If the feet are the anchor point to a better swing, then the Franklin, Tennessee-based company believes its latest Flite XT golf sock is on solid footing as being a game changer
The thought of being hyper-focused on any one vertical might seem short-sighted. It, in fact, evokes memories of a whimsical David Letterman sketch from the 1980s when he visited a New York City store called "Just Bulbs." The store sold, as it suggested, only light bulbs. The business, incidentally, is still around.
Comedic reach aside, Swiftwick also falls into the one vertical space by manufacturing socks. That's right. Just socks. However, it would be a stretch (pun intended) to label them as any run-of-the-mill product, because they are not. The process by which they are produced lies at the altar of science and technology.
For more than 15 years, the Franklin, Tennessee-based company has specifically followed a stringent philosophy to make the best durable and comfortable sock on the market. This after a mountain biker, as its website states, saw the need for high-performance socks that had superior moisture-wicking but were also an incredible fit. Swiftwick products are geared toward sports enthusiasts and adventurists, golfers included. One of its latest, the Flite XT, could be what Swiftwick has called a game-changer.
"Think about it in terms of golf, to use an extreme example," says Swiftwick Chief Operating Officer Chuck Smith. "You don't play golf in bowling shoes because you'd be sliding all over the place, right? Your feet represent that anchor point where all of your power and control anchors through them. In contrast, if you played in bowling shoes, you'd not only be sliding all over the place but you'd lose a significant amount of power and control.
"If we take that impractical example and scale it down to the movement of your foot inside your shoe and wearing a conventional pair of socks, you still have that same loss of power and control but on a smaller scale."
Broken down, here's what it means: an unconventional sock like the Flite XT cuts down on wasted motion inside the shoe, thereby improving lateral movement. This is done by developing a form-fitting sock enhanced by GripDry yarn, coupled with high-end compression and support. It stabilizes the foot, practically making it feel like it's one with the shoe.
The meat in the pudding, so to speak, points to Olefin, a hydrophobic wicking fiber that is blended with Swiftwick's GripDry material in the bottom of the Flite XT. Both repel moisture and keep the foot dry. Complementary materials in other parts of the sock draw moisture in, while also promoting breathability, evaporation and ventilation. It's like a push-pull effect. The top of the sock has a thin, channeled upper area to keep it light and breathable for when the weather heats up. However, it's the compression area, along with its Y-shaped backing around the ankle, that gives the sock ultra-comfortability and a snug fit.
The result? A dry, blister-free foot. For any golfer, any kind of blister discomfort is enough to disrupt concentration and turn a solid round into a forgettable one.
It wasn't by chance the Flite XT took off. Swiftwick engineers were aware of a 2017 study done by the International Journal of Exercise Science, called "Effects of Flexibility and Balance on Driving Distance and Club Head Speed in Collegiate Golfers." One part of the study looked at torque as it related to balance and foot anchoring, not lost on Swiftwick.
The Flite XT was designed with technology to help guide golfers toward the perfect swing. The proprietary GripDry fibers placed within the pad and heel of the sock were no accident. These fibers feature microtreads that provide traction in the shoe, providing extra stability for the foot. What's more, the Ankle Lock technology features a strong elastic that wraps the heel and ankle for targeted support.
That sold Dani Dellarco, an ISSA-certified personal trainer and instructor in Miami. A personal trainer at an area golf club and a longtime athlete as well, Dellarco skated barefoot in her days playing hockey at Colby College and was in pursuit of something that would give her that same sockless feel while training for marathons. She found it in the Aspire and Flite XT lines.
Prior to one of her first marathons several years ago, she had heard the sock really does matter. Still skeptical, she decided to explore the subject until she found a match (again, pun intended) in Swiftwick.
"That fiber along the footbed does help you maintain traction, which is really important when you're pushing off on your stride," Dellarco says. "In the summer months, we're known for gnarly summer storms in Miami. I've been in ankle-deep water trying to get miles in, and just the fact I'm not getting blisters is a game-changer in the sense that I'm going to go out and run a mile and not have that hot spot on the top of my foot, or the bottom, holding me back from my training and my goals."
To that end, the company puts its reputation on the line with this promise: "The best socks you will ever wear. Guaranteed." So with a boast like that, it'd better be superior, which isn't lost on Smith.
Like a calculating cougar prowling its prey, Swiftwick lays in the weeds with a pulse on the latest technology and trends. It's about extrapolating what the consumer wants.
"We spend a lot of time looking at other industries, other applications and things coming into the commercialized space," Smith says. "Product development technologies tend to follow a fairly standard platform. A lot gets developed for a specialty application first and then it's this theoretical thing that is applied to military or some industrial applications. You watch for inflection points that become commercially viable and a consumer product."
That's pretty much the secret sauce. As of now, Swiftwick offers more than 10 lines of its sock, pulling in sales through specialty stores and its website, not to mention Amazon.
At this point, Dellarco is a fan for life.
"I wanted a decent amount of compression, but these maintain that compression," she says. "I wanted something that gave me really good compression and support but it wasn't going to feel thick and cumbersome in my shoe.
"It's to the point that I wouldn't train in another sock. And I certainly wouldn't race in another sock."
Who knows, maybe there is something being committed to one vertical. Letterman helped "Just Bulbs" get on the map, but the product remains the foundation for it still burning bright. And that's a one-vertical model Swiftwick probably would love to follow for the next 30 or so years.