If you’re an outdoor enthusiast, you probably know everything about the importance of having dry and warm feet. However, to keep your feet warm, wearing a pair of snug hiking shoes is not enough – you also need a pair of quality all-weather socks. And when it comes to the best socks for hiking, none are as absorbent, breathable, and warm as the ones made from Merino wool.
Two of the most well-known manufacturers of Merino wool socks are Smartwool and Darn Tough. A lot of people who decide to get themselves a pair of socks manufactured from Merino wool end up stuck between these two brands, unable to decide which one to go for. If you’re one of them, have no worries – we’re here to help you out.
In the following paragraphs, we’ll be comparing Darn Tough vs Smartwool in a couple of different categories, such as in-shoe fit, absorption, durability, and others. An important thing to mention here is that we’ll be comparing the general characteristics of socks manufactured by both companies – not just a couple of particular models.
Table of Contents
- 1 Smartwool vs Darn Tough: The Background
- 2 Smartwool vs Darn Tough: In-Depth Comparison
- 3 Darn Tough vs Smartwool: Popular Products
- 4 Darn Tough vs Smartwool: The Verdict
Smartwool vs Darn Tough: The Background
Established in 1994 by Peter and Patty Duke, Smartwool is famous for advancing the frontiers of Merino Wool products through constant innovation.
This Colorado-based company designs and sells clothes that are manufactured primarily from wool. They source Merino Wool from a company based in New Zealand and offer apparel for men, women, and kids. However, Smartwool’s main focus is individuals with an active outdoor lifestyle.
About Darn Tough
Behind this peculiar name hides a clothing store established all the way back in 1978 by Cabot Hosiery. 40 years ago, Darn Tough was only a small clothing store. Today, it is a $40 million business.
Taking advantage of Vermont’s harsh winters, Darn Tough creates socks and a wide range of other clothes that appeal to hunters, hikers, skiers, and bikers. The company sells close to 5 million pairs of socks on a yearly basis. Pretty impressive, wouldn’t you say?
Smartwool vs Darn Tough: In-Depth Comparison
To make this article as comprehensive and informative as possible, we’ve compared the Merino socks designed by Darn Tough and Smartwool in a number of categories:
Smartwool hiking socks come with a built-in arch support system. This arch-hugging section of the sock reduces the chances of slipping whenever you’re wearing your footwear.
This integrated arch support system is, in fact, one of the best features of Smartwool socks. Unlike socks manufactured by other companies, these won’t get saggy after a couple of hours of walking. This turns them into a fantastic choice for avid trekkers.
Darn Tough socks are more than capable of bringing comfort to their wearers. The socks manufactured by this brand sport a uniform construction. In other words, the cushioning that’s located below the socks is always even.
Unfortunately, this uniform construction comes with a downside – Darn Tough socks are much more prone to slipping than the Smartwool socks.
The already-mentioned integrated arch support is precisely what gives the Smartwool socks such a snug fit. As they provide a secure in-shoe fit, socks manufactured by this company won’t become slippery once they are exposed to moisture. Because of this, you’ll never have to worry about hot spots or blisters.
The hiking and running socks manufactured by this company aren’t as stable as the ones offered by its main competitor. This is the direct result of their uniform construction. For individuals who are sensitive to mobility, this can be the deciding factor.
In simple terms, the thing that makes these socks “less stable” is the fact that they become slippery when they are worn for too long. This often leads to discomfort and even blisters, which is not something anyone wants to experience during their day hikes.
In general, products manufactured by Smartwool are quite thin and light – even their shirts. When used on a daily basis, they tend to come apart.
Once they have been used for a long time, the Smartwool socks will start developing holes. The same cannot be said for the socks manufactured by Darn Tough, because they are, well, darn tough. If you’re an avid hiker who often goes on long outdoor adventures, Smartwool socks may not be the best choice.
As mentioned above, the Darn Tough socks are a clear winner in terms of longevity. In fact, we think that it’s pretty safe to say that their durability is unmatched in the entire socks industry.
This is due to the fact that the Darn Tough socks sport a much higher density knit than the socks manufactured by other brands. They can easily withstand years of negligible use. Even if they get worn out, you can have them replaced for free – more on that later.
The next category in which we’ll compare Darn Tough and Smartwool socks is absorption. Since it’s thinner and sports a lower-density knit, a Smartwool hiking sock will never absorb much moisture. If your feet are prone to sweating, the sweat will stay right there on them.
While this may not be a problem when it comes to short day hikes, it can create major issues during intense, long-distance adventures in warm weather.
Due to their thick construction and a higher density knit, the Darn Tough socks are very absorbent. Obviously, this turns them into a great choice for folks with sweaty feet. An important thing to mention here is that Merino wool keeps your feet odorless due to its antimicrobial properties – you won’t have to worry about the bad smell of your socks.
However, keep in mind that this also comes with a disadvantage. While they work great for people with sweaty feet, the highly-absorbent Darn Tough hiking socks will also suck up water whenever you’re wading through streams.
Wool socks manufactured by Smartwool are particularly great for those who stand or walk for long hours. This is mostly due to the fact that they provide excellent arch support.
Not only will this arch support make sure that the sock stays on the wearer’s foot, but also prevent blisters from forming and keep one’s feet energetic.
As we’ve already mentioned, the Darn Tough socks are high-density socks and as such provide unmatched durability. This turns them into a great choice for those who are often engaged in intense outdoor activities. It’s also important to choose the correct layers for outdoor activities.
However, this doesn’t mean that these socks aren’t comfortable. Due to the even cushion area below each sock, they provide sufficient comfort for folks who like to get out of the city from time to time.
Both Darn Tough and Smartwool are pretty good when it comes to warranty deals. In Smartwool’s case, the company provides something called “Smartwool Promise”.
Basically, this policy allows purchasers to return the socks they have bought within 2 years from the date of purchase. All that the buyer has to do is to fill out a form, which can be found on Smartwool’s website, and the manufacturer will do the rest.
Smartwool’s 2-year warranty is great, but Darn Tough is a clear winner in this category. This is because the company provides an unconditional lifetime warranty on all of their socks. No conditions are attached – in case the socks you’ve bought aren’t comfortable enough, you can return them and have them replaced with another pair.
With most of us here being outdoor enthusiasts, we thought that it would be fitting to compare each brand’s warmest socks in terms of price. In this context, we’ll be comparing the prices of Smartwool Extra-Heavy Hunt OTC Socks and Darn Tough Extra-Cushion Hunter OTC Socks.
For a pair of their Extra-Heavy Hunt OTC Socks, you’ll have to pay $27.95.
On the other hand, the Extra-Cushion Hunter OTC Socks made by Darn Tough will cost you $29.95.
Obviously, the $2 difference between these two models isn’t something to fret about – it all comes down to the buyer’s personal preference. However, it should still be mentioned that a pair of Darn Tough socks will usually cost more than a pair of Smartwool socks.
Darn Tough vs Smartwool: Popular Products
In this part of the article, we’ll be taking a quick look at some of the most popular socks offered by both Smartwool and Darn Tough.
Smartwool Pro Light Crew
Besides offering ample cushioning and breathability, these crew socks provide good arch support as they feature a band of compressive elastic. It’s a synthetic-Merino wool-blend sock that successfully prevents foot slippage that you can safely wear no matter the intensity of your outdoor adventure.
Darn Tough Light Hiker Micro Crew
This high-quality Merino wool sock is very light but still well-cushioned and provides an excellent fit. It feels exceptionally comfortable on the foot due to its ample compression paneling. The socks are also very breathable – wear them in warm weather and you’ll feel nothing but comfort.
Smartwool Run Light Elite
In order to successfully protect the wearer’s feet while he’s running, this sock features a minimal amount of targeted cushion while still being light and cool. It’s one of the better choices for folks looking for a comfortable Merino sock with the construction that grips the feet while wicking away the moisture.
Darn Tough Vertex Ultra-Light
Combining Merino wool, nylon, and Lycra Spandex, this sock is a perfect choice for your day hikes. The materials used in its construction work together to provide sufficient comfort, breathability, and longevity. You’ll be able to wear this hiking sock year-round – its performance is truly outstanding.
Smartwool Margarita Crew
This casual women’s crew sock provides a tighter fit than most socks on our list. It is, however, very soft and it successfully keeps the feet warm during cold-weather adventures. Another thing to like about these socks is that they use the so-called “Indestructawool Technology” – they are very durable.
Darn Tough Micro Crew Light
Here we have yet another pair of women’s crew socks made by Darn Tough. Combining Merino wool, nylon, as well as Lycra Spandex, these socks provide outstanding underfoot cushioning and optimal breathability. And let’s not forget about the lifetime warranty!
Darn Tough vs Smartwool: The Verdict
So, which one of these two brands is a better choice? Whose socks should you use for your outdoor adventures – the ones made by Darn Tough or Smartwool?
Both brands make socks that wear great and provide one’s feet with sufficient warmth and comfort. However, Smartwool socks are a better choice if you’re looking for good arch support and a secure in-shoe fit. Darn Tough is the best when it comes to durability and absorption. In addition, their socks come accompanied by an impressive lifetime warranty.
As far as we’re concerned, it all comes down to one’s personal preference.
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I love hiking. From the Camino de Santiago to the West Highland Way in Scotland or simply a great day hike on the weekend. Hiking refreshes me, my mind, and keeps my body reasonably fit. So far I have walked three Camino routes and many other long distance hikes in the UK, Canada, and around the rest of Europe. One of the best was my hike up Ben Nevis.