Best Hiking Socks

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Posted January 15, 2014 by Joel Schopp in Apparel
Darn tuff socks

Darn Tough Micro Crew Cushion Hiking Socks are the best socks for most people based on their outstanding comfort and durability.  This is based on extensive research and testing.

Why we love Darn Tough Socks

RUGGEDNESS

We’ve talked to a lot of Appalachian Trail Through Hikers, and those people are fanatical about socks.  Most of them are fanatical about Darn Tough Socks.  The only people we’ve ever heard who have worn out a pair of these socks have put well over 1,000 miles on them. They felt like 1,000 miles was adequate for a pair of socks and didn’t take advantage of the lifetime warranty against wear.  Seriously, you send the company your old pair of socks with a hole in them and they will send you a new pair of socks no questions asked.  We haven’t put that many miles on ours but we have owned them over a year and they look just like new.  No pilling, no thin spots, no stretching.

They had us at lifetime warranty against wear.  Seriously, that alone makes them the best socks.

COMFORT & FIT

These socks fit really well.  The tops don’t sag.  The socks don’t slide around on our feet.  Everything feels super soft and happy.  The heels are heel shaped and not tube shaped.  The toe box stretches just right.  The arch hugs in just the way we like it. We have nothing we would improve on the fit or comfort side of these socks.

Just stay away from the extra cushion, you will never want to take them off your feet, they are like walking on a cloud.

ODOR RESISTANCE

Let me say that for our sock review we only considered Merino wool socks.  The reason is pretty simple, socks made of synthetic materials or cotton will stink badly.  They will stink so badly that your friends and romantic entanglements will go running every time you unlace your shoes.  That stink is from bacteria growing in the sweaty moisture of your sock.  Moisture is also breeding ground for fungus.  You don’t want bacteria and  fungus growing on your feet.  Ever heard of athlete’s foot?  Yeah, wool socks help prevent that.  That and things that are much worse.

Merino wool is naturally odor resistant for some neat scientific reasons we won’t get into here.  All we care about is that your feet won’t stink.

MOISTURE WICKING

Blisters are in our opinion caused by two factors.  The first is ill fitting socks that slide around and cause rubbing. The second and even more important is moisture buildup against the skin. There is an age old debate as to which wicks moisture better, merino wool or synthetics.  The debate is far from settled.  What we do know is that both wick moisture very well and both are used in Darn Tough socks.  These socks wick well enough that they won’t be the problem if you have moisture buildup.  If you do have moisture buildup with these socks it will be because your shoes/boots don’t breathe well.

Other Darn Tough Socks

Usually we recommend alternatives for other products in the class you might get if you are in a different situation.  Well, it turns out all our other recommendations are also Darn Tough socks, so instead here is a guide to their sock line.

Darn Tough makes a lot of socks and it might be that the Crew Cushion socks aren’t the perfect socks for you.  So how do you navigate their lineup? Ignore the Coolmax (they aren’t as good and are barely cheaper), ignore the hunter (they are basically the same as the hiking socks but cost more).  Are you skiing, if yes you want one of the padded ski socks.  If you are doing anything else other than skiing follow these three simple steps 1) choose your height 2) choose your thickness 3) choose your color.  That’s it.

1) Height – Darn Tough has 7 heights.  What height you want is a function of what footwear you are wearing and what your personal preferences are.  We expect most runners will want short socks and most skiiers and mountainers will want tall socks.  Most hikers want something in the middle, which is why we think the Micro Crew Height is best for most people.

sock-heights

2) Thickness – Darn tough socks also come in 6 thicknesses.  Ultra light, light, light cushion, cushion, full cushion, and Extra Cushion.  Ultra light are very thin and mainly good for hot weather or runners who prefer thin socks.  Extra Cushion are for warmth in winter.  We think the cushion is best for a good variety of temperatures so we think it’s best for most people, but we realize some people spend summers in Texas and some people spend winters in Alaska and that those people may need to go thinner or thicker with their socks.

3) Color – You are on your own picking a color, we have no fashion sense and probably choose the worst colors.

What Others Are Saying.

Backpacker Magazine called Darn Tough socks “Socks so darn perfect they can make a thief out of your dearest friend

Backpacking Light gave these their “Highly Recommended” rating and had this to say: “In a world where most clothing seems to come from China and be of debatable quality and life, these thick, durable, woollen Made-in-Vermont socks are a standout – and have a well-deserved cult following.

Men’s Fitness Magazine said of the the Ultra Light version of this sock “Dominate your next adventure race with the best breathable, lightweight gear guaranteed to withstand a beating — so you can survive in one piece.

53 Backcountry users rated the Micro Crew Cushion Hiking Socks 4.8 out of 5.

108 Amazon users rated the Micro Crew Cushion Hiking Socks 4.7 out of 5.

Also Good, But Not as Good

Sorted by order of awesomeness

SMARTWOOL

Let me start out by saying that your authors own several pairs of smartwool socks and we really like them.  We really like their PhD line and their wool on wool technology.  They are comfortable, resist odor, are made in the USA, and seem durable.  We just don’t like them as well as  our Darn Tough socks.  We’ve talked to a lot of people who own both Darn Tough and Smartwool socks and everybody we talked to  all prefer the Darn Tough.  The Smartwool’s also don’t seem to last as long.  One Appalachian Trail through hiker put just over 100 miles on his Smartwools before getting a hole, then replaced them with a pair of Darn Tough that went well over 1000 miles.  The Smartwool warranty doesn’t cover normal wear and tear, where the Darn Tough if you wear a hole in your socks they will send you a new pair.

WIGWAM

There are some devoted Wigwam sock wearers out there.  Made in the USA and offering lots of synthetic and merino wool offerings.  Their socks come with a 2 year wear guarantee, which after Darn Toughs lifetime wear guarantee is the best we’ve seen.  They make several synthetic and wool socks and all around seem quite good, just not as good as Darn Tough.

FITS SOCKS

We have a couple pairs of fits socks and like them, but it is too early to really judge long term durability.  In particular the heel and toes fit very well.  Early online reviews also point to these being quality socks, but aren’t numerous enough to really know for certain.  They are also made in the USA.  Their warranty is for 30 days.

REI

The REI Merino Wool socks are decent, but they have durability problems.  We’ve worn out several pairs of the lightweight, midweight, & expedition weight REI socks while our Smartwools and Darn Toughs keep trucking.  The fit also isn’t quite as good as smartwool or darn tough.  Still, you can often find these at steep discounts and they are pretty good.  We’ll also throw in that the REI Merino Expedition is one of the bulkiest and warmest socks we’ve encountered.  REI has a great return policy and their socks are made in the USA.

THORLO

Also made it the USA most Thorlo socks are totally synthetic, which starts to smell.  They do make a few wool blend socks but we find their socks generally to be only moderately well fitting.  They also have no warranty against wear.

LORPEN

We are going to be honest and say we haven’t tried Lorpen Socks.  These made in the USA socks are doing some really innovative things with Polartec fabrics, primaloft yarn, synthetic yarn, and wool yarn in various combinations.  Their TEPAP socks ($70) kind of blow our mind and if we were doing high altitude (8,000m+) mountaineering we’d be sure to check them out.

PEOPLE’S SOCKS

Buy them in a 4 pack for about $6 a pair.  Merino wool and made in the USA.  Hard to be a hater at this price, but we’d rather own one pair of amazing socks than 4 pair of OK socks.

Injinji

We refuse to acknowledge toe socks exist.  Injinji only makes toe socks and they don’t make any with Merino wool.  If you acknowledge toe socks exist, for things like wearing with Vibrum Five Fingers, then Smartwool makes a nice pair of toe socks you can try out.


About the Author

Joel Schopp

Joel is a a rock climber, canoer, backpacker, camper, father, skiier, programmer, swimmer, cyclist, zipliner, kayaker, and adventurer in no particular order. He is president of the Central Texas Mountaineers, Texas regional coordinator for the Access Fund, and sits on the board of the non-profit Ascend Outdoor Adventures. Joel wants you to have the best gear so you don't think about your gear and instead focus on the wonder that is the outdoors.

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