Top of the cycling socks
Top of the cycling socks
As one leaves childhood behind, the prospect of socks for Christmas doesn't seem the dreadful prospect it once was.
If you still need convincing then maybe the wise words of Cycling UK’s President Jon Snow might convince you:
"As a vibrant sock wearer of some renown, I would urge cyclists never to dismiss this item of footwear as a Christmas present. The right sock can say so much about the recipient and giver, and will always have a place in anyone’s wardrobe – even if it is wildly fluorescent and hidden at the back of the drawer!”
For Cycling UK’s gallant team of sock reviewers: Victoria Hazael, Julie Rand and I, we’ve taken our President’s words to heart. We each took the opportunity to get some more winter miles in, all to ensure that we gave the latest offerings from cycling brands Endura, Findra, Rapha, Sealskinz and This Is Cambridge a good run through the mud and wet.
The right sock can say so much about the recipient and giver, and will always have a place in anyone’s wardrobe.
Jon Snow, Cycling UK President and Channel 4 Newscaster
With Victoria and I both blowing “hot” and Julie tending to feel the cold a bit more, this review should give a good indication of the capabilities of these socks.
It’s important to bear in mind though that a single pair of socks, no matter how thick, will always struggle with the coldest of days. Always consider the benefits of layering – just as you would with most other items of clothing – and in the case of your feet don’t forget overshoes if your shoes will take them. If they don’t, then you might like to try the Global Cycle Network’s top tip in the video at the bottom of the article!
Endura's M90, Pro L Primaloft & Women's Baabaa Merino Winter socks (L to R)
Endura M90 Graphic Sock (limited edition) - rrp £12.99
I love a colourful sock, and the M90 does stand out from the usual dull crowd with its bold geometric red and black pattern reaching halfway up your shin. Made from Meryl® Skinlife yarn, it has an antibacterial finish which should hopefully reduce its pong-potential. It’s quite a thin sock but surprisingly warm, and would easily fit in a racing bike shoe. If the mercury plummets, and there’s room in your shoe, team the M90 up with another sock and you’ll be good to go for hours. The only shame will be to hide it’s wonderful patterns! Sam
Endura Pro SL Primaloft Sock - rrp £22.99
These socks are made from ‘Luxury PrimaLoft® GOLD/Silk’ - a blend of Polyester, Nylon, Elastane, silk and wool - and are slightly longer than the Endura Baabaas. Billed as a ‘winter treat for your feet’, unfortunately my feet still felt cold in them but that’s possibly just me. They felt really comfy and I would certainly wear them in milder conditions or pair them with a thicker pair for wintry weather. What I particularly liked about them, however, is the reflective strip on the back, which makes them ideal for riding in low light or darkness. It’s been shown that drivers are more likely to see cyclists who wear reflective items on their legs as the movement shows up more than something static. I would definitely wear them for off-road night riding or road rides in the winter. Julie
Endura Women's Baabaa Merino Winter Sock - rrp £14.99
Like many cycling socks, these seemed to be quite tight around my ankles. I don’t think my legs are particularly large but it often feels like my blood supply is being cut off by socks that are a bit too ‘grippy’! Neverthless, apart from that, the socks are very comfortable and good for riding in slightly less than freezing conditions. On a very cold ride, though, my feet just never felt as if they’d warmed up properly when I wore them on their own. But, being quite thin, I did layer these socks up with Findras mid-ride (see below), and although not exactly warm still, my feet felt much more comfortable for a while at least. I didn’t test them in wet conditions but the manufacturers claim they have a ‘high weight to warmth ratio even when wet’, whatever that means! The quality feels good and hopefully they should last quite a long time, though probably not as long as the socks I bought in New Zealand thirty years ago that I still wear every year. Julie
Findra, Rapha & Sexy Socks (L to R)
Findra Wooly Warm Cycling Socks Heather - rrp £25
Made in Scotland from New Zealand merino wool (85%) and covering feet sized from 3.5 to 9 comfortably, these delux socks come in three colours: heather, mid blue and mid grey. Findra is a women's specific brand launched in 2014 that specialises in merino wool products that are durable and practical items, that also don't look too bad both on and off the bike.
I love these socks! Gorgeous purple colour with navy heel and toes and they're toasty warm. They felt extremely cosy both on and off the bike. They have an elasticated top which isn’t too tight and my feet felt snug in my Five Ten Sam Hill mountain biking shoes. The instep is also reinforced so my soles felt well-insulated too. Unfortunately, however, my right foot still felt cold on a chilly ride, despite wearing these socks with the Endura Baabaas underneath. That might just be the fact that I have high sensitivity to the cold, and in my feet particularly. They are pricy at £25 but this reflects the fact that Findra, like Rapha, is a luxury, premium brand. However, at the price I wouldn’t expect them to go a bit bobbly after the first wash, as these have, but perhaps they should only be hand washed, which is not very practical for cycle clothing. Julie
These were the cosiest socks I tested in the snow at the weekend. They are very soft and I wasn’t rushing to take them off when I got home. I have slightly wide feet so these were a perfect fit and I didn’t have a mark on my ankles or lines on my feet after a whole day’s wear. Great for all types of cycling too and regulated my foot temperature well. Like Julie I found that they went a tiny bit bobbly after the first wash (I washed them on a wool cycle). Vic
Rapha Winter Socks - rrp £20
Coming in navy blue and black versions, these merino-rich socks ((52% merino wool, 46% nylon, 2% Elastane) are, as the name suggests, geared towards the winter rider. The toe and sole are well padded, and are meant to provide better insulation to their standard merino offerings.
I’ve been fortunate enough to receive a few pairs of Rapha’s merino socks in the past, and they’ve always done me well, usually only going into retirement after the sock monster visits my sock drawer. These winter socks are a warm woolly hug for your feet, and worked well for me in both on and off-road riding. Being fairly conservative, they also don’t look out of place with a suit or smart trouser so truly are a versatile sock. Sam
They are woolly, understated, warm and aren’t too thick which means I could comfortably get them in my road shoes and not get squished toes. (I foolishly bought road shoes one hot summer’s day when I had very thin socks on and didn’t really think ahead to the winter). The Rapha socks didn’t bobble very much at the heel either after a few wears and washes. I also tested these in the snow in Shropshire at the weekend and they were warmer than I expected. For off-road riding I felt they could be a tad longer, as I get rather muddy and wet and hate to have an ankle bracelet made of mud. Vic
Sexy Socks - rrp £10.99
Can you be too sexy for your socks? Not if you buy these Sexy Socks from South Africa, as for every pair sold, a pair of socks is given to a child in need in South Africa (I assume not a pair using the ‘Sexy Socks’ brand name!). Made from 78% cotton, nylon and elastane, the socks have a double cuff and a breathable upper section. They feel really comfortable though aren’t particularly suited to the current cold British weather. They also come in a range of colours, including my favourite bicycle logo white on black or black on white ones, plus a blue/orange moustache combination and a light blue/red dot ‘KOM’ style. These socks can also blend in with ‘normal’ clothing, which is always a bonus if you commute to work by bicycle, and come in sizes 4-7 and 7-11. Perfect present for a cycling relation or friend. - Julie
Sealskinz MTB Mid Knee, Sealskinz Mid Mid Socks & tic Omloop winter socks (L to R)
Sealskinz MTB Mid Knee - rrp £42
You’ll struggle to fit these bad boys into your riding shoes if they’re a tight fit, as they are a bit thick. Given that these are waterproof, the high relatively high merino rate (35%), means while they do feel a little stiff and look a little “plastic”, once they’re on they actually are really quite comfortable. Reaching to just beneath my knee, I was pleased they didn’t slip down but also didn’t feel too tight. Most importantly, they kept my feet warm and dry on the trails, and with their length I was never concerned about the water seeping down through the top! They’re a costly investment, but whether a gift for you or a loved one, you’ll not regret owning a pair of these. Sam
Sealskinz Mid Mid Socks with Hydrostop – currently £33.60
The one thing that can spoil a good off-road ride for me is getting wet feet - though I probably should quit moaning and get overshoes! When I’m soaked I get a bit grumpy if I have still got more than an hour to get somewhere warm. I have used Sealskinz socks for mountain biking for around a decade and they have come a long way in design. The older models feeling much crispier and not very flexible. These will never be the cosiest or comfiest winter socks, but they are the driest. The Hydrostop seal is similar to clothing I wear for canoeing so it didn’t feel weird to me and it stops water running down into your socks (just don’t put these socks on if you have slathered your legs in moisturiser). I also tested the socks standing in a shallow bucket of water and they really are waterproof! Vic
Head to the tic website, and you’ll see a brand that is for serious riders with a serious sense of fun! Their striking kit is designed to be gender neutral, so all three of our reviewers gave a go to their Omloop winter range, with its distinctive and deliberate mis-match of separate stripey and spotted socks. Made from a blend of Filanca Nylon and Italian milled Australian premium grade merino wool. Buying tic products also helps support Daphne Kaufhold’s (the founder) ongoing work to raise awareness of the 1 in 7 who suffer from chronic pain in the UK, and how cycling can help.
If you like your cycling socks to be even more of statement that than the ‘Sexy’ variety, these winter socks by Omloop will do the job. They are warm and cosy, as well as being superstylish and come in either a fluorescent pink or electric blue. They give a somewhat eccentric look to any riding outfit. I like the way they come up to mid-leg, giving a bit of warmth to the all-important calf muscles. Priced at £19, they are quite expensive but what price looking fashionable on the trails? Julie
The stripey and spots combo might not be for everyone, but I rather love the way these socks suggest you’ve dressed in the dark that morning and had a bit of a mismatch! I’ve worn these mainly on my forays out into off-road night riding, and have found them toasty on all but the coldest of rides. They’re relatively thin, so an additional layer could do wonders when it’s super frosty. Where they excel for me is the thick padded sole, providing warmth and comfort. Sam
Bright with a fun design and not too thick, but they were rather too snug for me round my ankles. Not socks for the coldest ride but a strong contender for a chilly day both on road or off. If you have room in your shoes you could use these as a base layer. These merino wool socks regulated my temperature well, not too sweaty not to shivery. Vic