Since the inaugural race in 2004, the number of runners in the Mumbai Marathon has doubled (over 55,000 at this year’s edition, held last month). Last year also saw the first Ironman triathlon, considered one of the toughest races in the world, being held in India. With the increasing interest in fitness, there has been a rise in companies expanding their product roster to meet the demands of the well-informed, willing-to-spend, fitness-loving millennial. One such product is performance socks, which have tiny cushioned spots strategically placed to provide benefits—better grip, support to muscles, fabrics that are abrasion-resistant to reduce chafing and discomfort during strenuous activities. Though these benefits are contested, companies are enthusiastic. The latest to enter the Indian market is Trusox, which is associated with football stars Gareth Bale and Luis Suarez. Their products use patented technology to create non-slip performance pads that are placed both inside and outside the socks to provide a grip.

A pair of Trusox socks
A pair of Trusox socks

“There’s an evident rise in the sports apparel market, which is said to be growing at 22% in the country, a stat that I don’t believe any other country can boast about. The potential is enormous when you see the scale at which every sport is played in the nooks and corners of India. The Asian sports performance apparel market is also stated to be at a 7% or so rise," says Sanil Sachar, co-owner of Trusox.

Sachar adds that televised content of diverse sports has created an awareness of sporting performance and has given birth to a section of amateur and semi-professional athletes. It’s heartening that irrespective of where they are on the fitness spectrum, each person motivates the other about performance-improving gear, says Sachar.

Trusox isn’t the only company to realize the market potential—you can find similar products across brands with different price points.

Companies such as Nike are offering socks with a reinforced heel and toe for durability, made with sweat-wicking fabric. Decathlon stocks a variety of brands designed specifically for hiking (that reduces chafing and allows for moisture management), running (anti-odour, extra cushion and absorbency) and basketball. Mustang sells running socks crafted with AI (Artificial Intelligence) technology that are seamless for greater comfort. For the eco-conscious buyer, there are bamboo athletic socks by Heelium.

But how much difference do they make? Sports scientist and physiotherapist Nikhil Latey, who has worked with several Indian Olympians, says compression socks have always been used by runners and badminton players. These tight socks help in muscle recovery by squeezing muscles. But he hasn’t seen our Olympic athletesuse performance socks and believes the description could, in fact, be a bit misleading. Several Indian athletes simply rub petroleum jelly on feet to prevent chafing, he says.

“These socks will not change your performance, as you still need to practise, have good agility, speed and power. They may feel nice and comfortable, but won’t improve your performance drastically. They are great for people who play on weekends or for a few hours every day, as they may prevent blisters, reduce the impact on areas that face a lot of stress, and prevent the foot slipping inside the shoe. You won’t become (Roger) Federer overnight though. They are more geared towards comfort and prevention of injury, not to give a jump in performance," says Latey.

Dhara Vora Sabhnani is a Mumbai-based journalist.

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