The Smartwool PhD is a high-performance, fitted merino-blend wool sock that earns a notable mention for comfort and versatility. It is best worn alone, a bonus for minimalists, but a fact that might dissuade buyers accustomed to a dual layer sock system. The PhD is ultra-versatile and comfortable in almost any conditions except for the extreme cold, similar to all other socks tested. We brought it everywhere with us during this testing period. It fits both men and women well because of its compressive paneling and a fitted design. There are women-specific options available.
We love it for hiking, trail running, backpacking, biking, bouldering, and more. In all conditions, it performed beautifully. While other socks might claim a specific advantage, this sock is all around versatile. Its most significant competitor was the Darn Tough Hiker Full Cushion, the men's Editors' Choice winner that won for its ability to breathe better. We also appreciate that it is much more durable than the Smartwool PhD and comes with a lifetime guarantee. However, it doesn't compare to the level of comfort that the Smartwool PhD has to offer. This is a fantastic sock, and a notable mention because of its great performance across a wide range of conditions.
The colors and graphics of this sock have been updated, shown in the image above. However, there appear to be no technical changes to the sock.
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Smartwool PhD is comfortable and versatile. Take this merino-wool blend sock with you anywhere you please!
In addition to its excellent materials, our testers appreciate the height of the sock. It is compatible with both hiking boots and shoes and isn't too long. What's more is that it comes with a "no itch guarantee". Like all the models tested hosting merino wool, you won't find any itchiness while hiking or when the sock gets wet! Overall, if you're looking for a contender that just makes your feet feel cush, this is the one to choose. Wear it on the trail - or to bed.
The thick woven fabric with a 63% concentration of merino wool fibers provides fantastical warmth in both wet and dry conditions. When we armored with this crucial piece of gear in a thin pair of down booties in sub 30 temperatures, it kept our feet the warm just a touch shorter than the Darn Tough Full Cushion, our male Editors' Choice winner. The Smartwool Hike Medium Crew for women also kept our feet a little bit warmer than the Smartwool PhD on the coldest days standing around in the snow.
Wicking and Breathability
While this sock it relatively warm, it's not the most breathable but it does wick well. During our testing, we went running in temperatures that ranged from 60-80 degrees, providing great performance throughout. The Merino fibers are fine enough to allow proper wicking action that is superior to the Darn Tough Full Cushion. However, some points were lost for breathability.
Even though our feet weren't as clammy during high-intensity exercise, we noticed our feet weren't as cold. In fact, we opted for thinner socks on hotter days. Overall - the Smartwool PhD is quick to wick, but not the most breathable option out there.
This sock is fairly durable, but not as comparatively durable to other contenders. We wore it while running 28 mile days through the Andes and while backpacking on multi-day trips. We also wore them to work and day hiking. Through this testing period, the cushioning packed down quite a bit, and we observed some major pilling on both the inside and outside of the sock. As a result, we're not as impressed with durability at the sole of the sock given the thin materials at the end of our testing period.
When it comes to drying speed, this sock sits in the middle of the road. In terms of drying time, it took 110 minutes to get fully dry. This is largely attributed to its tightly packed wool fibers that absorb more water than other contenders. While the Smartwool PhD dries just about as fast as the Darn Tough Light Hiker Micro Crew. The Wigwam Hiker Pro is the fastest to dry in this review, drying out thirty minutes faster.
As an awesome all-around contender, this warm and plush option is cozy and versatile! It performs fantastically in all conditions with the exception of hot weather. We love it for backpacking, day hiking, mountaineering, and more!
For a price of $25, this sock sits at the high end of the price spectrum. Unlike the Darn Tough Full Cushion that offers a lifetime warranty for the same price, Smartwool only advertises a two-year warranty and is one of the least durable socks tested. That said, it has a decent value as it performs well in the field, but we think there are better value options.
Enjoy lavish warmth and comfort with this Notable Mention for Comfort and Versatility.
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GearLab is founded on the principle of honest, objective, reviews. Our experts test thousands of products each year using thoughtful test plans that bring out key performance differences between competing products. And, to assure complete independence, we buy all the products we test ourselves. No cherry-picked units sent by manufacturers. No sponsored content. No ads. Just real, honest, side-by-side testing and comparison.