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

Smartwool PhD Ski Medium - Women's Review

An industry standard that should be part of everybody's winter wardrobe.
Editors' Choice Award
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Price:  $27 List | $12.83 at REI
Compare prices at 3 resellers
Pros:  Durable, comfortable, warm
Cons:  Lacks lifetime guarantee, expensive
Manufacturer:   Smartwool
By Amber King ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  Mar 7, 2019
  • Share this article:
86
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#2 of 7
  • Comfort & Construction - 20% 9
  • Warmth - 20% 9
  • Drying Speed & Wicking Ability - 20% 8
  • Fit - 20% 8
  • Durability - 20% 9

Our Verdict

The Smartwool PhD Medium - Women's is our favorite sock to wear while carving out perfect S-curves in the powder. Its performance is head over shoulders above all the rest, offering a balance of warmth, comfort, and moisture management. The strategically placed areas of cushioning and compression paneling provide a nice balance that will keep your feet warm and dry, whatever your winter endeavor. Wear it while descending thousands of feet or while boot packing up a steep couloir. Your feet and body will thank you. And don't worry about stinky or wet feet. The luxurious merino wool that is integrated into its blended architecture does a great job of transporting moisture from the surface of your foot for ventilation. With natural odor control, you can wear this sock for days on end without building up a stench. While other products might have a leg up on the Smartwool PhD Medium in a specific metric, none provide such a robust and well-rounded level of performance in all the most critical metrics.


Compare to Similar Products

 
Awards Editors' Choice Award Editors' Choice Award Top Pick Award  Best Buy Award 
Price $12.83 at REI
Compare at 3 sellers
$21.56 at Backcountry
Compare at 3 sellers
$24.95 at Amazon$19.20 at Backcountry
Compare at 2 sellers
$10.00 at Amazon
Overall Score Sort Icon
100
0
86
100
0
86
100
0
80
100
0
78
100
0
66
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 Durable, comfortable, warmWarm, comfortable, durable, reliableSuper durable, great fit, super wicking ability, lifetime guaranteeQuick to dry, comfortable, lighter padded constructionPriced right, warm when dry, comfortable, lightweight
Cons Lacks lifetime guarantee, expensiveNo lifetime guaranteeNot very warm, no additional paddingLacks durabilityCold when wet, durability is so-so
Bottom Line An industry standard that should be part of everybody's winter wardrobe.If you're seeking a ski sock for the season, this is the most reliable with the best overall performance.A lightweight sock that will keep your feet dry even on the warmest days of winter.A quick to dry well-rounded ski sock that can perform in all conditions, wet and dry.The best valued sock in this review for skiing or snowboarding.
Rating Categories PhD Ski Medium Smartwool PhD Ski Medium Over-the-Calf Padded Light Icebreaker Ski+ Light Fox River Telluride Medium
Comfort & Construction (20%)
10
0
9
10
0
9
10
0
7
10
0
8
10
0
8
Warmth (20%)
10
0
9
10
0
9
10
0
6
10
0
8
10
0
7
Drying Speed & Wicking Ability (20%)
10
0
8
10
0
8
10
0
10
10
0
9
10
0
6
Fit (20%)
10
0
8
10
0
8
10
0
7
10
0
9
10
0
6
Durability (20%)
10
0
9
10
0
9
10
0
10
10
0
5
10
0
6
Specs PhD Ski Medium Smartwool PhD Ski... Over-the-Calf... Icebreaker Ski+... Fox River...
Material 62% merino wool, 36% nylon, 2% elastane 65% Merino Wool, 33% Nylon, 2% Elastane, Imported Yarn 60% Merino Wool, 36% Nylon, 4% Lycra Spandex 57% Merino Wool, 40% Nylon, 3% Lycra 53% acrylic, 27% nylon, 18% Merino/wool blend, 2% spandex
Level of Cushioning Medium (feels lightweight) Medium (feels lightweight) Ultralightweight Lightweight Lightweight
Weight of both socks 2.95 oz 3.15 oz 2.85 oz 3.15 oz 2.80 oz
Left/Right specific? No No No Yes No
Overall height 13 inches 13 inches 14 inches 14.25 inches 13 inches
Padded area Shin, underfoot, ankle Shin, underfoot, ankle Shin Shin, calf, foot, ankle Shin, heel, ankle
Warranty or Guarantee Head to Heels Guarentee upon arrival w/ 2 year Guarentee Head to Heels Guarentee upon arrival w/ 2 year Guarentee Unconditional Lifetime Guarentee Lifetime Guarentee One year warranty

Our Analysis and Test Results

In our head-to-head review, we looked at major differences between the Smartwool Medium PhD for Men and Women. Here is the break-down:
  • Men's construction: uses 65% Merino Wool, 33% Nylon, and 2% Elastane
  • Women's construction: uses 62% merino wool, 36% nylon, and 2% Elastane
  • Women's is tighter in the calf
  • Women's is narrower in the foot

A look at the differences between the men's and women's sock in the body of the sock. This shows the women's sock on the right  with the men's sock on the left.
A look at the differences between the men's and women's sock in the body of the sock. This shows the women's sock on the right, with the men's sock on the left.

Hands-0n Review


This Editors' Choice offers reliable protection in the form of amazing warmth and thermoregulation throughout all months of winter. Its plush underfoot enhances comfort while balancing moisture management. If you're going to choose any sock this winter to pull on under a pair of ski or snowboard boots, this is our top recommendation.

Performance Comparison


Skinning up the trees in the Pacific Northwest is a great place for this sock.
Skinning up the trees in the Pacific Northwest is a great place for this sock.

Comfort


Boasting the best in comfort, the women's Smartwool PhD stands out for its all-day comfortable construction. It features a construction made with 62% merino wool, 36% nylon, and 2% elastane. The merino wool is soft to the touch and provides a plush experience that will have you going from the slopes and into the bed.


The compression paneling is concentrated to the under the arch of the foot, around the ankle, and the calf. This provides a nice, snug fit that aids in thermoregulation. The cushioning underfoot is seriously comfortable, not impeding fit, but providing comfort for skiing or snowboarding all day long. We also appreciate the cushioning around the shin of the sock that offers a little protection from 'shin bang.'

A look at the unique and well-thought-out construction that offers a perfect balance of comfort and ventilation. Its fit is nice and tight  fitting almost like a compression sock.
A look at the unique and well-thought-out construction that offers a perfect balance of comfort and ventilation. Its fit is nice and tight, fitting almost like a compression sock.

Warmth


As a super warm sock, you'll be happy to wear it when cold weather hits. We took this sock on many ski adventures from glaciers to Alaska to resort skiing in Colorado. In all cases when the weather was cold to warm, this sock kept our feet warm and comfortable.


This is attributed to the thinner design (even though it's midweight) that allows great thermoregulation. It also features a higher density of merino wool then you'd find in most ski socks. This insulation provides warmth when both wet and dry without compromising boot fit. Overall, if you're seeking a super warm sock that isn't too thick or thin, this is a fantastic option.

The intricate overlay of cushioning that is superficial to the ventilation paneling provides ample warmth with the affinity for effective moisture management.
The intricate overlay of cushioning that is superficial to the ventilation paneling provides ample warmth with the affinity for effective moisture management.

Drying Speed & Wicking Ability


Seriously, you can wear the Smartwool PhD Medium from the slopes to your bed. Since the material does such a fantastic job thermoregulating, moisture does not get stuck in the material and quickly moves through the numerous panels of compression. These compression panels are strategically located in high sweat areas like under the arch. Also, the area around the calf is quite thin, providing a location for constant ventilation. What's best about this sock and its thermoregulation is the super tight fit that articulates well with every fold and lump of skin underneath it. As a result, it scores high in this metric, providing great drying and wicking ability. Even if you're sweating on the slopes, you can take off your boots and keep these socks on — even in bed.


While we are impressed by the thermoregulation of the Smartwool PhD, the Icebreaker Ski+ Light and Darn Tough Over-The-Calf Padded Light were both notably quicker to dry. This didn't translate into more warmth on the hill, but if you're somebody who has sweaty feet and requires a thinner sock underfoot, both are good options.

Skinning around the Pacific Northwest among other places had us testing wicking and drying ability. This wet climate wasn't a match for the great performance offered by the Smartwool PhD Medium for women.
Skinning around the Pacific Northwest among other places had us testing wicking and drying ability. This wet climate wasn't a match for the great performance offered by the Smartwool PhD Medium for women.

Fit


It sure does fit like a glove! Utilizing Elastane in its construction, this sock bounces back into shape after being stretched out. While skiing and snowboarding, we didn't deal with any issues like bunching of deforming. The sock stays in place and doesn't slide down. The sock fits tightly which some women love, and others might have to get used to.


In general, the sock fits tight around the calf. If you're a woman who has triumphant calves of steel that are quite large…but with a cinderella sized foot, you might have a little trouble with the sizing of this sock. If you think you might fit into this category, don't fret. The men's version of this sock has a little extra room in the calf and a size that will fit most women's feet. While many online reviews might tell you to simply size up, don't do it! This is because the foot will be too large for your foot size, ultimately taking away from the wicking ability and thermoregulation of the sock.

Offering a precise fit  this sock fits nicely under ski and snowboard boots that are tight or loose. It's not as tall as other competitors but still offers the coverage needed. While the tight does feel somewhat like a compression sock  the mens version is a great alternative.
Offering a precise fit, this sock fits nicely under ski and snowboard boots that are tight or loose. It's not as tall as other competitors but still offers the coverage needed. While the tight does feel somewhat like a compression sock, the mens version is a great alternative.

Durability


Both of our main female testers have owned the women's Smartwool PhD Medium for over five years, and they are still going strong. Yes, the sock will shrink a little in the first wash, and yes, the fabric will pill. Though, in high impact areas, the material has managed to keep its shape and not compact after all these years. In this testing period, we skied almost every weekend, taken them on hut trips, and adventured endlessly through the mountains.


It still holds longevity in its performance and we can say with confidence that this is a durable ski and snowboard sock. If you're feeling unsure, you shouldn't. It's been tried and tested. We just wish it's guarantee lasted a little longer than 2 years, like the lifetime ones offered by Darn Tough.

While the underfoot of the Smartwool does show a bit of pilling  it's still one of the most durable options out there. Tried and tested for over five years  it's kept our feet warm for many years. We stand behind its durability that will last a long long time.
While the underfoot of the Smartwool does show a bit of pilling, it's still one of the most durable options out there. Tried and tested for over five years, it's kept our feet warm for many years. We stand behind its durability that will last a long long time.

Best Applications


Any ski destination that comes with cold weather is where the Smartwool PhD Medium will thrive. The enhanced padding provides additional insulation and comfort for all-day use. Whether you're a professional in the field or you've just taken your first turns, this sock is suited for anybody and everybody. This women's specific fit provides a thinner fit through the length of the foot, and a little extra compression throughout the leg.

Ski  snowboard  enjoy winter in all climates all winter long. Here we snowboard in Tahoe on a bluebird day.
Ski, snowboard, enjoy winter in all climates all winter long. Here we snowboard in Tahoe on a bluebird day.

Value


A great deal for the price. Retailing at $27, this might seem high. However, many ski socks only last a season and this model has proven itself to last for many many rides down the mountain. While it doesn't sport a lifetime guarantee like the Darn Tough brand, it certainly holds it's value in its construction.

Conclusion


The Smartwool PhD Medium - Women's is an industry standard for performance and reliability. The thicker construction offers more in the way of all-day comfort and warmth, and yet, it provides an amazing and almost magical capability for superb thermoregulation. If you've got the money and the option to choose any sock this winter, this is our favorite and most recommended women's specific option.


Amber King