We chose to award the Stance Appalachian QTR our Top Pick award as the best trail runner because it combines a very tight and durable weave with a "quarter" height cut that perfectly covers the ankle bones. These two attributes are very effective at keeping dirt and rocks from bothering the foot, while the anatomical fit and targeted cushioning mean that the fit and comfort level is second to none. Despite preferring this sock for our off-road adventures, we think it also works great for hammering out miles on the roads.
Stance Appalachian QTR Review
Cons: Not the best when it comes to wicking, dense fabric weave has a harder time gripping shoe
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Stance Appalachian QTR is a quarter height sock, similar to others in this review deemed "Mini-Crew", in that it adequately covers the ankle bone but goes no higher up the leg. We have found that this height is optimal for keeping dirt and other small debris out of the sock, as no show height, and especially socks with tabs, funnel more dirt into the sock itself. It also features an anatomical fit that differentiates between the shape of the left versus right foot and accounts for this with a mirrored, foot specific design.
These socks are made primarily of strong but water absorbent nylon, but also include polyester, a shade of cotton, and some elastomer in its fabric blend. The result is a tightly woven and durable sock that does an adequate job of breathing and wicking moisture away from the foot, but doesn't stay as dry as the DryMax Running Mini Crew. A final feature not found on any other sock is a reflective logo tag on the back of each ankle, aiding in low light visibility and safety, especially for road runners. These were the second highest overall scoring sock, below only the Thorlo Experia XCCU, and so naturally we highly recommend them. For those who would like a similar sock but in a lower cut, check out the Stance Uncommon Solids Tab, which has virtually the same fabric and attributes, but doesn't cover the ankle.
We did most of our assessments for comfort while out running, and in these circumstances, the best outcome is not noticing the sock at all. Honestly, while running in these socks, we often forgot we were supposed to be paying attention to them, a solid recommendation of their comfort level. There is no doubt they are among the most comfortable we have worn.
The interior fibers felt very soft against our skin, in a way that reminded us of the supple and smooth Darn Tough Coolmax Vertex Tab No Show Ultra-light Cushion. Like that sock, this one also has a toe seam that is sewn perfectly smooth so that there is no chance of rubbing, or any extra bumps or creases at the ends of the seam that can protrude or annoy, like we found on the toe seams of the Balega Hidden Comfort. When it came to comfort, this sock was easily up there with the best. 9 out of 10 points.
The fit range for this sock is from men's 9-12, a huge range that doesn't exactly inspire confidence in finding the perfect fit. However, for our size 11 foot, which admittedly falls right in the middle of that range, we felt that this sock fit better than any other.
The anatomical design means that each sock is specified for each foot, providing a band of tight elastic support from the top of the foot around the inside of the arch. There was not a hint of extra space to be found in our sock. In contrast to the Feetures! Elite Light Cushion No Show Tab, our forefoot and ankles didn't feel squished, crunched, or pinched at all. The stretchy Thorlo Experia XCCU was the only other sock that offered such a perfectly tailored fit, and it also comes with a far more targeted size range. We awarded 9 out of 10 for one of the very best fitting running socks.
We tested wicking ability both by comparing drying times of socks while they were on our feet (different socks on each foot), and also by soaking all the socks thoroughly and setting them out side-by-side, seeing which ones dried faster. While the Appalachian QTR did an effective job at wicking moisture, it wasn't by any means as effective as the DryMax Running Mini Crew for this purpose.
This sock has padding in all the needed places, and offsets this thicker looped material with much thinner, more breathable fabric on the top of the foot and wrapping around the arch, as well as around the ankle. This fabric certainly breathes better than the padded sections, but its dense weave is nowhere near as thin, airy, or breathable as the mesh found on similar areas of the Experia XCCU. We awarded it 7 out of 10 points, pretty much middle of the spectrum for this metric, and slightly below the performance of the Darn Tough No Show Light.
This sock features mapped out padding in all of the most important areas. Padding covers the tops of the toes and wraps around to cover the entire bottom of the forefoot, also wrapping around both edges to cover the ends of the metatarsals on the sides of the forefoot. Another swatch of padding effectively covers the heel.
While we think this sock has padding in all the necessary places, we found that it didn't go quite as far as the Smartwool PhD Run Light Elite Micro, which also covered the Achilles tendon with padding, a nice feature depending on the fit of your shoes. It ranked up there with the Darn Tough Coolmax Vertex as the second best sock for padding, and received 8 out of 10 points.
We would consider this sock to be lightweight overall, despite the targeted padding found in places of need. Compared to thicker socks like the Injinji Trail Midweight Mini-Crew, it is certainly low volume.
Also of note is the fact that this sock is woven using 200 needle count stitching, so it has a smooth, tight feel. The result is that it didn't grip the inside of the shoe as well as well as the Feetures! socks, and didn't fill out the inside of the shoe as well as the DryMax socks. We experienced a bit of slippage that required us to tighten up the laces more than we might have with other running socks. While it didn't receive a high score for this metric, this problem is easy to adjust to, and shouldn't dissuade one from trying out these awesome socks.
Due to the tight, durable weave and quarter height cut, we thought these socks were ideal for trail running. Their comfortable fit and reflective tag on the back of the heel also make them a great choice for running on roads. In truth, there is no style of running that these socks won't excel at.
Retailing for $16, these socks run a few dollars per pair more than the most affordable socks in this review. However, they are still pretty inexpensive, and considering the fact that they offered awesome performance, we think they present a great value.
The Stance Appalachian QTR is our Top Pick for trail running because they do a great job of keeping dirt out of the inside of the sock. They are also durable enough to stand up to the abuse that comes from running off-road. That said, they were the second highest overall scorers, due largely to the awesome fit and great comfort, and so are a good choice for any runner that simply wants a top quality sock.
— Andy Wellman