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Pat Kinsella

Smartwool Hike Classic Edition 2nd Cut Crew Socks review: recycled socks that walk the walk

Smartwool Hike Classic Edition 2nd Cut Crew Socks.

Meet the reviewer

Smartwool Hike Classic Edition 2nd Cut Crew Socks: first impressions

Arguably, hiking socks have to cope with more stress than any other piece of outdoor apparel; bearing your full weight, they’re constantly in contact with your foot (including your toenails) and the insole of whatever hiking boot or trekking shoe they have been paired with. Then you have to factor in the friction caused by repetitive movement of your walking gait.


• List price: $22 (US) / £27 (UK)
• Style & height: Crew
• Weight (per pair): 85g / 3oz
• Gender specificity: Men’s / Women’s
• Sizes: Men’s: S / M / L / XL; Women’s: S / M / L
• Materials: Merino Wool (33%), Nylon (9%), Recycled Nylon (24%), Other Content (33%), Elastane (1%)
• Colors: Men’s: Mist Blue / Light Gray; Women’s: Twilight Blue / Purple Iris
• Best for: Hiking, trekking, day walking, backpacking

On top of that, in contrast to other hard-working garments such as waterproof coats and hiking pants, most people wash their socks after every wear, and the laundering process takes its toll too. Suffice to say, the turnover rate in your sock draw is probably sky high in comparison to other sections of your outdoor wardrobe.

All of this makes the arrival of a circular (or at least semi-circular) sock a very welcome thing to report on. Because, what do you think happens to all those old, knackered walking socks? Sadly, most end up incinerated or in landfill, and if they’re made of a synthetic fabric like nylon or polyester, they will probably hang around on the planet for centuries, possibly longer. 

With Smartwool’s 2nd Cut range, however, socks that are beyond use are being given a second life as… another sock. OK, so in terms of the reincarnation lottery, the sock in question might have dreamed of a bigger and more exciting existence, but for the sake of the environment, this is a noble calling. And for us end users, investing in a sock that doesn’t leave a large footprint in the Earth we keep trampling all over is a very good thing. 

Smartwool Hike Classic Edition 2nd Cut Crew Socks: design and construction

Warning: these socks contain “unknown material” (but that’s down to their recycled nature – they don’t contain unidentified alien DNA or radioactive waste) (Image credit: Pat Kinsella)

Why did I say ‘semi-circular’ sock? Well, at this stage, Smartwool are combining the pre-loved fabric they’re harvesting from secondhand socks (which is primarily nylon, along with quite a large percentage of intriguingly labelled ‘unknown material’) with some new synthetics (a small percentage of virgin nylon, plus some elastane) and responsibly sourced Merino wool, which, in fairness, is the fabric the brand is literally built around. 

But the wool isn’t just there to keep up appearances. As we all know by now, Merino brings with it myriad positives that enhance any garment its used in, including superb next-to-skin comfort, fantastic thermal properties, magnificent moisture-wicking capability and naturally occurring bacteria-bashing skills that stop socks from stinking (and actually mean you can get away with laundering them less, improving their lifespan). 

So the Merino element will undoubtedly stay, but Smartwool say they are working to completely cut out the use of non-recycled synthetics in this range, which we look forward to seeing. For now, as well as wearing these partly recycled socks, you can contribute to the future closure of the circle by sending Smartwool your old feet warmers.

In the meantime, the 2nd Cut sock from the current range that I’ve been testing is the Smartwool Hike Classic. This is full cushion crew sock, which extends halfway up the shin. 

Smartwool Hike Classic Edition 2nd Cut Crew Socks: on the trails

The recycled 2nd Cut socks are every bit as luxurious and comfy as the rest of Smartwool’s range (Image credit: Pat Kinsella)

I’ve been wearing some Smartwool Hike Classic 2nd Cut socks for several weeks, trail testing them with a range of different hiking shoes and boots in various environments, amid the dramatically changing conditions of springtime in the South West. 

The first thing to say is that, if you’re at all concerned about recycled material impacting on the comfort level of the sock, you can park those worries. The 2nd Cut socks are every bit as luxurious and comfy as the rest of Smartwool’s range, which I rate very highly on this front.

The full-cushion design is ideal for hiking (Image credit: Pat Kinsella)

The med-level thickness and full-cushion design add to these already high comfort levels, providing welcome relief from repeated footfall no matter how much midsole your outer footwear is bringing to the party. Personally, at this time of year (and indeed, for at least 10 months of every year, outside of midsummer) I like a crew sock; for me this design and height provides the right level of thermal cover and protection from rubbing (from the cuff of a boot) and aggressive flora and fauna, from ticks to stinging nettles and brambles.

While I’m excited to see how Smartwool reduce the use of non-recycled synthetics in future, the current inclusion of nylon and elastane helps the sock maintain its shape, stops it developing holes (which all-Merino garments are prone to doing) and also means it stays in place around the middle of your shin, as opposed to falling down around you ankles.

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