If you meet Conrad Anker, one of the most iconic athletes in alpine climbing, you’d think he’s a little quiet, somewhat stoic, and altogether polite. But when it comes to socks, Anker’s loud.
That’s why SmartWool, the leading merino wool clothing company in the run, snow and active lifestyle markets, brought him on board: to help put the latest iteration of their PhD Performance Sock Collection featuring new Indestructawool™ technology to the test.
“We would send him prototypes and he would wear-test them for us to measure comfort and durability,” says Molly Cuffe, SmartWool’s Global Brand Manager, of working with the storied mountaineer. “He’s really engaged and interested in fit depending on environment, whether he’s ascending, descending, on ice, et cetera.”
Anker is just one piece of the puzzle behind the patent-pending Indestructawool™ technology, a merino wool-based durability system that brings the life of SmartWool’s sport-focused socks to an all-time high. John Ramsay, the head designer behind this project at SmartWool, is the other piece to this puzzle–he’s a fifth generation sock developer whose mission in life is to create the best sock in the world. By strategically placing nylon in the heel and toe, where socks wear out most easily, and wool along the foot and up the leg for comfort, SmartWool’s new PhD socks are proving to be 30% more durable than previous versions. Plus, they are made on 200 needle count machines, which allow knitting the lightest sock possible with the finest yarns. Overall, SmartWool is betting these socks will not only be more comfortable and efficient at wicking moisture during your adventures, they’ll forgo holes longer than other socks you own.
All of which is to say that SmartWool’s PhD Performance Socks, which have been around since 2008, have hit their best version yet. The collection has steadily risen to fortitude over the years, building on technologies the company creates for each iteration. The most recent version, born in 2013 and featuring what the brand called Reliawool™, was incredibly popular. The new release featuring Indestructawool™ technology–starting with the hiking version of the socks sold exclusively at REI through the summer–will feature the brand’s 4 Degree Elite Fit System, which places elastic in specific spots to keep the socks from bunching or slipping, and sport-specific cushioning, adding extra padding in places like the ball of the foot or under the heel.
Constant testing, innovating and improving is the mantra at SmartWool. Similar to how they work with athletes, SmartWool designers take real-time data from their 34,000 Fan Field Testers, find out what they are looking for and work to create solutions. To make sure they are developing something worthwhile, the SmartWool team will enlist testers to wear the socks for months straight, simulating multiple years of wear to test durability. In the case of Indestructawool™, the socks didn’t wear out, even after 70 days.
“For our new PhD Performance socks we had thru-hikers, mountaineers and our employees testing months and even years in advance,” says Mark Satkiewicz, SmartWool’s CEO. “These socks have proven their durability time and again.”
The 2016 version of PhD Performance Socks also features gender-specific mesh ventilation and thermal body-mapping. And if holes arise before you summit, SmartWool will replace the socks for you, honoring their 100% Satisfaction Guarantee.
But according to Conrad Anker, “SmartWool is always trying to build the best sock possible. And this season’s PhD socks are exactly that.”