Sunday, November 13, 2011

Darn Tough and Damn Good!

I won't lie...I have a reputation of being a bit of a Diva when it comes to racing and my gear. I've been known to have shoes waiting for me halfway through marathons as well as calls to my coach placed for me in the middle of an Ironman. My wife/support crew knows I have a reputation for being a little no brown M&M's backstage Van Halen picky.

So when it comes to socks and shoes it's best to stay as far back as possible and not make eye contact. There must be a picture of me behind the counter at the Boulder Running Company. Lookout for this freak! My wife, not at all deterred by my wrath, brought home some Darn Tough wool running socks for me to try.

The Diva in me already spotted the toe seam from across the room. My wife had brought home some socks from the OR Show in Utah and was excited for me to give them a try. I was not so excited. But she prodded that they came with a Lifetime Guarantee and are what a lot of ultra runners are wearing. OK...(insert askew glance here) I'll try them.

For starters I like black socks. Long ago I heard pro basketball teams used black socks and footwear to make their running look slower than it actually was and trick the competition. I thought it couldn't hurt in running to perhaps lull some of my age groupers to sleep. With size 13 feet black socks and shoes also make for smaller looking feet and these paddle boats need all the help they can get.

I like thick socks so the high density cushioning on foot bottom was a welcoming feel. It's not overly cushy but it gave me confidence that 50 to 100 miles would be run better in these socks. The ribbing above the ankle is comfortable and ensures a proper fit. The socks have a reinforced heel and toe (and they say "Darn Tough" right on the toes. A nice bit of inspiration when getting dressed). Elastic support around the arch keeps the sock in place and gives some support. The wool version is 65% Merino Wool, 31% Nylon, 4% Lycra® Spandex.

So into the black wool abyss I sink my ugly toes. I was trying the 1/4 cuff style and I'm not a big fan of looking like my Dad cutting the grass in 1960 so I folded the 1/4 cuff over (did I mention I was picky?) and received a nice little surprise-Darn Tough has the size sewn into the ankle cuff. This is a nice touch. So many times I've tried socks and can't remember what size I purchased. When you are a 13 you fall between Large and XL all the time. Now I will know what I am wearing a year later and get the right size.

I ran a trail marathon in the socks right off the bat (insert "Gasp" here). If they were so Darn Tough we were going to find out with a big test. Well...26.2 evil miles later I didn't have one blister or even an angry toenail. In fact I kept my eight remaining toenails! I was so sold on these socks I went and grabbed 4 more pairs. Preach on Darn Tough - I'm converted! I wore these two weeks later for a rain-soaked 50 miler at Steamboat and again found my feet to be in great shape (no pruning or blisters) at the finish line!


*An amazing sock right out of the packaging. Made from merino wool and backed by lifetime guarantee.

*Size label in the cuff.

*Even though they were wool I did not feel I was overheating in them.

*They keep their shape and size even after being in the dryer.


*I did feel the toe seam on my second run. I switched the offending sock to the other foot and I was good to go.

*At $16 these socks are not cheap (but they are going to last).

*Some people may find these a little on the warm side above 65 degrees. It's weird-they feel warm for the first 4-5 miles and then they feel fine. I never found myself thinking I was going to have a puddle of sweat in my shoe. I also run a lot in compression sleeves and that could be contributing to my warm feet/legs. Not an issue for me. After running in 9 hours of rain without a problem I will take a little warmth. Darn Tough does make a Coolmax version for warmer weather that I have not had the pleasure to test.

I'm giving the Darn Tough 5 toenails out of five for standing behind their product and delivering a blister free run. They also are pretty snappy with the Twitter replies. While the cost may deter some that are used to $9 3-packs at Sports Authority. The $16 price tag is worth every penny.