This post is all about feet! These broken pieces of callus and blisters after 2,000+ miles that we call our feet... Well, these are feet we have seen, but never fully experienced. Yes, we have had foot issues, hot spots, blisters, and an extreme case of skin melting off on the AT, but that aside we have been pleasantly pleased with our feet on 16,000+ miles hiked. What is the secret ingredient that keeps our feet pristine and unblemished besides the classic dirt and grime that accumulates over the miles? Well, honestly an extreme amount of luck and we believe the right choice of socks. We are die-hard supporters of Darn Tough socks, and will be for the foreseeable future! So, take a load of those barking dogs and take a seat, and treat your feet with us, as we tell you about the luxury of these socks!
Enjoy the views out there instead of struggling with each blistered step!
First thing is first, as we have said there is no sock or foot-garment known in this universe that will protect your feet from consistent 20-30 mile days everyday for months. That is an impossible task. Yet, from trial and error, we have found a product that mitigates the extreme conditions lets us find comfort in the uncomfortable. There is nothing that can replace, feet being broken in on trail, no sock, no shoe, simply there is going to be hurt. Yet, Darn Toughs have always treated us well, and when we have dared to stray away from their embrace, we have come away with horror stories. Here are a few.
When we started our long distance hiking career back in 2016 on the AT, we had not yet heard of Darn Tough socks. Our preparation could be said to have been quite lackluster. We used gear that we found in the garage, gear that we had accumulated from day and weekend hikes, and simply gear that was not meant for long distance travel. We started off in these THICK wool socks, no brand known, just extremely thick, They worked for a while, until they started to become sand-paper. This led us to our worst foot problems from socks ever. The skin began to melt off and flake away from our bone, it was quite an uncomfortable experience. This pushed us in the next trail town into the warm embrace of Darn Tough Socks, and we have never looked back! (Besides a few instances which would throw us violently and whole-heartedly back into their camp swearing never again, yet the human mind is a fickle thing and we kept believing there might be something better out there...)
You probably have seen this picture before of our 4 sock cast, but it shows the huge difference between Darn Tough Socks and Not Tough Socks!
Once we stepped into Darn Tough socks, our feet felt as if they were home. No bunching of fabric, no sandpaper, no chunky wool, just a sock that would last for multiple hundreds of miles, and when it finally did have a hole, the company would replace it free of charge. We absolutely loved them, and still love them! Not to say that the classic unavoidable foot problems still did not arise such as, tiredness of feet, cramps, and very few hotspots. Yet, for the most part we hiked worry free as our feet were our happy vehicle across the trail and the Earth.
For some reason, we decided to try Injinji Socks in 2017. Huge mistake! They were the craze and they looked really pleasant. They were like a glove for your foot, hugging each toe individually and protecting them from harm. Yet, for us they created much more harm! Within a few days, every single toe was now not wrapped comfortably in its own home but instead mummified in blood crusted wrappings. These socks had demolished our peaceful bliss of only having minor foot issues. Each toe had its own collage of blisters, in the crease, on the toe, and even on top of the toe!? Quickly, we vowed never to use Injinji's again! To be completely fair, not everyone has this experience with Injinji's. We know many strong hikers that swear by them, yet they were not meant for our feet. We wanted to put that in here, because gear is a fickle thing, what works for one may not work for the other, and what really doesn't work for you, may absolutely have another falling in love with a piece of gear.
Brilliant concept, individual hugs for each of your toes....not a brilliant result!
Back to Darn Toughs we went. We laughed, we danced, and we hopped our way down mile after mile. Then one day our fickle brain decided we had to try something new. Why? As we said, the human brain is a fickle thing, even knowing something works incredibly well for you can still lead to eventual double-guessing. Who knows it could have been the marketing and pretty packaging around another product, or simply we wanted to try something new, but we made the mistake again! We tried Compression Socks. We do not recall what the brand's name was, which could be actually quite beneficial for them, as we may not have completely nice things to say.
The Compression Socks chapter in our book of foot coverings, was an interesting one. We started out absolutely loving them. They felt as if they pushed our muscles to produce better results, and they also coated our feet in luxury. Until, we experienced wet river crossings and snow travel with them. Then our feet were in for another world of hurt. A world of frostbite. Too thin, too insubstantial, these socks sometimes were the only "dry" pair in our pack, and we would have to put them on knowing we would no longer feel our feet in an hour. Then two hours in we would start feeling extreme biting pain from the cold. How can a foot have no feeling by being frozen and still have extreme amounts of pain at the same time? Frost Nip and frostbite. You may say that we did not utilize these socks properly for their purpose and if we continued to use them for their intended purpose we would still be happy with them. You are right. Yet, we are reviewing a universal sock here, not carrying 5 pairs of different socks for different occasions. So, while compression socks were good for some instances, others they were absolutely terrible. They were not the universal sock that we had come to know in Darn Toughs. A sock that would be with you day after day, through snow, rivers, mountains, deserts, roads, and anything in between and always remain true.
DO NOT WEAR COMPRESSION SOCKS HERE! Common Sense but still bears repeating.
Another huge selling point for these socks is that if you hike in them long and hard enough, and they begin to disintegrate, Darn Tough will replace them. This has actually became more difficult as they have increased in popularity. Yet also extremely understandable! You used to be able to go into gear shops with your old smelly socks, and trade them out in store for a new pair. Granted there may be still few places that do this, yet most of their returns have transitioned to online. You now have to send them back to the company, and they then will send you out a new pair. Makes it a little more difficult when thru-hiking, yet as we said completely understandable. Can you imagine, especially on the AT where hikers are increasing exponentially, owning a gear shop and each day maybe 50-100 hikers come in with their crusty, dirty, and grimy socks??? They slide them across your just cleaned counter as a trail of dirt and foot juice is left in their wake. The smell clears the room as if it was a fire drill. Yea, it would become tough to handle. This it to not also say, we have not been that happy hiker on many occasions, thrilled to get a new pair of socks that day, and get rid of the old nasty ones. We have returned them washed, and yes we have also been that person that returned them tied up in a plastic bag unwashed. We know nasty, but when you are a thru-hiker a lot of social norms go out the window, you have become part of the wild, you are a beast, a beast who carries around a stinky bag of old socks in town.
They will replace any hole no matter how small, suffice it to say these met the criteria!
Darn Toughs are made of wool. Yet, unlike our old bulky wool socks, they seem to have found a good balance between thickness and durability. Thick enough to protect the foot, yet not so thick to overwhelm it. Thick enough to insulate in cold weather, yet not so thick to sweat purposely in hot weather. These socks seem to have found a perfect balance for our feet, and our feet thank them everyday.
We want to re-iterate that this is our preference for socks. Your preference may differ, and it may not. You may not find these socks your favorite, or you may fall in love with them as deeply as we have. We can guarantee one thing though you will not hate these socks. They may not be your first choice, but they have a consistency and durability to them, that no matter the foot, no matter the preference, they will always be a strong contender. So, as you finish reading this article, take a look at those feet that you propped up in comfort on a couch cushion. Now wiggle each toe, and think back to all the experiences good and bad you have had with socks on your hikes. Now take a closer look at your feet, study the intricacies of the scars from blisters and sandpaper socks taking away your skin. Ask yourself, do you want your feet to continue to be subjected to a new pain every hike? Or do you want them to feel the way they are feeling now? On a pillow, warm from being inside, and like they are wrapped in a cloud of comfort? If your answer is the latter, well our opinion is you go check out some Darn Toughs!
THEY ARE DARN TOUGH!
With wiggly toes and happy feet and somehow NO SPONSOR from DarnToughs just a deep love,