Presented by

We asked the pros: Why are merino socks better than the rest?

We asked the pros: Why are merino socks better than the rest?

Let’s get one thing straight: A thicker sock doesn’t mean a warmer sock. But how? Why? Really? When it comes to sock design, few brands know a skier’s foot better than Smartwool, who has been leading the charge in merino wool-based sock engineering—yeah, you read that right, sock engineers—for more than twenty years. Utilizing naturally sourced, high-performance merino wool fibers in every single pair, Smartwool has discovered how to optimize fit and cushioning while maintaining a dedicated focus on enhancing the ski experience. Smartwool’s ski-specific socks are the pinnacle of this review…

“There’s enough to worry about when out in the mountains, your feet being cold or uncomfortable doesn’t need to be added to that list of concerns,” says Jackson Hole-based athlete Griffin Post. “That’s what I love about Smartwool socks: They fit so well and are so warm, I don’t even think about them until the end of the day when I take my boots off. Plus, thanks to the stench-resistent merino wool, I can rock them the next day without having to worry about stinking up my boots for the season, something that everyone in my crew can appreciate.”

Longtime pro Chris Benchetler agrees. “Smartwool socks have been a great addition to my daily ski routine,” he says. “They stay up over my non-existent calves without slipping down, keep my feet warm and dry on the way down, and are plenty breathable for a ski tour uphill.”

Stink-proof, durable, athlete approved and designed to offer a superior, supportive fit, Smartwool’s ski socks are stitched specifically for skiers. But how does a thinner sock actually keep you warmer? It comes down to two details: Fit and breathability, which, in turn, helps promote blood circulation and warmer feet. In short, Smartwool’s comprehensive line of ski socks offers different levels of cushioning to promote this idea—pro-level socks have minimal padding for a better fit (and increased blood flow) in high-performance, tight-fitting boots while, conversely, recreationally focused socks, designed to fill out spacier rental boots, offer more cushioning. The tighter the boot, the less padding you need to keep your feet warm; it’s as simple as that.

But beyond the fine-tuned construction of these socks, which implements seamless stitching and a three-dimensional fit that tightly hugs the foot and calf, eye-catching patterns and colorful designs are a mainstay across its fleet of footwear. Benchetler is an illustrator and painter (when he’s not skiing), and has a couple custom models in the lineup, the socks a canvas for his artwork.

Sustainably sourced from ZQ-certified sheep farmers in New Zealand, the merino used in Smartwool’s ski socks are as environmentally friendly and comfortable as socks can be. So, what more do you need to know? Merino socks (might just be) the best around. Right now, we’re going to dive deeper into some of Smartwool’s flagship styles for skiers, designed precisely for long days in the mountains.

PhD Pro Freeski Socks

Available in Men’s & Women’s

Designed in collaboration with Angel Collinson and worn by freeski athletes like Griffin Post, the PhD Freeski socks are a low-profile solution to all day comfort. Here, the ethically sourced merino wool is stitched with Smartwool’s proprietary Indestructawool and Shred Shield technology—meaning every bit of yarn is woven in a way that enhances its durability, prolonging the life of the sock. The PhD Freeski is also built with a four-degree fit system that provides an extra snug feel in the ankle and heel and offers minimal, contoured cushioning, anatomically mapped for the skier’s stance. This sock also features a zero-cushion toe for an even better fit in performance-oriented boots. For demanding skiers, it’ll be hard to find a sock better suited for everyday use and abuse.

PhD Ski Ultra Light Benchetler Print Socks

Like we said, Chris Benchetler’s drawings have found a home on some of Smartwool’s socks, including the Ultra Light featured here. This is Smartwool’s thinnest, most lightweight sock, ideal for skiers with tight-fitting, custom-molded touring boots. Built with Indestrucawool and Shred Shield technology for better durability, and slip-preventing 4 Degree precision fit stitching, it’ll stay in place and last seasons to come.

PhD Ski Light Elite Pattern Socks

Available in Men’s & Women’s

The extensive PhD lineup offers varying levels of thickness and cushioning on its socks, and the Light Elite fits right in the middle. Featuring the same technical prowess as its counterparts—durability enhancing Indestructawool and 4 Degree precision fit—this sock also has a virtually seamless toe, which helps eliminate the chance for rubbing in a ski boot, thoughtfully placed cushioning in the toe, heel and shin, and mesh zones to enhance breathability. Finally, the Light Elite comes in a variety of colorful, eye-catching patterns, adding a splash of fun to the equation.

Women’s PhD Ski Ultra Light Print Socks

Here, it’s all about the print: With these women’s-specific ultra-lightweight socks, Smartwool implements its innovative printing technology to bring a one-of-a-kind Iuna Tinta artwork to life… on your feet. As with the rest of the PhD socks, you’ll find Indestructawool (a construction technology developed by Smartwool to prolong the life of merino yarns) and 4 Degree precision fit technology. Ladies who seek a thinner, more breathable sock—upping the ante for that coveted responsive feeling—this will be a match made in… sock heaven.

Curious which socks are right for you? Check out Smartwool’s Sock Finder to get customized suggestions from the experts.

Upgrade Your Inbox

Don't waste time seeking out the best skiing content; we'll send it all right to you.