Merino wool appears to be in the noughties what polarfleece was to the eighties: The whole world seems to be discovering what a versatile fabric this is – from outer layer jackets right through to socks. Smartwool is an American Company now devoted to the task of creating fantastic socks after having been frustrated by the range of ski socks on the market. Their promotional information appears misleading as they quote getting the wool from New Zealand on their packaging but after watching an informative video on their website, they say they get the wool from Australia. Not being one to split hairs, I will let this pass. Just be aware New Zealanders are very protective over their sheep.
We have now been wearing three different varieties of socks for six months and this is what we think.
This is their most lightweight sock with a waffle weave in the fabric allowing for plenty of breathability. This was my summer sock of choice to the point that I was yelling things like ‘Damn woman, where’s me other little riding sock!” in fits of fustration as I tore the house apart. Obviously I was having a man’s look, but when the weather was hot I like my feet to be cool and these did that job perfectly.
It is obviously a summer sock however, and in slightly colder conditions I could feel the wind coming through my shoes and directly to my feet.
The breakdown: 58% wool, 33% nylon and 9% elastic. You can even tumble dry these puppies.
Adrenaline Mini Crew
These were the heaviest of the three with extra padding here and a little vent there. On their product info they say things like “1×1 rib cuff, SmartFit system, light half-cushion sole and the flat-loop toe seam” which doesn’t really mean a lot to me. But apparently it all helps to make the sock fit better and work better, and it seemed to work. I referred to these as my epic socks. For days when I would be riding for hours on end and potentially doing a bit of walking – something like the Merida 100 Builth Wells – these gave an amazing amount of comfort whether they were wet or dry. They also seemed to dry very quickly after river crossings.
They did run a little warm though (but only a little) and I tended to avoid them in the hottest conditions.
The breakdown: 72% wool, 26% nylon, 2% elastic. You can tumble dry these too.
These were a cross between the two above. Apparently they were designed for cyclists, runners and x-trainers and is SmartWool’s most technical athletic design.
I didn’t actually test these as much as the other two mainly as the sample I was provided with was a lovely pimpy cream colour. When wearing them I rather felt I should actually be wearing sandals and a trench coat wandering around the park. That said they were were a great do-it-all sock. Any time, any weather, these were perfect for the task at hand.
The breakdown: 61% Smartwool, 29% nylon, 10% elastic. (yes…. you can even tumble dry these too).
I have been impressed with the comfort and features of the Smartwool socks. As always when it comes to items as seemingly basic as socks it can be easy to overlook the benefits of some of the more specialist offerings. These can make your day, if even only slightly, more enjoyable and will last longer than most standard market choices. So even if you can’t see yourself stretching your budget to pair, it could be a good idea to recommend them to a grey-haired in your life before they buy you another pack of triple sports socks for Christmas.
Check out full details at the slightly funky Smartwool website (you need flash though) at www.smartwool.com