Merino wool socks are all the rage these days, and for a good reason. I get it; I truly do. Once I tried merino wool socks like those from Smartwool vs Darn Tough for my hiking trips, I experienced firsthand the benefits these kinds of socks have to offer. It’s all about comfort, durability, keeping your feet dry with the moisture wicking properties, and superior thermoregulation.
But as we know all too well, not every sock, merino wool or not, is made the same. So today, I’m stacking up Smartwool and Darn Tough to find out which sock brand is the best.
Spoiler Alert! Darn Tough wins (again). These tough socks are perfect if you are looking to buy a pair of durable socks that scores high in the comfort factor. The merino wool is responsibly sourced, and while I love the other benefits merino wool offers, I’m definitely in favor of the company’s “Guaranteed for Life” warranty (and who wouldn’t be?).
A Definitions of Smartwool and Darn Tough
Socks are often underrated, whether you are walking, running, rucking, hiking, cycling, or traveling. But these babies are super important for your feet. Did you know there are 250,000 sweat glands in one foot sole, and that if you want to measure how much sweat your feet produce, it’ll fill a 96-ounce jug in a day?
Yup, I’m sold on the importance of socks for feet. You’ll never see socks in quite the same light again. So when it comes to socks, what exactly are Smartwool and Darn Tough socks?
Smartwool is an American outdoor apparel company that was established by Patty and Peter Duke, two ski instructors, in Colorado in 1994. Eleven years later, The Timberland Company acquired Smartwool, and then in 2011, the brand became a VF Corporation subsidiary. Smartwool produces clothing, accessories, and socks for men, women, and children in the running, hiking, biking, travel, hunting, skiing, and snowboarding spaces.
Socks from Smartwool aren’t 100% merino wool. Instead, the socks are made from 57% to 73% (or more) merino wool and nylon, recycled nylon, and elastane. These socks sport features like the various sock cushioning degrees that make them suitable for the athleisure category they are in.
The company partners with organizations that align with their values. They also use plant-based dyes, which are more sustainable, and work with the New Zealand Merino Company to introduce regenerative merino wool. Plus, there’s their Second Cut Project, which requires you to send Smartwool your old socks, which are then repurposed and given a so-called second life.
Another popular brand in the sports sock space is Darn Tough. The company operates under Cabot Hosiery Mills, which was established by March Cabot in Vermont in 1978. Darn Tough produces socks, hats, and T-shirts for those who are into hiking, running, athletics, ski and snowboarding, hunting, and tactical sports. They also have socks for work and athleisure.
Like Smartwool, the socks from Darn Tough aren’t made 100% from merino wool, even though the company is all about ethically sourced materials. Every pair of Darn Tough socks is made from a composite of low micron merino wool (that’s 100% wool), nylon, and lycra to ensure the socks are less bulky for a better fit so they last longer.
In 2022, the company launched Knit to Give, which is a program where Darn Tough releases a new sock every three months with the proceeds being donated to the Foodbank. Darn Tough supports the Responsible Wool Standard, ensuring the merino wool used in their socks originates from farmers who aim to protect animal welfare and preserve land health.
Smartwool Pros and Cons
Pros of Smartwool
Cons of Smartwool
Darn Tough Pros and Cons
Pros of Darn Tough
Cons of Darn Tough
To Sum up the Pros and Cons…
For a short summary if you are still not sure whether Darn Tough vs Smartwool socks are right for you, here’s an infographic to help you:
How to Decide Between Smartwool and Darn Tough
Smartwool used to be THE name brand for durable socks when you do tough outdoor sports … That is, until Darn Tough came along, giving Smartwool a run for its money.
Choose Smartwool socks if:
Choose Darn Tough socks if:
Final Thoughts on Smartwool vs Darn Tough Socks
Buying the first pair of socks you find online or at a brick-and-mortar store shouldn’t be how you choose the socks you are going to use when you exercise, whether you are going running, walking, hunting, rucking, hiking, or skiing. You need to carefully consider the features of each sock brand and sock type and then determine which ones suit your needs best.
Do you need socks that are moisture-wicking, comfortable, durable, and thermoregulating? Then socks made from merino wool are your best bet.
Both Smartwool vs Darn Tough are popular sock choices for the adventurer, and ultimately, which one is best depends on what you need the socks for.
Here at Endurancely, however, we still recommend Darn Tough. These socks are darn tough (pun intended) and, ultimately, you just can’t go wrong with a pair of these.
Now that you know Darn Tough socks beat those from Smartwool, who is the winner between Darn Tough and Bombas? Read our Bombas vs Darn Tough sock guide to find out.