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Reviews > Clothing > Socks > SmartWool PhD Outdoor Approach socks > Test Report by Andrea Murland

Smartwool PhD Outdoor Approach Crew Socks (Women's)
Test Series by Andrea Murland

Initial Report - June 14, 2018
Long Term Report - November 13, 2018

Tester Information

Name: Andrea Murland
Email: amurland AT shaw DOT ca
Age: 33
Location: Elkford, British Columbia, Canada
Gender: Female
Height: 5 ft 2 in (1.57 m)
Weight: 130 lb (59 kg)

I began hiking frequently in 2006 and have since hiked in Western Canada, Australia, Europe, and Nepal. I spend most weekends either day-hiking or on 2-3 day backpacking trips, with some longer trips when I can manage them. I also snowshoe and ski in the winter, and prefer to be hut-based for overnight trips. Elevation is typically 500-3,000 m (1,600-10,000 ft), in the Canadian Rockies and the Selkirk, Purcell, and Monashee ranges. I try for a light pack, but I don’t consider myself a lightweight backpacker.

Initial Report – June 14, 2018

Product Information

Manufacturer: Smartwool
Manufacturer's URL:
Model: PhD Outdoor Approach Crew Socks (Women’s)
Year of Manufacture: 2018
MSRP: US $24.95
Listed Weight: None
Measured Weight: 50 g (1.8 oz)
Sizes Available: S (tested), M, L
Colours Available: Light Gray (tested), Blue Steel
Composition: 54% Merino Wool, 43% Nylon, 3% Elastane
Care Instructions: Machine Wash Warm, Wash Inside Out. Do Not Bleach. Tumble Dry Low. Do Not Iron.
Do Not Dry Clean.
Smartwool Approach Outdoor Socks

Description & Initial Impressions

The Smartwool PhD Outdoor Approach Crew Socks are lightly cushioned, crew-height, wool-blend socks. When pulled up, the top of the socks sits 21 cm (8.3 in) from the ground.

Trying the socks The top of the sock has a double-layer cuff, while the rest of the sock is a single layer. Around the heel, toe, and under the metatarsal area is a layer of thicker material for cushion. Under the arch of my foot is also lightly cushioned. The toe is described as “virtually seamless”, and although there’s a change of weave at the toe there isn’t a ridge or traditional seam that I can feel. The top of the foot has mesh-like zones, which the website indicates is for increased ventilation. The website also indicates that the socks have the “4 Degree Elite Fit System” as well, using two elastics for stretch and recovery. I can see these elastics as an “X” shape across the top of my foot. The socks are also supposed to have a women’s specific fit with a narrower profile. The outer surface of the socks is quite smooth and tightly woven, not fuzzy. The inner surface of the socks is similar, except in the cushioned sections, which have little loops of thread creating texture. The construction of the socks appears to be excellent. There are no loose threads or other areas of concern.

The socks are mostly gray, with purple and aqua highlights. The heavier cushion around the toe and heel are dark gray, while most of the rest of the sock is light gray. The cuff and a section right below it are a deep purple colour, with a zig-zag stripe of aqua right below that. In the aqua band, on the back of the sock, the Smartwool logo is woven into the sock, and “Smartwool” is woven across the toe in dark gray. Inside the cuff “SM” is woven.

Trying Them Out

I popped the socks on as soon as I got them, and was happy to note that they fit snugly and comfortably. There are no loose sections that I would anticipate causing any problems in my boots. The fabric is comfortable, and I like the feel of the smooth surface.


The Smartwool PhD Outdoor Approach Crew Socks are wool-blend hiking socks with a light cushion. They are comfortable, appear to be very well constructed, and fit well. I can’t wait to get out on the trail and start testing the way they perform!

Long Term Report - November 13, 2018

Field Conditions

These socks have done a lot of walking over the past five months! I have put a total of over 250 km (155 mi) on them. A brief summary of the trips I’ve worn these socks on follows.

Location Number of Days Used For Conditions
Canadian Rockies – Window Mountain Lake 2 Hiking (1 pair)
Sleeping (1 pair)
4 km (2.5 mi) walk
2nd day was raining
10 C (50 F)
Camp elevation 1980 m (6500 ft)
Dirt trail
Canadian Rockies – Top of the World 3 Hiking (1 pair)
Sleeping (1 pair)
6.7 km (4.2 mi) into camp
28 km (17.4 mi) dayhiking
1st day was raining
5 to 20 C (41 to 68 F)
1640-2400 m (5380-7875 ft)
Dirt trail, alpine rock, snow
Canadian Rockies – The Rockwall 5 Hiking (1 pair)
Sleeping (1 pair)
55 km (34 mi) of backpacking
12 km (7.5 mi) of day hiking
Sun, rain, hail
Freezing at night
Daytime up to 25 C (77 F)
Camp elevation 1700 m-2050 m (5580-6725 ft)
Dirt trail
Canadian Rockies – around Lake Louise 3, Day hiking Hiking (1 pair) 21.7 km (13.3 mi), 10 km (6.2 mi), 10.3 km (6.4 mi) hikes
Daytime up to 25 C (77 F)
Elevations up to 2700 m (8860 ft
Dirt, mud, rocks trails
Canadian Rockies – The Skyline 3 Hiking (1 pair)
Sleeping (1 pair)
44.1 km (27.4 mi) backpack
Camp elevation 2050 m (6725 ft)
Cloudy, smoky
Freezing at night
Daytime up to 25 C (77 F
Dirt and rock trail
Canadian East Coast 17, Day hiking Hiking (1 pair)
Sleeping (1 pair)
Day hikes up to 12 km (7.5 mi)
Sea level
Sunny, cloudy, rain
Daytime up to 30 C (86 F)
Dirt and rock trails
Canadian Rockies – Hourglass Lake 2 Hiking (1 pair) 10 km (6.2 mi) backpack
Camp elevation 1860 m (6100 ft)
Cloudy, snowing
Around freezing during day
Snow surface

Field Use

I have washed one pair of socks eight times, and the other five times. In all cases it has been in a washing machine, with regular detergent and the rest of my laundry. I air dry the socks.


First off, some information about how I conducted this test. Having received three pairs of socks, I put one away in the drawer for later comparison, and marked one pair with thread to ensure that I always wore the same pair. The last pair was packed as spare socks and used for sleeping, so took less abuse overall. I actually ended up with only one new sock, as some sort of creature stole one of my camp shoes and the sock in it out of my vestibule on my very first trip this summer, and although I found the shoe, the sock was never found.

The Smartwool PhD Outdoor Approach Crew Socks have been a comfortable and functional addition to my hiking kit this summer. They have been comfortable, and seem sufficiently cushioned. I had my usual aching feet on long or multi-day trips, but as I’ve never found any socks or insoles that help with that, I wasn’t expecting a miracle out of these ones. I did have some heel blisters this summer, which was a surprise. My boots aren’t new, and have never caused me problems before with any other socks, so I couldn’t help but wonder if these socks contributed. I did find that the socks stretched out quite quickly, and although they are a perfect, snug fit when freshly washed, by day 2 they’re getting stretched out. On my 5-day trip, they were a stretched mess by day 5.

I found that these socks managed odour well, and moisture acceptably. Even on my 5-day trip, I wasn’t recoiling in horror from the smell of my socks after multiple days. I typically wear 100% wool socks, and I did find that these socks seemed to feel damper than my usual choices. I often took my boots off at lunch to allow things to air out.

The socks have held up well to the amount of walking I’ve done. The pair that I’ve done the most walking in is showing pilling through the foot, and lots of fuzzy bits around the top, but nothing major. The cushioning feels more compact and thinner than in the new sock.
Worn on left, New on right
Worn and New


The Smartwool PhD Outdoor Approach Crew Socks worked well for me over the test period, with good comfort, cushioning, and durability. I have some concerns about their role in my summer blisters, but until I use other socks for similar conditions I can’t be sure. Their moisture management and stretching out over multiple days may not make them my favourite multi-day socks, but they will definitely stay in my sock drawer for use!

Thumbs Up:
Good cushioning
Good fit when freshly washed
Good durability
Good odour management

Thumbs Down:
Stretch out past the first day
Feel damp in my boots

Thanks to Smartwool and for the chance to test these socks. I look forward to continuing to use them!

Read more reviews of Smartwool gear
Read more gear reviews by Andrea Murland

Reviews > Clothing > Socks > SmartWool PhD Outdoor Approach socks > Test Report by Andrea Murland

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