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Reviews > Clothing > Socks > SmartWool PhD Outdoor Approach socks > Test Report by Nancy Griffith

November 05, 2018



NAME: Nancy Griffith
EMAIL: bkpkrgirlATyahooDOTcom
AGE: 52
LOCATION: Northern California, USA
HEIGHT: 5' 6" (1.68 m)
WEIGHT: 126 lb (57.20 kg)

My outdoor experience began in high school with a canoeing/camping group which made a 10-day voyage through the Quebec wilds. I've been backpacking since my college days in Pennsylvania. I have hiked all of the Appalachian Trail in Georgia, Tennessee and North Carolina. My typical trip now is in the Sierra Nevada in California and is from a few days to a few weeks long. Over the past few years I have lowered my pack weight to a lightweight base weight of 15 lb (6.8 kg) while still using a tent, stove and quilt.



in packageManufacturer: Smartwool
Year of Manufacture: 2018
Manufacturer's Website:
MSRP: $20.95 US

Listed Weight: Not Listed
Measured Weight: 1.6 oz (45 g)

Color Tested: Blue Steel
Other Color Available: Light Gray

Made in USA of Imported Yarns


outside and insideThe Smartwool PhD Outdoor Approach Mini Socks are ankle height socks made of 57% Merino Wool, 40% Nylon and 3% Elastane. The elastic allows for stretching and movement while also providing a snug fit to keep the sock in place.

The Approach sock has light cushioning under the entire foot and over the toes for protection. This light cushion category is supposed to be good for hiking in varied terrain in warm weather conditions. The top of the foot is mesh for venting and breathability to prevent moisture build-up. The toe of the sock is sewn to be nearly seamless to prevent rubbing. The cuff is folded over to a double-thickness around the top of the sock. Outside the back of the cuff is the Smartwool logo and inside the back of the cuff is sewn-in text with the size noted. Across the toe of the sock is written Smartwool.

These have a specific fit for women with a narrower profile. The socks are supposed to have exceptional durability with Smartwool's Indestructawool construction technology.


cuff inside and outMy initial impression was that the socks were as-expected based on the website information and my prior experience with wool socks. I tried them on and found a good fit which matched the recommended size per Smartwool's sizing guide. They do seem to be narrower than my other socks which makes sense since they have a specific fit for women. I received three pairs so I'll be saving one as a new comparison pair and cycling my wear with the other two pairs.

I generally like wool socks for the odor-resistance so I'm expecting these to work for that as well. The light cushioning seems to be enough to keep me comfortable without adding bulk and lumps to my shoes.

bottom inside and outI spent some considerable time running my fingers over the socks both inside and out and could hardly make out any seams at all. I can SEE where they would be due to different colors and shapes, but I can't really feel them. My feet aren't prone to blisters but seams can definitely cause problems on long treks with a heavier pack. The only seam that I can feel at all is where the sock is sewn to the cuff, but it is in a non-rub area and is a flat-lock seam that lies flat anyway.

I'm planning to wear the Approach socks with waterproof hiking shoes and also with minimalist trail hikers. I plan to wear light gaiters most of the time too. I'm wondering how well the mesh will work to keep my feet cool on long hiking days and how quickly the socks will dry after stream crossings or after laundering on the trail.


The washing instructions are to:
Machine wash warm with socks inside-out.
Do not bleach.
Tumble dry low.
Do not iron.
Do not dry clean.

I'll also be washing and drying the socks by hand on the trail.

Smartwool offers a 100% satisfaction guarantee which says that if for any reason I'm not satisfied that I can return it to them within two years of purchase with a store receipt and they'll try to resolve my issue. That sounds good to me!



cooling feet
cooling feet on a hot climb
During the Long-Term Test Period, I wore the Smartwool PhD Outdoor Approach Socks on one forty-day backpacking trip, one three-day backpacking trip and multiple dayhikes. I also wore them for playing softball, working in the yard and just around. I'd estimated that each of the two pairs saw over 300 miles (483 km) of use.

Pacific Crest Trail from Etna Summit, California to Cascade Locks, Oregon: 40 nights; 550 mi (886 km); 170 to 7,676 ft (52 to 2,340 m) elevation with most between 5,000 and 6,000 ft (1,524 to 1,829 m); 39 to 95 F (4 to 35 C). Terrain varied from dirt to lava fields to small talus.

Green Lake, West Lake, East Lake, Hoover Wilderness, California: 3 days, 18 mi (29 km); 8,030 to 9,635 ft (2,448 to 2,937 m); 25 to 52 F (-4 to 11 C); clear skies with some moderate wind

Day Hikes:
Cronan West Ravine, Sierra Nevada, California: 4.0 mi (6.4 km); 743 to 1,262 ft (226 to 385 m) elevation; 82 to 91 F (28 to 33 C); sunny conditions

Monroe Ridge, Sierra Nevada, California: 5.2 mi (8.4 km); 743 to 1,262 ft (226 to 385 m); 91 to 96 F (33 to 36 C); sunny conditions

Three hikes on Gerle Loop in the Auburn Recreation Area, California: 2.5 mi to 3.5 mi (4 to 5.6 km); 500 to 1,500 ft (150 to 450 m) elevation; 65 to 85 F (18 to 29 C) ; mostly dirt trail with some rocks


drying in sun
drying in the sun
I swapped wear between two pairs of the socks throughout the test period so each pair ended up with about half of the total mileage and wear. Most of the time I was wearing gaiters which covered the socks completely. This along with wearing waterproof boots allowed the socks to stay fairly clean of dirt and dust. They still were sweaty and did get filthy at times when the terrain was a finer dirt or ash from prior wildfires.

I found the socks to be very comfortable and loved the cushion at the heel and toe. I wore them on many days of uncomfortably hot weather with waterproof (read not-that-breathable) boots and found the socks to breathe and ventilate quite well. They also dried quickly after stream crossings or laundering. The socks never seemed stinky despite wearing them at times for a few days in a row.

I never had any issues with blisters or discomfort of any kind. On the long trip, I carried a pair of Injinji socks because I have two toes that like to get stacked atop each other on long hiking days and end up blistering in regular socks. It has just always happened to me and the toe socks by design are able to stop these two toes from staying so close together. Anyway, for some reason this never happened in the Approach socks so I never wore the toe socks.

I washed the socks five times in laundry facilities that were available near our resupply points at intervals of approximately one week. These laundromats didn't have the best equipment but I was able to follow the washing instructions. Washing laundry meant tossing every piece of clothing that we had into one load and washing with whatever detergent we could buy. Then we would machine dry on low or medium.

final outer condition
final inner condition
In between machine-washings, I would wash the socks on the trail whenever there was available water and time for washing mid-day. I used Campsuds for washing and dried them in the sun usually by hanging them on the outside of my pack. I would estimate that I hand-washed the socks nine times during the hike.

Since I wore the socks every day and had wash facilities every week, which meant that I would wear each pair for one to two days before a washing.

The durability of the socks has been excellent. There doesn't appear to be any significant wear at the heel or toes, holes or even pulled threads despite many days of hiking. There is a small amount of pilling below the cuff and under the arch.


The Smartwool PhD Outdoor Approach Minis are an ankle height wool sock with light cushioning designed for hiking.

Nice cushioning
Mesh breathability
Attractive color and style
Amazing seamless construction
Incredibly durability

Nothing. I'm completely impressed!

This concludes my Long-Term Report and this test series. Thanks to and Smartwool for the opportunity to test out these new socks.

This report was created with the Report Writer Version 1. Copyright 2018. All rights reserved.

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