Smartwool PhD Run Light Elite Review

March 6, 2018
Smartwool PhD Run Light Elite
GEAR INSTITUTE RATINGS
94
Fit
9
Comfort
9
Wicking
8
Durability
8

The Good

  • Winter warrior
  • Wicks well
  • Roomy toe

The Bad

  • Heel stretch
  • Slack on smaller feet
THE VERDICT
This Smartwool sock provides cushioning underfoot without compromising breathability.
FULL REVIEW

Several testers praised this sock for its all-around qualities. It was rated the most comfortable sock overall and a runner-up for wicking. Eluding the usual tradeoff between those qualities put this sock ahead of the rest. The Smartwool PhD Run Light Elite didn’t get many comfort notes on first impressions but earned the highest scores as they remained soft and snug during long runs. The mesh in the midfoot aids fit and wicking, and there’s also the “4 Degree Elite fit system” which uses two elastics to keep the sock in place while stretching enough that the sock moves with the foot.

Fit/Comfort
Smartwool scored the only 9 for comfort in our test, beating out more plush socks that weren’t as comfortable for everyone during runs. They also stayed in place during long runs. The wool added a range of temperature control which kept feet warm during fall test runs without overheating feet on warmer runs. “Construction is solid, no loose loops or pulling internally, and extra padding in the toe and heel added a touch more cushioning,” said one tester.

Wicking
Testers consistently noted the wicking performance of these socks, which comes from the different densities of the wool-poly mesh around the top of the foot and in the arch.

Durability
These running socks use a new Indestructawool (patent-pending) construction for building the cushioning in the toe pad and heel to address past wear issues.

The PhD Run Light Elite has a mesh construction on the upper foot and more cushioning in the heel and toe. In dry climates, the socks didn’t hold sweat in the upper 80s F, and when temperatures dipped below 50 degrees, this became a go-to for several testers. The wool traps some body heat on cooler runs. Others noted the sock held some moisture, but away from the foot. One tester noted pilling after the first wash but said it did not progress in subsequent washings.

Smartwool PhD Run Light Elite socks on foot
A top view shows the men’s-specific mesh for more breathability and targeted moisture release.
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WHERE TO BUY
MSRP
$18.00
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*Your purchase helps to support the work of Gear Institute.
HOW WE TESTED

We called in 10 pairs of socks from established brands as well as newer entries to the market. We tested a mix of socks that will either debut in spring 2018, or are 2017 sock styles that will carry over into 2018 with new colors or patterns. Samples of variant styles were sent to our testers, who as road shoe testers, tended to prefer low-cut, thinner socks. Some ran in taller, more cushioned socks, though testers judged each pair based on the design’s intended use. We focused on the performance features in the foot of the sock, and our testers reported differences in the low-cut socks tied to the shape of their feet and the types of shoes they wore. 

Our testers ran in these throughout the fall in different climates, including Colorado, California and British Columbia. Most of the testing coincided with our road shoe testing, though several runners took these on trail and training runs, too.

USER REVIEWS

No reviews have been posted for this product.

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