There are two type of people in the world: those who understand why socks are important and those who will understand eventually.
I was one of those people who didn't get it until a fateful day of backpacking in the rain.
It was summer time in Michigan and I was backpacking on Manitou Island. I had my normal cotton socks on; inside a pair of hiking shoes. My friend and I were hiking through the rain and needed to cross a field that had some brush, about a foot high. Nothing too thick, but we were walking through a wet field with weeds rubbing against our legs.
30 seconds later I could feel my feet sloshing around in my shoes as my cotton socks absorbed every single drop of water that ran down my leg. My feet were soaked; my shoes were soaked; my day was going to suck and there was nothing I could do about it. All I had in my backpack was more pairs of other crappy cotton socks that would end up just as soaked.
As soon as I got home I bought some Merino wool socks and I've never looked back.
Darn Tough vs Smartwool - What's the Difference?
Both of these brands use Merino wool in their socks and the main differences come down to the theory behind their construction.
Darn Tough focuses more on thickness and durability. They last a really long time and are backed up with a free replacement plan. Darn Tough makes these socks with longevity in mind.
Smartwool focuses more on the shaping and contours of the feet. They won't just be thick everywhere, but they'll actually have an arch hugging design that helps prevent blisters.
In the real world, nobody complains about Darn Tough socks causing blisters or any pain. The only issue some people have is that the socks make their shoes feel tight because of the extra thickness.
Some runners with special feet may prefer the Smartwool contoured socks but in general, the Darn Tough socks are just as comfortable and tend to last longer in our experience.
Summary - Get Darn Tough
There's nothing wrong with Smartwool but we just prefer Darn Tough. They tend to last longer and feel more comfortable on the foot. Some of the Smartwool contours can feel a little odd; like your foot is being squeezed on the arch. Due to Darn Tough's warranty and overall comfort, we recommend them as our top choice.
Darn Tough Socks
Darn Tough socks are affordable and last forever. The warranty guarantees free replacements for life and it's likely you'll never even need to use that because these socks last so long.
Merino wool keeps your feet dry and warm when it's cold and cold when it's hot. Darn Tough socks are our #1 choice for backpacking socks.