Darn Tough is the name when it comes to buying socks that out perform all others. They are universally loved by one bag travelers, explorers, hikers, military, and people like us who want better performing clothing. They are hard to beat, and because of that we at Everyday Wear had settled into accepting that they were simply the best, and stopped testing other brands.
But, what if there is another brand out there doing better work? I went out and bought a ton of other brands, to give them a go and see if there is something better out there, here are the results of that testing.
Proof 72 Hour Socks
The Proof socks are part of the 72 Hour collection, and are pretty straightforward merino wool socks (63% Merino Wool, 33% Nylon, 3% Spandex) with light compression built in. They are about the thickness of your standard cotton athletic sock.
I found these to be comfortable socks, not the softest, but nothing really to complain about. They have a nice flat seam across the toe and wore comfortably all day long. They resisted odors extremely well and never felt like they needed to be washed. In a pinch they were perfectly fine to wear to the office with business casual, while also working well with sneakers.
If your wardrobe lends more casual and Huckberry (Proof is one of their brands) is running a sale, these are probably a really great option for most. They are sold in two packs and are rather bland in colors, but perform very well. After half a dozen wash and dry cycles, the socks are holding up well with only minor pilling. Even when wearing these with my boots, the cushioning and the vented panels kept my feet dry and managed the moisture as well as anything else. Overall these are pretty low complaint, nothing that will wow anyone accustomed to Darn Tough, but a solid option.
Ministry of Supply Atlas Socks
These are not merino wool, and are actually my second pair of Atlas socks, though the first pair has long since worn out. Ministry lists the composition of these as: “40% Coffee-infused Recycled Polyester, 40% Cotton, 20% Elastane”. That is supposed to make the wear cool, be smell free and there is a bunch of stuff about cushioning. It is a lot of information to take in about a pair of socks.
In my wear I found these socks to be very comfortable and look really good. But they don’t offer enough odor resistance to go more than one wear, and more importantly after one wear they felt beat down and in need of a wash, much like cotton socks. They perk right back up after a wash, but they need that.
There are a lot of color options here, and the body mapped cushioning is really nice, as it provides a thicker sock in high impact areas, while letting the sock be thinner like a dress sock where it counts. The moisture wicking was average, not as good as high merino content socks, but vastly better than cotton. The lack of a flat toe seam is a miss. As compared to cotton, these are excellent, as compared to Darn Tough, I would stick with Darn Tough unless I really needed the looks of the Atlas socks. After washing these many times, the cushioned areas are showing pilling, while the rest of the sock looks like new.
As with most things Wool&Prince, these are a merino wool (52% wool, 46% Nylon, 2% Spandex) and have light compression designed into them. The hold on these socks are great, and they certainly feel like a slightly thicker dress sock, which also has excellent cushioning on the bottom.
The performance is exactly what you would think: fantastic odor resistance and durability. They slightly fuzz after washing and drying many times but only the toes are showing any signs of pilling, where you would typically see this on the heel first. These are near perfect socks, but they lack a flat toe seam, and that kills the sock for me. If they put a flat toe seam on these, I think you have a contender to give Darn Tough a run for their money. I could easily wear these in just about any pursuit shy of true hiking. But from casual to suits, these work. For some the toe seam will not bother you, but on these they did bother me.
The performance, comfort, and durability though is fantastic and on par with Darn Tough but there is not a compelling reason to move to Wool&Prince.
Western Rise StrongCore Merino Socks
Note: these were provided for review.
These are a rather unique sock fabric at: 44% Nuyarn (40% Merino Wool, 4% Nylon), 30% Elastane, 26% Nylon. The merino fibers themselves have nylon in them, in addition to the general nylon woven in. Of all the merino socks I tested, these feel the least wool like, but in a good way.
Moreover the fit on these is amazing. They feature a good deal of compression, a flat toe seam and a great overall weight which lends itself well to any use of the sock. The padding is fantastic and as are the breathable panels at the top of the sock. They rise slightly lower than most dress socks, but perfectly useable in all situations and they stay up well.
After countless wears and washes, only the cushioned areas are showing wear in the form of pilling. I found that they offer excellent odor resistance and are a pair of socks you can feasibly wear for a week straight, as you can with most merino socks. These, of all the new socks I have tested are among the best when all aspects are taken into account. As a competitor to Darn Tough, the only thing they are lacking is more color options as black doesn’t work well for everything. If they offered more colors, and maybe a couple patterns — I can easily see the argument for these being the only socks you need.
I ordered the Men’s Merino Wool Calf Socks, which are 77% Merino Wool, 21% Polyester and 2% Spandex. Where most of these socks border between casual and dress, these Bombas are bordering between hiking and casual. They are not very suitable for the office as they are thick, and the overall appearance if very athletic sock looking. That said, they have a nice compression, lots of cushion, and a flat toe seam.
They are thick, but they feel very open and comfortable. The biggest issue is the durability, as they look like a very worn pair of socks after just a few wears. On day one, my shoes were making the heel pill. After the first wash the entire bottom of the sock is a blend of fuzz and pilling. So while they are comfortable, I wouldn’t recommend them just because of this. They certainly are not a pair of socks I expect to last very long, and at $18 a pair, you need them to last a good while.
There is a lot of hype around Stance as they market like crazy, and there is an overwhelming amount of sock options on their site. It took me a good while to land on the Run Wool Crew ST, which features a merino wool blend of: 58% Nylon, 20% Polyester, 17% Merino Wool, 5% Elastane. That almost seems like a “throw everything at the wall approach”to material selection.
The first thing to know about Stance is that these socks are left and right footed, as they are a compression sock with padding and compression zones optimized for each foot. I actually really like this, as it gives on overall better and more comfortable fit. And the low merino content also means these don’t feel like wool socks. The calf section is thin enough that you can get away with them in the office, but there is a reflective bit on this pair so beware of that.
Yes, they have a flat toe seam, but that is where the good of these socks stops. They stink after a single 8 hours of wearing, and my feet ended the work day wet feeling. Cotton performs better than these socks. Perhaps another option from them would be better, but at the prices they boast, why bother when there are plenty of better options out there. Move along.
Ok, those were all the new socks I had tested, but I do have a few other pairs in my sock drawer which are worth talking about in context of these.
Darn Tough Crew Light
These have) long been my go to sock. They come in a wide variety of colors and styles. They perform well and are a true dress sock weight. There is light compression, but overall you are paying for moisture/odor control and durability. I have yet to see these socks be destroyed easily, as I typically get more than a year use out of each pair, which is extended by the fact I own many pairs. The offer a flat toe seam and all around comfort.
The only down side is that they are thin, and stepping up to something thick is problematic as the brand shows its outdoor roots. Still, you simply cannot go wrong with these. They basically never seem to look worn out, until I actually wear a hole in the heel or ball of the foot.
I have owned a bunch of their different socks and have been disappointed in all of them. They get fuzzy fast, feel scratchy and fit terribly. I would not recommend these.
Fitsok from Drop.com
Drop.com sells bargain priced merino wool socks aimed more towards athletic and hiking through Fitsok as their partner. I have a few pairs of these and have been disappointed in all of them. Some break down and pill very fast, while others simply do not ever fit my feet. I would similarly avoid these as they may control moisture well but the fit poorly and are not as durable as other options on this list.
Outlier Megafine Socks
These are officially discontinued which is a shame as they are among the best socks I have ever owned. Straddling the line between dress and casual well. Soft as all can be, with good venting, cushioning and compression. They do pill, they do fuzz a bit, and eventually wear out. But oh my, are they ever pure luxury on your feet.
The best pure dress sock are still Darn Tough’s Crew Light. If Outlier brings their socks back, buy them, because they are better.
But if want you want and need is something better for boots, or something lending slightly more casual then it is a toss up for me between the Western Rise and Proof socks. Proof offers better colors, which is more important, whereas Western Rise offers better performance. If Western Rise comes out with a navy and charcoal — I will likely buy a few pairs of each.
My favorite of all the options you can buy are Western Rise StrongCore. And so long as you don’t buy the Stance socks, you will almost universally be getting a better pair of socks.