Balega Hidden Comfort Review
Compare prices at 2 resellers Pros: Excellent price, very comfortable, super stretchy
Cons: Likes to slip off the back of foot, padding not targeted to most important areas
Our Analysis and Test Results
This sock is cozy and comfortable with a non-specific fit. While it's not the best running sock out there, its excellent price may persuade you to buy it for other activities like lounging around the house or taking a bike ride.
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.
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.
Rather than targeting the padding to just where it is needed, Balega chose to simply blanket the entire sole of the foot in padding. We don't think it's necessary to have the arch super padded and prefer lighter, more breathable fabric. 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. We do, however, appreciate the padded collar around the top of the sock that adds to the comfort of this sock. Overall, this sock offers cushioning that is sufficient, but unthoughtful in its design.
In general, the fit, at first, feels a little small, but over time it does stretch out. The sock is pretty simple in design, resembling a large tube of fabric. As we mentioned above, the cushioning isn't targeted but it still offers a decent fit. Of the socks tested, it is one of the easiest to simply slip over your foot.
While this stretch was at first appreciated, we noticed that it doesn't hug or support the foot as well as it should. There is a burly elastic around the ankle, but the elastic that fits the circumference of the foot doesn't really keep the sock in place. 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. As a result, the fit isn't the best out there, but it works for a shorter training run or to wear just around the house.
Wicking & Breathability
This running sock does not supersede others in this category. In fact, because of its thicker construction, it didn't do too well in our breathability and drying tested. 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 moist. 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.
While running we noticed this same trend. Our feet felt hotter than they should on warm days, and the sock absorbed moisture more than other thinner contenders. While the hooked stitching can wick well, it doesn't breath as well as we'd hope. That said, it works great for cool weather but should be left at home when it starts to get super hot outside.
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. 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. That said, it wasn't as slippery as thinner contenders and did relatively well overall in this category.
Overall durability proved to be about average to sub-par. After just a few uses and washes this sock began to pill. After about 30+ miles of use, the level of cushioning compressed, providing less comfort and cushion. While we didn't experience any holes, some online reviews do lend to the idea that they experienced holes after just a few uses. All that said, our observations of durability infer that these socks should last a while, but it will take some time to find out how long.
This sock almost won our Best Bang for the Buck award. While it is more expensive, it offers a better level of comfort and overall performance. If you're looking for a super cheap option, this is also a good sock that we would recommend.
The Balega Hidden Comfort stays hidden and supremely comfortable within a running shoe, delivering on the promise implicit in its name. It stretches easily over the foot for optimal comfort. That said, due to its stretchiness, underperforming wicking ability, and non-targeted padding that simply extends the length of the foot it's not great for super hot weather or steep uphill climbs where you might find your self sweating buckets.
— Andy Wellman