Smartwool PhD 7-inch 2-in-1 Trail Shorts ReviewOctober 24, 2017
- Soft support
- Temperature range
- Feel warm at first
- Holds some sweat to work
Smartwool has increased its options of running socks and apparel, and while the brief lined shorts remain best sellers, we preferred the fit and performance of the longer, boxer-brief of the PhD 7-inch 2-in-1 trail shorts. They not only provided more coverage, the shorts gave us a better feel of how wool wicks moisture during runs. The wool is the performance “tech” if you will, and it’s woven around a polyester core mesh for added support and durability. It’s the wool that comes in direct contact with the skin though, and these proved to be cozy and absorbent run shorts even on the hottest days.
The mid-rise, semi-fitted outer short has a 7-inch inseam that sits an inch longer than the liner tight. The PhD 7-inch 2-in-1 trail shorts boxer brief liner is constructed with flat rear seams, but unlike other shorts tested, these weren’t distracting during long runs. This is likely due to the more relaxed stretch and fit of the wool-poly mix liner. The liner’s legs fit snug without the constriction of any compression and didn’t get stuck on the thigh when pulled up during steep, walk-up sections of trail runs. A simple drawstring provides a secure fit without getting in the way.
At first, the wool boxer brief liner of the PhD 7-inch 2-in-1 trail shorts felt warmer than the usual polyester liners, especially for summer runs, but that went away before the start of most runs. On the flip-side, that heavier feel was welcome on cool morning starts. Temperature regulation is where wool excels and the liner short adjusted mid-run with the body when the trail wound from a sunny exposed side of the mountain into the shady cover of pines and residual snow. Once these started to collect sweat, the liner’s crotch felt heavier than the other shorts tested, but not soggy. Even when wet, the liner never felt abrasive or itchy against sensitive spots. These were also comfortable during hikes to meet others at a trail.
The PhD 7-inch 2-in-1 trail shorts boxer brief liner wicked moisture efficiently and stood out for its ability to rebound from being overloaded by sweat. This was due in part to wool’s hydrophobic nature and also by the mix of polyester to create a mesh framework construction. During runs, the liner drew moisture away from the body, and the swishing action of running helped air it out during runs. Like every short tested, these held sweat at the waist and crotch after roughly 7 miles. However, it would also air out quickly during runs, when the pace and sweat were less intense. One exception was a test run on a 95-degree day with 85 percent humidity, which soaked through the liner and shell within 3 miles.
The wool ingredient of the PhD 7-inch 2-in-1 trail shorts is the biggest feature in terms of comfort and performance. Wool’s antibacterial properties also made these the best travel option, with one tester running in them again without washing them after the soak-through run mentioned above. Stash pocket options included a small zippered pocket on the left and a covered pocket on the right. The deep tapered shape of the covered drop-in pocket was good for stashing gloves, or an empty energy food wrapper, without worrying those would work their way out. That pocket’s shape was not good for storing smaller items, as a stray energy gel easily got stuck in the bottom. The shorts include 360-degree reflectivity, which increase visibility in lower light conditions.
Stinky shorts get thrown out, so wool’s odor-control gets credit here, too. Wool is prone to wear and stretch by itself, but the polyester framework of the liner will keep its shape for a long time. We know from plenty of wool-poly running sock tests that this mix is durable, and socks take far more abuse than shorts. The PhD 7-inch 2-in-1 trail shorts liner developed a hole from the five scrapes of sandpaper, but that’s why the outer short is there for protection. The stretchy shell scuffed, but absorbed most of the scratch test’s damage. The outer short showed no other signs of giving out or holding enough sweat to let odor creep in.
Test runs varied from cool morning 15-milers at 9,000 feet to hot midday 5Ks at 5,000 feet. Late spring and early morning runs around Denver began in the mid-40s and crept into the 60s, with shade and exposure to sun and wind as extra variables common in trail running. Denver’s summer put temperatures into the 90s and even offered up moderate humidity to better test the breathability. A few runs in Central Texas weather, in particular the mornings with 80 percent humidity, guaranteed we sweat through even the most breathable pair of shorts. In all we ran over 600 miles in these shorts; between 75-150 miles in each pair.