This year I began tossing some of my older, deformed wool socks for swamp-running and replaced them with socks from Vermont-native sock company Darn Tough (socks from $14). I picked up my first pair of neon striped boot socks in a discount bin in Pinedale, Wyoming. After thirty miles solo on a trek around the White Mountains of New Hampshire, I picked up four more.
For die-hard wool fans the real question is: How much better can it get? These socks are part of the answer. The biggest challenge for socks is how they change over time because they usually lose elasticity in the cuff and toe while losing cushion and insulation in the toe and heel. A Darn Tough sock is made with a high-density weave in the sole that almost defies description: it's cushioned, without being bulky; it's strong, without being stiff; it's tough, but soft and pliable, it's form-fitting but not overly stretchy.
I normally wear polyester sock liners when hiking and trail-running but I've been on these Darn Toughs for days without liners and am getting accustomed to a single sock again. They retain their shape after being washed repeatedly and are so form-fitting that they don't move around in my boots or trail runners.
I've used the boot socks from 70 degrees down to 15 degrees and have run in the 1/4 socks in wet slush and meltwater. Darn Tough socks passed the test on Mount Washington in January in mountaineering boots, and cross-country skiing in February in Vermont and they show no signs of failing. They aren't significantly pricier than any high-end sock and they show no sign of doing anything other than keeping my feet comfortable and dry. To all that, add a highly navigable website and I'm now a customer for life.
--It might have been his nickname that caught our attention (Dan "Mutha" Zucker), but it was his commitment to playing outside that earned him a spot in Outside's gear army. In the past five years alone, Dan has covered over 1,500 miles and 500,000 of vertical feet mostly in New Hampshire's White Mountanis. He's hiking, running, snowshoeing, or skiing. Plus, his name makes him sound like a bad ass.
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