn Tough Coolmax Vertex Tab No Show Ultra-light Cushion, a sock that we recognized as our Top Pick for Comfort. Both socks' fabric feels incredibly soft and comforting against the skin, to the point of forgetting that they are even there. There is no doubt that the Balega Hidden Comfort stretches more and is easier to quickly slide on the foot. That said, the Hidden Comfort is not as fine-tuned for performance as the Darn Tough sock. It has a wide size range that may lead to an awkward fit for some people depending on foot size.
To compensate for this, the Hidden Comfort is perhaps the stretchiest sock that we tested, but its super stretchiness also means that it doesn't hug the foot as tightly, and is more prone to slipping off, especially by slipping down over the heel. Also, compared to many of the best socks in this review, the design and location of the padding left a bit to be desired. While the padding itself is comfortable and works well to cushion the foot, it doesn't cover all of the potential high abrasion areas that other socks like the Smartwool PhD Run Light Elite Micro do, specifically the sides of the forefoot and the Achilles tendon area on the heel. Also its Drynamix Polyester was not as effective at quickly wicking away moisture as some others. Overall, the Balega Hidden Comfort is our Best Bang for the Buck award winner because it is extremely comfortable and very affordable, but may only be the very best choice for running some of the time.
There is no doubt that the Balega Hidden Comfort is very comfortable. As the most important characteristic of a running sock, this can't be overlooked. While wearing this sock we never noticed any pinching, tightness, rubbing, or excessive looseness anywhere or at any time. The predominantly polyester fabric felt very smooth against the skin and was rarely even noticed once it was put on.
We gave it 9 out of 10 possible points for comfort, feeling that it tied for the top honor with the Darn Tough Coolmax Vertex Tab No Show Ultra-light Cushion, and was ever so slightly better than the Thorlo Experia XCCU.
Our size Large sock had a size range of 9.5-11.5. We wish this was a slightly more targeted, like the Thorlo Experia XCCU, and thought that at least initially the sock felt a little small, like the Feetures! Eilte Light Cushion No Show Tab. This is more than compensated by its incredibly stretchy construction; it is far and away the easiest sock we tested to quickly stretch over the foot. After a couple of uses it seemed to stretch out to our size 11 foot in order to fit perfectly.
However, we did notice an issue with having such a stretchy sock. It didn't hug and support our foot as well as some others, and its stretchiness easily allowed it to roll down off the back of the foot. There is a quite thick padded tab in place over the heel, designed to hold the sock up above the top of the shoe. This worked just fine for us as long as we were wearing low-cut running shoes, but if we tried to wear any type of shoe whose ankle cut was higher than that of this sock, it quickly rolled off the heel and bunched under the foot. Due to this issue we gave it 7 out of 10 points for fit.
When it came to our two wicking tests, we found that the Hidden Comfort fell right in the middle of the range. It did an okay job at wicking away moisture, certainly better than the Injinji Trail Midweight Mini-Crew, which used Coolmax Polyester, but not as good as the Smartwool or Thorlo socks, let alone the DryMax Running Mini Crew, our Top Pick for Wicking. In our 15-minute foot drying test, we found that after the time was up it was still a bit damp on the inside, and the padded parts were noticeably moister than the pads on the Smartwool PhD Run Light Elite Micro. In the one-hour drying time test, we again found that the inside of the sock remained slightly damper than the outside of the sock, suggesting that the fibers are not moving moisture to the outside on their own. We gave it 6 out of 10 points for wicking.
The marketing speak on Balega's website claims that this sock has a ratio of "50 percent volume, and 66 percent cushion." We aren't exactly sure how to substantiate that claim, and assume that it is in comparison to other Balega socks. Regardless, the top of this sock is made up of very thin fabric with a breathable weave, while the entire bottom of the sock is thick padded cushioning. While the cushioning itself is top notch, made up of volume holding looped Drynamix fibers, we had to knock it a bit compared to the competition because of its patterning.
Rather than targeting the padding to just where it is needed, like the Smartwool and Thorlo socks that we tested, Balega chose to simply blanket the entire sole of the foot in padding. We don't think its necessary to have the arch super padded, and prefer lighter, more breathable fabric there. The padding wraps over the tops of the toes, but doesn't come up around the sides of the big and pinky toes, or the ball of the foot. It also stops short of the ankle cuff on the back of the heel, leaving an unpadded region over the Achilles tendon. Compared to the competition, we could only award it 5 out of 10 points.
Slip prevention is another metric where the Balega Hidden Comfort struggled a bit. The super stretchy fit that we have talked about above also led to it allowing a bit of movement of the foot within the sock. The fabric on the outside of the sock was also slick: it slipped around inside the very loose shoe on steep inclines more than the Thorlo Experia XCCU or the DryMax Running Mini Crew.
With a loose fit it was also able to slip at times over the heel, although that problem was only due to how we were testing, and when we tightened our shoe up enough for running this wasn't a problem. 5 out of 10 points.
With its no-show cut and padding that does not cover the sides of the feet, we feel that this sock is best used for road running. It is breathable and thin enough to handle hot temperatures. We absolutely loved it for wearing around the house as well. Because of its large heel tab and non-targeted padding, it was not our top choice for trail running.
This sock wins our Best Bang for the Buck award because of the fact that it retails for only $13 while still offering the most comfort of any sock we tested. We think that as long as you pair it with a low cut shoe, it presents a great value.
The Balega Hidden Comfort stays hidden and supremely comfortable within a running shoe, delivering on the promise implicit in its name. There is no other sock in this review that is easier to put on and easier to forget you are wearing once it is on the foot. That said, due to its stretchiness, underperforming wicking ability, and non-targeted padding, we don't recommend it for trail running.
Balega Hidden Dry 2
- Cost: $12.00
- Ultra low volume with low amount of cushioning, no show tab
Balega Hidden Contour
- Cost: $14.00
- Very similar to Hidden Comfort, with more elastane fibers to grip and support the foot
— Andy Wellman