In this review, we will take a closer look at the Smartwool Hike Light Cushion Crew Socks and assess their performance. These socks claim to deliver lightweight comfort and protection during your hikes, thanks to their light cushioning, merino wool blend, and a range of useful features. We examine their strengths, weaknesses, design, key characteristics, technical features, and everything else you need to know to decide if these hiking socks are the right choice for your outdoor adventures.
The socks you choose can significantly impact your comfort, performance, and overall experience. That’s why we thoroughly tested the Hike Light Cushion Crew socks to evaluate their ability to keep your feet happy in various conditions and terrains. From material and construction to functionality, we’ll delve into all the details.
Let’s delve deeper!
Table of Contents
Quick specs: Smartwool Hike Light Cushion Crew Socks
Weight: 76 g (2.68 oz) for size XL (men’s)
Material: 56% Merino wool, 31% recycled nylon, 11% nylon, 2% elastane
- Light cushioning absorbs impact well and gives sufficient warmth for a more comfortable experience in cool-to-cold weather. At the same time, these socks feel comfortably cool when walking in warm weather.
- Improved body-mapped mesh zones for added breathability work equally well both in warm and cold conditions.
- Indestructawool technology for enhanced durability.
- 4 Degree elite fit system provides a performance fit so that the socks do not slide into the boots.
- Flat knit toe seam help prevent any irritation or discomfort while wearing these socks.
- Versatile: updated performance hiking socks (formerly PhD Outdoor) that are built for adventures. These work flawlessly in any conditions and environments, in warm and cold weather. Best for three-season hiking but can also be used in mild winter days.
- Soft, super comfortable, and do not itch: these socks have light cushioning, but it’s the right amount of cushion that you need to avoid blisters. The padding, along with their excellent moisture-wicking abilities and improved mesh zones, ensures that the Smartwool Hike Light Cushion Socks stay very comfortable for both indoor and outdoor activities.
- Fit very well and, unlike other models, these socks do not fall. The well-placed heel and “stay put” fit keep them in place without feeling uncomfortably tight.
- Odor-resistant: resist odors well, thanks to their relatively high merino content. We don’t recommend it for these or any other socks (in normal situations/scenarios), but these can be worn for days without any issues if needed.
- With great craftsmanship and functional design, these go well with both lightweight trail-running shoes and hiking boots.
- The snug fit might restrict blood circulation for some people.
- Some pilling around the toe and ankle area after a couple of washes. Seems unusual but it’s a minor problem (it seems that this shouldn’t be of great concern).
- While the construction seems to be fairly durable, we wouldn’t risk them washing in a washing machine unless really necessary (potential dangers: shrinking if washing at a higher temperature, snagging holes, etc.). We feel that they need to be hand-washed to maintain their excellent condition for longer.
- Even if washed in lukewarm water, these may shrink a little because of the 56% wool in the sock blend. If you are between two sizes, you can avoid any negative consequences by always choosing the bigger one.
We got the Smartwool Hike Light Cushion Crew socks in early spring 2023 and have been testing them in a variety of conditions and environments since. These socks, including the ankle version, have been our regular companions throughout most of 2023. They fit snugly and stay in place even during challenging all-day hikes. They are soft and very comfortable. The light cushioning feels more like a medium cushion and helps keep feet comfortable on even the roughest terrains. The socks are suited to work well with both trail-running shoes and hiking boots, have excellent moisture-wicking abilities, and breathe sufficiently well in various conditions, reducing the risk of blisters.
Want to know what else we have found out? Below is a detailed account of our experience with the Smartwool Hike Light Cushion socks. We’ll tell you more about their pros, cons, and features, and what we liked and didn’t like about them.
Material and construction
The Smartwool Hike Light Cushion Crew Socks are made from a blend of materials: 56% merino wool, 31% recycled nylon, 11% nylon, and 2% elastane. This blend results in a fabric that’s both soft and doesn’t cause itching (hence they are comfy for a wide range of activities). The merino is a ZQ-certified merino wool from New Zealand, while a significant portion of the nylon material is recycled. All the materials are of high quality.
Surprisingly or not, the construction seems to be solid enough to endure the challenges associated with tough off-road hiking. We give credit to the Indestructawool technology for the enhanced overall durability of these socks. The seamless toe minimizes bulk and adds to the comfort reducing wear and tear. It significantly reduces the risk of getting blisters during challenging off-road hikes.
We’ve put these to the test since spring, and they have held up well. We’ve encountered no issues so far and our initial impressions are very positive. However, it’s still early to talk about long-term durability as it is yet to be determined. Only time will tell how they fare in the long run (when we buy premium hiking socks, we expect them to accompany us on lots of outdoor adventures). We’ll have more information about this in the coming months and will provide further updates.
Similar to other Smartwool products, these socks come with Smartwool’s 100% Satisfaction Guarantee, known as the ‘Go Far. Feel Good. Guarantee‘. It’s pretty simple – if you don’t like what you bought, you can get a new pair within two years from when you bought them. It’s a way to make sure you’re happy with your purchase.
Design and fit
We like the astute design – it is simple yet incredibly effective. It’s no surprise, as these socks are among the best in their class, and there are few comparable models out there. The construction has some nice features, such as body-mapped venting zones, seamless toes, ribbed cuffs, and light cushioning. Each of these features works well on its own, but when combined, they contribute to a streamlined and functional sock design.
While the sock fits snugly and offers a performance-oriented fit, the ribbed cuff isn’t too tight and feels comfortable most of the time. However, some may find them a bit uncomfortable for all-day wear (more on this in the Thickness, warmth, and comfort section below).
There are three sizes available in both men’s and women’s versions – M, L, and XL and S, M, and L respectively. The size we’ve reviewed here is XL. The socks fit perfectly for someone typically wearing a size 12.5-13 US or EUR 47-47 1/3 boots. If you are between two sizes, we recommend choosing the bigger one because the socks will inevitably shrink a bit after washing.
There are six color options to choose from. Some of the color combinations may seem a bit odd, but they actually look good in practice. Smartwool periodically substitutes some colors with others. The color shown here is Military Olive. It was available a few months ago but has since been replaced by the Military Olive-Fossil version. The new color is lighter and has a more grassy appearance (a combination of light green, various shades of brown, and a touch of white). In contrast, the original Military Olive had a darker green, gray, grayish blue, and a hint of orange. While we prefer the old color combination, the new one isn’t bad at all.
Those who prefer less colorful socks may be a bit disappointed. All colors are actually four-color combos.
Hiking socks with a crew length and light cushioning typically weigh between 60 grams (2.12 ounces) and 80 grams (2.82 ounces). While the weight of your socks may not be the most important factor to consider, it still can be important depending on your likes, the weather, the type of ground you’re walking on, and how long you’ll be active. Generally, lower weight means less bulk and increased agility.
The Smartwool Hike Light Cushion Crew Socks, in the XL men’s size, weigh about 76 grams (2.68 ounces). That’s right in the middle between the shorter Smartwool Light Hike Cushion Ankle socks (55 grams or 1.94 ounces), and the thicker Smartwool Full Hike Cushion Crew socks (95 grams or 3.35 ounces).
In the world of hiking socks, these Smartwool socks find a nice middle ground in terms of weight. They aren’t among the very lightest, but they’re not the heaviest either on the market of premium hiking socks with similar characteristics and features. How do they stack up against their main competitors? One of their competitors, the Darn Tough Light Hiker Micro Crew, is 64 grams (2.26 ounces) in the XL size. Another popular choice, the Farm to Feet Damascus Light Targeted Cushion Crew socks, weigh 64 grams (2.26 ounces) for size M. This means that the size XL will be slightly lighter or on par with Smartwool’s Light Hike Cushion Crew.
Now, here’s the surprising part: the Icebreaker Hike+ Light Crew socks (another contender suitable for year-round hiking and backpacking) are quite heavy, at 142 grams (5 ounces) for size XL. This is surprising for socks with lightweight cushioning unless there’s an error on the part of the Icebreaker team.
Thickness, warmth, and comfort
The Smartwool Hike Light Cushion Crew Socks are built for milder weather. They are bulk-free and focused on providing a balance between warmth, comfort, and breathability. Here’s how they measure up:
- Insulation for cool-to-cold temperatures: These socks provide just the right amount of insulation for light and fast hiking in cool-to-cold temperatures. However, we wouldn’t use these in temps below 0-5°C (32-41°F) as there are much better options for colder weather like the Smartwool Hike Full Cushion Crew.
- Versatility in warmer weather: The Smartwool Hike Light Cushion Crew Socks work great even in higher temperatures (we’ve used them in temperatures up to around 30°C). In general, we prefer wearing shorts and ankle socks for warmer conditions but these particular socks offer a strong alternative. We’d use them in warmer temps, especially for off-road hiking and bushwhacking, where they provide better protection against scratchy and thorny plants and vegetation.
- Overall comfort: The cuff, seamless toe, and overall construction are designed with comfort in mind. If you get the right fit for your feet, there will be no hot spots or areas of pressure during long hikes, which enhances the overall comfort immensely. Long hikes are no problem at all.
- Snug fit for larger calves: If you have larger calves, you might feel a bit odd at first when putting on these socks because they fit really snugly. While this might be a very positive or negative thing for some, it’s neither a significant advantage nor an issue for us.
- Odor resistance: We’ve pushed these to the limit by wearing them for three consecutive days during all-day hikes, only changing them for the night. Both the moisture-wicking abilities and the odor-resistant material turned out to work efficiently enough diminishing excessive wetting and preventing smelly feet. The negative thing was the look of the lower legs after a long day on the trail – they looked rather compressed.
- Resilience when wet: These socks maintain their compressive nature even when they get wet, unlike other socks that go limp and start to bunch.
Versatility and reliability are key advantages of the Smartwool Hike Light Cushion Crew socks. We tested these socks in various conditions and they have demonstrated great functionality in weather varying from cool to very warm. They perform well in mild temperatures and remain reliable in cooler, warmer, or even hot weather.
The so-called “light cushioning” is more than enough for comfortable hiking in most environments and conditions. Strategically placed at critical areas throughout the sock, including underfoot, toes, ankle, and just above the Achilles, it offers the perfect amount of support without making the socks too heavily padded. This is sufficient to ensure your feet feel fantastic during long hikes in spring, summer or fall.
We tested them with both lightweight trail running shoes and sturdier options. Navigating rough terrain wasn’t a problem, it was fun. In addition, the sock’s length and cushioning make them a great match for over-the-ankle style boots. The “stay put” design effectively prevents slipping, so they won’t fall while walking.
Now, a word on proper care and maintenance. We will never get tired of repeating that you should always follow the manufacturer’s instructions. In this case, Smartwool recommends machine washing with warm water on a gentle cycle. We prefer hand washing in cool water with mild soap, and we recommend it. This way, you can prolong the useful life of not only the socks but also other woolen garments like underwear, base layers, shirts, and even headbands. This helps prevent the transfer of dyes, cross-staining, shrinking, and pilling. In our opinion, machine washing is a better solution for larger items only.
Moisture management and drying speed
Keeping the wearer’s feet dry and happy should be the primary goal of every pair of hiking socks. To achieve this, they should provide excellent breathability, moisture management, and quick drying.
The first component is the merino wool blend, which greatly enhances their moisture-wicking abilities. Thanks to the natural properties of this material, your feet will stay dry and comfortable even during high-intensity activities.
The second component is strategically placed ventilation. The addition of body-mapped breathing zones on the top of the foot is no coincidence. This clever design enhances ventilation in areas prone to sweating during rigorous activities. If you have sweaty feet, you’ll notice how effectively these zones manage moisture.
The third component is drying speed. Thanks to the material and light cushioning, these socks dry relatively fast, especially when dried in cool, mild, or warm and dry conditions. In such conditions, you can expect them to dry in approximately an hour or two. We avoid drying woolen items under direct sunlight and we recommend that you should do the same. Drying wool under direct sunlight leads to shrinking and discoloration.
These socks not only dry quickly (from water and sweat) but also do an excellent job of resisting odors. Merino wool’s ability to combat odors, known as “low odor retention”, is a well-known fact that helps keep feet feeling fresh even during extended wear.
After a few washes, we noticed some minor pilling around the toe and ankle area. Fortunately, this pilling isn’t a major concern and remains limited.
The usual price of the Smartwool Hike Light Cushion Crew Socks is $24, which makes them a bit on the pricier side when compared to other options available in the market.
However, many direct competitors with similar features and characteristics are also in the same price range. This includes options like Smartwool’s Hike Classic Edition Light Cushion Crew ($20), Darn Tough Light Hiker Micro Crew ($24), Icebreaker Merino Hike+ Light Crew ($23), and Farm to Feet Damascus Light Targeted Cushion Crew ($25).
Considering the quality, functionality, and reliability of these socks, the investment is well worth it. You’re not only getting a top-performing product but also the peace of mind that comes with the brand’s reputation for quality. In this case, it comes with the manufacturer’s warranty too.
Thanks to their thoughtful design, merino wool blend, and light cushioning, the Smartwool Hike Light Cushion Crew Socks offer excellent performance. These socks are perfect for long hikes, offering a great balance of lightness, breathability, comfort, and durability during most of the year. While they may not be the best choice for colder weather, they do an excellent job of keeping your feet dry and comfortable across a wide range of temperatures.
These socks are priced similarly to some of their direct competitors. However, considering their quality, functionality, and reliability, we believe they are an excellent investment. We highly recommend them.
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