The world's most in-depth and scientific reviews of outdoor gear

Darn Tough Over-the-Calf Padded Light Review

A lightweight sock that will keep your feet dry even on the warmest days of winter.
Top Pick Award
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Price:  $25 List | $24.95 at Backcountry
Pros:  Super durable, great fit, super wicking ability, lifetime guarantee
Cons:  Not very warm, no additional padding
Manufacturer:   Darn Tough
By Amber King ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  Mar 7, 2019
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80
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#3 of 7
  • Comfort & Construction - 20% 7
  • Warmth - 20% 6
  • Drying Speed & Wicking Ability - 20% 10
  • Fit - 20% 7
  • Durability - 20% 10

Our Verdict

If you're seeking dry feet in all weather conditions, the Darn Tough Over-The-Calf Padded Light is our favorite go-to. Its lightweight merino-wool blend construction and deliberate placement of compression paneling offer amazing ventilation and wicking power. We tested it while skiing and snowboarding at the resort, skinning in the backcountry, and while cross-country skiing, all in varying weather conditions from warm sunny Colorado days to cold Alaskan camping nights. In all conditions, it did a great job at keeping our feet dry without holding moisture, even on the warmest days of winter.

It also proves to be the most durable product in this review, showing little to no signs of wear and tear after a three month testing period. Our main reviewers have owned these socks for many years, and they are still holding up season to season. Setting an industry standard, Darn Tough offers an unconditional lifetime guarantee that allows you to send the sock back, even if you've worn it out and put holes in it for years!

While we love its durability and wicking powers, it doesn't hold a candle to our Editors' Choice winner the Smartwool PhD Ski Medium for warmth and comfort. The Smartwool is warmer overall and a better option for cold days in comparison to the Darn Tough's lightweight construction. If, though, you are enamored by the quality and construction of this product but prefer a lightweight or midweight option, be sure to check out the Darn Tough Over the Calf Ultralight or the Darn Tough Over the Calf Cushion respectively.

Updated Color

The color for this sock has changed since our test period, but that's about it. It remains the same in materials and construction. See the above photo for a current color choice.

October 2019


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Pros Super durable, great fit, super wicking ability, lifetime guaranteeWarm, comfortable, durable, reliableDurable, comfortable, warmQuick to dry, comfortable, lighter padded constructionPriced right, warm when dry, comfortable, lightweight
Cons Not very warm, no additional paddingNo lifetime guaranteeLacks lifetime guarantee, expensiveLacks durabilityCold when wet, durability is so-so
Bottom Line A lightweight sock that will keep your feet dry even on the warmest days of winter.If you're seeking a ski sock for the season, this is the most reliable with the best overall performance.An industry standard that should be part of everybody's winter wardrobe.A quick to dry well-rounded ski sock that can perform in all conditions, wet and dry.The best valued sock in this review for skiing or snowboarding.
Rating Categories Over-the-Calf Padded Light Smartwool PhD Ski Medium PhD Ski Medium Icebreaker Ski+ Light Fox River Telluride Medium
Comfort & Construction (20%)
10
0
7
10
0
9
10
0
9
10
0
8
10
0
8
Warmth (20%)
10
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6
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9
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7
Drying Speed & Wicking Ability (20%)
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Fit (20%)
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Durability (20%)
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6
Specs Over-the-Calf... Smartwool PhD Ski... PhD Ski Medium Icebreaker Ski+... Fox River...
Material 60% Merino Wool, 36% Nylon, 4% Lycra Spandex 65% Merino Wool, 33% Nylon, 2% Elastane, Imported Yarn 62% merino wool, 36% nylon, 2% elastane 57% Merino Wool, 40% Nylon, 3% Lycra 53% acrylic, 27% nylon, 18% Merino/wool blend, 2% spandex
Level of Cushioning Ultralightweight Medium (feels lightweight) Medium (feels lightweight) Lightweight Lightweight
Weight of both socks 2.85 oz 3.15 oz 2.95 oz 3.15 oz 2.80 oz
Left/Right specific? No No No Yes No
Overall height 14 inches 13 inches 13 inches 14.25 inches 13 inches
Padded area Shin Shin, underfoot, ankle Shin, underfoot, ankle Shin, calf, foot, ankle Shin, heel, ankle
Warranty or Guarantee Unconditional Lifetime Guarentee Head to Heels Guarentee upon arrival w/ 2 year Guarentee Head to Heels Guarentee upon arrival w/ 2 year Guarentee Lifetime Guarentee One year warranty

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Over-The-Calf Padded Light is a merino-wool blend that offers unbeatable wicking power and durability. Boasting a lifetime guarantee, it may be the last ski sock you ever have to buy. Its lightweight construction doesn't offer much in the way of comfort or warmth, but it will keep you dry all day long. If you're planning on being a little more aerobic - cross-country skiing, mountaineering, skinning uphill - this is our top recommendation.

Performance Comparison


Enjoying a warm and sunny day in the backcountry  we test the Darn Tough socks. The thinner construction provides fantastic wicking and drying ability that will keep your feet dry all day long.
Enjoying a warm and sunny day in the backcountry, we test the Darn Tough socks. The thinner construction provides fantastic wicking and drying ability that will keep your feet dry all day long.

Comfort & Construction


If you're in the market for a sock that is uber comfortable, take a look at the Smartwool PhD Medium, because the Darn Tough simply does not have a whole lot of comfort features. As a pretty bare bones sock, it doesn't support any additional padding except in the shin. The underfoot, ankle, and calf are composed of thinner materials that fit nice and snug against the leg. It's a lightweight sock made up of 60% Merino Wool, 36% Nylon, and 4% Lycra Spandex.


While underfoot padding and additional cozy features don't really exist, we are psyched on its construction. It features areas of compression paneling around the toe box and arch, which provides advanced wicking power to 'sweaty spots' on the foot. The heel cup in the sock is quite small which, again, provides for optimal fit, adding points to its excellent construction. Like all Merino wool blends, the fabric does feel nice and cozy next to the skin.

Offering a really thin construction that provides padding only along the shin  it's perfect for aerobic days. No additional padding except in the shin pictured here.
Offering a really thin construction that provides padding only along the shin, it's perfect for aerobic days. No additional padding except in the shin pictured here.

Warmth


While the Darn Tough provides warmth in the form of wicking power which ultimately keeps the foot dry throughout the day, it certainly is not a warm sock on its own. Unlike other contenders that feature a thicker construct, like the Wigwam Sirocco or the Burton Weekend Sock, it does not have a whole lotta warmth in its independent construction, though it makes up for it while skiing on the mountain.


While this isn't the warmest sock out there, it certainly will keep your feet dry. While skiing at the Telluride ski resort, we noticed that it wasn't as warm as the Smartwool PhD Medium while riding the lifts, simply because it didn't have even the slightest layer of insulation underfoot.

While its thin construct does wick well to keep dry feet  it simply doesn't insulate much on really really cold days.
While its thin construct does wick well to keep dry feet, it simply doesn't insulate much on really really cold days.

However, for skinning uphill, it is a perfect option as it keeps feet dry (even on warm sunny days) with its thin construction. While it provides enough warmth, there are warmer options out there for the coldest days of winter. Overall, this sock insulates when warm and wet, and provides warmth in the form of its wicking ability. Just go for a more insulated pair on the coldest days of the year.

Skinning uphill with friends on a warm day is a perfect place for this Top Pick.
Skinning uphill with friends on a warm day is a perfect place for this Top Pick.

Drying Speed & Wicking Ability


This sock dries quickly and does an amazing job at wicking away moisture. In our drying tests, it dried very quickly, and on the mountain, our feet kept stayed dry, even on the warmest days. This is largely due to its ultra-thin construction and snug fit that hugs the skin.


It's this combination that allows water vapor to easily move across the sock barrier out and away from the skin. Also, the areas of compression offer additional ventilation, with the material being thin enough for moisture to diffuse across its barrier easily. If we were to choose a thin sock with the ability to wick away moisture without compromising the fit of our ski or snowboard boot, this would be it! It's a bare-bones option that does an amazing job at wicking away moisture. This is why this sock earns a Top Pick Award.

The back of the socks provides great ventilation for a dry sock experience.
The back of the socks provides great ventilation for a dry sock experience.

Fit


This lightweight sock fits nice and tight next to the skin. It has a thick elastic back at the top that doesn't slide down while skiing and elastic panels are integrated around the arch and ankle to slide into a tapered area, keeping it in place. It's a lightweight option that doesn't compromise the fit of tightly fitting ski or snowboard boot.


While its fit does feel quite specific, we did notice that the material, when riding, stretched out. One of our testers took it out in Silverton, Colorado and noticed after a few hours of riding, that the fabric at the tips of toes wasn't as tight as it had started. While this didn't create a noticeably uncomfortable situation where the fabric bunched or pinched, it wasn't ideal either. Our snowboarders didn't notice this issue as their boots don't fit as tightly.


Another key thing to note is that this a very tall sock. For our tester with shorter legs and sitting around 5' 6", the sock went almost all the way up and under the knee. This is great news if you're a super tall skier, but for those who are a little shorter, you may find yourself rolling it down.

If you're seeking a sock that'll fit nicely into a ski boot  this is it!
If you're seeking a sock that'll fit nicely into a ski boot, this is it!

The volume in the calf area is ample. The integrated stretch throughout the fabric will accommodate your legs, whether they are thick or thin. Great for any skier or snowboarder. Overall, the fit is lightweight, precise, but does stretch out a little after a wash. We didn't notice any shrinkage after a wash. The size is true to fit, and a great option for those seeking full coverage from foot to knee.

If you prefer a sock with an even thinner construction, be sure to check out the 'ultra-thin' version of this sock.

Durability


Stacked with a lifetime guarantee and no obvious issues (even after three months of hard wear and over 20 days on the slopes) we are happy to give this sock a perfect score! The merino wool blend is constructed so well that the body fabric looks brand new after all this use! Our testers have been using Darn Tough socks for over five years, specifically the women's light version, and it hasn't lost its performance, stretch, or quality after all this time.


The lifetime guarantee is one of the best reasons to purchase this sock. Even after you've trashed and thrashed it for years, Darn Tough will take it back if you manage to put holes in it. They'll send you a new pair without any questions. Standing the test of time with a company that backs up its quality, this truly is one of the most durable products that we've seen on the market.

Looking like new after using it for the last few months  this highly durable option also comes with a no questions asked lifetime guarantee.
Looking like new after using it for the last few months, this highly durable option also comes with a no questions asked lifetime guarantee.

Best Applications


If you're in need of a sock that easily fits underneath a tight pair of ski boots without compromising fit this is it. While it doesn't offer much in the way of insulating or comfort features, it does have an amazing wicking ability that will keep your feet dry. It's not a great sock idea if your boots are already cold and you need to put a little more insulation between your boot and your foot.

Wear them anywhere! From Alaska  to Colorado  and beyond It's perfect for backcountry exploring and playing at the resort.
Wear them anywhere! From Alaska, to Colorado, and beyond It's perfect for backcountry exploring and playing at the resort.

This was a favorite go-to for warmer days, skinning uphill, cross-country skiing, and more. If you're planning on have a more aerobic workout where you might find your feet sweating more than usual, this is a great option.

There are midweight options available with more padding and insulation if this is what you prefer.

Value


With a lifetime guarantee, fantastic durability and performance, and a retail price sitting around $25, you're investing a sock that becomes two once you wear out the first pair and contact Darn Tough. If you're looking for some serious bang for your buck — it's right here.

Conclusion


The Darn Tough Over-The-Calf Padded Light fits so close to the skin that its wicking power is almost magical. Keeping feet dry in conditions that vary from warm to cold, it's our top choice for aerobic days. Whether you're ski mountaineering, touring, cross-country skiing, or spending a sunny day on the resort. This bomber sock will stay with you for many seasons to come, keeping your feet dry without compromising boot fit.


Amber King