The world's most in-depth and scientific reviews of outdoor gear

Smartwool PhD Pro Light Crew Review

A hiking sock that performs well through all seasons for any distance.
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Price:  $28 List | $26.95 at REI
Compare prices at 3 resellers
Pros:  Great thermoregulation, incredibly comfortable, durability
Cons:  Slow to dry, expensive
Manufacturer:   Smartwool
By Amber King ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  Aug 26, 2019
  • Share this article:
81
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#2 of 10
  • Comfort - 25% 9
  • Wicking and Breathability - 25% 8
  • Warmth - 20% 8
  • Durability - 20% 8
  • Drying Speed - 10% 6

Our Verdict

Rivaling our top performers, the Smartwool PhD Pro Light Crew offers immense comfort. Whether your sights are set on multiple week thru-backpacking adventures or a day hike, it is a great option. It features a merino wool-synthetic blend with powerful wicking power and optimized design that thermoregulates over a wide range of temperatures. It has a medium level of cushioning underfoot (even though it's called a lightweight sock) with vents placed strategically on the top of the foot and throughout the shaft. After hiking, trail running, and biking 60+ miles through rain, sleet, and hot weather, it still looks like it just came out of the package! Of all the Smartwool sock options tested, it seems to be the most durable we've encountered. We are not a fan of the massive price tag, but it is one of the best hiking socks that we've ever tested.


Compare to Similar Products

 
Awards  Editors' Choice Award Top Pick Award  Top Pick Award 
Price $26.95 at REI
Compare at 3 sellers
$24.37 at Amazon
Compare at 3 sellers
$15.00 at REI
Compare at 3 sellers
$25.95 at Backcountry
Compare at 2 sellers
$15 List
Overall Score Sort Icon
100
0
81
100
0
82
100
0
79
100
0
78
100
0
76
Star Rating
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Pros Great thermoregulation, incredibly comfortable, durabilityDurable, comfortable, wide temperature regulation, versatile, fittedBreathable, comfortable, well-fitted, thin materials, merino-wool blend, no itchComfortable, breathable, quick-to-dry, calf-height design, compatible with hiking boots & shoesIncredible durability, quick to dry, accommodates a liner, comfortable
Cons Slow to dry, expensiveNot ideal for hot temperatures, tall cut not best for allLacks warmth in cold temperaturesExpensive, not suited for hot weatherLoose fit, lacks compression paneling, loses wicking capabilities in cold weather
Bottom Line A hiking sock that performs well through all seasons for any distance.An all-time favorite meant for long days on the trail.This merino-wool blend hiker is breathable and thin and performs well during high and low intensity activities.This versatile hiking sock is a perfect option for everything from short to long days on the trail.This high value sock is a synthetic full-length midweight sock with exemplary durability and drying speed.
Rating Categories Smartwool PhD Pro Light Crew Darn Tough Hiker Full Cushion Light Hiker Micro Crew Damascus Medium Weight Techn... Wigwam Hiking Outdoor Pro
Comfort (25%)
10
0
9
10
0
9
10
0
8
10
0
9
10
0
7
Wicking And Breathability (25%)
10
0
8
10
0
7
10
0
9
10
0
8
10
0
8
Warmth (20%)
10
0
8
10
0
8
10
0
7
10
0
7
10
0
7
Durability (20%)
10
0
8
10
0
9
10
0
8
10
0
7
10
0
8
Drying Speed (10%)
10
0
6
10
0
8
10
0
6
10
0
7
10
0
8
Specs Smartwool PhD Pro... Darn Tough Hiker... Light Hiker Micro... Damascus Medium... Wigwam Hiking...
Material 62% Merino Wool, 36% Nylon, 2% Elastane 66% merino wool, 32% nylon, 2% lycra spandex 40% merino wool, 56% nylon, 4% lycra spandex 52% US Merino Wool, 45% Nylon, 3% LYCRA Spandex 41% polypropylene, 34% acrylic, 23% stretch nylon, 1% stretch polyester, 1% spandex
Sock Category Lightweight Midweight Lightweight Midweight Midweight
Length Lower calf High calf High ankle Lower calf Lower calf
Guarantee Policy 2 year satisfaction guarantee Lifetime guarantee Lifetime guarantee Lifetime guarantee 2 year guarantee

Our Analysis and Test Results

Performance Comparison


The Smartwool PhD Pro is one of the best out there. It's highly breathable  comfortable  and thoughtfully constructed. A good option for day and overnight hikes.
The Smartwool PhD Pro is one of the best out there. It's highly breathable, comfortable, and thoughtfully constructed. A good option for day and overnight hikes.

Comfort


Whether you're seeking a sock that'll provide comfort on a long thru-hike or a day-hike, the Smartwool PhD Pro Light Crew is a wonderful candidate. The cushioning underfoot is plush and plentiful as it spans from heel to toe. It offers enough response that will keep your feet happy, even on days where your milage hits double digits.

A look at the thoughtful and plush cushioning underfoot that offers protection  even on the most technical trails.
A look at the thoughtful and plush cushioning underfoot that offers protection, even on the most technical trails.

What's more, is the fit is specific and thoughtful. Around the arch is a band of compressive elastic which keeps the sock in place and prevents slippage. The enhanced toe box is streamlined to fit both a man or woman's foot with additional cushioning on the top and sides of the toes. The elastic at the top of the sock is thick and provides a good fit that doesn't slide down while on the trail. Overall, we deem this a comfortable sock that rivals any model we have tested.

Wicking & Breathability


Like any good hiking sock, this one wicks away moisture efficiently and effectively. Some men and women are blessed with a sweatier foot than most which can pose problems on long hikes. We are happy to report that this sock balances ample cushioning with breathability, and offers immense wicking power.

We wore it while running on a hot day in the mountains. The result? Perfection!
We wore it while running on a hot day in the mountains. The result? Perfection!

Thoughtfully constructed, Smartwool uses less material at the top of the foot and along the shaft of the sock to provide ventilation, even on the hottest days. While we would probably choose a lower cut sock (with less cushioning) for super hot days in the desert, it does just fine on warm summer days. The merino-wool fibers feature big loops that grab moisture from the foot and wick it away to these points of ventilation. The material is tightly packed, increasing the surface area for awesome wicking power.

Warmth


If you're looking for a great option for colder days on the trail, it delivers. We hiked the whole day in this sock, then wore it to bed on a colder summer evening (40 degrees Fahrenheit) in the mountains. Even though the sock was a little damp from stepping in puddles and getting caught in a rainstorm, our feet stayed comfortable and dry. Even when sleeping (when activity declined), we stayed warm.

While we haven't had the chance to test this new option from Smartwool in winter conditions, we would expect that it would perform well even in colder conditions. This assumption comes from the immense cushioning underfoot and the quality of the materials that this company has.

Durability


So far, so good! We've put about 60 miles on these babies and haven't noticed any signs of wear, compaction, or tear! During these 60 miles, we ran through puddles, hiked for 10+ mile distances, and carried weighed down packs for overnight missions. There are no reported issues from online reports (that we have found) either.

A look at the durability after logging over 60 miles on this sock.
A look at the durability after logging over 60 miles on this sock.

Drying Speed


During our drying speed tests, we looked to see which socks dried the fastest both on the trail and in a controlled scenario. Unfortunately, on the trail, we noticed that, while this sock does keep our feet dry, it retains water in the fabric and doesn't dry quickly. When validating this observation with our drying speed tests, we learned that it took about 90 minutes to dry, absorbing about 92% of its original weight when wet. In comparison to other socks out there, this is a slower drying sock, but expected because of it thicker cushioning underfoot.

Hiking steep trails? Long backpacking trips? This sock will perform well through all conditions.
Hiking steep trails? Long backpacking trips? This sock will perform well through all conditions.

Value


This is an expensive sock! While it does offer impeccable performance with a seemingly durable design, the price tag is a little hard to swallow. There are higher performing contenders out there, with a better money-back guarantee and a lower price. However, if you're a huge lover of Smartwool, and the price doesn't matter as much, this is one of the best hiking socks we've seen from them yet.

Conclusion


The Smartwool PhD Pro Light Crew is a merino wool-synthetic blend sock designed to take on all sorts of backcountry adventures. It offers a medium amount of cushioning underfoot that is suited for both day hikes and gargantuan thru-hiking adventures. It features a durable design that offers a wonderful balance of warmth and breathability. Our biggest caveats? It dries slowly and the price tag is high.


Amber King