Hands-on Gear Review

Darn Tough Coolmax Vertex Tab No Show Ultra-Light Cushion Review

Top Pick Award
Price:  $16 List | $14.95 at Amazon
Compare prices at 3 resellers
Pros:  Super comfortable, fits great, durable, good padding
Cons:  Doesn’t wick moisture very well
Bottom line:  A super comfortable sock for warm or cold weather, but not a great choice for super wet conditions.
Editors' Rating:   
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Material:  52% Coolmax Polyester, 44% Nylon, 4% Lycra Spandex
Warranty:  Unconditional lifetime guarantee
Ankle Cut:  No Show
Manufacturer:   Darn Tough

Our Verdict

When it comes to your feet, comfort is king. No matter what someone might tell you about the fancy attributes of a certain sock or running shoe, it doesn't matter if it isn't super comfortable for you. That's why we made comfort the highest ranked metric in this review, and why we feel the need to recognize the most comfortable sock that we tested — the Darn Tough Coolmax Vertex Tab No Show Ultra-light Cushion. Our Top Pick for Comfort, this sock truly exemplifies the ideal of "put it on, and then forget it's even there." The combination of Coolmax Polyester, nylon, and Lycra feels dreamy against the skin and stretches for a perfect fit, while the truly no-show toe seam ensures that there are no bumps or creases to rub or itch. If you want the most comfortable sock that money can buy and don't care as much about the rest, then this is the sock for you.

Looking for a different length?
Our favorite sock is offered in two additional lengths for all your running needs. The Coolmax Vertex Quarter Ultra-Light Cushion is available for the slightly more expensive $17 alongside the Coolmax Vertex Micro Crew Ultra-Light Cushion for $18.


RELATED REVIEW: The Best Running Socks for All Seasons


Our Analysis and Test Results

Review by:
Andy Wellman

Last Updated:
Thursday
February 16, 2017

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While its name might be laboriously long and frustrating to type (try even remembering Darn Tough Coolmax Vertex Tab No Show Ultra-light Cushion long enough to spit it out), it does a great job of telling you exactly what this sock is. The Coolmax Polyester is the wicking fabric prevalent in the padded forefoot and heels, which does a decent, although not great, job at removing moisture. We found that the Smartwool PhD Run Light Elite Micro, which is a very similar sock with similar design, does a better overall job with moisture management. Darn Tough does make this sock in a merino wool version as well, essentially swapping out the Coolmax for Merino, so if natural fibers or moisture management are a priority, but you still want the most comfortable sock, look in that direction.

This sock is of the no-show variety, meaning it does not come up to ankle height, and has a minimal and non-padded tab designed to keep the sock in place, which it effectively does. While Darn Tough calls it an "ultra-light," the amount of padding and cushioning on the bottom of the foot makes it feel heavier than the Darn Tough No Show Light that we tested, which is supposedly thicker and heavier than this sock. Regardless of the details, this sock was the second highest scorer in our cumulative ratings, and one of our favorites to wear. Whether you are running three miles or 30, we think you will be as happy in this sock as we were.

Performance Comparison


All of the qualities that make a good sock: comfort  perfect fit  wicking ability  adequate padding  and slip resistance; they all become even more important the longer you run. Here testing socks  and our feet  during an ultra race.
All of the qualities that make a good sock: comfort, perfect fit, wicking ability, adequate padding, and slip resistance; they all become even more important the longer you run. Here testing socks, and our feet, during an ultra race.

Comfort


We wouldn't have awarded this sock with our Top Pick for Comfort if it wasn't supremely comfortable! Indeed, this is a sock that we couldn't stop grabbing out of the drawer, no matter what we intended to do. We found ourselves wearing it around the house just as much as in our running shoes. We loved how it stretched in order to easily slide over our foot, but once on simply hugged and supported, rather than constricted. There was not a hint of tightness or pinching anywhere in our sock, and the no-show seam technology used in the toes made you forget that there was even a seam there at all.


Wearing different socks on either foot in order to try to decide which one is actually more comfortable. In the end we called it a tie  as there was no way we could choose between these two fabulously comfortable socks.
Wearing different socks on either foot in order to try to decide which one is actually more comfortable. In the end we called it a tie, as there was no way we could choose between these two fabulously comfortable socks.

This was an especially awesome feature, as often times the toe seam can rub and start blisters on long distance runs, depending on how it sits on your feet and in the shoes. We never found this sock to be either too hot or too cold when out running, and couldn't even think of anything to complain about simply for the sake of it. The only other sock that rivaled this one when it came to comfort was the Balega Hidden Comfort, which we have highlighted as our Best Bang for the Buck. While still very comfortable, the Thorlo Experia XCCU was simply not quite in the same league. 9 out of 10 points.

A true "seamless" seam  the dark blue line across the top of the sock in this photo. Seams sewn in this manner were far preferable to traditionally sewn seams  as they laid flat over our toes and didn't provide any rub points.
A true "seamless" seam, the dark blue line across the top of the sock in this photo. Seams sewn in this manner were far preferable to traditionally sewn seams, as they laid flat over our toes and didn't provide any rub points.

Fit


We ordered a size Large sock for our feet, which has a size range of 10-12. We wish that this range was slightly more targeted, like the Thorlo Experia XCCU's range of 10.5-11.5, but felt lucky that our size 11 foot fell right in the middle. Initially we felt like we had to stretch this sock a little bit to get it on our foot, but noticed over time that this became easier and the sock had stretched out slightly to fit our foot. We thought that this sock hugged our foot great, with no tightness or pinching anywhere, although initially we felt like it compressed our forefoot laterally a bit.


Again, over time this problem went away as the sock stretched out. In the end, our complaints were extremely nit-picky, and the truth is that this sock fits great. The most comparable sock in terms of fit was the Injinji Trail Midweight Mini-Crew, which we gave the same score of 8 out of 10 points.

The fit of this sock was nearly perfect  and led to us feeling like it was the most comfortable sock in this review. Notice the thinner  more breathable fabric on the top of the foot  as well as the elastic support band that runs around the arch and top of the foot.
The fit of this sock was nearly perfect, and led to us feeling like it was the most comfortable sock in this review. Notice the thinner, more breathable fabric on the top of the foot, as well as the elastic support band that runs around the arch and top of the foot.

Wicking


The reason that this wasn't the best overall running sock was that it didn't do a very effective job of moisture management compared to the competition. In our 15-minute on-the-foot drying test, we found that this sock remained as wet on the inside as it was on the outside, seemingly not transferring water away from the foot as effectively as the DryMax Running Mini Crew or even the Thorlo Experia XCCU. The thinner, non-padded areas were slightly dryer, suggesting that it is pretty effective at breathing. In our one-hour drying test, we found that this sock seemed to be more absorptive than many, and that after an hour it was certainly wetter than the Smartwool PhD Run Light Elite Micro or the Balega Hidden Comfort. As one of the lowest scorers in terms of moisture management, we gave it only 5 out of 10 points.


Padding


This sock is marketed as being ultra-light in terms of thickness, with added cushioning. We found this to be basically true, although the addition of cushioning made it feel like a thicker sock than some other "light" socks, such as the Darn Tough No Show Light. We loved how the padding does a great job of covering the entire heel cup, as well as the underside of the forefoot and the toes and sides of the toes.


We were a bit surprised that the padding continued through the arch of the foot to provide cushioning throughout the entire sole, rather than provinding more targeted cushioning like the Thorlo Experia XCCU. That was our only complaint when it came to padding, and we admit that this design does little to nothing to affect the performance of this sock. 8 out of 10 pounts.

The looped padding covers the entire underside of the foot. It is both very comfortable against the skin  and pretty resistant to squishing  as you can see here.
The looped padding covers the entire underside of the foot. It is both very comfortable against the skin, and pretty resistant to squishing, as you can see here.

Slip Prevention


When it came to slip prevention, this sock was merely average. With its added cushioning, it is higher volume and fills a shoe better than the Darn Tough No Show Light.


While the outside of the sock grips a shoe about the same as the Balega Hidden Comfort, there is no doubt that this sock grips the foot and stays in place better than that one. It was definitely not as grippy as the DryMax Running Mini Crew. As middle of the road for this metric, we awarded it 7 points.

Super comfortable  a great fit  and really easy to pull on over the foot. These were socks that we felt like reaching for nearly every day.
Super comfortable, a great fit, and really easy to pull on over the foot. These were socks that we felt like reaching for nearly every day.

Best Applications


As an ultra-light sock with the perfect amount of cushioning added to the bottom, we think this sock is a great choice for any kind of running. Since it is a no-show, we would probably not use it for very gnarly trail running or mountain running, but did run on relatively even trails in it numerous times. It is a great sock for road running, or any other athletic endeavor for that matter. Due to its relatively poor performance with wicking away moisture, it wouldn't be our first choice for a rainy day.

The Perimeter Trail around Ouray is our best local trail  offering unique sections of trail with amazing views; a great place to test running socks and trail running shoes.
The Perimeter Trail around Ouray is our best local trail, offering unique sections of trail with amazing views; a great place to test running socks and trail running shoes.

Value


This sock retails for $16.00, which is a bit on the expensive side when compared to the rest of the socks in this review. That said, who loves to run all the time and doesn't have an extra $16 for a fantastically comfortable sock? We found this one to be very durable, and since it was one of our absolute favorites, think it presents a great value.

Conclusion


The Darn Tough Coolmax Vertex Tab No Show Ultra-light Cushion was the most comfortable sock in this review, and one that we found ourselves wanting to wear almost every day. In the dry climate that we tested it, its lack of moisture wicking ability rarely deterred us from wearing it, no matter what our activity for the day. It was our Top Pick for Comfort, and one that we would happily recommend to any type of runner.

For us  running is typically a solitary activity that takes place in the mountains  giving time to reflect. Sometimes while out testing we have to set up our own photos  like we did on this beautiful fall day.
For us, running is typically a solitary activity that takes place in the mountains, giving time to reflect. Sometimes while out testing we have to set up our own photos, like we did on this beautiful fall day.

Other Versions


Coolmax Vertex Tab No Show Ultra-light Version
Darn Tough Coolmax Vertex Tab No Show Ultra-light
  • Cost: $15
  • Essentially the same sock without the cushioning, the lightest running sock they make

Vertex Tab No Show Ultra-light Cushion
Darn Tough Vertex Tab No Show Ultra-light Cushion
  • Cost: $17
  • Same design, except made with Merino Wool in place of the Coolmax polyester

Coolmax Vertex 1/4 Sock Ultra-light Cushion
Darn Tough Coolmax Vertex 1/4 Sock Ultra-light Cushion
  • Cost: $17
  • The same sock with above the ankle height, a great alternative for trail runners who need more protection
Andy Wellman

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Most recent review: February 16, 2017
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:  
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 (5.0)
Average Customer Rating:  
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Rating Distribution
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5 star: 100%  (1)
4 star: 0%  (0)
3 star: 0%  (0)
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