Does Darn Tough Make Compression Socks?
The short answer is no, Darn Tough does not knit compression socks (anymore).
Let’s unpack how we went from having non-medical, graduated light compression socks in our line up to making the tough decision to stop knitting compression in 2021. We’ll break down what a compression sock is, how it works, what the presumed benefits are, and who wears them (by choice or by prescription).
We’ll compare compression and Darn Tough performance fit, and look at how supportive, end-use-specific socks may be exactly what you’re looking for. And, if you still really need a good compression sock in your quiver… we’ll point you toward some brands who we think are doing compression right.
What Do Compression Socks Do?
Compression is a hot term in the clothing industry, but there is no industry-wide standard for non-medical compression, so here’s our take on how compression socks are constructed and what they do.
The Elements of a Compression Sock
Compression socks use stretchy elastic fibers to apply specific amounts of pressure around the ankles and lower legs to help improve circulation. The most frequent height of compression socks is knee-high or over-the-calf.
The amount of pressure — or compression — a sock provides is measured in millimeters of mercury (mmHg), which is a standard unit of pressure measurement used in the medical industry.
There are three basic pressure tiers that compression socks fall into and they generally correspond with whether a sock is considered a medical product or not.
The Compression Sock Pressure Tiers Are:
- Low or Light Compression (15-20 mmHg) - non-medical
- Medium Compression (20-30 mmHg) - non-medical
- High Compression (30+ mmHg) - medical grade
Compression Should Be Graduated
It is understood that compression garments should use graduated compression to encourage movement of blood and lymph toward the heart.
If you drew a picture of the pressure profile of a graduated compression sock, it might look like a tornado. The narrowest part of the funnel would be positioned over the ankle, representing the area of firmest pressure. From there, the funnel would slowly widen, illustrating how the pressure gradually decreased toward the top of the sock.
A graduated compression sock has a gradual reduction in pressure, from the ankle to the top of the sock, to encourage blood and lymphatic fluid to return to the heart instead of pooling in the lower legs and feet.
Reasons Why People Wear Non-medical Compression Socks
Graduated light compression (15-20 mmHg) socks, which is what we knit previously, are for non-medical use, widely available, and can be worn by pretty much anyone at any time. Some reasons you might choose to wear graduated light compression socks could include:
- To improve circulation during long flights or periods of being sedentary
- To recover more quickly after a workout
- To help reduce swelling, achiness, or spider veins in the lower legs
- Simply because they feel good.
We don't make compression socks anymore; however, our socks are supportive and they have a snug performance fit. If that's what you're looking for, they might be everything you need.
What Is a Performance Fit, and Is It Different from Compression?
At Darn Tough, performance fit means socks that closely hug feet like a second skin, that move and flex to deliver activity-specific comfort and protection, and that resist wear and tear for superior durability.
To do this, we’ve made it our business to always be asking ourselves what performance looks like, feels like, and acts like in each of our categories (hiking, running, every day, skiing, hunting, work, and tactical) and to knit what we learn into every sock we make. (If you want the nitty-gritty on how performance fit affects every element of our socks, you’ll want to check out our Making the Best Fitting Socks post.)
If you’re already a Darn Tough wearer, you’ll know full well that when you pull on one of our supportive socks for the very first time, it can be surprising how snug they feel. In fact, no surprise if our over-the-calf styles require just about as much effort as compression socks when you first pull them into position. This is because it’s important to get those stretchy elastic fibers arranged just so — so that it feels like you are getting a tight sock hug.
So, given that they can feel similar, are performance fit socks really that different from compression socks? Let’s break it down.
Stretchy Fiber Placement
Both performance and compression socks use stretchy elastic fibers to achieve a snug, supportive fit. Both sock types will apply pressure to the foot, ankle, and lower leg.
The main difference is that a compression sock’s elastic fibers should be carefully graduated throughout the length of the sock (this is called graduated compression), whereas a performance fit sock’s elastic fiber amount and placement will be determined by what type of activity the sock is being used for (this is activity-specific design). For instance, a running sock needs quite a bit more flex and rebound than a casual everyday sock.
Darn Tough has been knitting activity-specific, performance fit socks at our two family-owned mills in Northfield and Waterbury, Vermont for close to four decades now. We have this performance fit sock thing pretty dialed.
Both performance and (light) compression socks can be worn all day, every day, if they feel comfortable. The notable difference here is that some compression socks, those with pressures of 30 mmHg or greater, cannot be worn without a prescription.
The fit and feel of both performance and compression socks can be affected by factors such as the materials they are knit with, the size and shape of the wearer’s leg, and the movements and activity they are being worn during. This can cause the same sock style and size to feel very different to two different wearers.
DYK: We have a 90 day return policy that makes it super easy to try a pair of Darn Tough performance fit socks and return them for free (we cover return shipping) if they don’t fit.
I recently had a fit issue with a certain sock style. I contacted Darn Tough, and they stood behind their guarantee (it's not just words). I could not have been more pleasantly surprised by their excellent customer service. The new socks fit perfectly. I love them! — Tanya P.
Getting Them On
We actually don’t have a How-to for putting on socks. What do you think, should we make one? That aside, socks that are snug and supportive (performance fit and compression socks) should take some effort to get on and comfortably into place.
The experience of putting on a Darn Tough over-the-calf sock has been described as a bit like putting on a stocking. Once on, they will probably feel snug to start, but will quickly be forgotten as you go about your activities.
How often you choose to replace your performance fit or compression socks can be up to personal preference or can come down to when they reach the end of their usable life.
For compression socks, daily wearing can mean they need to be replaced as frequently as every six months to ensure you don’t lose pressure. For Darn Tough performance fit socks… um …our advice is to pick a style you really like because you may have them for a while…
Can't wait to take advantage of your lifetime guarantee, but so far our socks just won't wear out. I think we have a pair that is at least 10 years old and worn often. They just keep going strong. — Tara S.
How Do I Know If I Need Compression Socks or Just a Performance Fit?
As we covered before, medical grade compression socks (those with pressures of 30 mmHg or greater) will be something your doctor prescribes to you. The easiest way to know if you need a medical grade compression sock is if your doctor tells you to wear one. If you get a prescription for compression socks, follow what your doctor orders. Otherwise, the question of whether you need compression or just a supportive performance fit is ultimately up to you.
Do Darn Tough’s Over-the-Calf Socks Offer Compression?
Darn Tough over-the-calf socks offer snug support. They do not offer graduated compression.
Why Did Darn Tough Stop Knitting Compression Socks?
There was a time when Darn Tough knit a handful of Merino Wool over-the-calf socks with graduated light compression (15-20 mmHg). However, our rigorous product testing revealed what we felt was an unacceptable level of variation in our compression gradients.
We knew that if we couldn't guarantee these as the most comfortable, most durable, best fitting graduated light compression socks out there… then we needed to seriously consider whether to keep knitting them or not. We made the decision to cut graduated light compression socks from our line in 2021 and focus exclusively on producing our premium Merino Wool performance socks.
Does Darn Tough Recommend Any Other Brands for Compression Socks?
To be honest, it feels weird recommending other brands of socks, when socks are our business. But, we love our customers and want to see you happy, so if want some quality graduated compression socks to add to your sock drawer here is a recommendation or two that might help you get started.
Joe (Darn Tough International Sales Manager) says he would recommend CEP for graduated compression socks, because they are an industry leader in compression. They make more than just socks and believe that “True Compression Is Graduated Compression.”
You won’t find many CEP styles that feature Merino Wool, but you can appreciate their intentional commitment to meeting medical compression standards and producing garments that are backed up by quality checks and rigorous testing.
Does Darn Tough make compression socks?
No, Darn Tough does not currently knit any socks with graduated compression.
What is a compression sock?
A compression sock has stretchy elastic fibers that apply specific amounts of pressure around the ankles and lower legs to help improve circulation.
How does graduated compression in a sock work?
A graduated compression sock uses a strategic reduction in pressure, from the ankle to the top of the sock, to encourage blood and lymphatic fluid to return to the heart instead of pooling in the lower legs and feet.
Are all snug socks compression socks?
No. All compression socks are going to feel snug, but not all snug socks have compression.
Do Darn Tough performance fit socks have compression?
No. Darn Tough performance fit socks do not have graduated compression. They do have a snug, supportive fit that is activity-specific.