Smartwool Second Cut Hike Sock review
Ever heard of a sock made out of old socks? Well, let us introduce you to Smartwool Second Cut, the first "circular sock" that uses old socks to make brand-new ones. Launched just in time for Earth Day, these super-comfy and sustainable socks are made from recycled, previously worn Smartwool socks.
An eco-friendly version of Smartwool's original hike sock, the Second Cut sock uses reclaimed merino wool and recycled nylon from old Smartwool socks collected through the brand's sock take-back program. The sock recycling program allows anyone to donate any brand, color, size and material of socks by ordering a free sock recycling kit online, dropping old socks off in person at a partner retailer recycling bin or printing their own free shipping label.
Related: Your guide to recycling clothes in 2023
In partnership with Material Return, a North Carolina-based circularity manufacturing facility, Smartwool collects, deconstructs, cleans and respins material from old Smartwool socks into new thread. The Second Cut hiking socks are manufactured using yarn made of half responsibly sourced merino wool and half reclaimed merino wool and recycled nylon from previously worn Smartwool socks.
The result: a sustainable and recycled merino wool hiking sock that provides the same performance, quality and comfort Smartwool wearers know and love.
Eco-minded hikers and outdoor adventurers rejoice: The Smartwool Second Cut hike sock is a more-sustainable option for keeping your feet dry and warm on the trail. Made of materials repurposed from old Smartwool socks, Second Cut hike socks provide the same moisture-wicking, durable and odor-free performance as normal Smartwool socks with a fraction of the waste.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates only 14% of textiles are recycled, with socks being one of the most commonly thrown-away apparel items. Even more, less than 1% of recycled textiles are used to make new clothing.
To combat this growing waste problem, Smartwool launched the Second Cut Project, an initiative that aims to drive change in eliminating textile waste and make it easier for consumers to participate in new solutions. Since April 2021, Smartwool has collected more than 725,000 socks and diverted more than 54,200 pounds of socks from the landfill.
The first product to use recycled socks was Smartwool's Second Cut K9 Camp Cushion dog beds, using donated items as repurposed filling inside of the dog bed. The Second Cut hike sock is Smartwool's newest product and highlights the company's move to a circular business model, which involves collecting and repurposing materials for deconstruction and reuse.
The Second Cut hike sock uses a blend of 50% virgin (new) merino wool and 50% recycled material that's a mix of old Smartwool socks and excess production materials from knitting mills. By giving old socks new life, Smartwool is helping save tens of thousands of pounds of socks and waste material from entering the landfill. The virgin wool used in the Second Cut sock is made with sustainably and ethically sourced ZQ-certified merino wool from the New Zealand Merino Company.
If you want to help Smartwool make more socks and other products from your old socks, participating in Smartwool's sock take-back program is super simple. Send in your unwanted (but clean) socks of any brand or material using the brand's free mail-in bag or free printable shipping label, or drop them at an in-store recycle bin. Only old Smartwool socks are recycled into the new Second Cut sock, but any other socks the brand gets are recycled for different products through Material Return and will never end up in a landfill.
Smartwool's sustainability focus doesn't stop there. The brand has big ambitions to become a climate-positive company by 2030. The brand plans to manufacture products using only 100% regenerative, recycled or responsibly sourced renewable materials as well as 100% climate-positive-sourced wool, meaning producers remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere than what is emitted during production.
Merino wool is loved for its moisture-wicking and odor-free performance, thermoregulation (it keeps your feet warm when it's cold and cool when it's warm) and extreme comfort. Merino wool is also known for its long lifespan that holds up well beyond the point when your socks get a hole in them. That's why Smartwool has made merino wool products since its very start back in 1994.
To give old merino wool a whole new life, Smartwool partnered with Material Return to figure out a proprietary process for deconstructing and repurposing previously worn Smartwool socks into yarn that performs just like new. When slipping on the Second Cut hike socks, I couldn't even tell these socks were made of repurposed textiles and merino wool. I found the socks provided the same breathability and comfort while hiking as similar-style hiking socks from both Smartwool and other brands like REI and Swiftwick.
The 50-50 blend of new and old material feels nearly identical in weight, cushion and softness to new socks made with all-virgin merino wool. Smartwool designed the Second Cut hike sock with an elasticized arch brace for a snug fit around the base and top of the foot. It also features a flat-knit toe seam for added comfort, meaning you won't have to deal with a thick stitch at the end of your toe box irritating your foot while you hike.
I was pleasantly surprised when I saw the price tag for the Second Cut hike sock. They run at the same price point as the original hike sock at $22 per pair. A lot of times, sustainable and eco-friendly products cost more due to expensive raw materials, costly production and manufacturing processes and many other factors like new technologies to carbon offsetting.
Especially considering the innovative design and first-of-its-kind manufacturing process used in making these repurposed merino wool socks, it's amazing the Second Cut socks sit on a level playing field, in terms of price, as other high-end hiking socks on the market.
It's hard to nitpick these sustainable merino wool socks. But if we had to, we’d say their lack of color and cuff length options stands out most. Smartwool released a single version of the Second Cut as it works to further develop the manufacturing process for reclaiming old socks into new yarn. The Second Cut hike sock comes in light grey and standard crew height, and features neon yellow accents on the collar and bottom of the socks. We’re hopeful to see future colorways and style options in future versions of the Second Cut sock line.
Smartwool's Second Cut sock is the first of its kind. No other sock on the market uses reclaimed and respun material from old socks. For that reason, these socks are completely unique and novel — particularly when it comes to their sustainable approach to product manufacturing.
Other eco-conscious sock brands, like Bombas and Allbirds, pride themselves on using sustainably and ethically sourced merino wool in their product lines. The Bombas Hiking Calf Sock ($54 for three-pack), Bombas All-Purpose Performance Heavy-Duty Calf Sock ($66 for three-pack) and Allbirds Trino Cozy Crew ($24) are similar in height and weight. However, both brands lack in technical performance and design specific to the rugged hiking socks Smartwool is known for.
In terms of style, fit and performance, the REI Merino Wool Midweight Hiking Crew Socks ($20) and Smartwool Hike Classic Edition Full-Cushion Crew Socks ($22) offer an almost identical look and feel. Both socks feature an elastic arch band for added flexibility and support. They also run on the thicker side, providing extra cushion underfoot when hiking on rugged terrain or in cold-weather conditions. The Darn Tough Hiker Micro Crew Cushion Socks ($25) rival Smartwool on the level of on-trail performance and durability but lack the same level of sustainable design as Smartwool's reclaimed yarn used in the Second Cut hike sock.
If you’re not a fan of animal byproducts like merino wool, you might opt for Conscious Step, a vegan sock brand that also gives a portion of its sales to local and national charities and 1% to the planet.
Smartwool's Second Cut hike socks are not your average hiking socks. Eco-conscious hikers and adventurers looking for a super-sustainable, durable and comfortable hiking sock, made with reclaimed materials that give old socks a new life, will love having these on their feet.
The Second Cut hike socks are durable, breathable, moisture-wicking and padded around the sole and top of your foot for added comfort on the trail. They’ll keep your feet warm while exploring in cold weather and cool when adventuring in warmer months and climates.
Tired of throwing away old socks in the garbage? Want to tread lighter on the planet? Looking to support environmentally friendly outdoor brands? Then take one small step towards a more sustainable lifestyle with the Second Cut hike sock.Related: