Socks are the kind of items that we use daily but pay very little attention to. For most people, they are the piece of fabric they put on their feet before putting on some footwear. For me, socks are much more.
They are not just a piece of fabric that looks cool. They are responsible for regulating temperature, comfort, and much more. In typical use-case scenarios, many may not notice any differences. Activities like hiking are where you will see a huge difference, which is why it’s essential to choose a good pair.
In the world of socks, there are tons of manufacturers, ranging from cheap to premium. For most buyers, the first step is determining the brand, which can be challenging. With all the available options, which one is the one for you? Well, today I’m going to help you out.
Out of the many socks manufacturers available on the market, I decided to compare Fox River and Darn Tough. I’ve spoken about Darn Tough quite a lot in the past, and you probably already know my opinion. Fox River is not a company that I’ve talked about, and today I’ll be comparing both of them.
Fox River is the kind of company that doesn’t get too much attention, which is a shame considering how long it’s been on the market. The company was founded in Iowa in 1900, meaning that it’s well over a century in business. Since day one, the main focus has been legwear, a trend that continues to this day.
Being the oldest socks manufacturer, it’s only natural to expect socks with excellent performance, and you’d be right. Fox River has excellent products that can go head-to-head with manufacturers like Darn Tough.
In addition to that, Fox River allocates part of its profits and donates to charities.
Models and Options
I was expecting a bit more in the models’ department for a company that’s been in business for over 120 years. There are only 31 available models in total. This includes men’s and women’s socks in multiple height variations and all possible designs.
Compared to some of the other manufacturers that exist less, the numbers are disappointing. People that take their kids hiking will also have a problem with this, as there is no dedicated kids’ lineup; instead, you will have to rely on smaller sizes from the adult socks.
I was expecting a bit more in the models’ department for a company that’s been in business for over 120 years. There are only 31 available models in total. This includes men’s and women’s socks in multiple height variations and all possible designs. Compared to some of the other manufacturers that exist less, the numbers are disappointing. People that take their kids hiking will also have a problem with this, as there is no dedicated kids’ lineup; instead, you will have to rely on smaller sizes from the adult socks.
The lack of models also means that there aren’t as many designs to choose from. Almost all available models have a two-tone design which is very plain and doesn’t create a lot of fuss. There are a few models with 3 color options, which are a bit more modern. Despite that, you can find most models in several color variations, extending the variety a bit. For the most part, you are looking at relatively non-exciting models except two.
The first one is with the good old red, white, and blue design featuring the American flag. The second one is a brighter green color, which also comes in a kid’s size.
Fox River’s choice of materials is on par with most of the other premium hiking socks manufacturers. Most of the models available are wool-based, my kind of socks for this occasion.
While the socks are wool-based, I think they are a bit on the thin side, and when I say thin, I mean not enough wool in them. While most of the socks manufacturers go for over 60% of wool in their socks, Fox River has only about a third. This is by no means a bad thing, but I would have liked to see more wool in the socks.
Surprisingly, there are also two cotton-based models in the hiking department. Cotton, in general, is not the best material for these kinds of activities, but looking at the blend, they may work decently.
In the guarantee section, Fox River is a bit disappointing. Unlike other much younger companies on the market that offer lifetime guarantees, here you only get one year. Within the year, you can return the pair if you are not satisfied with them. Regardless if it’s a fitment issue or you’re not happy with the performance, you can return them. All you need is the purchase receipt.
Considering that some companies offer better guarantees, I think that this is Fox River’s weakest point.
Considering that you don’t get an as extended guarantee as some of the other manufacturers, Fox River’s pricing is spot on. The cheapest pair of socks are the green kid’s model at $11, while the most expensive ones are $18. There are also several two-pair packs available.
Considering the price, performance, and lack of lifetime guarantee, I’d have to say that the prices are not unreasonable.
In the past, I’ve spoken quite a lot about Darn Tough and, in most cases, on a positive note. The company has been in business less than a third of Fox River, and in that time, it managed to win the hearts of many hikers. The socks’ lineup has multiple options, ranging from casual to performance models varying in color, height, and blend of materials.
Speaking of materials, the Vermont-based factory specializes in wool-based socks. There are other blends available, but these are the star of the show. The material comes from a special breed of American sheep where the wool is sheared without harming them.
Models and options
When people search for their next pair of socks, having flexibility in terms of models and color options is essential. In this area, Darn Tough is excellent, as it has a huge range of models to choose from. There are 75 different options for men, women, and kids, including various heights and design options. For most of the models, you have multiple color options to choose from. You can also go for the packs that offer various pairs in different colors.
In general, you have well over 100 unique combinations to go for. While I have seen socks manufacturers with more varieties, Darn Tough is undoubtedly more than enough for most people.
Some may find the design and color schemes dull. The color options are mostly muted, and the design is primarily classic. Younger hikers that are after some fancy designs with brighter colors probably won’t find something they like here.
One of the best wool-based socks on the market comes from Darn Tough. A natural material like wool is excellent for keeping the temperature under control, preventing odor after prolonged wear and soft to the touch. The problem with pure wool socks is that they are prone to moisture absorption, and in a hotter climate, your feet will be soaking wet.
To counter that, Darn Tough made an excellent blend of wool and synthetics. In most cases, the majority of materials are wool and polyester called Coolmax. Combining these two provides excellent temperature regulation while reducing the amount of moisture the socks can absorb and enabling your feet to breathe better.
Considering the price, which I’ll get to in a minute, people expect to get a lot from Darn Tough, and they do. Each pair of socks comes with a lifetime guarantee regardless of what happens to it. If it starts to lose its performance or doesn’t fit anymore, you can return it and get a fresh new pair. As an alternative, you can ask for a refund.
Darn Tough recycles each returned pair and produces a new one using the same materials to reduce waste.
Many people think that Darn Tough’s socks are pretty expensive. While they are not cheap, the quality, guarantee, and user experience you get are worth paying a few extra dollars.
Prices range from $14 to $30, where the lower end of the range is for the thinner socks, while the upper range is for the highest performing socks in Darn Tough’s lineup. As with Fox River, there is an option to get packs with multiple pairs, saving you a few dollars.
Fox River vs. Darn Tough – Which one to go for?
I’ve made quite a lot of comparisons, and when it came to Fox River and Darn Tough, things were a lot closer than I thought. Both companies are in business for many decades and produce high-quality socks. During my research, I noticed that Fox River isn’t as famous as Darn Tough, despite being older.
Comparing them by materials is where I saw the most significant difference. Both have excellent wool-based socks, but the blend is different. While Darn Tough has over 60% of wool in most models, Fox River has only 30%. As a result, Darn Tough is slightly better at regulating the temperature and is softer on the skin. On the other hand, the higher concentration of systemic materials in Fox River provides slightly better breathability and elasticity. To be honest, I cannot recommend one or the other; both are excellent for various reasons. On the durability side of things, they seem evenly matched.
One aspect where Darn Tough is superior is with the guarantee. Unlike Fox River, you get a lifetime guarantee, meaning that you won’t have to worry about what happens with your socks down the line.
Fox River’s socks excel in the area of pricing. There are almost half of Darn Tough in most situations, meaning that you can get away cheaper. Considering that the quality is not half of what Darn Tough offers, it’s a good bargain.
If you are a picker and what to have a wider variety of options available in front of you, Darn Tough may be a better option. There are twice as many models with multiple color options compared to Fox River. Both manufacturers have similar muted colors with classical designs. If I’d have to choose, I’d probably go for Fox River, mostly because I think that the design is cleaner.
Picking one socks manufacturer and recommending that one is a bit tough in this situation. Both of them have their pros and cons, and whichever you decide to go for will not be a mistake.
Choosing the right pair of socks
Regardless if you go for Bombas, Darn Tough, or any of the other socks manufacturer, you need to be careful how you choose them. I’ve made a short guide that should help you with that.
The choice of materials can make or break your hiking experience. There are certain materials that you should try to avoid in these situations. My recommendation is to go for wool-based socks. Alternatively, you can check out some of the synthetic options. I recommend wool because the combination of wool and synthetic materials provides an excellent advantage over going to one side or the other.
Wool is a natural fiber that is excellent at keeping your feet warm in a colder climate. For hotter climate situations, the synthetic materials will provide excellent breathing capabilities and reduce the moisture absorption percentage. As a result, you will have socks that will remain relatively dry and keep your feet’ temperature under control.
Height and Weight
Socks have many applications, and one of the most important ones is to keep your feet insulated from your footwear. To achieve that, it is essential to purchasing socks that are slightly higher than your footwear. By doing this, you protect your skin from rubbing on the material, eliminating irritation and discomfort.
Weight-wise, for hiking or running, you’d want to have the lightest socks on your feet as possible. While it may seem like it won’t make a difference, you will start to feel the weight throughout your activities in those kinds of activities. Lighter socks are good at reducing unnecessary weight on your feet, but on the other hand, you are compromising comfort and durability.
The lighter the socks are, the less material there is. As a result, the longevity is compromised, and you get less padding on the bottom. Going for the heavier options means that you will have longer-lasting socks with improved comfort, but you will have to work with the extra weight on your feet.
For height, there isn’t too much to think about. You should always get socks that are higher than your footwear. This doesn’t apply just to hiking, but to any kind of activity. Exposing your skin to the inside of the shoes or sneakers may lead to irritation. In some extremer cases, it may result in blisters.
During hiking, your feet endure quite a lot, and keeping them comfortable is essential. Most hiking socks have cushioning that helps with comfort. Keep in mind what I mentioned in the previous section – lighter socks have less cushioning. That’s why it’s essential to balance that.
Most socks manufacturers have additional comfort features like seamless toes or Y-stitched heels. As these are important, try not to disregard them.
Paying a high price for socks means that you expect them to last for a while. Most of the premium socks manufacturers have excellent models that will last for quite a while.
Despite that, I would recommend checking out other people’s opinions on the longevity of specific models.