Saturday, 20 September 2014

Royal Bay - Neon Knee high compression socks

Royal Bay + inov-8!
     As a runner, I’m always on the lookout for something fun to run in, and I’ll always jump at the chance to try out something new. When I saw the icebandsports.com.au display at the 2014 DeCastella Run, I had to mosy on over and have a sticky beak. What drew my attention was the wild, knee-high, potentially compression socks that they had on display. When I say wild, the colours were seriously bright, seriously out there. Instantly I loved the blue, and the yellow had kick. The purples looked awesome, the yellow a serious colour for the safety conscious and I could see some brave ladies in the pinks and oranges too. Me, I thought the blue would go well with the Dandenongs Runners singlet and the orange could fight with my inov-8 x-talons for wow factor.
     A little detective work discovered that they were the Royal Bay – Neon range. The Royal Bay brand (from Aries Vitality Textiles) was only launched two years ago. They proudly claim to be using the most advanced technology in their products, and after my experiences, I would say that they do. Ice Band Sports have only stocked them in Australia since November 2013.
     I had a chat with the guys from Ice Band Sports and they very generously supplied me with a pair of the Royal Bay Neon socks to trial and review. That’s where these orange bad boys come in. I also purchased a pair in the blue for Mrs Fish, as her marathon training has not been without the odd calve niggles.
Royal Bay - Neon Knee high compression socks
     The socks came in these neat little boxes, the colour clearly stickered on the front, and identifiable through a clear window on the back. To size up the socks you need to know your foot size, in European sizing and your calf diameter at its thickest point. My 6/12 – 7 UK is entry sizing for the 39-41 and my calf is a C2. The smallest 36-38 also goes smaller with a C1, the larger 42-44 and 44-47 allow for larger calves and size up to a C3. The C rating is the level of compression that is built into the sock, it also allows people with larger calves to wear them, something that 2XU fails to do. These socks are also extremely technical. The features list is almost as long as my foot! More on these features later. If you are borderline for sizing or want a dash more compression in your foot, I would almost recommend going for the smaller size.     
Reflectors very safe
     Opening the box you notice two things. Firstly, the socks are beautifully made. The material is a soft and luxurious feeling 64% microfire NYLON and 36% elastan LYCRA blend. It instantly wipes the floor with my 2XU Compression race sock. Secondly, the smell. Royal Bay have built in a deodoriser into the socks. It is "Saniti zed®, a Silver Anti -Microbial Finish of Silver ions on the surface of the fibres that remove a number of bacteria and fungi. In fact, it works as a deodorant and prevents unpleasant odours"(taken from the royalbay.eu website). Mrs Fish quite liked it, me, I could take it or leave it. I guess being a morning workout man, it will help keep the sports bag smelling fresh during the day, especially when we get into the summer months.
     Putting the new socks on was a doddle. Simply bunch/gather them up like any compression tight/football sock and pull them over your feet. From there gather nearer rest of the sock just above the ankle and pull them up to just below the knee or where comfortable. Again, sooooo much easier than putting on the 2XUs, where you need at least 5 minutes to get them over your foot, then up to the knee. Once they’re on they feel terrific. They are very lightweight and you soon forget they are even there. The instant they were on I felt my muscles tingling as the compression elements started their work. 
     The Royal Bay Neon socks are graduated for compression, with 100% compression levels at the ankle and gradually lessening to be 90% at the top of the socks. "Graduated compression with the greatest pressure applied at the ankles improves the return of blood to the heart and reduces swelling of the feet". I tested my pair out overnight as I went to bed with a slight niggle in my left calf. Upon waking both legs felt incredibly relaxed and loose. Maybe it was all in the mind, but my muscles were thanking me for the use of compression as a recovery aid. My first exercise use was a Tabata session on the treadmill – a high speed, high intensity session lasting for a total of 4 minutes. During the workout the Royal Bay Neon socks stayed in place, and provided good support for my Achilles and calves.
      Mrs Fishes first use of her pair was during a 28k run. She wore them under her regular running tights for additional support. When she got home she was raving about them. She couldn’t believe how comfortable they were as a sock in her shoes and how good her calves felt. Both of our experiences were due to the built in muscle support on the medial and lateral sides of your calves, another of the technical features of the socks. Royal Bay have also built in additional support for your Achilles through a raised pattern that protects and massages the Achilles. Under the foot they also have little ridges that provide a little extra massage when running (really? does this really work?) and improve the airflow around the sole and heel to help regulate heat. This I believe. I’ve also got a pair of the Compress Sport socks with the massaging dots, and I don’t quite get the massaging properties in them either. However, running in my Compress Sport socks does seem to keep my feet a little cooler on the hotter days. 
     My second run was an 8km trail race. Wearing the Blue Royal Bay Neon socks gave me oodles of confidence. Confidence to tackle the hills and confidence in my calves. Ever since I started trail running I’ve been a big believer in compression to help stabilise my muscles and minimise shock. Throughout the run the socks stayed put, and my calves had no little niggles or twitches during the climbs. And, they looked the goods!
     Post run I wore them for at least 3 hours (due to presentations and travel) and I swapped into the Orange pair the next day as well. By wearing them as a recovery sock my legs felt fresh and ready to go by the next morning – a great credit to the socks.
     An additional feature of the sock is the reflective dots built in, these will be great for low light running where any reflection you can gain is improving your safety.
     My third run in the Neons was in my favourite playground – the Dandenong ranges. On the wider trails and fire access tracks they were great. I felt confident with all the climbs and descents, as the built in muscle support minimised the impact of each stride. As a trail runner, it was when I went off the beaten trail that they really came into play. I took a ‘short cut’ through the bush. Although there was a faint track worn by the wallabies and the grass had been flattened by recent rains, I ended up having to pick and weave my own trail. This meant striding through knee high grass, avoiding and jumping fallen logs and crashing through bracken and dry twigs. The knee high height of the Royal Bays gave my legs full protection from all of the above elements. The few twigs that dared impede on my run were brushed aside by the tight knit weave of the microfiber and nylon. A couple of larger sticks put up a fight and tried to snag me, again the socks didn’t catch or snag and my legs were protected from potential cuts and scratches.

     I also found a few puddles of 3-4 meters in length and at least ankle deep. Well, as this was a bit of a trail test I did what was required. I blasted through them, fully submerging each foot at least half a dozen times. Yes, I got the initial shoe full of water but the inov-8 X-Talon 190s drain exceptionally well so it was up to the socks to keep the feet comfortable. Now I can also say that the Neon Compression socks also drain very well. Within a few hundred meters my feet were comfortable again without a squelch or squirch to be felt or heard. 
I hope Royal Bay Neon socks clean well!
     In summary, at this stage, I can’t recommend them highly enough. The Royal Bay Neon socks are a must have for any runner, either as a racing and training secret weapon or for recovery in the safety of your own home (for those who are afraid to admit they wear them) or under the work gear after a hard morning session. If after reading this, you like what you see, please get in touch with www.icebandsports.com.au and tell them the fish sent you. 

    As always, happy running and training!

2 comments:

  1. Terrific review and terrific socks Lachie. Wish they were available in North America...I would have loved to snag a blue or even a pink pair.

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    1. Thanks Stan. They are brilliant socks. Hopefully they are available in North America, the colors would be right up your alley! If I can find a distributor, I'll let you know. Cheers mate.

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