Darn Tough Socks Review: The Best Hiking Socks?

Darn Tough is the best outdoor sock brand on the market. They’ve managed to make a sock that does everything right, from comfort to durability. The one thing Darn Tough can’t do, like everyone else, is make an indestructible sock, but they’ve made up for that with their lifetime guarantee.

We tested and reviewed two different pairs of Darn Tough socks alongside four of the top hiking socks. In this article we’ll focus on our favorite pair — the Darn Tough Light Hiker Micro Crew Light Cushion.

You can see how this sock compared to the other top hiking socks in our article on the best hiking socks. Or, continue reading for our full review.

Hiking Socks Score MSRP Material Fabric Thickness Cushion
Top Pick: Darn Tough Light Hiker Micro Crew Light Cushion (This Product)
93
$20.00 47% Merino Wool, 46% Nylon, 7% Lycra Spandex Medium Very Light
Runner-Up: Smartwool PhD Outdoor Medium Crew
89
$23.95 62% Merino Wool, 36% Nylon, 2% Elastane Medium Light
Darn Tough Hiker Micro Crew Cushion
87
$21.00 67% Merino Wool/29% nylon/4% Lycra Spandex Medium Light
Best Value: Wigwam Hiking Outdoor Pro
80
$14.00 40% Olefin, 36% X20 Acrylic, 20% Stretch Nylon, 4% Spandex Medium Midweight
Smartwool Hike Light Crew
79
$17.95 67% Merino Wool, 32% Nylon, 1% Elastane Medium Midweight
Injinji Outdoor Midweight Crew NuWool
76
$20.00 64% NuWool, 33% nylon, 3% Lycra Medium Midweight

What We Like

The Darn Tough Light Hiker is the do-everything sock. In our testing, it excelled in versatility, durability and comfort.

Durability & Lifetime Guarantee

Thru-hikers across the country swear by Darn Tough’s lifetime guarantee, and why wouldn’t you? These USA-made merino monsters are top-notch and reliable, even beyond the life expectancy. This is because Darn Tough socks “are knit on small needle, fine gauge knitting machines. This approach produces durable, high density stitching without bulk. Less bulk means a better fit. The better the sock fits, the longer it will last.” If it sounds simple, it is.

I’ve heard of these socks excelling well past the 600-mile mark. If there is a Darn Tough Kool-Aid to be drank, I’m drinking it.

Comfort

Smartwool is an excellent sweat-wicking, moisture-managing brand. However, once Smartwool gets wet, it stays wet. I think the fabric blend in Darn Tough is much more ideal, as this sock both meets Smartwool in its moisture-regulating abilities but also dries incredibly fast. This means no blisters or hot spots, which makes for unmatched comfort. Darn Tough socks stay dry and keep you dry.

What’s more, these socks fit like a glove. Once you break them in there is really no reason to ever take them off (unless you wash your clothes or whatever). The fabric is incredibly soft and makes for both a great hiking and sleeping sock.

Versatility

With a thinly cushioned, durable, comfortable sock, you can do just about anything. The Darn Tough Light Hiker can handle virtually any climate or weather condition, because it dries so quickly.

Many of my National Outdoor Leadership School instructor friends swear by Darn Tough, whether their journeys take them to the Alaskan wilderness or the deserts of Utah. These socks can handle it all.

What We Don’t Like

Despite being the best sock ever, nobody can be perfect.

Or can they?

Color & Variety

I really can’t think of anything bad to say about this brand. And Darn Tough makes up for what physically can’t be done (make an indestructible sock) with a lifetime guarantee.

So, there aren’t as many color combinations as say, Smartwool? If you care about fashion this may be a concern of yours. But honestly, it’s the only one you’ll ever have.

The Cushioning Debate

Darn Tough sock with light cushion on the left and a Darn Tough sock with very light cushion on the right.

Let’s talk cushion. Personally I do not like high cushioned hiking socks. My seven years of backpacking experience have taught me that too much cushion can make my shoes fit weird, change the way that I step, and cause excessive sweating.

Now, if you disagree with that or have found things to be the opposite in your own experience, I’d like to direct you to this forum thread because it’s a good summary of a common debate. As is mentioned in the forum, the thicker cushioned Darn Tough socks wear down quickly. But as several hikers point out, “the underlying structure has remained intact.” Cushioning flattens, no matter what brand of sock you wear. This is why I prefer the Darn Tough thin cushion as opposed to the mid-weight.

Best Uses

Obviously, Darn Tough is a great hiking sock. That’s what we’re here to talk about, right? Because of its durability, it’s worth mentioning that for thru-hikes especially, this is the top dog. Any hiking challenge of lesser stature is nothing for this brand. Use it any and everywhere and feel comfortable doing it. That’s what you get for being the best.

Value

Made in America, comfortable, cozy, durably made with a lifetime guarantee.

If you can put a price on that, Darn Tough says it’s around $20.

Some folks balk at the idea of expensive gear, but this one is an investment for life, and is actually priced in the mid-range compared to other elite performance socks. Short answer: Darn Tough socks are an incredible value.

How the Darn Tough Light Cushion Performed in Our Testing

Hike Test

I hiked through a stream with my Darn Tough socks and trail runners and by the time I was ready for bed, these socks were bone dry. They performed the best out of all socks we tested because of their unmatched ability to dry. You don’t see that often in wool products.

Sleep Test

Never sleep in the same socks you hiked in, or do, if it’s Darn Tough. These socks kept me warm all night for multiple evenings in a row without wash.

Fitness Test

As part of this review, I took each pair of socks on a vertical training practice. Nothing makes me more sweaty than hot yoga or hill repeats. This sock, the Darn Tough Light Hiker Micro Crew Light Cushion, rocked my world.

By contrast, the other Darn Tough sock we tested, the Darn Tough Hiker Micro Crew Cushion, was just a little too thick for this rigorous activity.

Socks are actually allowed in yoga if it’s sub 10 degrees outside

Product Specs

  • Material: 47% Merino Wool, 46% Nylon, 7% Lycra Spandex
  • Fabric Thickness: Medium
  • Cushion: Very Light

The Bottom Line

Buy a pair of Darn Tough Light Hiker Micro Crew Light Cushion socks and thank me later.

About the Author:

Alex is a contributing author and gear tester for 99Boulders and has been pushing the limits of what gear can do for the past six years. As a proud weekend warrior, she’s on a mission to backpack, ski, kayak or sail in all the choicest spots across America. You could probably convince her to hike up pretty much anything for a good summit beer. You can read more of her writing on her blog, Wander Writings.