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Whether you consider yourself an experienced hiker, or you’re just at the very beginning of your hiking journey, you should already know by now that good hiking socks are the basics you should never underestimate. It doesn’t really matter if you’ve spent hundreds of dollars on a pair of professional trekking boots or undergone the toughest physical preparation – if your socks suck, you’re probably going to suffer (big time) on longer trails.
Even the best hiking socks are really inexpensive (especially in comparison with some of the other hiking equipment), so it’s quite obvious that most of us wouldn’t really think twice before spending a few bucks to get the best ones around. But finding the right hiking socks is not that easy. Unlike boots or outdoor jackets, you can’t really try them on before buying them. And even if you could – socks really show their qualities only after several miles, when sweat, heat, cold, constant stretching, and other important factors come into play.
What you really need is good advice from experienced colleagues. And that’s exactly what we have for you in this article. Today we’re going to talk about two of the best currently available hiking socks brands on the market: Farm to Feet and Darn Tough Socks. While the first one of them is relatively new on the market, the second brand boasts 40-years long tradition and has thousands of die-hard fans all around the world.
In our Farm to Feet vs Darn Tough Socks comparison, you’ll learn about all their quintessential qualities, some of their downsides, and – what’s the most important thing – you’ll learn which one of them should be the best for you.
The main differences between Farm to Feet vs Darn Tough Socks are:
If you want to make an informed decision about your next hiking socks, you should learn a bit about their important functions, specifications and qualities first – and then, of course, you should try them out on your own because theory will only get you so far…
First of all, you should always keep in mind that 14-days long Annapurna circuit (or similarly bold adventure) is really not the best time for experimenting with your new hiking gear. If you’re planning to buy new hiking socks, test them first in some less demanding environment, or at least take some proven alternative in case you won’t be entirely happy with your new purchase. Badly chosen socks can really ruin your whole experience, and they can even cost you much of the energy you need for completing the trail without major obstacles.
Good hiking socks should always feel comfortable. In fact, they should be so comfortable that you won’t even think about wearing them most of the time. They should fit you precisely and stay in the same size and form even after hundreds of miles. A good hiking sock doesn’t roll or slide in your boot. It will keep you safe from any blisters or galls, which is extremely important mainly if you’re just getting used to your new hiking shoes.
Read on for the most important qualities you should look for when buying your new hiking socks.
Not sure what to look for when searching for your new outdoor socks? These are the six key criteria you should consider:
Choosing the right sock height is paramount to feel comfortable throughout your adventures. There are four basic sock heights to choose from:
No-show or invisible socks are great if you’re wearing low-cut hiking boots and plan to hike in the months of spring or summer. They are literally “invisible” in your shoes and allow you to enjoy freedom on the trail without constraints. However, they don’t protect your ankle bones from scratches or bruises, so they are more suitable for smoother terrain without rocks and boulders.
Ankle socks are slightly higher, so they provide better protection than no-shows. They are great with mid-cut boots and tougher terrain.
Crew height is probably the most common version of hiking socks. It’s perfectly versatile, since you can wear them with both low-cut and high-cut shoes, and they offer perfect protection from rocks or thick vegetation. If you’re unsure which socks to choose and don’t want to buy a pair of each height category, go for crew socks. They’ll serve you well in most occasions.
Knee-height socks are, as their name suggests, high enough to cover your whole legs up to knee joints. They are popular mainly with mountaineers and winter hikers, but they are also preferred by many trail runners due to their ability to keep leg muscles supported and warm.
If you want to feel fresh even after completing a day-long hike, your feet must be able to breathe properly. What’s the purpose of buying high-quality hiking shoes with sophisticated ventilation, if you’re going to nail it by wearing an equivalent of plastic bags over your feet?
Good breathability is provided by a combination of breathable material and airy density. In general, all-natural materials such as Merino wool and silk have the best breathable qualities. But some of the modern synthetic materials (such as Coolmax) are designed for perfect air ventilation too.
The same applies to sock’s ability to absorb and drain away any excessive sweat. If you want to avoid uncomfortable odour and sticky feeling, don’t underestimate these qualities.
Most of the hiking socks on the market aren’t made from a single fabric. It’s usually a blend of natural and synthetic materials with various features and characteristics that provides for the comprehensive qualities we are all after. These are the most common materials used for hiking socks today:
Wool: Wool, especially Merino wool, is definitely the most popular and sought-after material used for outdoor socks. It boasts great thermoregulatory abilities – keeping you warm in cold weather, while also preventing your feet from getting sweaty in the summertime. Wool also naturally keeps away all the nasty bacteria, which makes it very popular with thru-hikers, who often spend many days in the same clothes.
Polyester: Polyester is one of the most versatile and common synthetic materials. Although you probably wouldn’t enjoy socks made of it completely, when blended with wool and/or other materials, polyester serves as a perfect ingredient for improved moisture wicking, insulation, and faster drying abilities. Polyester comes in numerous forms, it can hide behind the brand names such as Coolmax.
Nylon: Nylon was one of the first synthetic fibers in the world. People were always fascinated by its unique combination of smoothness and durability. These features make it a common blending material for hiking socks.
Silk: This valuable natural insulation is extremely lightweight and comfortable to wear, but it needs some reinforcement for improved durability.
Spandex: Spandex is highly elastic and great for keeping your socks in shape and in their place. You’ll probably find some small percentage of it in most of the socks for hiking.
Considering weight of something as light as socks can sound a little bit silly. But when we’re talking about socks weight, what we’re really discussing is their thickness. In general, there are four separate weight categories of hiking socks.
Ultra-lightweight socks are great for scorching summers and/or lower altitudes. They are very breathable and comfortable to wear, but they provide little-to-no cushioning, so you can’t rely on their shock dampening in rough terrain.
Lightweight socks are very versatile. They are great for warm and mild weather. They also feel very comfortable during the most dynamic activities such as trail running thanks to their moisture-wicking abilities and breathability.
Midweight socks are also very versatile weatherwise. Due to their strengthen cushions, they are preferred mainly by those who plan multi-day hikes with many miles to cover.
Heavyweight socks are the first choice of all heavy-duty mountaineers and those who like to hike in the harshest winter conditions. They will keep your feet warm and protect them effectively from possible bruising caused by heavy winter boots. On the other side, their density won’t allow much breathing and their sweat wicking abilities are weaker too.
If you have any special conditions or requirements, you’ll probably need your socks to have some special features too. These can vary from compression to separate toes, or you can even opt for grip socks for barefoot hiking. But before you experiment with something new, try it out in some safe and easy environment first to make sure that it really suits your needs and abilities.
Want to learn more about how to choose the best hiking socks in general? Read our detailed guide here. Now let’s move on to reviewing and comparing two of the most renowned brands of hiking socks currently on the market – Farm to Feet and Darn Tough Socks
Farm to Feet is South Carolina based company founded only in 2013, so it is a relatively new player on the market. But a second look into the company’s background shows that it actually belongs to the Nester Hosiery socks manufacturer, which was established back in 1993, when its founder, Marty Nester, already had more than 20 years of hands-on experience in socks making the industry.
In fact, Farm to Feet belongs to a great family of heavy-duty socks made by this company not only for the adventurers, but also for the firefighters, mountain rescuers, and other tough professions.
As Farm to Feet’s name suggests, this brand is all about sustainability and locally sourced production. They get their Merino wool directly from the official American sheep breeders, they process it and blend it locally, and they also knit all of their socks right on their premises. The company claims that even all of the synthetic fabrics they use are 100% American.
So, what does Farm to Feet have to offer?
Farm to Feet offers very typical hiking socks designs. While they probably don’t make them stand out in the competition too much, some of them are really funny and inspiring. The basic line of their designs consists of vivid yet natural colour schemes with dominating shades of blue, brown, green, and grey.
Aside from the single colour design and tone-in-tone variations, there are also multiple attractive picture motifs inspired by the hiking itself; mountain range panorama, topographic contour lines, the sun setting behind the trees. While some of their designs are unisex, others include a sprinkle of pink or purple for more feminine appearance.
Their collections are named after some of America’s most famous hiking trails, such as the Appalachian Trail collection and the Mountains-to-sea trail collection, so you can also choose by the heart or according to your next adventure.
Farm to Feet currently offers 13 hiking designs for men, 11 for women, and 2 types of junior socks. Most of them come in several different colours. Aside from the socks designed especially for hiking, this brand also sells many high-quality socks for everyday use, sports socks for both winter and summer sports, and hunting or tactical socks.
The main ingredient for Farm to Feet socks is their wonderful, locally sourced Merino wool. Aside from that, their socks are made from nylon and spandex, both of them produced in America too.
To get a better idea about how this company blends its ingredients in practice, let’s focus on one of its all-time bestsellers, Farm to Feet Damascus Lightweight Technical Crew socks for men:
Prices for Farm to Feet hiking socks start at about $17.50 per no-show trail socks. Their most expensive (knee-high heavyweight) models cost about $30 dollars. This is a pretty standard price range for high-quality hiking socks on the market.
Farm to Feet currently offers a lifetime guarantee on all of its products. If you’re unhappy with your purchase, all you have to do is fill up a form through their official website and decide, whether you’d like to get a second pair of socks for free or money back.
If you’d like to read more about Farm to Feet socks, check out our detailed review here.
Darn Tough is an extremely renowned and reputable socks making company based in Vermont, US. It has a 40-years long history of continuous socks manufacture. The company is still family-run (3rd generation!), and they apparently really know how to do what they’re doing.
Holding on to their motto: “Nobody ever outsourced anything for quality”, this company also prides itself on its complete self-sufficiency. Every product they ever made came out of their own manufacture, and they also personally test their products right at their backyard, in the mountainous state of Vermont.
Darn Tough also sources all of its materials locally and expresses their focus on animal welfare by choosing the wool from ethically bred American sheep only. Darn Tough socks are sold all over the world, and many professional outdoorsmen consider them to be the best hiking socks ever made.
Is this enough to choose Darn Tough over its competition?
Darn Tough socks are very traditional socks and so is their design. Most of their hiking socks come is natural tones of grey, brown, green or blue, some variations in red are available too. Most of their designs focus on stripes or ergonomy-inspired shapes. Its the simple logo (simplistic outline of a mountain range) appears on many of their socks too.
Darn to Tough offers various collections that makes choosing the right design or qualities a bit more straightforward. Most of their socks also come in several colours, so you can stock up on your favourites without having a pile of identical socks.
Darn Tough hiking socks come in as many as 43 distinct designs! There are 19 unique designs for men, 20 hiking socks for women, 4 types of socks for junior hikers.
Aside from hiking socks, Darn Tough produces many other heavy-duty socks for different kinds of activities and purposes; running, skiing, biking, hunting, etc. They also have a special series for everyday office work, which offers great support for sedentary lifestyle. Darn Tough really has it all!
Not surprisingly, Darn Tough makes its socks mostly from their premium quality Merino wool. But when it comes to synthetics, Darn Tough uses the unique material called Coolmax – a durable man-made fibre that is just perfect for warmer weather.
Coolmax is great in wicking moisture away from your feet, and it also dries very quickly, which is great if you need to wash your socks on the go and need them to be dry pretty fast. Many outdoorsmen believe that Coolmax is currently the best fibre in its category, so this can be seen as Darn Tough’s advantage.
Let’s check what are Darn Tough’s best selling lightweight socks, Coolmax Micro Crew, made of:
If you’d like to choose your next hiking socks by their price, it’s not going to be very easy. Farm to Feet and Darn Tough actually have very similar pricing policies, although due to having a more varied assortment, Darn Tough’s price range is also somewhat wider. Adult hiking socks start at about $16, some of the most expensive socks on offer will currently cost you about $35.
This being said, if you compare the similar types of socks from each of the compared brands, you might discover that you will pay slightly more with Darn Tough for similar features in comparison with Farm to Feet.
Darn Tough, just like Farm to Feet, offers a lifetime no strings attached guarantee on all of its products. If you have any doubts about your purchase, you can return the socks for money back or a new pair. Your old socks will be recycled.
Read further details about this all-American socks brand in our Darn Tough review here!
Farm to Feet and Darn Tough are both very strong players in their field. They both offer a full range of high-quality hiking socks for every season and all the different types of hikers. If you find their products great (we truly do!), it’s easy to stock up on them for a lifetime – and lifetime it really is thanks to the limitless lifetime guarantee both of the brands offer.
Both companies also have very similar sustainability policy. They care about animal welfare and source all of their materials and services locally, so you know that you’re supporting a good thing when buying their products.
You are also going to spend very similar money for their products, as they both stand in the same price category (although some of the Darn Tough products are a bit more expensive in comparison with similar Farm to Feet socks).
One of the greatest differences between Farm to Feet and Darn Tough lies in the materials they use. While both of them use mostly Merino wool in combination with spandex and nylon, Darn Tough also adds Coolmax polyester fibres for improved breathless and moisture-wicking. If you have experience with this material and know that it works miracles for you, you probably won’t give it a second thought and go with Darn Tough.
Darn Tough is also the older and more renowned of the two brands in our comparison. If you’d like to check opinions from people around the world who use their hiking socks for years or even decades, you’re going to have it much easier with this brand. However, keep in mind that Farm to Feet is just a branch of highly experienced Nester Hosiery, so you’re not really going to buy your socks from some start-uppers here too.
All in all, while both of these brands produce first-class products, if you had to buy only one pair of hiking socks and put all your trust and expectations in it, we’d advise you to choose some of the Darn Tough socks.
From backpacking to cycling in the mountains, Jodie can help you stay in shape and pick the best outdoor gear, clothing, and footwear. She is a full-time blogger and is our go-to source for backpacking gear reviews, outdoor skills advice and information, destinations for backpacking, camping, and hiking, and a lot more.