Setting the standard the Smartwool Ph.D. Medium is our go-to for wear in all things winter. This longtime favorite just keeps winning our Editors' Choice Award for its unbeatable performance and thoughtful engineering. The plush merino wool blend doesn't just offer exceptional comfort, but it's 'close to the skin' fit promotes enhanced thermoregulation to keep you warm, whatever the weather, on the slopes. We've been testing this sock for over six years, wearing it while ski mountaineering, resort skiing, backcountry splitboarding, camping, and even on frigid mountain bike trips. In all cases, it's kept us warm, dry, and comfortable. This award winner is our favorite for all things winter. It's hard to find anything wrong with it.
Smartwool PhD Ski Medium Review
Compare prices at 3 resellers Pros: Warm, comfortable, durable, reliable
Cons: No lifetime guarantee
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Our Analysis and Test Results
Featuring "indestructawool" technology, this Editors' Choice winner isn't just durable but warm and comfortable to wear all day long. Whether you're a professional athlete or taking your first turns on the slopes, this is our top recommendation and go-to if you're looking for a comfortable sock that will last you the rest of the season and those to come.
Comfort & Construction
We are absolutely delighted by the amount of cushioning and comfort offered in the construction of this midweight (that feels like a lightweight) ski and snowboard sock. Constructed of 65% Merino Wool, 33% Nylon, and 2% Elastane, not only does it stretch and stay in place, but provides great overall thermoregulation. Its construction specifically features the most padding of any sock tested. Though, Smartwool has done an amazing job at retaining a thin construction with plush materials.
Loaded with a soft underfoot padding, both recreational and elite skiers and snowboarders boasted of the comfort they felt all day on the mountain. The padding at the toes, underfoot, and heel provide an extra layer of insulation while the padding at the shin provides a little protection for "shin bang" for skiers. The Achilles is also protected with an additional strip of fabric - all specific to potential pressure points for boots that don't fit the way they should.
While skiing, the compression panels at around the arch, top of the foot, and ankle provide amazing thermoregulation and keep the sock in place. Smartwool created a unique latticework of padding that weaves above the thin compression paneling on the top of the foot. During skiing, it is nice because while there is ventilation with a little padding to make the experience a little more comfortable.
Overall, this is the the most comfortable contender tested.
This is one toasty sock! If you like slipping your foot into something that insulates and provides warmth all day, then you've gotta check it out. The compression paneling does a great job venting moisture so the sock doesn't hold moisture after you've begun to sweat. This is surprising given it's thicker and more insulative construction. The higher proportion of wool used in its construct aids in making it one of the warmest options out there.
Our testers have been skiing with this sock for over six years. We've subjected it to uphill escapades that have involved climbing over 2,000 vertical feet and skiing down different slopes. Through these testing periods, our feet haven't ever gotten cold. The merino wool, while thick, provides amazing insulation. When sweating, the material can quickly wick the moisture from the skin and transport it to the other side of the sock. This allows for better overall warmth management on the slopes.
In addition to backcountry split-boarding and skiing, we've also tested this sock extensively on the resort slopes. Our testers have worn it day after day while tackling temps that have dipped into the double negatives. Cold days sitting on the chairlift sometimes necessitate some boot warmers, but with the Smartwool we are confident to say those days were fewer and farther. Overall, this sock is warmer than any other contender and does a great job with moisture management. The biggest reason it's our Editors' Choice Award winner.
Breathability comes in the form of its ability to wick away moisture and transport it away from the skin of the foot. In the case of this product, it does a pretty good job at this. This, once again, is attributed to its strategically placed compression paneling that offers additional sites of moisture transport. In the areas of higher padding where moisture would otherwise have a harder time moving (due to thickness), the integrated nylon aids in wicking it away from the surface of the foot, providing more warmth overall. In terms of drying, it does dry quickly for a ski sock…allowing you to use it for a couple of days on end…but it's not the fastest to dry out there.
The integrated merino wool does an amazing job at moving water vapor from the skin to the surface before it condenses into a cold sweat. The only time that we noticed our socks getting a little bit damp was when the sun came out and warmed the air.
This sock truly 'fits like a glove'. Integrating Elastane into the construction, it bounces back and fits nicely inside a pair of tighter ski and snowboard boots. While the padding does provide additional comfort, it's not so lofty that it gets in the way fit. The length of the sock rises midway up the calf. While this sock is quite stretchy with a super specific fit that doesn't move while it's on, many of our testers commented that it almost felt like a compression sock.
Designed to fit tightly against the skin to amplify wicking ability, this sock feels tight. Many of our testers liked this fit attribute, but some complained of it almost being too tight. That said if you've got calves that are pretty big, the body of the sock may not fit. If that might be you, be sure to try them on at a store, or order them with a solid return policy.
Not only does it fit tightly and precisely, but the Merino wool materials are soft and luxurious. The hem band at the top stays up and doesn't slide down so you can slide down slopes all day long. Overall, we love the fit of this sock. It doesn't compromise on ski or snowboard fit.
Testing this sock for over five years, we are happy to report that it is simply bomber. While the merino wool does pill and shrinks slightly after the first wash, we haven't had any real issues, even after years of use.
Our main testers have used this in a rotation with another sock, and it's still going strong after this time period. As a result, we deem it one of the most durable options tested. While it doesn't come with a lifetime no questions asked guarantee like the Darn Tough, it does come with a 2-year satisfaction guarantee.
With awesome performance all over the board, this sock is best suited for skiers and snowboarders of all abilities. It excels in cold environments where you require all-day comfort, wicking ability, and warmth. The additional padding doesn't compromise fit for a skier with a tight boot, and the materials have proven to last for many years. While the price might be high, but it comes with bomber performance. So yes, this sock is definitely worth its price. Buy it.
Winning our Editors' Choice Award, this ski and snowboard sock is perfect for everybody looking to keep warm in cold temperatures. Its precise and well-engineered architecture allows for superior wicking ability while balancing wear-all-day comfort. Wear it from the slopes to the bar, and back to bed.
— Amber King