A Long-Term Owner’s Guide to Darn Tough Socks


Darn Tough Socks are best known for making ultra-durable socks and backing them up with an unconditional lifetime replacement warranty that even covers wear and tear. As a long-term owner, I’ve come to appreciate Darn Tough’s exceptional quality, durability, and incredible odor resistance.

My wife and I have been wearing Darn Tough socks since 2018. I mainly wear mine for work and casual while my wife Erin is an avid runner and has logged thousands of miles wearing her Darn Toughs.

Darn Tough socks are made in the USA using very fine Merino wool blends. Unlike regular wool, Merino is neither coarse nor scratchy yet it will still keep you warm even when wet. Merino wool is among the most odor-resistant fibers on earth making these socks particularly excellent for hiking or multi-day travel.

4 Reasons Why I switched to Darn Tough Socks

Darn Tough hiker toe

Four years ago I began replacing my old socks with Darn Toughs. I would say my motivation for wearing Darn Toughs has evolved somewhat over the years. Let me explain.

  1. “Socks for life”– I confess I could not resist the idea of paying once for a pair of socks and never having to pay again to replace them. (Note: You still need to pay postage for warranty replacements.)
  2. Odor control – This realization came after several months of ownership. I don’t have particularly smelly feet, but Merino wool is incredibly odor resistant even after multi-day wear. I’m telling you it’s a borderline miracle!
  3. Durability-After several years of wearing these socks, I can fully confirm how exceptionally Darn Tough’s hold up. Yes, they are tough…really tough.
  4. Comfort– The densely knitted terri-loops inside Darn Tough’s “cushioned” socks are positively amazing. Slipping or bunching has never been an issue for me either.

Even if Darn Tough ever discontinued their lifetime unconditional warranty, I would still buy them. Their exceptional comfort, durability, and uncanny odor control are hard to beat.

9 Important Things to Know Before Buying Darn Tough Socks

ladies Darn Tough hiker

1. Merino Wool is Not Scratchy

Merino wool is much finer than the coarse and scratchy wool Gramma used to knit. Thus it can be knitted very finely without fraying and fuzzy loose fibers. The only way you would notice that Darn Toughs actually had wool in them would be by looking at the packaging label.

2. Darn Tough’s Lifetime Guarantee INCLUDES Wear & Tear!

If you ever wear out your Darn Toughs in your lifetime you can send them back for a replacement. Darn Tough was famously the first sock manufacture to offer a warranty like this. Since then at least three other competing brands began offering similar warranties.

However, Darn Toughs warranty claim process is much simpler than the other guys. No receipt is required. Just send your old socks back with a claim form. Easy as that.

3. Darn Tough Socks Do Wear Out…Eventually.

What did you think they were made of.. Titanium? Kidding aside, while they really do outlast other brands by along shot, a lot depends on how you use your socks.

For example, I’ve worn my Darn Toughs for 4 years and they aren’t even close to wearing out. On the other hand, my wife has managed to wear a hole in the toe of her favorite athletic socks but only after 3 years of constant running. Considering how much she runs, I think that is actually pretty impressive.

4. Three Exceptions to The Lifetime Warranty

  1. Pet Destruction is not covered– so make sure Fido doesn’t get a taste for your socks.
  2. Burn damage is not covered– so don’t dry your socks too close to the campfire.
  3. Lost socks are not covered– so check your pant legs and dryer one more time.

5. How to Dry Your Darn Toughs

Drying Darn Tough Socks
Hang-dry your Darn Toughs or on low with a dryer

Darn Tough socks are not as sensitive to shrinkage as regular wool socks. However, they still can shrink and it is still advisable to wash them in warm water and a gentle cycle. Darn Toughs prefer to be hang-dried but you can put them in the dryer on low if you want.

In practice, I virtually never follow these instructions and it worked out fine for me. I just shoved them in the dryer with all my other clothes. Yes, they did shrink, but not so much that they became unusable to me. I don’t recommend my careless ways to everyone though, especially if you find your foot size is at the top end of your sock size since you wouldn’t have much allowance for shrinkage.

6. Not All Darn Tough Socks are Made with Merino Wool

Most of their socks contain at least 20% Merino wool. However some of their ultra-lightweight running socks are a synthetic Polyester/Nylon blend.

7. Solid Colors Are Not Really Darn Tough’s Thing

Darn Tough designs

Darn Tough is a colorful brand that is constantly updating its lineup with creative unique looks. If you’re the understated type then you’ll find more conservative colors among their tactical, hiker, and work socks. which mainly come in solid black, camo green, and desert tan.

8. Choose Your Cushioning and Insulation Weight Correctly

Darn Toughs come in 3 levels of cushioning and 4 weights of insulation. Each pair is marked according to these two basic specifications. It’s important to know what they mean so you can decide which sock is right for you.

Cushioning

  • 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

Insulation Weight

  • 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.

9. Sizing Your Darn Toughs Correctly

Darn Tough Sock sizes

If you find yourself at or near the top end of a size range, I suggest sizing up just in case you accidentally put the socks through dryer on a regular cycle, they may shrink a little. Each Darn Tough sock has its size marked on the inside for the cuff. This is particularly handy when sorting your laundry in a household with several Darn Tough owners.

Darn Tough Socks I Recommend

Best For Work: Darn Tough “Steelies”

Darn Tough Steely
Darn Tough Steelies

Men’s Version: Check Pricing

Women’s Version: Check Pricing

The Steelies are rugged, well-cushioned work socks. They were one of the first Darn tough socks I ever owned and remain my favorite to this day.

They stay comfortable over a large temperature range: I’ve used them for cutting and splitting firewood in the fall, shoveling 2 feet of Canadian snow in winter, and building a backyard cabin in mid-summer. I would wear these socks comfortably with uninsulated boots down to about -10 C(14F).

Steel-toed boots are especially efficient at freezing your toes in the dead of winter. To combat this, the Steelies feature a double-layered toe box for better toe insulation.

Best for Hiking /Trekking: Darn Tough “1466” Hikers

Darn Tough Hikers Grasshopper
Darn Tough 1466 Hikers available in various colors

Men’s Version: Check Pricing

Women’s Version: Check Pricing

Darn Tough’s is best known for their “1466” Hikers. Hard-core trekkers and backpackers the world over swear by these hiking socks. This hiking sock is available in multiple lengths and features midweight insulation and a super-comfy terry-looped cocoon for your foot. The hikers are ideal for long hauls and unpredictable weather.

They are available with different levels of cushioning but many choose the extra cushion boot length hikers. Darn Tough is constantly introducing unique colorful versions of this sock like my snazzy “Grasshopper” green hikers.

If you are desert hiking you should consider the Micro-Crew Lightweight hiker instead with extra ventilation.(pictured below) These are ideal here in Africa where I am currently working.

Darn Tough Light Hiker
Micro-Crew Lightweight Hiker for hot weather.

Darn Tough Socks My Wife Recommends

As an avid runner, my wife has worn Darn Toughs and major competitors like Feetures socks (see comparison article here) in all conditions and across many miles. Darn Tough continues to be her favorite though. When I asked her to explain why that is, she pointed out three reasons.

  1. Darn Tough’s merino wool running socks are absolutely stellar for winter running. She suffers from Reynaud’s disease- a circulation issue that can cause her extremities like fingers and toes to get very cold and sometimes frostbitten. Darn Toughs have been a game changer in keeping her feet comfy and insulated even on wet and cold runs.
  2. Odor control is borderline miraculous. She will run in Darn Tough socks for multiple days in a row. For my wife’s feet that is a miracle- trust me on this one.
  3. Unmatched Durability- Unlike many competitors, Darn Tough’s running socks are not Left/Right fitted socks. With Left/Right athletic socks your toes and sole cause repeated wear on the exact same pressure points every time you put them on. Whereas interchangeable socks can be rotated from left to right preventing uneven wear and extending the life of the socks. We rotate car tires for the same reason.

Best All-Round Athletic Sock: Element Lightweight

Darn Tough Athletic Quarter sock
Darn Tough Element Quarter Lightweight

Men’s Version: Check Pricing

Women’s Version: Check Pricing

Darn Tough’s Element Athletic socks are ideal for cross-fit training, the gym, and general sports. The terry loop cushioning offers added, comfort, shock absorption and rebound. With a 50% Merino wool blend you get excellent anti-microbial properties and insante odor-resistant.

Best Summer Running Sock: CoolMax Run Ultra-Lightweight

Darn Tough Run Coolmax
Darn Tough CoolMax Run Ultra-Lightweight

Men’s Version: Check Pricing

Women’s Version: Check Pricing

DarnTough’s CoolMax family of synthetic-blend running socks is an excellent solution for keeping comfortable on hot weather runs. With excellent venting these socks will keep you cool, dry and blister-free mile after sweltering mile.

Best Winter Running Sock: Run Ultra-Lightweight Cushion

Darn tough ultralight cushion
Run Ultralight Cushion

Men’s Version: Check PricingWomen’s Version: Check Pricing

These are my wife’s favorite running socks. She has worn them for years summer and winter. Due to high energy exertion while running you typically do not need a heavy sock for winter running even in places like Canada. However, getting the quarter length or longer versions may be advisable for extremely cold weather.

The No Show Tab Ultra Light running sock is made with 40% Merino for the perfect balance of insulation and breathability.

Conclusion

For me, the most compelling reason to buy Darn Toughs isn’t the warranty. It is their longevity and comfort. I also like that you can choose your socks based details like cushioning, insulation, and sock heights. Plenty of folks also enjoy the flow of fresh styles and bold designs that Darn Tough comes out with.

While Darn Toughs do cost more, plenty of folks understand the economic benefit of replacing their entire drawer of walmart socks with Darn Toughs for the longterm benefit of lifetime free replacements. The more affordable way to do this is to simply order a 2-pack bundle of Darn Toughs every so often as your old crappy socks wear out.

Free socks for life? Heck yeah! I’m in.

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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.

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