Less expensive Smartwool alternative?
January 3, 2011 9:13 PM   Subscribe

I'm a recent Smartwool socks convert. I love that they are they are non-scratchy, moisture wicking and stay warm and dry and comfortable all day. I'd like to get a few more pairs, but the ones I like (Hiker Street, men's medium) are ~$20. Anyone have a just-as-good alternative, or is Smartwool really so unique that it justifies the pricetag?
posted by The Dutchman to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (27 answers total) 48 users marked this as a favorite
I'm also a Smartwool convert! I've not found an alternative. Keep an eye on REI's Outlet and regular sales. Also Sierra Trading Post for better deals.
posted by gingerbeer at 9:26 PM on January 3, 2011 [3 favorites]

I found some smartwool socks at Costco and they are pretty good as well as cheap. A package of 3 for $8.
posted by cazoo at 9:30 PM on January 3, 2011

REI has a housebrand of wool socks that are mostly as nice as Smartwool. I also lucked into a batch of Head brand wool socks at CostCo that have held up very nicely over the years, but I'm no longer a member, so I have no idea if they still carry them. Other than that, I'll echo gingerbeer: watch for sales and stock up. My current system is just that I get one pair of SmartWool socks each time I happen to be at REI--that way each $20 expense doesn't seem as bad as it would if I tried to replace all my socks at once.
posted by fuzzygerdes at 9:33 PM on January 3, 2011 [2 favorites]

Sierra trading post often has smartwool socks. Men's typically have run about $8-10/pair, when they're in stock. You can set up an email alert to let you know when they get more in. (kids are closer to $5, which is why I'm glad I have small feet!)
posted by leahwrenn at 9:37 PM on January 3, 2011

If you live near a TJMaxx or Marshall's check there! They often carry Smartwool for much less (I've picked up the women's hiking socks for ~$7). My dad says LLBean Outlets also have sales on them sometimes.
posted by dayspteh at 9:52 PM on January 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

FWIW - Some of my smartwool socks (hiking grade) are still awesome after 14 to 10 years. The ones I bought 7 years ago for cycling (thinner ankle version) not so much.
posted by jbenben at 9:53 PM on January 3, 2011

I've worn the same two pair of smartwool men's mediums just about every evening for the last five years. I think they're worth the high initial investment.
posted by macinchik at 10:04 PM on January 3, 2011

I've been very happy with SmartWool over the years, but 2yrs ago started buying the Costco 'Kirkland' socks Cazoo mentioned. They aren't identical (more here) but they are definitely a similar blend of materials and closer to SmartWool than anything else on the market. Although SmartWool are great and available in a wider variety of styles (light weight, low-cut, cycling, etc) at <$3/pair makes it tough as usual, to compete with Costco.
posted by notpeter at 10:44 PM on January 3, 2011

Nordstrom Rack sometimes has Smartwool socks in stock, at a discount.
posted by spinifex23 at 11:14 PM on January 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

Icebreaker socks are just as good. They're expensive too, but that doubles your chance of finding them on sale.

I havespent most of this winter (my first in Alaska) wearing head to toe Smartwool: hat, gloves, socks, long underwear. Heavenly. Everything seems really durable, too.
posted by charmcityblues at 12:14 AM on January 4, 2011

Yeah, I'd second that Costco Kirkland socks are a decent imitation. Smartwools are better but the price is so much better for Kirklands.
posted by Happydaz at 12:42 AM on January 4, 2011

Have you tried any of Smartwool's other models? I've been wearing nothing but Light Hikers for the last five years or so. With Google's help, I've always been able to find them for $11-$12/pair, generally with free shipping if I buy enough.
posted by jon1270 at 2:53 AM on January 4, 2011

Seconding the TJ Maxx/Marshalls recommendation and the Icebreakers recommendation. I like the REI store brand socks all right but not as much as Smartwool. I've also gotten some nice wool socks made by Keen (at Marshalls). The only problem with Marshalls/TJs is that sometimes they don't have any good socks at all, so it's not worth making a special trip, but if there's one next to your supermarket or something it's worth making a quick run past the sock aisle when you're in the neighborhood.
posted by mskyle at 4:28 AM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

My wool Wigwams typically last as long as my SmartWool stuff. I've got pairs of both that are pushing 15 years old. So if you see a deal, snap up some of them. Usually $10-$15/pair, though there's a place in my town that has blemished ones for $5/pair.

LL Bean has some even awesomer wool socks, but they're not cheap either. Wool is just plain more expensive than lesser materials.
posted by pjaust at 6:05 AM on January 4, 2011

I did a search for "smartwool outlet" and came up with plenty of results. This site looks promising.

I can vouch for ZB Sports, as that's exactly where I buy my Smartwool socks. If you get on their mailing list, they frequently send out 10% discount coupons, so you can get a six-pack of the Hiker Streets for $89 and change including Priority Mail shipping, or about $15 per pair.
posted by The Michael The at 6:19 AM on January 4, 2011

Ebay! I got some last summer for super cheap there. I will also second the Nordstrom Rack suggestion (I got the knee high ski socks for 10 a pair), and also the REI house brand.
posted by bibliogrrl at 6:19 AM on January 4, 2011

I mainly only wear Smartwool socks but I recently got some of the REI merino socks and they are about the same. I got these guys, $14.
posted by ghharr at 6:47 AM on January 4, 2011

*sigh* My experience is that nothing is as good as Smartwool, although the REI version is OK. I've resigned myself to the fact that I have to fork out some cash every now and then for the best socks ever.
Now that I've voiced it, Smartwool socks socks will now suddenly disappear, just like the old LL Bean hunting jackets and good jeans...
not that I'm bitter or anything...
posted by pentagoet at 6:59 AM on January 4, 2011

Even better than smartwool are bridgedales. I promise you, they hold up better, and don't get as stinky over time. As for price, they are about the same, sierra traing post have them for about $10 a pair. Once I switched, I never went back.
posted by TheBones at 7:05 AM on January 4, 2011

I don't know anything about Smartwool. How is it better than cotton?
posted by musofire at 7:16 AM on January 4, 2011

I used to be all about Smartwool socks, but found that they wore out on me too fast. I now wear Darn Tough socks, which are maybe even a little more expensive than the equivalent smartwools (when you buy them at retail) but hold up much better in my experience and are just as comfortable and high performace...even their bicycle socks can be worn and worn and never pop holes. Just another data point. You could probably find them on ebay/sierra trading post/etc. as well.
posted by soy bean at 7:28 AM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

Thirding the Costco recommendation. I bought a couple packs and they've been holding up pretty well.
posted by electroboy at 7:54 AM on January 4, 2011

Lorpen are my favorite brand of wool socks. They have quite a few different types of varying warmth and length that have been exceptionally comfortable and wear like iron. I typically wear calf height medium weight hiking socks as my day to day socks, and above calf wool ski socks when on my motorcycle or out in the snow playing, as they offer quite a bit of support and cushion. I've found that there are a couple of great brands (typically from europe) that are more comfortable, and longer lasting than the smartwool socks I've owned over the years. Interestingly enough I have had great luck with the Costco house brand wool sock; I was given a box of six pair a couple of years ago and all are still in good shape. They don't offer the support that the lorpen socks do (the Lorpens are more sports oriented, and have a bit more lycra in them in places) but are rather warm and comfortable, and cheap to boot.

As for good places to buy great wool socks cheap, I've had the best luck at Sierra Trading Post. They carry closeouts or 2nds at significant discounts to retail. I've never had an irregular Lorpen or Bridgedale sock purchased from them not last and wear well. I did have this problem with smartwool, which is why I don't typically go out of my way for them anymore. With wool being a popular fiber now there are quite a few manufacturers who put out a better product at a sometimes lower price. I do like their baselayer kit, just not their socks or gloves. Hope this helps.
posted by chosemerveilleux at 8:10 AM on January 4, 2011

Wool socks are better than cotton because wool is a much better insulator (keeps your feet warmer) and continues to insulate even when damp/wet (unlike cotton), and it lets your feet breathe (unlike some synthetics). Wool is elastic, which means it springs back to its original shape and doesn't stretch out over time as much as cotton. Smartwool socks and other modern wools are not scratchy.

Wool is more expensive and more finicky about washing than cotton or most synthetics. Wool socks should not be put in the dryer (they can shrink so much that they become unwearable), but washable wool like Smartwool can be put in the washer on cool temperature and then removed to line-dry. (Actually, I think Smartwool can be dried, but lasts longer if you don't put it in the dryer.)
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:44 AM on January 4, 2011

I've had a few sets of "backpacking thickness" Wigwams for like 8 years. So, they're pretty good.
posted by TheOtherSide at 5:58 PM on January 4, 2011

In addition to causing blisters and hot spots and increasing the likelihood of bacterial and fungal infection, cotton is death fabric.

More than one sock knitter I know has recommended extending the lifespan of one's wool socks by not walking around in stocking feet on nylon carpet. The nylon is more abrasive than the wool and will cause the sole to wear out more quickly.
posted by Lexica at 6:28 PM on January 4, 2011

I thought the same and then just searched for "merino wool socks" on Amazon and bought a couple of different brands. Just as awesome. (prior to that I'd gotten a few Merino sweaters/shirts from IceBreaker and IBEX and they are my favorite things to wear...since Smartwool is "treated merino" i assumed any merino socks would be about as good factoring in the price.) These http://amzn.com/B001RX9TII look like one of the brands I got. 3 for $10(+ shipping) and made in the USA ;)
posted by Spumante at 2:23 AM on January 5, 2011

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