Boots are often cited as the most important piece of hillwalking gear to get right. But what goes between the boot and the skin of your feet is very important too, your hiking socks….
I am, and always have been, a big fan of merino wool socks. They are soft, comfortable, antibacterial, and for me at least, wicking and not sweaty. I have tried several different manufacturers over the years, with mixed results, so when I saw a new brand to me recently I had to give them a try, and here are my thoughts.
Made in Vermont in the USA, ‘Darn Tough’ socks feel great to the touch. Soft but robust, with a dense knit, and with seams so flat and well stitched you hardly notice they are there at all. There is a reasonable degree of stretch, which means they should adjust to fit a wide variety of foot shapes without bunching, slipping or pulling the material.
The merino socks I have used in the past have had a high percentage of wool in them, often with a little nylon or lycra included. However, Darn Tough socks are made with 65% Merino wool, 30% nylon and 5% Lycra to give them that stretchy but firm hold on your foot. The nylon is there for its’ strength, and doesn’t take anything away from the performance of the merino wool.
They come in a bewildering array of types and weights, but I chose to try their Via Ferrata Boot Sock and the Via Ferrata Micro Crew from the HIKE/TREK range. (Details of the full range can be found on their website at darntough.com.)
The Via Ferrata Boot Sock is a heavier sock, and seemed more suited to mountain hiking in cooler weather. I tried them inside full leather boots on three consecutive cold March days in the Wicklow mountains in Ireland.
It was immediately clear that these were lovely to wear, cushioning my feet and keeping them warm. There were never any hotspots, no slipping or bunching; and as with any good socks, I never noticed them on my feet after the first few minutes. Despite being warm, my feet were never too hot or sweaty and the wool wicked away any moisture leaving my feet snug and happy all day. After three days of hiking they felt as comfortable as day one, and showed little signs of odour. They turned out to be a first class mountain boot sock.
The Via Ferrata Micro Crew is a lighter weight sock with a lower ankle cuff, there is a bit less cushioning to the sole of the foot as a result, but this did not seem to affect the performance at all.
I used them for lower level walks in a pair of fabric and leather boots with a Gore-Tex lining. Again, they were warm and comfortable with a slightly tenacious feel that holds them gently but firmly on your foot. Ideally suited to hiking in warmer weather with lighter boots, the micro crew’s would also be great for general wear, walking the dog, or taking a stroll in the park.
As an added bonus ‘Darn Tough’ socks come in a dazzling array of colour combinations, particularly in the women’s range, so you can look stunning when out in the hills! There was a slight issue with the sizing, these socks are made for the larger American foot, so if your foot measures on the border of medium (uk 7.5 – 9.0) and large (uk 9.5 – 11.5), for example, then consider the smaller size.
They come with a lifetime guarantee, the packaging stating, ‘If you can wear these socks out, we’ll replace them. Free of charge. No questions asked.’ I’m sure they mean it, but I’m also fairly sure you won’t need to ask them.
‘Darn Tough’ are the best merino wool socks I have found to date. A great fit, moisture wicking, warm, colourful and antibacterial, I won’t be looking anywhere else for my hiking socks for a good while.
They are available in Dublin from Basecamp Outdoor Store and retail at €23.95 – €25.95.