By August 13, 2008

SmartWool Retreat sock review: a motorcyclist’s perspective

I love SmartWool socks. It’s good for keeping your feet warm when it’s cold, and breathes well enough that your feet don’t roast when the temperature is hot. More importantly, wool doesn’t lose its insulation properties when wet, which can be a really Big Deal™ if you are riding in the rain.

I own some SmartWool snowboard socks, and really love them. I looked for some lighter-weight socks to wear during the summer.

I found out that the difference between light-weight and mid-weight wasn’t that appreciable, and for the purposes of motorcycling you’re probably better off getting the taller, mid-weight snowboarding socks.

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Like all SmartWool socks, the Retreat is comfortable and soft. I like wearing them around the house, and I typically try to remove my shoes and socks as quickly as possible otherwise.

The Retreat sock is slightly padded in the bottom. This will help those with racing or motocross-type boots, as both classes of boots are typically considered uncomfortable while walking. I have some Sidi OnRoad touring boots, and they are very comfortable to begin with. Keep the padding in mind if your boots are already a tight fit. I have narrow feet (C-width), so the extra bulk doesn’t typically matter.

The biggest problem with the Retreat socks is that they have exceptionally poor elastic in comparison to the two other types of SmartWool socks I own (I also own some casual socks). They almost immediately start to slouch. I wonder if these are not meant to stay up, but be pushed down near ankle-height.

I wore my three pair of Retreats back-to-back during my work commute. I wear leather pants with calf zippers, and they are pretty snug to begin with. The Retreats slouched even with the zippers down and boots fully cinched. Fed up with my “quitters,” I decided to try the SmartWool Snowboard socks to see how hot they were in comparison to the lighter-weight Retreats.

It is typically in the mid-90s by the time I come home from work. Adjusted for Virginia humidity, I ride in a heat index above 100°F. I was surprised to find that the mid-weight SmartWool socks were not appreciably warmer than the light-weight ones. I don’t know if there is a sensory “saturation point” where my feet just go from “comfy” to “warm,” but my feet never felt “hot.”

The Retreat socks were a little over $8/pair on Sierra Trading Post. I paid $6.95/pair for the Snowboard socks, and I think they are a much better value. The 2008 styles are available at Sierra Trading Post for $9/pair, but expect to see them drop even further in price come spring.

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