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Hands-on Gear Review
Smartwool Hike Medium Crew - Women's Review
Cons: Not super breathable, expensive, average durability
Bottom line: This is our Editors' Choice for women because of its performance in all four seasons and the super cozy fabric feel.
The Smartwool Hike Medium boasts a perfect blend of comfort, warmth, and breathability. This women's specific sock features a merino-wool blend that is soft to the touch, comfortable, and luxurious. It won our Editors' Choice award (for women's hiking socks) because of its versatile performance. In our tests, it performed well in everything from zero to seventy-degree temperatures. We hiked it through wet trails and over deserts, and it still impressed us. We were especially happy to wear it while sleeping in a cold tent in sub-zero temperatures. Among our female testers, it was our favorite and a top recommendation. We just wouldn't wear it in the heat of the summer.
While the Smartwool Hike Medium is wonderful overall, it's only real downfall is its breathability. Constructed as a mid-weight sock intended for colder weather, this is no real surprise. That said, we would recommend a thinner contender like the Darn Tough Hiker Micro Crew Cushion, our Top Pick for warm weather for women. This also has a women's specific fit and better suited for high-intensity activities and is not compatible with a hiking boot.
If you're not particular about a female-specific fit, the Darn Tough Full Cushion sock is our Editors' Choice award winner for men. It boasts better durability than the Smartwool Hike Medium Sock and has a tighter, less cushioned fit overall. While there are many other options, we still love the Smartwool Hike Medium sock for women. It's a great four-season hiking option that will keep your feet happy and protected mile after mile.
RELATED REVIEW: The Best Hiking Socks of 2017
Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
The Smartwool Hike Medium is a women's hiking sock that provides the best in comfort, breathability, and drying speed. We love taking it day hiking, climbing, and backpacking. As one of our favorites, it won our Editors' Choice award for women's hiking sock.
This midweight full- boot hiker features a 66% Merino Wool, 33% Nylon, 1% Elastane blend that makes it one of the coziest and comfiest socks tested (nine out of ten). The fabric is thick underfoot and concentrated around the forefoot and heel. There is some compression paneling around the arch of the foot and the forefoot that keeps the sock from sliding up or down on the leg. The fabric is just sooooooo soft; much softer than the Darn Tough sock brands out there. Our testers didn't only love to hike for several comfortable miles, but many used this as a go-to option to slid tired and sore feet into at the end of a long day. We especially liked putting our feet into it in between routes at the climbing crag to give them a bit of a break from cramped climbing shoes. What's more is this is a full-boot sock, making it compatible with hiking boots or hiking shoes.
While this sock is super soft and cozy, its fit wasn't as precise as other contenders like the Smartwool PhD Medium Crew or Darn Tough Full Cushion. While the fit is female specific, some of our testers noted that the sock wasn't as tight as the previously mentioned competitors. Some of our testers liked this less "tight" design and deemed it more comfortable than other contenders. So what it comes down to is a matter of preference. If you're looking for a sock with a female-specific design and a less fitted design (with softer materials), then the Smartwool PhD Medium Crew is an excellent choice. If you prefer a sock that is more fitted, be sure to check out the Darn Tough contenders instead.
If you're in the market for a contender that isn't a full boot sock, the Smartwool PhD Medium Crew is just as comfortable and not as tall. Or if you prefer a model that sits closer to the ankle, we'd recommend the Darn Tough Micro Crew Hiker for women instead. If you want a super affordable unisex ankle sock, the People's Merino Wool Sock is a popular choice.
When evaluating warmth, we were surprised to learn that this Smartwool does well in all four seasons. The length of the sock makes it a good option to wear with a pair of ski or mountaineering boots in the winter and a pair of hiking socks in the summer. During our wet tests, we hiked around in the river in late Fall drenching the sock. While we hiked, our feet stayed warm and comfortable in forty degree weather. It continued to stay warm as the temperatures dropped, but only if we were moving (note: no wet sock will keep you warm if you're not moving).
In our dry tests, we learned it is one of the warmest in our tests. While hanging out in zero degree weather around a campfire, our feet stayed toasty and warm. This was also a go-to option during cold camping nights to wear to bed. Overall, we are very impressed with the warmth of the Smartwool Hike Medium for women and would recommend it for all seasons - including the cold ones.
In comparison to other contenders that scored a nine out of ten in this category, we were also impressed with the Darn Tough Full Hiker that demonstrated a similar level of warmth overall. The Smartwool PhD Crew was a close second, but it didn't keep our feet as warm in colder temperatures because of its thinner design. Overall, if you're looking for one of the warmest hiking socks out there - this is a great option.
Wicking and Breathability
We recommend this as a four-season option, as it does a decent job at wicking and breathing while on the trail. We already learned that it provides excellent warmth for cold days, but it's also an option for cooler summer days as well. The fabric is porous and offers good breathability while hiking and backpacking. That said, we wouldn't recommend it for high-intensity activities like trail running in the summer. In fact, our testers thought it was a great running option during super cold early morning runs.
If you're in the market for a model that is super breathable, be sure to check out the Darn Tough Hiker Micro Crew Cushion, our Top Pick for warm weather for women. This contender has thinner materials and provides better breathability on warmer days. It also has a lower ankle cut that keeps legs cooler in summer months. That said, it's not best to wear with a pair of hiking boots.
If you want a sock that wicks really well and absorbs little to no moisture on the trail, the synthetic Wigwam Hiking Outdoor Pro sock is the best option. In our testing, it wicked away water nicely and also provided great breathability overall because of its loosely woven fabric design. This is a great synthetic alternative to the merino-wool blend.
Scoring a six out of ten we weren't super impressed with the durability of the Smartwool Hike Medium sock - but we also didn't think it was bad either. In our testing, we noted a bit of compaction after just 20 miles and a few thread fly-aways. The construction just isn't as nice as other contenders in this review.
Other more durable contenders include the Darn Tough Full Cushion (Our Editors' Choice winner for men) that showed little to no wear and tear after 60 miles. The Wigwam Hiker Pro is also a super durable synthetic sock that showed no wear and tear after 60 miles of use and scored a perfect ten out of ten in this category! Both of these socks options are more durable than the Smartwool Hike Medium sock for women but have a more "male" fit. If you're in the market for a durable female-specific fit, the Darn Tough Micro Crew Hiker is a great option as well - scoring high in this metric. What's more is that all Darn Tough products come with a lifetime guarantee that we absolutely love!
A midweight merino-blend sock that dries quickly? Heck yes! Scoring an eight out of ten in this category, we are happy to report that this woman's hiker performed second best in this review! Drying (in our dryer tests) in just 110 minutes, we can say that we'd recommend this sock for all sorts of weather conditions.
The only socks that did better in this review include the ultra-inexpensive Danish Unisex Merino Wool and the Wigwam Hiker Pro. The Wigwam scored a perfect ten in this category as it was dry in just 90 minutes of dryer time. In our field tests, we noticed the same trend. This is attributed to the synthetic-blend design that dries more quickly than merino wool. The Danish Unisex Merino Wool socks have a 33% merino wool blend that dried out in just 100 minutes. With this in mind, these are two socks that dried within twenty minutes of the Smartwool Hike Medium. All are great recommendations for wet weather or river crossings.
Given the great performance in pretty much every category we are happy to say take this sock anywhere! A big reason it won our Editors' Choice award is thanks to its versatility that allows use through all seasons - in all sorts of weather. The only limit is super hot weather, where you might opt for a thinner sock that is ankle-length instead. In general, our testers were pretty pleased with the Smartwool Hike Medium sock for women and would recommend it for pretty much any outdoor adventure.
For just $19 you get one of the most versatile socks tested in this review. That said, because it didn't do the best in our durability metric, there are other options out there. While the Darn Tough Full Cushion sock is $24, it also comes with a lifetime guarantee. We loved the comfort and coziness of this Editors' Choice winner and that we could use it through all four-seasons (something most socks can't do). As a result, we'd still say its worth the price.
If you're looking for a cheaper (and high value) option, perhaps the Danish Unisex Merino Wool, an affordable merino-wool blend unisex boot sock, is a better fit. Or if you're in the market for an ankle-high sock instead (that's affordable), check out the People's Merino Wool Hiking sock that sells for about $9 per sock!.
The Smartwool Hike Medium Crew is perfect for any woman looking to hike, backpack, or just get out in nature. It features some of the coziest materials that are both breathable and quick to dry. It boasts versatility as one of the few socks that we recommend for all four seasons. As a result, it won our Editors' Choice award for women this year.
— Amber King
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