Darn Tough Socks Review: Are They Worth It?


UPDATED: Nov 2023

You should know a few things about Darn Tough socks before you buy them.

I have been wearing Darn Tough socks for over 7 years. After a number of years I decided to re-write this Darn Tough socks review in order to answer a bunch of critical questions folks ought to know before buying their first pair. After all, they aren’t the cheapest.

So, stick around. I’ll give it to you straight.

By way of introduction, Darn Tough socks are made in America(Vermont.) They are best known for their high-quality merino wool blend socks and their famous unconditional lifetime warranty. Basically, if you wear them out they will replace them without even a proof of purchase.

My Experience

The prospect of free replacement socks for life was what initially convinced me to fork over $18 bucks a pair. If it worked out, I reasoned, I could slowly replace my crappy Hanes socks as they wore out. That idea almost worked. After seven years half of my sock drawer are now Darn Toughs.

Even though I didn’t replaced my whole sock drawer with Darn Toughs, I still think I made the right decision to buy them. I have no regrets.

Stepping into a pair of Darn Toughs is definitely a major upgrade from department store socks. My experience with them over the years has been very good.

Here’s snap shot:

  • I’ve worn my Darn Tough’s on multi-day tropical road trips in Africa(Hikers)
  • Multi-day international travel with only one pair.
  • Shoveled thigh-high Canadian snow banks(Steelies).
  • Worn them on hardwood floors for 5 years.
  • My wife is an avid runner. She only managed to wear a hole two pairs after two years.
  • I regularly threw them in dryer(against Darn Tough’s advice)

Top Picks

From our experience, these are My wife and mine’s top picks

MensWomens

Steelie Work Socks

Run Ultra Light Cushion
(cold weather)

1466 Hiker

Coolmax run ultra light
(warm weather)

Mountaineering

Micro Crew Lightweight Hiker

Beware of Counterfeits

Sadly there are plenty of knockoffs circulating.  If you are going to get darn Tough socks off Amazon, be skeptical if you see insane deals. Genuine Darn Tough Socks are only sold through specific Amazon sellers.

By the way, you might also be interested in: 5 Durable Sock Brands Guaranteed For Life

Important Questions

  1. Are Darn Tough’s Merino socks scratchy? Not at all. Fine merino wool isn’t scratchy or prickly because the diameter of the fibers are much finer than regular wool (18.6–20.5 microns). According to the Australian Wool Education Trust, “Research has shown that “prickle” arises when a fabric to be worn next to the skin, has around 5% or more of fibres exceeding 30 micrones. These coarser fibres show less tendency to deflect away from the skin surface.” –source
  2. Will Darn Tough merino socks shrink? Yes, IF you put them in the dryer or wash them in hot water. I did it anyway for a few years. I noticed that the socks were a bit smaller, but not so bad that they were unusable. It’s better to hang dry them, but I generally don’t cause I’m lazy.
  3. Does Darn Tough respect their warranty? Yes, but don’t expect to get the same exact model replacement. You will pay postage to send your old socks back, but they’ll pay postage for the replacement. You’ll need to follow these steps. Personally, I’d encourage folks to only return a pair of socks once. I’m a satisfied customer and I like to support local quality companies like Darn Tough instead of just milking them for all their worth like a cheapskate.
  4. How long do they last? I haven’t worn out a pair yet as a moderate user(7 years). My wife has worn out two pairs running.
  5. So many choices! How do I choose? Each Darn Tough Sock has 4 parameters: size, height, cushion and weight. Keep reading for a full explanation or check out their guide.
  6. What Size? See the chart below. For future reference, the size letter is stitched into the inner cuff of each sock. It helps when matching laundry in a household with Darn Tough socks.
Darn Tough Sock sizes

Are Darn Tough Socks Worth It?

To put it bluntly, Yes I think so.

I’m not as fanatical about Darn Toughs as my wife, but my experience concurs with her opinion.  I feel I’ve owned Darn Tough socks long enough to confidently recommend them.

Darn Tough didn’t become a benchmark brand in the “buy it for life” community overnight.  They also didn’t make #1 on WellRigged.com’s list of Top Clothing Warrantees without good reason.

Pros & Cons

ProsCons
Unconditional Lifetime GuaranteePremium price
Longterm SavingsHang dry recommended
Excellent Odour Resistance(Merino blends)Pet hair tends to cling
Excellent Thermal propertiesNot many conservative colors
Very Durable
Precision construction(up to 1441 stitches/inch
various cushion/insulation levels available
excellent fit and finish
Lots of fresh custom patterns
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IMPORTANT: Understand Cushion, Insulation, and Length

The key to buying the right pair of Darn Toughs is know how to select them.

As you browse Darn Tough’s site it’s pretty easy to get overwhelmed with the options. You’ll notice terms like ultra-light, no cushion, midweight, no-show, quarter, micro-crew etc.

Basically, you can be as picky as Goldilocks and still find a sock that is “just right” for you. The trick is to master their system.

(FYI, it may help to refer to this section as you shop their site.)

Let me break it down for you.

Height” is broken down into 7 lengths. (See below)

“Cushion” is just fancy talk for the thickness of the sock underfoot.

  • No Cushion: A smooth Jersey knit for a next-to-skin fit.
  • Cushion: A terry loop cushion for extra rebound and added warmth
  • Full Cushion: Dense terry loop cushioning surrounds leg and foot

Weight” is the thickness/insulation of the overall sock.

  • Ultra-Lightweight: Best for hot weather often available with no cushion or light cushioning
  • Lightweight: Best for moderate weather, shoulder seasons, and indoor use
  • Midweight: Best for cold weather work, hiking and outdoor adventures
  • Heavyweight: Best for extreme cold, alpine, winter expedition, and skiing.

Fit and Comfort

I recently took Darn Tough’s Full Cushion Work Socks out for a test drive while helping a friend remove junk from his rental property. 

Four of us hauled old furniture, scrap metal and couches all morning. When I took my boots off at his front door for lunch my feet were still not sweaty or sore.

On another occasion, for interest’s sake, I wore a Hanes sock on my left foot and a Darn Tough hiker on the other for a day.  Aside from a few weird looks from friends, I noticed that my “Hanes foot” was noticeably more clammy. It was generally less comfortable than my “Darn Tough foot.” 

Switching to Darn Tough from Hanes or other department store brands is a true upgrade. The comfort and quality difference is very noticeable

Hanes Cotton Sock
Darn Tough Socks

Overall Quality

There’s no doubt that the secret to the durability of these socks is in the stitching. Their socks are knitted with a staggering 1441 stitches per square inch using superfine 168 needle knitting machines.

Using finer yarns and tighter stitching allows a much higher density and strength without adding bulk. This, in essence, is why Darn Toughs are more robust and durable. 

This can only be appreciated under a macro lens so I decided to compare the stitching on a standard Hanes sock vs. a Darn Tough( above image). The difference is very notable.

The socks are further reinforced inside in and out with nylon and lycra stitching. This adds comfort, stretch, and durability. The toe box seam is virtually invisible as well.

Merino Wool

Most of Darn Tough’s socks use a blend of fine wool from Merino sheep. Merino is prized for its durable and favorable thermal properties in temperature extremes. 

It is prized for its non-scratchy ultra-fine fibers which can be woven into thin yarns.

It was a godsend for my wife during winter because she has circulatory issues in her toes. Merino wool socks are great for folks with issues like Reynaud’s disease.

Merino wool also has incredible anti-microbial and moisture-wicking properties. They really help regulate your temperature to keep your feet dry and odor-free. They also dry out quickly which is great after a long day on the trail. 

If you have trouble with odor or sweaty feet, Merino wool is a God-send. During a recent 7 day trip I wore a pair for 3 days straight without any odor issues. They actually still smelled new! 

Honestly, it kinda freaked me,  but obviously, results will vary, but I was blown away!

You could easily save space on a 7-day trip by packing 2-3 pairs of Darn Toughs.  It really was remarkable.

Merino wool isn’t cheap its a premium material. For instance, Merino Icebreaker Tshirts start at over $50.(Check Amazon Pricing).  The average for Darn Tough socks is around $20.

Although I can’t verify it, Darn Tough says they are very picky about their sources for wool. They hand pick humane suppliers in the USA, Europe and “Oceania(I assume New Zealand/Australia)”

Company Profile: Darn Tough Vermont

Darn Tough is a family-owned brand of Cabot Hosiery, Northfield Vermont. They manufacture all their socks in-house.

I love to support hard-working companies like this that are dedicated to quality and support workers at home. Fox River Socks are similar.

Firstly, the name “Darn Tough” is a stroke of branding genius. It’s memorable, humorous, and immediately answers a pain point that many face- holey socks.

Of course, Darn Tough had to step up to the name or go home. They did that. They remained focused on high stitch count socks, fine merino yarns, and rigid quality control. Of course, their products cost more, but that is to be expected.

Their second stroke of marketing genius came when they offered a legit no-hastle unconditional lifetime warranty. Darn Tough has since become the best-known sock made in the USA sock company.

During the 1990’s Darn Tough doggedly refused to offshore manufacturing to China like many competitors. Instead, they went against the trend, stayed upmarket. Today they produce some of the world’s best socks and have built a name for themselves.

Who Are Darn Tough Socks for?

  • Anyone struggling with cold or sweaty feet.
  • Folks with poor circulation
  • Folks who like eye-catching designs
  • high impact sports
  • hiking
  • tough work environments
  • casual
  • extreme climates- Merino wool does great in temperature extremes and wet environments. 

Darn Tough is constantly coming out with fresh creative patterns.

Darn Tough’s Quality Control

Darn Tough’s entire manufacturing process happens under one roof. Rick Cabot and his Father who own Darn Tough, can step out of their Northfield, Vermont factory office and oversee every angle of their business at a moment’s notice. 

That’s huge for factor quality control. Try outsourcing your production to China and doing that! Who the heck knows what’s going on in a factory 5000 miles away? 

Rick Cabot, says “We put just as much care into the finishing process as they do in the manufacturing process itself.” 

So, What does the finishing process look like?

Firstly, every sock is inspected for defects as soon as they come off the knitting machines.  This is followed by mechanical stretching. 

I’m no expert, but it appears they are stretched as a kind of “breaking in” process as well as to check the durability and integrity of stitching. 

Next, the socks are “boarded.” This means they are fitted over templates to ensure they are a perfect fit for their size specs.

Finally, the socks are sent to packaging where they undergo a final inspection and any thread ends from the knitting machines are trimmed off.

Multi-tier quality control systems like this remind me of airport security. You’ll never make it to your plane without at least three ID checks. Similarly, the more redundant checks a production system has, the better the end product will be.

The Unconditional Lifetime Guarantee

Darn Tough’s warrantee is truly insane. No one in the clothing industry dares to go as far as they do. I have to admit this was a major selling point for me at first With time, though, I’d say their quality is what keeps me coming back now.

Their warranty reads in part:

“Our unconditional lifetime guarantee is simple and without strings or conditions. If our socks are not the most comfortable, durable, and best-fitting socks you have ever owned, return them for another pair. No strings. No conditions. For life.”

There really is no fine print and no receipts necessary. They’re good for it. Just follow their instructions to process a return.

My Perspective

Comfort

As I mentioned earlier, my very first impression with these socks the great comfort and fit. I don’t quite know how explain it, but it’s something like wrapping your foot in very soft towel. If you turn the socks inside out you’ll see why. 

The compact stitching creates a rich of bed tiny towel-like loops that gives your foot a 360 degree hug  of love. Yes, I said it. A foot hug of love.   

I’m not used to enjoying luxury. I’m not a diva.  Luxury is often a nice perk of choosing durable products, so I’ll take it!

Fit

Just follow the sizing chart and they fit perfectly. If you find yourself on the top end of a size, I would size up. Especially if you expect the socks to make it into the dryer.

Durability

Darn Tough has definitely surpassed my expectations here. After seven years I haven’t yet worn a hole in a pair. That isn’t to say these socks are invincible. My wife has worn holes in the toe of two pairs from all of her running.

I plan to send hers in for replacements soon.

Looks

I struggled a little more on this one mainly because I don’t give a rip about style. Socks are entirely utilitarian items for me. I’m less impressed by “whizz-BANG” flashy patterns. Thankfully I can find enough black, greys and whites to keep me happy.

Darn Tough is always coming out with all kinds of fresh patterns. If you’re into that you’ll be a happy camper.

Designs

My preferred designs are the hikers and work socks with extra steel toe cushioning. I’m all for the rugged utilitarianism and they fit my purposes well. My wife, on the other hand, prefers the ultra light runners.

Conclusion

Darn Tough socks offer a ton of value when you consider the durability, warranty and variety that you get. Choosing a pair is actually the hard part until you understand the 4 main parameters of their socks. Darn Tough’s are comparable in price to other premium socks. There are a few other companies have started offering lifetime sock warranties too. So it may be worth checking them out as well.

The only reason I haven’t filled my whole sock drawer with Darn Tough socks is their cost. But, that will change with time.

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Don Longworth

Don was born and raised in sub-saharan Africa. Now based in Canada, his extensive experience in non-profit work has served him well over multiple deployments in Africa. Don's experiences have made him a practical "to-the-point" type person. He is a no-frills, low-key guy who appreciates quality and simplicity.

5 thoughts on “Darn Tough Socks Review: Are They Worth It?

  1. Hello and thank you for your article. I love my Darn Tough socks, will slowly replace my Smartwool as they wear out with DT.
    My mother has Raynauds and uses a supplement called CoQ10 and swears by it. It has truly helped her and thought I would share for your wife. Best wishes!

    1. Hey thanks for the tip. Will definitely let my wife know. Just bought another couple pairs for her for Christmas. She uses them all the time and runs in -10c regularly.

  2. Thanks for the review. I’ve been wearing DT for years, now, and absolutely love them. It’s too bad they don’t replace one socks for two, because some other dimension keeps stealing mine (albeit, only one at a time.)

    The one place you and I part ways, is that I’d love DT to create more interesting colors and designs for men. Maybe I’m just a little too flashy.

    Thanks again. Love my Darn Toughs!

    1. Lol…your a bold guy…more power too ya! Darn Tough’s are great and yes socks do seem to find dimensional wormholes to disappear into.

  3. Stumbled across your website looking for DT socks available in the UK, I totally agree with your approach, buy well: buy once.

    I’ve been using Darn Tough socks for running and especially swim-run. Not sure if you have swimrun in The States but effectively its an amphibious point to point, running in your wetsuit, swimming in your shoes, not stopping. On a training run I’ll typically cover 10-20 miles of swimming in the sea and running on beaches and coast paths. Mileage, sand, grit, salt water; as you can imagine it kills socks. Except Darn Tough, they’re the only socks, I’ve tried, that last (just not always easy to find where I live).

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