Review: SmartWool PhD socks

We know how to dress our body with layers of clever fabrics but let’s not forget what part of us is in contact with the ground: our feet.

As it happens, feet also have their own layers, from inner socks, to outer socks to waterproof boots, those are the equivalents of the baselayer, insulation layer, hardshell combo. To wrap your feet and keep them warm and dry you have options, which vary in fabric type, thickness, resistance and comfort.

Today we are looking at a pair of socks from SmartWool, the Merino wool specialist. The PhD socks are their tough, long lasting socks. Available in various thickness and padding they also provide support for the ankle through two elasticated bands. Prices are around $25, in a lot of different colours and sizes, for men and women.

The blend of Merino, Nylon and Elastane used in the SmartWoo PhD socks is very smooth and very comfy. The benefits of using Merino is of course its odor resistance and warm-when-wet properties which make it a prime choice for next-to-skin apparels.

Comfort, Fit

The SmartWool PhD socks fit snugly around the foot, thanks to the elastics. Make sure you pick the right size for you and you’ll be pleased with the feeling. The downside however is that you wont be able to use inner socks with the PhDs as there is not much space inside. This means they are a good choice for cold to mild weather but not very cold or winter sports activities. For traveling and hiking now, the SmartWool PhD socks are probably the best socks on the market (at the time of this review).

During a trip to Peru in September they were part of my two pairs sock ‘system’ and were not washed for a week. By the end of the week they started to smell, yes, but nothing major which is to me a success. Packing only two pairs of socks for a week trip and rotating between them is great for space and weight saving. Keep your feet clean, rinse a pair and let it dry while you wear the other one and you should be fine.

Some areas are covered with mesh to help with moisture and temperature management. Not very apparent on the heavy versions pictured but the press shot shows them very well (white areas).

SmartWool also tells us they prevent blisters but although I never suffered any with the PhD, it’s the same with my normal socks. Choose your shoes carefully, break them in before going hiking and normal socks should serve you well enough.


On this front the PhD socks fare admirably well too. SmartWool uses a special construction in high impact areas they call ReliaWool Technology to increase durability. The pair I am reviewing was sent to us back in August and I have worn them in different conditions, walking around 400 Km using them.  They do not show any visible holes or loose threads.

Wrap up

I am very happy with the SmartWool PhD socks. I even bought a few more pairs for longer trips and traveling. They are more expensive than many synthetic hiking socks but the benefits of Merino wool and the great durability justify, I think, the premium.

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