10 Best Smartwool Socks Compared & Reviewed
It’s no surprise that Smartwool socks have become a favorite among outdoor enthusiasts, athletes, and hikers alike. Founded by a pair of ski instructors, these are socks made for active people by active people. Each pair features a uniquely high Merino wool content that offers superior breathability, moisture-wicking properties (to keep your feet nice and dry), advanced temperature regulation, odor resistance, and natural protection from the sun—so you stay warm, comfortable, and dry when braving the great outdoors.
Smartwool has tons of high quality and excellent options, so we know how difficult it can be to weed out the best of the best. To give you a place to start, we’ve put together a list of the best Smartwool socks on the market and included our custom criteria for choosing the right Smartwool socks for you and your lifestyle. Check out our FAQ for tips on how to best care for your socks and let us know in the comments if you have a favorite style of sock that you think deserves to be on our list of the best Smartwool socks!
- PhD Outdoor Mountaineer
- PhD Outdoor Light Crew
- PhD Run Light Elite Micro
- Trekking Heavy Crew
- Cable II Socks
- Basic Knee High Socks
- Hiking Medium Crew
- Hide and Seek Lifestyle Socks
- Hike Liner Crew
- Hiking Light Crew
- Criteria Used for Evaluation
- Other Factors to Consider
- Frequently Asked Questions
Top 10 Picks
1. PhD Outdoor Mountaineer
- Graduated compression optimizes recovery
- Super supportive for long adventures and scaling rough terrain
- Excellent warmth for cold conditions
- Two-elastic system provides a tailored fit
- Stays in places
- Indestructawool technology
- Can be challenging to get on and off (they are compression socks)
- Too warm for summer months
Want your feet to feel good after summiting Mt. Rainer or hiking the Appalachian Trail? The PhD Outdoor Mountaineer a great go-to sock for long hikes. This is a high performance compression sock designed to offer maximum support and warmth in extreme conditions. They’ll handle rough terrain, while keeping your feet dry and blister-free. Go ahead and put the miles on these socks - they can handle it!Read more
The PhD Outdoor Mountaineer is a heavier weight sock, offering variations in cushioning to provide the best comfort and performance. You’ll find high-density cushioning where socks take the biggest hits: in the heel and toe. The leg portion of the sock offers a flat knit on the leg, making this sock just right for functioning ideally in low-volume mountaineering boots.
The PhD Outdoor Mountaineer is 14 inches tall, resting just over the calf. 20-30 mmHg graduated compression optimizes recovery once your adventure is done. The socks feature Smartwool’s 4 Degree elite fit system for a perfectly tuned fit. This unique system utilizes two elastics for increased stretch and to keep the sock put. Smartwool’s Virtually Seamless toe offers additional comfort and reinforcement in this sensitive area.
A flex zone at the ankle provides ultimate flexibility. Built-in mesh areas create breathability. You can count on the PhD Outdoor Mountaineer’s 50% Merino wool construction to keep you dry and cozy. These socks are great for long hikes and bike rides, mountaineering, and for any activity in super cold temps. They can also help prevent swelling while traveling on long flights!
Why this sock is a bit pricey, it is an excellent choice for extreme activity and conditions. This is a serious sock for the hardcore adventurer. The support you get from the sock makes it totally worth the price tag.
2. PhD Outdoor Light Crew
- Excellent breathability
- Stay put
- Good for year-round use
- Lightweight fits well in various shoe types
- Indestructawool technology
- These socks fit a little bit tightly, especially around the ankle, which some folks find uncomfortable after a full day of hiking
- May be a little warm for hotter climates
Decrease hotspots and foot fatigue with these lightweight performance socks. The PhD Outdoor Light Crew is a durable sock that provides great air circulation. These are great for all-day hikes and multi-terrain adventures. The thinner fit means you can fit these socks into a variety of shoe types, but still keep warm and dry with wool.Read more
Light cushioning offers the comfort and protection of a wool sock without the bulk of heavier models. The heel and forefoot have a little extra cushioning for added protection while trail running or hiking, while the rest of the sock is thin.
Like other socks in the PhD line, the Outdoor Light Crew has a performance fit. Crossed elastic system keeps the sock in place while maximizing flexibility. Smooth toe fit keeps your toes happy. 56% merino wool construction offers the benefits of wool while allowing room for the flexibility that comes from synthetic fibers.
Mesh ventilation optimizes breathability and keeps moisture at bay. This sock is ideal for year-round use in a variety of weather conditions, from summer warmth to extreme winter cold. These socks will stay put and prevent toe blisters no matter how active you get, weather your trekking varied trail or road terrain.
These socks boast an average price for Smartwool. These socks are designed to last, and we think their high quality justifies the investment.
3. PhD Run Light Elite Micro
- Perfect fit without being too tight
- Great for summer running
- Hold up excellently over time
- Soft feel
- Indestructawool technology
- Some users report that elastic around the ankle wears out after several washings so the socks slip down more easily
If you’re looking for a durable, super lightweight running micro running sock, the PhD Run Light Elite Micro will not disappoint. This is a superb option for summer running, offering a sleek feel and an optimal fit without overly squeezing your foot. These socks are very comfortable and keep your sweaty feet feeling dry, even during longer runs.Read more
Ultra light cushioning gives you the absolute least amount of bulk while still offering a suitable buffer between you and your foot. The thinness of this sock provides a barely-there feel while you’ll still get protection on the pressure points of your foot. You won’t have to adjust the size of your running shoe if you want to sport Run Light Elite Micro socks.
While the Run Light Elite Micro is available for both genders, the women’s version offers a distinguishing fit with a narrower sock body profile. These socks are made with 200 needle construction to supply the highest possible knit density while remaining incredibly lightweight. Micro socks are 1.5 inches in overall height, resting just below the ankle. Consumers report that this sock fits perfectly without being too tight, a boon for a micro running sock.
Mesh venting increases breathability while preventing moisture buildup. Keeping moisture at bay means this sock won’t slide around in your shoe when your foot sweats. As with the other PhD socks, the 4 Degree Elite Fit System keeps this sock in place throughout your activity. While most runners opt to use these socks in warmer weather, some reviewers have had extended success in single digit temps as well.
These socks are slightly less expensive than Smartwool’s hiking and mountaineering choices. It is a thinner, smaller sock however, so you may simply be paying less for less material. The new PhD line boasts even better quality than older Smartwool models, so you’re getting even more bang for your buck with increased product longevity.
4. Trekking Heavy Crew
- High wool content (70%)
- Super supportive for weight-bearing activity and intensive hiking
- All-season wear
- Maintains cushion & density over time
- Not quite as warm as the Mountaineering socks, may not be best for extreme cold
- May not work as well on athletic calves as performance fits do
The Trekking Heavy Crew isn’t for the faint of hiker. As the name suggests, these are heavy duty trekking socks. These fully, thickly cushioned socks are known for preventing hotspots and blisters, offering sustained protection on long hikes. The Trekking Heavy Crew socks are burly, well-constructed, long-lasting trekking companions.Read more
The Trekking Heavy Crew offers heavy cushioning to handle significant impact and lengthy excursions. This sock is uniformly cushioned to give you shock absorption, provide insulation when facing the elements, and gives you maximum support for carrying a heavy load. The quality of the Trekking Heavy Crew shines through as this sock maintains its density and cushion over time.
The socks are thick and toasty. An arch brace holds the Trekking Heavy Crew in place while providing extra support. Crew height means the sock reaches just over your calf.
Wear them while snorkeling in a dry suit. Count on them to support you on extended backpacking trips. The Trekking Heavy Crew can also be used to help you break in expensive boots without soreness. Ultimate impact absorption allows you to carry a heavy load and still feel strong on your feet - and comfortable.
These are an average price for Smartwool socks. Again, you won’t be disappointed with your investment as these socks have a lot of life in them.
5. Cable II Socks
- Available in different colors
- High Merino wool content
- Light cushioning
- Crew sock fit
- Moisture wicking and breathable
- Great for casual wear
- Cable knit pattern
- Heels may wear quickly
The Cable II Socks are a great everyday sock from Smartwool. With a high Merino wool content, they’ll keep you cool and dry while being comfortable enough for casual or dress wear with a nice cable knit pattern.Read more
These socks have a light amount of cushioning that is comfy without being bulky or restricting. They are soft and thin while still offering just enough padding to soothe your feet throughout the day.
The cut of these socks is designed specifically in women’s sizes, but could work for anyone who wears this type of smaller fit. They claim to be a crew fit sock and are fairly true to size. The cuff of the sock is snug enough to stay in place without being tight or restricting. You could even wear compression socks underneath.
The material makeup consists of 70% Merino wool, 29% nylon, and 1% elastane. This high Merino wool content makes for great moisture wicking and breathability. These socks will help with temperature regulation, keeping you cool in the summer and warm in the winter, while wicking sweat and moisture away to keep you dry and prevent blisters.
The price tag is pretty comparable to other socks on our list and ranges from under 10$ to as much as 30$. Depending on the color and size you get, these socks can be fairly affordable.
6. Basic Knee High Socks
- Seamless toe
- Reinforced arch
- Medium weight
- Knee high fit
- Moisture wicking and breathable
- Warm and cozy
- Tight fit in calf
- Prone to pilling
The Basic Knee High Socks from Smartwool are a great sock for wrapping up in the winter or keeping cool in the early fall. High enough for boots, the extra coverage is cozy and the Merino wool helps prevent overheating and discomfort.Read more
These socks are medium weight and are a little thicker than other casual wear socks, but they aren’t overly bulky and you should be able to wear them comfortably in most boots or shoes. The arches are reinforced with a band of extra padding to offer more support which is great if you’re trekking in your hiking boots or just needing the extra cushioning throughout the day. The extra cushioning also provides a little more in the way of durability.
True to fit, these rest just at the knee and have a tight fit to keep them snug through the calf. Some people may find this fit to run too tight and will want to keep that in mind when sizing. The fit is also specific to typical women’s sizing but will fit anyone who wears a more narrow fit in socks.
The material content of these socks is 66% Merino wool, 33% nylon, and 1% elastane. The high amount of Merino wool helps keep them breathable and warm while still being lightweight and comfortable. They’ll also prevent hot spots and blisters with great moisture wicking properties, pulling sweat and moisture away from your feet to keep you dry. The thicker construction will definitely be warmer than other socks, but they do have decent temperature regulation so you don’t have to worry about overheating.
Depending on the size and color the price range can quickly climb as high as 40$, but if you’re looking for a sturdy sock that can stand up to the demands of winter weather or tough activities like hiking or mountaineering then the price is easily justifiable.
7. Hiking Medium Crew
The Hiking Medium Crew wins big for being an all-terrain, three-season hiking sock. These exquisite hiking socks will leave your feet feeling relaxed at the end of the day, as opposed to unpleasantly worn out. If you want to stay warm and comfortable without too much bulk, these socks are perfect.Read more
Medium cushion buffers impact on the trail while keeping your feet warm. These will hold up well for moderate backpacking activity and decently rugged trail hiking.
Elastic arch support and flat knit toe seem increase comfort and support. Crew height comes just over calf. Sock wearers claim this one is mighty comfortable!
The Hike Medium Crew socks are perfect for medium impact hikes. These three-season, all-terrain socks will carry you solidly through the year barring the coldest of winter days and the most blistering summer days.
These host a fairly average price for Smartwool socks. While you won’t get the newer PhD technology features, these socks are valuable due to their three-season use and warmth without extreme bulk.
8. Hide and Seek Lifestyle Socks
- Prevents slippage
- Machine washable
- Not adequate for hiking or intense outdoor activities
- Minimal cushioning
These no-show socks have quickly become a favorite among women everywhere. They provide many of the benefits Smartwool has to offer while also being stylish, lightweight, and hidden.Read more
These socks have minimal cushioning--but do provide enough for additional comfort and support.
These are no-show socks--so you won't even be able to see them!
They have an internal gripper heel within the heel to prevent any slippage from occurring. They also efficiently wick away moisture and dry quickly--to keep you nice and dry. They are machine washable and highly durable.
These are moderately priced, and around the same as any other high-quality athletic brand.
9. Hike Liner Crew
- Gives the benefits of a wool sock without the bulk
- Keeps feet from chafing
- Designed for layering, this sock is too thin to be worn alone for most activities
The Hike Liner Crew is an excellent base layer for keeping your feet dry and free from blisters. Experience the superior comfort and added warmth of a merino wool sock without excess bulk. Layer with other hiking crew socks to maximize warmth and boost protection for extended activity.Read more
The Hike Liner Crew offers essentially no cushioning, but rather serves as an important base layer in your hiking getup. This lightweight sock is meant to be your second skin and helps to minimize friction and blisters.
You’ll benefit from the ultra comfortable flat knit toe seem. Crew height comes just over the calf, allowing you to match this sock well with other crew Smartwool hiking socks. This is a lightweight, cozy sock with superior fit.
Experience the moisture wicking properties of merino wool while experiencing added comfort and protection when you choose the Hike Liner as your base sock layer. These can be enough to wear as a lightweight hiking sock on warmer days. During non-sport activity, these socks can keep you warm and dry without the bulk of a typical wool sock.
These liners cost the least out of all the socks in this guide. The value is exquisite as you can purchase these affordable crew liners and experience the benefits of wool without bulk and with the ability to easily layer with other hiking socks of your choice. Win-win!
10. Hiking Light Crew
- Great light trail socks
- Good breathability
- Keep their shape over time
- Comfortable choice for daily life off the trail, too
- Fit is a bit looser than the more modern PhD versions
- Not the most durable choice
The Hiking Light Crew earns its place on our list for its versatility and its ability to keep shape over time. This is a superb lightweight hiking crew sock with light cushioning to keep you protected through low to moderate impact activity. This is also a choice sock for ordinary wearing.Read more
Light half-cushion supports low-impact to moderate activity. Padding is uniform throughout the sock, maximizing impact absorption. Thinner construction and knitting also means increased breathability.
Elastic arch brace offers support and comfort. Flat knit toe seam keeps your toes comfy and protected. These socks stay put. Crew height comes just over the calf. Best of all the fit is long-lasting.
These socks work best for light to moderate-impact activity. Some opt to wear them as light trail socks, though you’ll probably want another layer in the winter or for intense activity. You can count on these socks to keep you dry and smelling good. These socks are a good choice if you’re looking for a daily wool sock that will keep you warm but won’t roast you in hotter climates.
While the Hiking Light Crew has an average price for a Smartwool sock, we think the value is a little bit less than that of the other socks on this list due to two main factors: the durability isn’t quite as great and the fit loosens over time.
Criteria Used for Evaluation
When picking out your socks, it’s essential to know what level of cushioning you’re looking for and where you want it.
How thick or thin is your sock, and what does this level of support mean? Some of these socks have extra cushioning in certain harder hit places like under your toe pad and heels, while other socks have uniform cushioning. Socks with variable cushioning might work best for running and other dynamic activity while an all-encompassing thick cushioning could be ideal for an intense, long, or rugged hike or backpacking trip. Super thick cushioning is also going to give you the best support for the weight-bearing activity. When picking out your socks, it’s essential to know what level of cushioning you’re looking for and where you want it. All of these socks have effective cushioning design and serve their intended purpose well.
The support of your socks will affect the kind of terrain you are able to comfortably walk and run on.
Cushioning also determines the amount of impact you can expect to handle while wearing the sock and waht kind of terrarin you can comfortably navigate. If you’re looking for heavy impact absorption that you’d want for trekking seriously rugged trails for long miles while carrying a heavy load, go for thick cushioning. If you just want a minimal layer of protection between–like you would for a light run or for everyday wear–you may want to go for lighter cushioning.
The fit metric for socks refers to how the sock feels, the sock height, and how well the sock stays put.
We’ve detailed specific support features and discussed what type of shoe or boot works best with each sock height. Some of these socks offer a fit based on typical “women’s sizes” which means the body of the sock and the heel are more narrow than the fit based on men’s or unisex sizing. We’ve also made sure to mention how well the crew-height socks work for athletic calves.
Some people prefer a tighter fit in their running socks. We’ve also highlighted any areas where users notice a progressively looser or tighter fit over time. Sometimes the elastic in the top of the sock wears out over time, leading to a sock that might fall down. And sometimes a running sock feels tighter as your feet sweat and swell during a run. Some users report certain socks feel tight in specific areas–such as the ankle. If this is typically a problem area for you, that certain sock might not be the best choice.
A good pair of socks will deliver good performance and be responsive to your wants and needs and the environment you are in at any given time.
When looking for the best socks for you, it’s essential to consider what type of climate you’ll wear them in and through what type of activity. Some of these are meant for warmer climates, some for cold, and others are multi-season. Some of these socks can support you to carry a lot of weight or help you handle an extreme run. We’ve made sure to describe what kind of activity, weather, and terrain these socks can handle All of the socks on this list measure up well for wicking moisture and breathability, important qualities to prevent sweat buildup, hot spots and blisters, and to maintain comfort.
Wool socks are more pricey than normal socks so it is important to know how that investment pays off.
Smartwool socks are more expensive than average socks, and this is because they are not average socks! Smartwool socks offer exceptional quality, performance, and endurance. We’ve discussed how each sock measures up in the Smartwool sock price range, and what you’re getting for your investment.
Each sock on this list offers something unique and highly valuable for its price. Every sock here is a win.
Other Factors to Consider
Each Smartwool sock contains a unique Merino wool content typically ranging from just under 50% to over 70%. You’ll tend to find the warmer socks and hiking socks to have more wool content, while thinner and performance fit socks from the PhD line have less wool. Smartwool blends Merino wool with varying quantities of synthetic fibers to produce certain ranges of flexibility and support. You can easily find the wool content listed in the product description. Extra heavy socks tend to have the most wool while ultra light socks contain the least.
Smartwool socks vary in size, so it helps to research customer reviews ahead of time, either on online selling sites or on the Smartwool website. If you don’t find the perfect fit the first time, you can always exchange your socks under Smartwool’s two-year warranty. Remember to properly care for your socks to keep them the right size (see our FAQ for care guidelines).
To further tickle your fancy, Smartwool offers a two-year 100% satisfaction guarantee on their products. They are confident that their best Smartwool socks will provide you with everything you need, and more—but in the case that they don’t you have this guarantee to fall back on.
Frequently Asked Questions
This is a great question. Though some people value the option to always toss their socks in the dryer, we strongly recommend exclusively air drying your Smartwool socks for optimal product longevity. The manufacturer recommends machine washing on the gentle cycle in warm or cool water, socks inside out. Use mild soap, no bleach or fabric softener. You can tumble dry on a low setting, but never on medium or high as heat can shrink wool. Do NOT iron or dry clean your Smartwool socks.
One of the best parts about opting for wool clothing over other clothing made from other fibers is that it doesn’t need to get laundered as often. Why? Wool does not hold on to stinky aromas. So sometimes you might just need to air out your socks or gently spot clean them. You can wear them several times before tossing them in the washer!
Keep in mind that some Smartwool socks have lower amounts of wool than others. These ones might need to be washed more often than high wool content socks.
It is, and it may be a way to increase product longevity as drying your clothes the conventional route does pull fibers away over time. Just look in your lint trap to verify this tidbit! The manufacturer recommends laying your wool clothes flat as opposed to hanging them to dry. This is because wet wool changes shape while hanging. If your socks change shape in a way you’re displeased with, gently re-shape them while they are damp.
Smartwool has provided a few easy steps to ensure secure storage of wool socks and clothing:
*Thoroughly clean your wool items. Moths dig the lingering odors from our bodies and food that remain in socks after wearing them.
*Keep your socks laying flat. Do not roll them up. Contorting their shape in storage can alter the sock’s shape
*Plastic bags and boxes are a great storage option for eliminating breathability, allowing your clothes to stay mold-free. If you find you keep your wool packed for a year or longer, make sure you air it out for some time before packing it up again.
*Stash cedar in your storage to ward off moths and other critters who might nibble at your clothes.
It happens to the best of us, and to the best of socks, especially the more we love them and wear them out. If you get a hole in your Smartwool sock within its first two years and you’re feeling unsatisfied about it, exchange it under the warranty. If you want to repair the sock yourself, you can try darning the sock. Darning is a simple process of weaving wool yarn over any thin areas or holes in the sock. You can use a light bulb or a darning egg to place your sock over while making the repairs. Just make sure you try to match the weight of the yarn to the weight of the wool in your sock, if possible. There are plenty of great articles and videos on the web offering guidance on darning wool.
If you’re not already convinced, think about this: wool is more breathable and keeps moisture at bay better than other fiber out there, especially the synthetic ones. When you aren’t trapping moisture in your socks, smelly bacteria don’t stand a chance at surviving. So you won’t stink and you won’t be plagued by sweat or blisters while you’re working out or just trying to make it through your day. Also, wool is sheep hair, and hair is made mostly from interlocking protein molecules. These keratin molecules give each wool fiber flexibility and incredible stretch in all directions, without causing breakage. These are seriously tough fibers! Tough yet flexible is just another magic mark of Merino wool.