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I’m an Investigative Reporter. Here’s How I Found My No-Show Socks.

Photo: Courtesy of retailer

Earlier this month, former ProPublica investigative journalist and current Last Week Tonight producer Marian Wang shared some of her most painstakingly researched findings on Twitter. “This year I have taken an extremely methodical approach to finding no-show socks that don’t slip,” she posted. “After testing a bunch of different styles, I can officially endorse these.” She linked to Jarseen No-Show Liner Socks and cc’d the Strategist. Given that we ourselves are investigative journalists (whose field happens to be shopping), we were curious to see how another investigative journalist, who has covered issues ranging from immigration policy to college debt, would find a good pair of socks. (Turns out it’s not that different.) 

No-show socks, in my experience, have always failed at their essential function — they either showed or they didn’t but would constantly slip off the back heel and scrunch up underfoot. I had never found a good one. I suspected I was not alone in this. I’d see other women like me, walking around this city and pausing mid-stride, one foot off the ground, to adjust a no-show sock that had slipped. The problem was clearly systemic.

I work as an investigative journalist and researcher for a living and had identified a problem — these socks were a scourge, heaped upon the countless other troubles and indignities of being a woman. Did it have to be this way? Why had I accepted this unsatisfying cycle, year after year, of buying bad no-show socks, steadily losing them to attrition, only to load up again on new ones that were no better? Surely my sock strategy, like everything else in life, stood to benefit from a more methodical, better researched approach.

A no-show sock needed to meet two basic criteria, I decided: It needed to live up to its name and not slip. I used the standard ballet flat as my benchmark. It needed to stay comfortably on the heel without slipping. One handy thing about Amazon is the photos serve as a good starting place for research. They allowed me to rule out products I suspected would obviously show or that too closely resembled versions that had failed me before. Many of the worst no-show socks in my collection seemed to rely on an elastic band at the edge of the sock, so I avoided those. Same for ones with excessive padding at the balls of the foot — they always look promising but are ultimately bulky and uncomfortable. Relying on both my accrued sock expertise and a close read of user reviews (given the problem of fakes, I mostly rely on reviews that are more detailed or that don’t award a full five stars), I made my selections.

A few days later, my fiancé found me in the living room with a ballet flat on only one foot, walking around in circles to test out tiny socks (he was puzzled; I assured him I was on my way to solving an important problem). One style didn’t make it out of my living room (fit and obvious slippage made it an instant no), the others I wore one-by-one beneath ballet flats on full workdays, taking them up and down multiple flights of subway stairs, on the three-avenue hike to my office, on several trips from my desk to the office snack cupboard (and back), and of course on my two-way commute.

By the time I arrived at work, it was usually clear whether a contender had met my basic criteria. But I knew I had a real winner only if at no point in the day I was tempted to reach into the shoe pile under my desk and change out my footwear for something sockless. That was my methodology; below are my conclusions.

The Winning No-Show Sock

From $10 for 4

This sock was the clear winner. It was stretchy and snug. And unlike many no-show socks that have just a tiny dab of silicone gel at the heel for grip, these socks have a ring of gel all the way around the edge, which is much more effective. There’s even some on the ball of the foot, so your foot doesn’t slide around inside the flat. If I were only buying one style, I’d get these.

The Runner-Up

My friends initially balked at this design when I showed it to them (the concept of wearing only half a sock required some getting used to). But this strange, slingback style actually works for me. It keeps the toe box from getting sweaty and has zero heel slippage. It’s only sold in one size, though, so I’m not sure how well this design would accommodate larger feet.

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A Last Week Tonight Producer on Her No-Show Sock Research