Headquartered in the self-proclaimed “sock capital of the world” of Northfield, Vermont, Darn Tough Socks is one of the leading Merino wool sock manufacturers in the world – if not the best. Check out our comprehensive Darn Tough review below!
Disclaimer: To maintain genuineness and authenticity, Merino Wool Gear DOES NOT sponsor products. Yet as an Amazon Associate, we may earn a commission from qualifying purchases.
In 1978, Marc Cabot purchased a vacant textile mill in Northfield, Vermont, known as Cabot Hosiery Mills. Marc and his son Rick manufactured socks for name brands like Gap and Old Navy throughout the next couple of decades.
At first, everything seemed to be alright. Meanwhile, other major brands started outsourcing their manufacturing overseas, and the Cabot family struggled financially. Their revenue declined almost 30%, and they had to layoff workers, but that wasn’t the worst of it. They owed lenders millions of dollars, were late on their taxes, and could not pay back their loans. Not your typical start to a success story, right?
As a result,, Ric Cabot decided to use his mill to make socks under Darn Tough’s brand in 2004 to avoid going out of business. They focused on durable, high-performing socks for every type of person.
Darn Tough Knitting Machines in Northfield, VT. Image Source: Darn Tough Instagram
Darn Tough’s popularity quickly grew in the outdoor community, as their craftsmanship and sock-technology were the best on the market. Eventually, the company grew and expanded its factory, all while staying true to the state of Vermont. In other words, their success has been Vermont’s success.
Now, Darn Tough has 200+ employees, sells over five-million pairs of socks each year, does over $50-million in annual revenue.
All because of one family’s expertise and love for socks.
Darn Tough does one thing, and they do it exceptionally well: socks. From heavyweight boot socks for outdoor workers to thinner running socks for running enthusiasts, they have a pair for everyone.
“We make one thing, and we make that one thing better than anybody else.”– Rick Cabot, Darn Tough CEO
If we had to narrow down their specialty, though, it would be hiking socks. Their reputation in the outdoor community is unmatched, as hikers, backpackers, and mountaineers all swear by their high-performing products.
What We Like
If we’re being sincere… we like almost everything.
However, it’s important to understand why Darn Tough is such a force in the sock industry – and it comes down to one thing:
We have yet to produce our best sock.Rick Cabot, CEO
As the self-proclaimed “sock nerds,” Darn Tough is continuously improving their products. As a result, we wholeheartedly believe that they are the experts in sock innovation. They will always strive to make the most perfect sock on the market for your needs.
For instance, here are a few brief reasons why we love Darn Tough socks and their company in general.
Quality & Attention to Detail
Darn Tough has taken the business of sock manufacturing and not only turned it into a science, but a passion. Outside of the raw material, all of their socks are created at the Cabot Hosiery Mills in Vermont. In other words, every step of the production process is closely scrutinized in-house, leaving a finely-engineered product at the end of the line.
Not only are the knitting machines regularly inspected for defects, but Darn Tough ‘breaks in’ their socks during the manufacturing process. They want to make sure that the stitching remains intact and that they will last you a lifetime. Before the socks are packaged, they are even fitted over foot templates to ensure proper fit.
Above all, Darn Tough takes all the additional steps so you can take the extra steps in their socks.
Maximum Performance & Innovation
When you think of socks, you don’t typically think of innovation. In other words, a socks a sock, right? Well, in Darn Tough’s eyes, that’s not exactly the case.
Moreover, it goes back to what we previously mentioned: they have yet to produce their best sock and wholeheartedly feel that way.
The constant, performance-focused innovation has led to new fabric technologies like Coolmax®, Thermolite®, and their True Seamless™ technology. They craft products that don’t bunch, don’t slip, reduce blisters, wick moisture, keep you warm, resist odors, and so much more. Subsequently, every single aspect of their socks was created with your comfort in mind.
Furthermore, take a look at the diagram below to truly understand how much innovation goes into a single pair of Darn Tough socks.
Women’s Hiker Micro Crew Midweight Cushion Sock. Image: Amazon Product Page
Darn Tough Socks Unconditional Lifetime Guarantee
No, your eyes are not deceiving you.
Above all, Darn Tough believes in their socks’ quality and durability to offer an unconditional lifetime guarantee. Seriously, you can return any pair at any time; tomorrow, next year, or in a decade.
You can make the argument that if I buy one pair of socks at $20, I will never have to buy that style of sock again.– Ric Cabot, Darn Tough CEO
While the lifetime guarantee certainly is nothing new in the clothing industry (similar to brands like L.L.Bean), it’s clear that Darn Tough does not “skimp” on the return process. On the other hand, not everything is covered under warranty – burns, bites, and lost items – the company is always ready to work with you.
Jump to the warranty section for more in-depth information about their lifetime guarantee.
Areas to Improve
Along with the good comes the bad – although there is very little of it. Darn Tough is so well in-tune with their customer’s needs that it’s a bit difficult to find any significant business areas to improve. Still, we think it’s best to highlight a few aspects of Darn Tough socks, which we feel could be improved.
Note: We do not feel like the higher price-point for Darn Tough socks classifies as an improvement are due to their longevity and lifetime warranty. In short, they may be more expensive than you are used to, but their socks will last you forever… literally.
Delicate Laundry Process
Merino wool shrinks, stretches, and sometimes pills when laundered incorrectly. It’s a tradeoff for fine, comfortable fibers. Although, if you’re used to shoving all your clothes in the dryer, you may be ruining your Merino wool socks.
To clarify, Darn Tough recommends the following laundry process for their socks:
Machine wash in warm water on gentle cycle with socks inside-out. Do not bleach. Tumble dry on low. Do not dry clean.Darn Tough FAQ Page
In short, you should never put Merino wool in the dryer, even if the company says it’s okay. It’s much safer to avoid it overall and hang dry your socks or flat dry them on a towel. If you have any questions or concerns about the Merino wool care process, you can check our complete care guide here.
Too Much (& Too Little) Variety
Okay, I know. It sounds like we are grasping at straws here – actually, we kind of are.
Darn Tough has hundreds of socks listed on their website, which goes into the thousands if you include color. Sometimes it’s a bit difficult to remember why you were looking for socks in the first place! It is like the idea that too many choices will always leave you with a window of doubt that you could have purchased something else. Sounds crazy, right? However, it’s hard to click “add to cart” for one pair when you have four other socks that you want to try out as well.
Still, with the tons of variety comes a bit of confusion: not every sock style has the same color choices. Sure, you may have your standard black and white for basic socks. Yet, you never know which colors and sizes will be available for which style (especially the more conservative colors). For example, there aren’t many solid-colored vibrant socks available. Sure, you’ll see many striped patterns and varied designs, but sometimes, a simple monochromatic dress sock is all you need.
As Darn Tough consistently updates their products, check their website or any other retailers if you have availability questions. In addition, their customer service department is also extremely accommodating. So if there is a specific color or style unavailable, they may be able to lead you in the right direction.
Cushion Reduction Over Time
Suppose you’ve see Darn Tough’s catalog before. In that case, you may have noticed that they classify their socks into three distinct cushion levels: no cushion, cushion, and full cushion.
We’ll get into a bit more detail later on, but for now, understand that the cushioning is created using terry loops under your foot (sort of like the fibers of a towel). In other words, the extra air pockets that form from these terry loops lessen your foot’s impact with every stride.
Over time, this cushioning flattens out and becomes a bit less effective. It’s not like much can be done about it, as it’s caused by the fabric’s nature. For example, your towel isn’t so fluffy after lots of use.
It doesn’t necessarily affect the socks’ functionality, per se. However, they may not reduce as much stress impact on your foot.
As their roots are grounded in the Green Mountain state, Darn Tough takes a significant role in protecting the environment. They not only want to reduce the impact on your feet but reduce their impact on their world.
Unlike other companies who skate around consumer-driven pollution, Darn Tough is fully transparent about their industry’s sustainable pitfalls. Their transparency provides a beacon of hope and optimism that we can continue to live in a consumer society while still caring for our planet. Let’s take a closer look at Darn Tough’s environmental impacts (both the good and the bad) and what is being done about them.
“Today, every sock we make has an impact on the planet, and there’s a lot we haven’t figured out yet, but we’re learning every day.”– Darn Tough Sustainability Page
Durability Reduces Landfill Waste
It’s a simple concept: the less you buy, the less there is to throw away.
For years though, fashion companies have been focused on pure style, which sacrifices durability. Therefore, you buy more clothes more often, and the landfills are packed with last year’s trends. The fashion industry literally makes up for 10% of the world’s global emissions. And, 85% of all clothing fabrics eventually end up in landfills. That’s insane!
Darn Tough knows this, but they don’t subscribe to the money-hungry tactics of other American retailers. They want you to buy one pair of their indestructible socks and buy them for life – no strings attached.
In addition, the odor-resistance and performance qualities of Merino wool means fewer loads of laundry. That’s less water used and less microplastics leaking into the ocean. Oh yeah, and wool is biodegradable, so it’s environmentally-friendly.
Obviously, there are still some negative environmental qualities about wool. Still, it’s abundantly clear that buying less helps the planet more. Check out our complete sustainability guide for more information.
Careful Material Selection
Darn Tough makes it very clear that they carefully choose each material for each specific sock. In fact, each pair of their socks only has a maximum of three different fibers. Still, each fiber type – along with the materials in the packaging and production process – can have a negative global impact on sustainability.
Thus, Darn Tough has laid out a specific goal for each of their materials. They are continuously looking to lessen their carbon footprint. By breaking down each particular material by weight, Darn Tough can gauge their environmental impact and change for the better.
Darn Tough Material Usage By Yarn Weight
The main ingredient in Darn Tough’s sock formula is Merino wool. The fine fibers offer a soft foot feel and increase sock performance. Nearly 56% of Darn Tough’s total yarn usage comprises RWS-certified wool sourced from New Zealand, South Africa, and Argentina.
Darn Tough understands the potential environmental impacts of wool, especially when it comes to raw processing. They are currently working with their suppliers and other environmental agencies to make the Merino production process a bit more ‘green.’
Spandex / Elastane
Socks should be form-fitting and snug around your feet. Therefore, Darn Tough incorporates a bit of spandex in their products (in the form of Lycra®). It offers extra durability and performance, thus making you a happy customer. Although it only makes up 5% of Darn Tough’s fiber usage in the finished product (by weight), it accounts for nearly 27% of their raw materials.
Unfortunately, Lycra is derived from petroleum, which makes it not so great for the environment. On top of that, spandex-type fabrics are difficult to recycle into new products. Still, Darn Tough is seeking alternatives to use recycled elastane in their products. They are willing to adopt new technologies to become a greener company.
Nylon & Recycled Nylon
As about 14% of their yarn use by weight, nylon is a lightweight, moisture-wicking material that helps Darn Tough socks maintain their durability. Most of the nylon used is virgin, meaning it was made from hydrocarbons.
Darn Tough is hoping to increase its use of recycled nylon called REPREVE® to decrease its environmental impact. Still, only about 4% of the total nylon currently used is recycled.
Although most Darn Tough socks are crafted with Merino wool, they have a few technologies – like Coolmax® and Thermolite® – primarily constructed of polyester fibers. According to their sustainability page, “virgin polyester accounted for 2.5% of [their] material consumption by weight” last year.
Again, as polyester is a petroleum-based fabric, Darn Tough aims to replace their virgin polyester with recycled alternatives in the coming years. Unlike spandex, second-use polyester is more readily available and doesn’t decrease quality as much.
Processing & Packaging Materials
It’s not just the sock fabrics and materials that Darn Tough is consistently attempting to improve. It’s the materials used through the entire manufacturing, shipping, and production process. Let’s take a brief look at four more non-sock-fabric materials that Darn Tough is improving to help the environment.
Polybags: LDPE bags that Darn Tough uses for shipping their products and can be challenging to recycle. They aim to phase out all polybag use by the end of 2021, replacing them with a more nature-conscious alternative.
Paper Sock Packaging: All of their sock packaging is made from “recycled FSC-certified paper that’s printed with water-soluble glues and vegetable-based inks.”
Shipping Boxes: If you order Darn Tough socks online, know that the box you receive them in is 100% recycled. That’s because the company shifted from 83% to 100% recycled cardboard in 2019.
Chemicals: All Darn Tough’s suppliers abide by government and industry standards regarding chemical usage and dyes. In 2019, Darn Tough even eliminated the need for bleach by switching to steam dryers.
You would imagine that such a self-aware and conscious company would also be uber ethical. And you’d be right! Darn Tough uses transparent business practices, giving consumers a look into their company dealings without trying to hide the “negatives.” They want you to know that they ethically treat the animals, the community, and the people.
Suppose you would like to learn about the broader ethical considerations of Merino wool. In that case, you can check out our comprehensive ethics guide here.
Fair Treatment Of Animals
“Our partners do not harm their sheep in the shearing process in any way and do not practice mulesing. It’s a natural, sustainable process.”– Darn Tough FAQ Page
Darn Tough is a Responsible Wool Standard member, a voluntary industry practice that focuses on sheep welfare. Basically, anyone who is to be RWS-certified needs to have every step of their production process audited, from farm to fashion.
Previously, we mentioned that Darn Tough is hugely involved with saving the environment. The same goes for their ethical treatment of sheep. They stand firmly against the controversial practice of mulesing. Similarly, they want the Merino sheep that provide them with wool to live a long and happy life.
The green outdoors, Bernie Sanders, Ben & Jerry’s, and Darn Tough Socks – these are the heart of Vermont.
If you read through the ‘Brief History‘ section, you know that Darn Tough has stayed true to their Vermont roots, even in times of turmoil. As their competition was outsourcing production overseas for better profits, Darn Tough decided to continue their sock production in Northfield.
It’s the stick-to-you-guns attitude that we love. Darn Tough’s pride in the Green Mountain state spills over into their love for outdoor socks. They treat your feet well and genuinely care about their community’s livelihood.
Nobody ever outsourced anything for quality.Ric Cabot, CEO
Putting People First
Darn Tough doesn’t have to answer to shareholders, as they have been family-owned for over four decades. They use their profits to reinvest in new sock technology and provide their 250+ employees with fair compensation.
The compnay continues to grow and recently has expanded into new facilities in the Northfield area. As a result, they are creating jobs that stimulate the local community’s economy.
It all ties back into the ethical idea that they simply want to create the best sock. Sure, Darn Tough is turning a profit, but they aren’t trying to game the system. They want their employees and their customers to be happy.
In essence, they are using people as an ends – not a means – to achieve success. And that’s essentially the definition of an ethical company.
As a Responsible Wool Standard member, Darn Tough sources their Merino from Australia, New Zealand, United States, and Europe. According to the standard, the entire garment-making process – from farm to fashion – needs to be certified and have a written chain of custody. Thus, you know your Merino socks are created ethically and with high-quality wool.
Products & Deals
Darn Tough has nearly 200 different types of socks listed on their website. They are constantly releasing new styles and designs to cater to their audience. Although, there are a couple socks that stand apart from the rest. Not only do we think these top sellers are worth showcasing, but the thousands of happy users who have given them five-star reviews do as well.
Men’s Top Sellers
Women’s Top Sellers
How To Find Darn Tough Sales
As we’ve previously mentioned, Darn Tough socks can be expensive. You’re looking at around $15 for a pair of running socks and upwards of $30 for heavyweight boot socks.
While we think their prices are worth it – especially when you consider the lifetime guarantee – there are a few ways to find darn tough deals and clearance sales.
- For military personnel, first responders, healthcare workers, and teachers, Darn Tough offers up to a 20% one-time discount through VerifyPass.
- For everyone else, Darn Tough sometimes offers deals and giveaways when signing up for their email list.
- If you are looking for second-hand (or second-foot) socks at a lower price, check out gear trade subreddits like r/GearTrade and r/ULgeartrade.
Darn Tough Sizing & Variations
If you are in the market for a pair of Darn Tough socks, it’s essential to understand the correct sizing and variations to better suit your foot needs. Thus, we’ve compiled a summary of Darn Tough’s sizing charts, sock heights, fabric weights, and cushioning levels to give you a bit more information.
Darn Tough Sock Sizing Charts
Darn Tough Men’s & Unisex Socks Sizing Chart:
|4.5 – 7
|3 – 6
|35 – 37/38
|2.5 – 5
|5.5 – 7.5
|7.5 – 9
|38 – 40/41
|5 – 7
|8 – 9.5
|10 – 11.5
|41 – 42/43
|7.5 – 9
|10 – 12
|12 – 14
|43 – 45
|9.5 – 11.5
|12.5 – 14.5
|46 – 49/50
|12 – 14
|15 – 17
|50 – 53
|14 – 16
Darn Tough Women’s Socks Sizing Chart:
|4.5 – 7
|3 – 6
|35 – 37/38
|2.5 – 5
|5.5 – 7.5
|7.5 – 9
|38 – 40/41
|5 – 7
|8 – 9.5
|10 – 11.5
|41 – 42/43
|7.5 – 9
|10 – 12
|12 – 14
|43 – 45
|9.5 – 11.5
Darn Tough Kids’ Socks Sizing Chart
|Kids’ Sock Size
|9 – 11.5
|25 – 29
|7.5 – 10.5
|12 – 2.5
|11 – 2
|4.5 – 7
|3 – 6
|35 – 37/38
|2.5 – 5
Note: From our personal experience, sizing is relatively consistent throughout Darn Tough’s products. If your shoe size is on the cusp, we tend to size down for more form-fitting, ultralight fabrics and size-up for the heavier socks.
Socks Height Chart
While finding a properly-sized sock should be your first consideration, it’s also good to understand Darn Tough’s sock heights. Likewise, it’s vital that you fully explore which sock height is best for your unique preferences – as everyone’s situations are different.
Over-The-Calf & Knee High: Usually crafted from heavier fabrics (although UL options are available).
Mid-Calf & Boot: Rises to about the middle of the leg and typically covers most boots.
Men’s and Women’s Crew: A standard lower-calf sock, great for a variety of activities.
Micro Crew: An exclusive height to Darn Tough, these sit on the upper ankle and is excellent for everyday use.
Shorty & 1/4 Sock: These are like your typical ankle socks, great for the gym or walking around town.
No Show: They don’t show! Great for running, fashion, or running a fashion company.
We’ve reclassified sock heights to better standardize the measurement across different brands, so you can make better purchasing decisions. So, here’s a list of our height classifications compared with Darn Tough’s, so you aren’t confused with the different terminology.
|Our Sock Height Classification
|Darn Tough Equivalent
|Mid-ankle (1/4 crew)
|Upper-ankle (3/4 crew)
|Men’s Crew & Women’s Crew
|Mid-calf (boot & extended crew)
|Boot & Mid-calf
|Over-the-calf & knee-high
|Over-the-calf & knee-high
Socks Fabric Weight
You’ll want to fully understand Darn Tough’s fabric weights, cushioning levels, and targeted padding so that you can better understand which sock suits your needs. For example, lightly cushioned socks are more versatile, while lightly padded socks add extra protection of high-density material in specific areas to improve performance. Let’s take a look at each of these attributes before digging into the specifics of each one.
As with most Merino wool products, the fabric density (typically denoted in GSM) describes the material’s thickness. Higher GSM materials usually are warmer and more durable but may all be less breathable.
Darn Tough does not describe their products in terms of GSM as the density may not be the same throughout the sock. Instead, they simply categorize their fabric weight into four classes: ultralight, lightweight, midweight, and heavyweight.
Therefore, we’ve made a quick comparison between Darn Tough socks and known Merino wool garments to provide you with actual numbers for these categories.
|Darn Tough Fabric Weight
|Approximate GSM fabric weight
|130 – 170
|175 – 215
|220 – 280
|280 – 350
Darn Tough classifies its cushioning level into three categories: no cushion, cushion, and full cushion.
For no cushion, there are zero changes in the material construction through the sock. An additional layer of fabric is added to the foot’s bottom for stress impact reduction for cushioned socks. The entire sock – including the ankle – is reinforced for a full cushion (suitable for boots).
To create this cushioning, Darn Tough uses terry loops in their manufacturing process. While we are no expert on sewing, a terry loop is basically an extra yarn or thread loop between every stitch, leaving the fabric with a towel-like texture. They form small air pockets that reduce strike impact while walking, thus, providing a small cushioning layer. In addition, they also help to wick away moisture.
Similarly, Darn Tough has a collection of socks with targeted padding for specific activities. For example, many of their ski & snowboard socks have an extra layer of shin padding to reduce your ski boots’ discomfort. Pretty cool, right?
Putting It All Together
Hopefully, you understand by now the basic concepts of fabric weights, cushioning levels, and targeted padding, but we’re not just yet. It’s not like every combination of these attributes is even possible. In fact, there are only nine combinations total. So let’s take a look at each one.
Ultralight (No Cushion) (AKA Ultra-light)
Specifically crafted for speed and comfort, this ultralight yet durable fabric offers no additional support. These low-profile socks are great for running as you can “feel” your feet better with less of a barrier.
Ultralight + Cushion (AKA Ultra-light Cushion)
The same lightweight material as the ultralight socks, but with a thin added layer of fabric along the foot’s bottom for added comfort. The bit of extra cushion may not seem like much, but it may get you the extra mile if you run long distances.
Lightweight (No Cushion) (AKA Light)
Just a bit thicker than the ultralight series and with no added cushion underneath the foot. It’s a pretty basic feel overall. The lightweight fabric is typical of your everyday sock that you would wear to the store or even a casual dress sock. They are simple and great for all sorts of activities, especially in hot weather.
Lightweight + Padding (No Cushion)(AKA Padded Light)
There is targeted padding along the shin, heel, or even underneath the foot in addition to the lightweight fabric. This helps to alleviate high-impact areas that may cause irritation from repetitive movements. To sum up, they are perfect for ski or snowboard boots, so you can stick to the slopes all day long.
These socks are crafted from lightweight fabric but still have a thin layer of cushioning on the bottom created by terry loops. The lighter-than-air-feel combined with extra comfort makes these types of socks great for hiking, walking, athletics, and everyday wear.
Midweight + Cushion (AKA Cushion)
Categorized by a medium-weight fabric and a medium amount of cushioning under the foot, these socks are perfect for hikers. A bit of added protection and warmth with the material, plus a decent amount of cushion as you venture into the woods.
Midweight Cushion + Padding (AKA Padded Cushion)
These are composed of the same material as the midweight-cushioned socks but have targeted padding in high-impact areas (just like the padded light but with midweight fabric). They are great for any winter sports with clunky boots or outdoor workers who have to wear steel-toes all day.
Midweight + Full Cushion (AKA Full Cushion)
Instead of reinforced terry loops of fabric only under your foot, Darn Tough’s Full Cushion socks offer protection all the way up your leg. These socks are perfect for those that wear work boots or ski boots as the full cushioning reduces boot irritation on your lower leg.
Heavyweight + Full Cushion (AKA Extra Cushion)
As the heaviest fabric, you’re going to get the maximum amount of cushion with these socks – plus a little bit more. As these socks are designed for warmth, comfort, and performance, we feel that they are best for tactical training, backcountry exploring, and cold-weather hunting.
Warranty On Darn Tough Socks
We talked about it a bit in the What We Like section. Still, we cannot stress enough the beauty of Darn Tough’s Unconditional Lifetime Guarantee. It’s really not complicated, as Darn Tough spells it out on their website:
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. Socks guaranteed for life.Darn Tough Lifetime Warranty from their site
The only things the warranty doesn’t cover are socks that have fire damage, lost items, and socks bitten by your pets. So, keep Fido away from your sock drawer if you want to keep your pair of Darn Toughs for life.
To access your warranty, you’ll need to fill out an online form. Then, you’ll ship the socks to Darn Tough (you will have to cover initial shipping costs). Darn Tough will then process your warranty and send you a credit code via email. You can then use that code on their website to purchase the same socks again or even try out a new pair.
Easy, simple, and guaranteed for life. Darn Tough trusts the quality of their socks, and we do too!
Darn Tough Socks Return Policy
As Darn Tough has made it clear on their website, they want you and your socks to “get to know each other before committing to a lifetime together.” Therefore, they offer free returns and exchanges up to 90-days after the original date of purchase.
Still, if there’s an issue, you can always look more into their “Unconditional Lifetime Guarantee” that we mentioned above.