SmartWool is a name pretty much synonymous with hiking and trekking from a sock perspective, but not many people know that they produce running and even some cycling apparel is well. We recently had a chance to test out their new Light and Ultra Light PhD running socks and these things are honestly pretty awesome and a welcome addition to your running wardrobe.
SmartWool’s Approach to Running
The first thing is you’ll notice is that there isnt an a lot of dramatic tech in these socks. There isn’t even a giant L or R making sure you put them on the right feet. It’s still multi piece construction and its primarily wool and nylon, with a touch of elastane. They have that SmartWool super soft feel throughout and don’t have any real stand out seam lines that might bother you, so the stitching is well done.
From an aesthetic perspective, they look like other running socks but using the SmartWool palette of colors. I’ll be honest and say most of them visually skew more to the trail styling that is out there and includes earth-based color palettes like grays, blues, deep reds, and some yellow/green tones. They do also have your run of the mill whites, but I actually really enjoyed the way they look on the feet and the styling overall.
Running In Them
After many test runs and also after riding quite a bit in them as well, these things are really holding up to the challenge. The Ultra Light works really well for your sprint days when you might be running a lighter/snugger shoe or if you just prefer a thinner sock overall. SmartWool has created these four mesh zones on the upper to help the sock breathe and it’s very noticeable. They also built an upper and lower instep band into the mid-section of the sock to provide some additional support. I didn’t dramatically notice this in terms of any pressure like some other socks where its reinforced in this area, so it could’ve been providing this support without even noticing it. One thing to be clear of this model clearly has zero cushion so it’s really designed as almost a layer of second skin. These were my favorite of the bunch.
The Light cushion model offers slightly more padding when you need a little extra and while visually its not real noticeable, I could definitely feel it in the shoe. If you want to compare them directly, this additional cushioning has been added under the heel of your foot and in the toebox area. Other than that, this model has the same great construction as the Ultra Light including the additional support in the mid-section and the four breathable mesh areas on the upper.
To finish this off, it’s a pretty simple summary. These socks are a dramatic improvement from anything SmartWool has released prior for running and I would say every runner will be incredibly happy with the results and can find a model that fits their style. If you take a look at reviews throughout the running world, you’ll notice the same trend in that everyone is loving them. They can be pricey, as most specialty socks are, but definitely give them a try.
The Ultra Light is available for $15.95 and the Light is available for $17.95 all direct from SmartWool. You can also find them at REI and other outdoor stores and they come in multiple versions including no shows, mid-heights, calf length, etc.