If you’ve ever looked a sheep in the eye you may be forgiven for thinking that there wasn’t much going on in that little woolly mind. There is, after all, not much involved in standing around eating grass, growing wool and avoiding being eaten by wolves.
But, if the guys at Smartwool are to be believed, some of their Merino sheep are actually clever enough to have obtained doctorates. And, if it was them who came up with the PhD sock design, I reckon a Doctor of Socks accolade is pretty well deserved.
Long-term readers of GearWeAre may be aware that we have a bit of a sock fetish, and to date Smartwool’s standard trekking socks have ranked among my favourite. So imagine my surprise when I had to actually move the goalposts on all things sock related when these PhD’s dropped through my letterbox. They are a quite superb bit of engineering.
I’ll cut to the chase, because I realise that a sock review isn’t going to hold your attention much beyond three paragraphs, so here’s what Smartwool have done to make this range of socks so good.
Firstly they’ve developed a series of snug bands around the foot (see diagram parts labelled A) called the 4-Degree Fit System. In practice, you can feel these bands of reinforced material holding the sock in place on your foot, and it feels great.
Next, they’ve used the clever acronym WOW to demonstrate that Wool On Wool is a good idea; basically they’ve added extra layers of wool to high impact areas like the toes, ball of the foot and heel.
And lastly they’ve made thinner, lighter weave areas on top of the toes, at the ankle and top of the foot for increased ventilation.
If you couple those three technologies with the already excellent properties of a Merino wool sock; breathability, warmth when it’s cold or wet and coolness when the weather’s hot, then you get a stonking little package.
On our test-trail, and on many hikes since, the PhD socks have performed faultlessly and remained snug and comfortable on my feet. They’ve never bunched or sagged and my feet have never been uncomfortably hot or cold – so, in short, they work.
SUMMARY: The PhD socks are superb. Comfortable, well built, warm and cosy with a near perfect fit. OK, so they’re expensive compared to Bridgedale and other trekking sock competitors, but when you’re wearing them you don’t think about your feet, which when the trail is hard is worth a couple of pounds.
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