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Darn Tough Run Coolmax No-Show Tab Ultralight Review

If your feet need room to swell in a wider shoe, but you don't want to slip around the extra space, check out these excellent cushioned socks
Darn Tough Run Coolmax No-Show Tab Ultralight
Photo: Darn Tough
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Price:  $16 List | Check Price at REI
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Pros:  Great slip prevention, seamless feel
Cons:  A little on the thick side, holds more moisture than a thinner sock
Manufacturer:   Darn Tough
By Matt Bento ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  May 21, 2021
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74
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#4 of 11
  • Comfort - 25% 9
  • Fit - 25% 7
  • Wicking & Breathability - 25% 5
  • Slip Prevention - 15% 8
  • Durability - 10% 9

Our Verdict

While thinner socks tend to breathe well and dry out more quickly, they don't do much to prevent slippage, especially if you run in a wider-fitting shoe with room for your feet to swell. Enter the Darn Tough Run Coolmax No-Show Tab Ultralight, a well-cushioned sock that will lock your foot in place while still providing decent drying and wicking action. For all but the hottest climates, these are an excellent, durable option to cushion your feet and help wick sweat away.

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Pros Great slip prevention, seamless feelProtective medium cushioning, protective length, durable fibers, strong at wicking, quick to drySuper comfortable padding, toe spread, blister prevention, excellent moisture management, protectiveDeliciously comfortable, well-cushioned, affordableGreat wicking and breathability, durable, thin design
Cons A little on the thick side, holds more moisture than a thinner sockMedium cushioning isn't ideal for super hot weatherSome may not love the toe sock design, cooler than merino wool when wetPoor breathabilityLacks cushioning
Bottom Line If your feet need room to swell in a wider shoe, but you don't want to slip around the extra space, check out these excellent cushioned socksAn all-around excellent performer that's built for the beginner to the elite ultra-distance runnerIf you are considering a toe sock design, this durable synthetic option comes highly recommendedComfortable and affordable for long days pumping out the milesPerfectly suited for the hottest conditions or the sweatiest feet
Rating Categories Darn Tough Run Cool... Balega Blister Resi... Injinji Trail Midwe... Balega Silver No Show Swiftwick Aspire Zero
Comfort (25%)
9.0
9.0
8.0
9.0
5.0
Fit (25%)
7.0
8.0
9.0
8.0
7.0
Wicking & Breathability (25%)
5.0
8.0
8.0
5.0
10.0
Slip Prevention (15%)
8.0
9.0
8.0
9.0
5.0
Durability (10%)
9.0
9.0
9.0
6.0
8.0
Specs Darn Tough Run Cool... Balega Blister Resi... Injinji Trail Midwe... Balega Silver No Show Swiftwick Aspire Zero
Material 48% Nylon 47% Coolmax Polyester 5% Lycra Spandex 32% Drynamix Polyester, 32% Polyamide, 30% Mohair, 4% Microfiber, 2% Elastane 39% Coolmax Polyester, 58% Nylon, 3% Lycra 75% Drynamix Polyester, 23% Nylon, 2% Elastane 55% Nylon, 40% Olefin, 5% Spandex
Ankle Cut No Show Tab Quarter Length Quarter Length No Show Tab No Show
Cushioning Level Light Heavy Heavy Heavy None

Our Analysis and Test Results

Over long distances, your feet will swell, and that perfect fitting shoe can start to feel a little cramped. On the other hand, a wide-fitting shoe with room for your foot to slip around can cause blisters or worse. Socks like the Darn Tough Run Coolmax No-Show Tab Ultralight are a good solution to this conundrum. Their light cushioning fills the show a little more so you have room for your feet as the miles stretch higher in the double digits but keeps you from slipping around when you first head out the door.

Performance Comparison


Though these socks aren't truly no-show, they have a low profile and...
Though these socks aren't truly no-show, they have a low profile and provide protection around the ankle collar of your shoe.
Photo: Matt Bento

Comfort


While wearing these socks and going into a deep state of yogi-like awareness, we can close our eyes and turn our attention to our feet, searching with our thousands of nerve endings for every seam and crinkle in our Darn Tough socks, and feel nothing. This sock hugs the foot gently and doesn't feel tight like a compression sock. "No-show" is a bit of a misnomer, since when we look down we can see where the collar of the sock clears the top of our running shoes. Honestly, these shoes would likely receive a lower comfort score if they didn't clear the ankle, as they wouldn't be effective at preventing rubbing or chafing around the shoe's tongue and heel.

We're big fans of the thick, grabbable pull tab. It makes it easy to...
We're big fans of the thick, grabbable pull tab. It makes it easy to pull the socks on and off, and we didn't notice them while running.
Photo: Matt Bento

Fit


In the overall scheme of sock fits (and we've worn a lot of socks) the Darn Tough Run Coolmax comes in slightly on the tight side. They will gently hug the average foot, but someone with super-wide or high-volume feet may find them too tight. We found them pretty close to perfect, and they're available in a robust size range, from 4-11.5 for women, and 8-14.5 for men.

This inside-out view shows the cushion mapping. While you can see...
This inside-out view shows the cushion mapping. While you can see the hard transition from cushion to breathable upper, we couldn't feel the seam at all.
Photo: Matt Bento

Wicking & Breathability


Moving moisture isn't this sock's strongest suit when compared to thinner competitors, but it has a few design strategies to help keep your feet cooler while providing cushion and slip protection at the same time, mainly the Coolmax fabric. Coolmax fabric has tetra or hex-shaped fibers that draw moisture away from the skin. Once we take our sweaty foot out of our shoe, the sock dries very quickly, as moisture gets pulled from the foot and to a bigger surface area on the outside of the sock for quick evaporation. Inside the shoe, the extra cushioning absorbs more water and causes this model to have a slightly longer drying time. Overall, this sock offers a very good balance of breathability and cushioning, and should only be avoided if you have exceptionally sweaty feet, or run in particularly swampy zones.

Here's a detailed view of the tiny wicking fibers that draw moisture...
Here's a detailed view of the tiny wicking fibers that draw moisture away from your feet.
Photo: Matt Bento

Slip Prevention


These socks are excellent at stopping the slippage without crowding out your shoe. When testing the very wide-fitting Altra Lone Peak trail running shoes, we found that a thinner sock caused us to slide around so much that the shoe felt sloppy and unsupporting. After switching to the Darn Tough Run Coolmax No-Show Tab Ultralight, our experience changed completely, as we were able to run in a stable and controlled manner while enjoying the benefits of a wider fitting shoe. In short, if you're often running longer distances, consider a wider fitting shoe and cushioned socks like these from Darn Tough.

When bombing down hills (and charging back up them), slip prevention...
When bombing down hills (and charging back up them), slip prevention is essential, and these socks deliver.
Photo: Matt Bento

Durability


There are times when "the name says it all" and this is certainly one of them. We've seen our share of darn tough socks, run hundreds of miles in them, ground sand and dirt into them, and run them through the washing machine dozens of times, and they're still alive and kicking, and ready for more. If you're looking for a high-performance sock with decent cushioning and wicking technology, but balk at the price, these are a great choice as you'll only need another pair if you lose them or are psyched on more colors.

After many miles and several washes, these socks still look and feel...
After many miles and several washes, these socks still look and feel brand new.
Photo: Matt Bento

Value


Darn tough has a legendary value in the sock world, offering a no-questions-asked lifetime guarantee. They can do this because they stand behind their incredibly durable socks, which last a remarkably long time. They're not the absolute cheapest performance running socks out there, but you'll get more miles for your dollar.

Conclusion


If you're frustrated from sliding around in your flashy new wide-fitting zero-drop ultra-light trail running shoes, don't give up on them yet. Try a pair of the Darn Tough Run Coolmax No-Show Tab Ultralights a well-balanced, cushion sock that will lock your foot in place while helping them stay cool and dry.

Matt Bento