Smartwool vs Darn Tough Review

Smartwool vs Darn Tough

We’ve all been there: toes so cold we’re afraid of what we’ll find when we take our socks off, a blister that stings more with every step and eventually turns into an insightly callous, and tired feet that ache long after you’ve stopped walking. The common denominator tends to be a bad pair of shoes.

But what if I told you it boils down to a good pair of socks, too? For comfortable travel and plenty of arch support, high quality socks are a must have. Not sure where to start looking? Luckly, this Smartwool vs Darn Tough review is here with the answers, guiding you through what they’re all about down below. 

About Smartwool 

Smartwool vs Darn Tough Review

Almost 30 years ago in 1994, New England ski instructors Peter and Patty Duke founded Smartwool. Basically, cold feet didn’t just mean skipping out on a wedding ceremony: it meant missing out on a day full of skiing and spending time outdoors. Essentially, the brand believes “that time outside is valuable, restorative, and essential for everyone.” 

With that in mind, it started producing socks from Merino wool, which was ideal for performance and outdoor activities because of the nature of the fabric (soft, warm, moisture-wicking). Today, the range of outdoor apparel is made in America and headquartered in Colorado, though customers all over North America and Europe have access to the quality pieces.

About Darn Tough 

Smartwool vs Darn Tough Review

Darn Tough was founded in 2004 by the Cabot family and is still family owned and operated today. The company was created in Vermont, where weather is known to be pretty fickle, which means a different set of socks for sunny or snowy weather is a necessity. 

The family is pretty well versed in more than just weatherproofing, though, since they spend their free time outdoors and engaging in all different types of physical activities. In keeping with things running in the family, the brand actually manufactures all socks at a family mill in Vermont, though they can be purchased all over the globe. 

Each sock is crafted from Merino wool for that lasting quality and comfortable material that stays true to their mission: “to design, manufacture, sell and promote the most comfortable, durable and best fitting socks available in the market today” with a lifetime guarantee. 

Now that we know a little more about each brand, you might feel a little torn about where to shop. To help you decide, this Smartwool vs Darn Tough review will cover everything you need to consider, including materials and sustainability goals, quality and price, how top sellers compare, customer testimonials, and more. With that being said, let’s get into these darn tough smart wool socks!

Smartwool vs Darn Tough: What to Consider

Smartwool vs Darn Tough Review

Product Range

Socks, socks, and more socks! Your feet release a lot of heat, and depending on the circumstances, you either need that heat to stay or go. This means choosing a pair of socks that’s ideal for those conditions. The same goes for different levels of cushioning, moisture wicking, support, and weight. 

Luckily, both Smartwool and Darn Tough offer socks for all different needs, whether that’s athletic, hiking, hunting and fishing, or working. Smartwool also carries a range of apparel ideal for outdoor wear, while Darn Tough focuses solely on socks (pun intended).

Target Audience

Socks are honestly a necessity for everyone, but Smartwool and Darn Tough aren’t exactly made for wearing under your low tops or committing fashion faux pas like socks and sandals. 

They’re more geared towards anyone who needs socks that can withstand different weather and perform under any type of pressure, whether that’s daily wear in the sweltering heat or doubling up under weighty winter boots. 

Design Features

All Smartwool and Darn Tough socks are designed for men, women, and children. Really the only difference is sizing (and unique designs). But there’s more to it than that!

All Darn Tough socks are made with performance fabrics and fits, durability, arch support, and seamless toes. Smartwool socks are constructed from the softest Merino wool for an elite fit, maximum comfort and support, and extreme durability. 

Materials and Sustainability

If you’re looking for a good pair of socks, chances are you’ve had a few too many holey soles over the years. Luckily, both Darn Tough and Smartwool use sustainably sourced Merino wool with patented technologies that ensure lifelong durability, comfort, and performance. 


Both brands can be purchased on their respective websites as well as stores like Sport Chek, Amazon, and Walmart. On either websites, users will find drop down menus to guide them to what they’re looking for, depending on things like who and what the socks are for.

Overall, the prices are quite reasonable since they’re easily accessible from many different retailers and last forever. They don’t cost too much more than average pairs of socks, but it is important to keep in mind the quality behind both brands.

Now that I’ve covered the top things to consider, this Smartwool vs Darn Tough review will delve a little deeper with some comparisons of top selling products to find some key similarities and differences. 

Smartwool Men’s Run Cold Weather Mid Crew Socks vs Darn Tough Men’s Hiker Boot Midweight Hiking Sock Review

Smartwool vs Darn Tough Review
Smartwool Men’s Run Cold Weather Mid Crew Socks

While the men’s collection from both brands encompasses anything from hiking to running to work socks, we’re going to focus on the basics: a good ol’ fashioned crew sock. These socks are ideal for slipping on under your boots and heading out for the day, whether that’s to work, for a walk, or anything in between. Let’s take a look at how the two options compare:

Smartwool Men’s Run Cold Weather Mid Crew Socks

  • Mid crew sock with 4 Degree Elite Fit
  • Cushioning for high pressure areas
  • Durable and comfortable
  • Mesh ventilation for breathability
  • 2 color options: black or blue
  • Sizes M-XL
Smartwool vs Darn Tough Review
Darn Tough Men’s Hiker Boot Midweight Hiking Sock

Darn Tough Men’s Hiker Boot Midweight Hiking Sock:

  • Performance crew fit
  • Moisture wicking and quick drying
  • Temperature regulating 
  • Available in full or underfoot cushion
  • 6 different neutral color options
  • Sizes M-XXL

Darn Tough is a bit more customizable with more sizes, colors, and cushion options. But Smartwool has ventilation and extra cushioning for a more breathable and long lasting fabric. Both socks are perfect for different weather conditions since Darn Tough is designed for all seasons and Smartwool comes with ventilation and less cushioning!

Smartwool Women’s Athletic Targeted Cushion Low Ankle 2 Pack Socks vs Darn Tough Women’s Element No Show Tab Lightweight Athletic Sock Review

Smartwool vs Darn Tough Review
Smartwool Women’s Athletic Targeted Cushion Low Ankle 2 Pack Socks

Ankle socks are a must have in every wardrobe since they’re easy to pair with basically any shoes, whether that’s a sneaker, a boot, or even your sandals. So what makes these socks special? Let’s dive in!

Smartwool Women’s Athletic Targeted Cushion Low Ankle 2 Pack Socks

  • 2 pack
  • Ankle support for a comfortable fit
  • Flat knit toe and targeted cushioning for any pressure during workouts
  • 3 color options
  • Sizes S-XL
Smartwool vs Darn Tough Review
Darn Tough Women’s Element No Show Tab Lightweight Athletic

Darn Tough Women’s Element No Show Tab Lightweight Athletic Sock

  • 2 pack
  • Performance fit
  • Moisture wicking
  • Temperature regulating
  • Option for underfoot cushion for bounce or no cushion for a lightweight feel
  • 3 color options
  • Sizes S-L

Since these socks are both designed for athletic wear, it makes sense that they easily slip on beneath your running shoe for a seamless and stylish look. When you’re ready to get your sweat on, Darn Tough’s moisture wicking material may be the ideal option, while the extra cushioning in the Smartwool socks is perfect for HIIT workouts.

Smartwool Kids’ Full Cushion Striped Crew Socks vs Darn Tough Kids’ Sunset Ridge Jr. Micro Crew Lightweight Sock Review

Smartwool vs Darn Tough Review
Smartwool Kids’ Full Cushion Striped Crew Socks

Kids need socks they can wear every day. They also need socks that can withstand constant running around (with or without shoes on) that won’t make them feel sweaty and gross or cause irritation. So what do these brands have to offer? Let’s take a look!

Smartwool Kids’ Full Cushion Striped Crew Socks

  • Crew fit with no extra bulk
  • Flat toe seam and elasticized arch for extra comfort and support
  • Full cushioning for warmth and comfort 
  • 4 fun color options 
  • Sizes S-L
Smartwool vs Darn Tough Review
Darn Tough Kids’ Sunset Ridge Jr. Micro Crew Lightweight Sock

Darn Tough Kids’ Sunset Ridge Jr. Micro Crew Lightweight Sock

  • Crew performance fit
  • Moisture wicking and fast drying
  • Cushioned underfoot
  • One unique color option featuring a sunset over a mountain
  • Sizes S-L

Basically, both brands know that a comfortable sock is crucial for kids. If your little one hates bulk and prefers a little extra cushioning, Smartwool is the way to go. But if they’re prone to sweaty feet, the minimal cushioning and moisture wicking material in the Darn Tough socks will be the better option!

Smartwool vs Darn Tough: Quality

Smartwool vs Darn Tough Review

When it comes to quality, this Smartwool vs Darn Tough review found that both companies show up. I also think it’s worth mentioning why Merino wool is such an important fabric when making socks, considering both brands base their products around it, which definitely contributes to the overall quality of the products.

First of all, the fabric is super soft, which is a necessity when pressed against your bare skin. It’s also temperature regulating, breathable, and moisture wicking, which is ideal for both hot and cold conditions. Plus, the fiber is odor resistant and super durable, meaning they’ll last much longer than other socks. 

Smartwool believes in creating a better, healthier plant for people to continue to enjoy. With that being said, 53% of the brand’s carbon emissions currently come from the production of its wool. By 2025, it intends to source all of its wool from regenerative sources in partnership with ZQRX. 

On top of that, the brand wants to use 100% regenerative materials and climate-positive wool by 2030. Today, the socks are all crafted in America using sustainably and ethically sourced Merino wool from around the world, from locations such as New Zealand and Uruguay. 

So what makes Smartwool socks unique? Let’s take a look at a few special features:

  • Indestructawool™ Technology: premium wool yarns knitted specifically to last while still being super comfortable and well fitting
  • Shred Shield™ Technology: all ultralight socks come with this to avoid wear and tear like holes and pulls
  • 4-Degree Elite™ Fit: super comfortable fit that stays put, fighting blisters and slippage so you can keep going 
  • Virtually Seamless™ Toe: no seams throughout the sock to increase comfort
  • Activity-Specific Mesh Zones: ventilation to keep users cool
  • Dialed-In Cushioning: different cushion levels in different pairs of socks to meet user needs

Darn Tough is also big on manufacturing high quality, durable socks without having too great of a carbon footprint. All materials are chosen and tested to ensure they are durable. That being said, the company focuses on producing pieces that last to lessen the number of textiles that find their way into landfills. 

It has also committed to using only Responsible Wool Standard Merino wool to ensure sustainable and ethical practices. All the socks are actually crafted in the family run factory in Vermont, packaged in boxes that are recyclable, finished with water soluble glues and vegetable-based inks. 

Like Smartwool, there are a few things about Darn Tough socks that stand out:

  • Performance Fibers: the Merino wool in most socks is specifically designed for performance use due to its breathable and moisture wicking properties
  • Performance Fit: every sock is designed to hug and stretch to the shape of the foot, stopping any sagging or slipping that may occur while moving
  • Fine Gauge Knitting: the finer yarns and smaller needles ensure a better, more comfortable fit
  • Durability: reinforcements in high touch areas (underfoot, toe, and heel) counteract regular wear and tear
  • Arch Support: the elastic through the arch of the foot keeps the socks in place and the foot comfortable for longer
  • True Seamless™ Toe: the seamless toe helps to avoid any discomfort or pressure

Another thing that sticks out to this Smartwool vs Darn Tough review when it comes to quality is the convenient sock finder and gift finder on both websites. Here’s how to use these features to find your perfect fit:

  1. Start the quiz
  2. Choose who and what you’re shopping for
  3. Select things like material, sock height, cushion, shoe size and more
  4. Enter your email address
  5. Find your new pair of socks!

Overall, it’s pretty clear that the quality is there for both brands, with clear sourcing of materials, manufacturing policies, and plenty of thought into the design and structure of every single pair of socks. 

If we break it down to the small stuff, Smartwool may be better for those looking for a sock that is specifically designed to be long lasting, ventilated, and cushioned, while Darn Tough is ideal for performance wear with plenty of arch support and durability. 

Smartwool vs Darn Tough: Price & Value

Smartwool vs Darn Tough Review

Any old value pack of socks might seem like a good idea at the time. But when you’re knee deep in snow or hiking your way to the top of a mountain in your new boots, you might be singing a different tune. 

And honestly, the same goes for your daily socks. You should be able to go to the grocery store without having to pull your sock back up to your ankle and blisters shouldn’t be a common occurrence. That’s what makes Smartwool and Darn Tough socks so valuable – they actually withstand all different uses and are made to last a lifetime.

So what kind of prices will you find when you visit either website? This Smartwool vs Darn Tough review is here with the details down below:


  • Men’s hiking sock: $20-$25
  • Women’s athletic sock: $16-$27
  • Kids crew sock: $12-$14

Darn Tough:

  • Men’s hiking sock:  $20-$30
  • Women’s athletic sock: $16-$35
  • Kids crew sock: $15-$16

Technically, you should save money in the long run. Like all good things, the price is higher because it is designed to last forever. This means you don’t repurchase new packs every other year or worry about odours that won’t wash out, so you’ll save out on both the hassle and the money in the end. 

Both brands are committed to providing the best pairs of socks made from the best materials following some super sustainable and ethical practices. They don’t just stop there, though. They each continue to set goals and remain accountable, looking to improve endlessly. And that’s something I can stand behind!

So for this Smartwool vs Darn Tough review, these two brands are pretty comparable when it comes to price and value. The prices are pretty similar, but Darn Tough does offer a few more expensive options. That being said, it also offers a little more selection. 

Smartwool vs Darn Tough: What do Customers Think?  

Smartwool vs Darn Tough Review

This Smartwool vs Darn Tough review has covered the unique features of both brands as well as some similar product options and a comparison of the overall price and value. But I know that customer reviews play a large role in your decision as well, so what are they saying? 

I sourced testimonials from the brands’ websites, Outdoor Gear Lab, Amazon, and Altitude Sports to help determine if they’re worth the buy. Before we jump in, let’s consider how they’re rated!


  • Outdoor Gear Lab: 4.8/5 stars
  • Amazon: 4.9/5 stars out of 548 reviews
  • Altitude Sports: 5/5 stars out of 739 reviews

Darn Tough:

  • Brand website: 5/5 stars out of 47723 reviews
  • Outdoor Gear Lab: 4.8/5 stars
  • Amazon: 4.6/5 stars out of 2147 reviews

So, now I know that the two brands are pretty highly rated. What’s the reason behind these stars? Down below, I’ll cover some highlights from what customers are saying!


  • Different height and weight options ideal for different needs
  • Fit comfortably in general and in shoes
  • Soft and fine wool
  • Hold their shape and are long lasting
  • Quality arch support and cushioning

One patron describes how they were shocked at the difference a good pair of socks made in their life, eventually transitioning their entire family to using only Smartwool:

“I never thought socks would make a difference. I love them. I feel like a lot of the fitted shocks out there make my toes feel suffocated and pinched. These don’t! I also have narrow heels and these socks do not slide into my shoes so that I have to stop and fix my socks. They stay right where they should. Also they keep my feet dry and feeling good.”

Another happy customer was impressed with the way “The sock really conforms to your foot contours” which means “you get no blisters while hiking or wearing for long hours.”

Darn Tough:

  • Comfortable fit and long lasting
  • Great for a wide range of needs and uses
  • High quality material and seamless construction
  • Toughest darn sock out there
  • Worth the investment

Many buyers report transitioning their entire collection into only Darn Tough. One even writes, “I’ve had Darn Tough heavy winter socks for a few years now but I just bought 3 pairs of lightweight socks for the summer and love them!”

Another shopper calls the brand a tried and true option: “Best socks I’ve ever worn. I’m in leather work boots for 14-16 hrs a day and I can get 2 yrs out of these socks before they get too thin. I’ve never had them get holes from wear and tear. I also really like the seamless toe. I’ve tried many other brands but Darn Tough is the best.”

There have been a few reports of pilling and holes in defective socks, but both brands offer seamless returns policies and product guarantees to ensure customers are happy with every exchange! 

In summary, it’s clear that both brands are well loved for their high quality and long lasting socks! It’s apparent that once shoppers discover the quality of a good sock, it’s pretty hard to go back to the old thing. One customer puts it pretty nicely, writing a review for Smartwool: “I only buy this brand and Darn Tough.”

Smartwool vs Darn Tough: Promotions & Discounts

Smartwool vs Darn Tough Review

So far, it’s a pretty tight competition for this Smartwool vs Darn Tough review. While there aren’t currently any active coupon codes for either website, there are often holiday promotions and customers can sign up for emails for special offers.

If the promo is what will sway you in the end, you’ll be happy to hear that you will find one if you simply keep your eyes peeled! But if savings are your focus, it’s important to keep in mind that we do consider the prices pretty great considering the fact that these socks are made to last forever, meaning you shouldn’t have to repurchase for years to come

Smartwool vs Darn Tough: Shipping & Returns 

Smartwool vs Darn Tough Review

You might also be worried about shipping and returns if you’re currently packing for your upcoming ski trip or not sure which size will be the right fit for you. Fortunately, my Smartwool vs Darn Tough review is here to fill you in. Let’s get into the details, shall we!

Smartwool delivers to North America and Europe using trackable methods with a few different shipping options:

  • Free ground shipping (5-7 days)
  • Free 3-day shipping
  • $15 2-day shipping
  • $30 next-day shipping

When it comes to returns, Smartwool has a 100% satisfaction guarantee, which means free returns within 45 days of purchase for unworn and unopened items. For a return label and more information, simply contact the brand. 

There is also a guarantee for all socks, so if they don’t live up to their potential, simply attach details and photos of the issue in an email for a reimbursement.

Darn Tough currently only ships within the US, but there are plenty of different retailers where it can be purchased. All orders are shipped through USPS for a flat rate of $6 or free for orders over $50, while expedited shipping is available at checkout.

Plus, the brand offers free returns on all socks within 90 days of purchase, meaning you’ll have ample time to test out those cushy socks. What’s more? These socks have a lifetime warranty, so if you find any sort of deficiency, simply send the socks back to receive a brand new pair!

Overall, both brands have some pretty stellar shipping and returns policies! Smartwool does have a few more shipping options, which may be ideal if you’re in need of a holiday gift in a hurry. But, Darn Tough’s return policy may be more suitable if you need to try your socks out before you know for sure!

Who Will You Shop With?

Smartwool vs Darn Tough Review

Talk about a Darn Tough decision when trying to choose which Smartwool pair of socks is right for you with these two brands… There’s a lot to consider, and it’s honestly all good things. A long list of pros, if you will. 

With Smartwool, the prices are slightly more affordable and the sock finder quiz is a little more in-depth, which may play a role in helping you source that perfect fitting pair. The socks are also designed with some unique trademarked technologies to ensure long lasting comfortable fits. 

If you opt for Darn Tough, it honestly might boil down to accessibility, since customers all over the world can get their hands on these socks – or should I say feet? Though the prices are a tiny bit higher, there are a few extra options to choose from overall when it comes to color schemes and sock height.

There are so many positives behind each brand that it’s hard to pick a favorite…so I won’t. I’ll leave that one up to you! And who knows? This Smartwool vs Darn Tough review thinks you may even try out both!

Check out related reviews you might like:

Bombas Socks Review

Thorlos Socks Review

Nordic Socks Review

John’s Crazy Socks Review

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