Top of the cycling socks
As one leaves childhood behind, the idea of socks for Christmas doesn’t seem the dreadful prospect it once was.
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 former Channel 4 newscaster
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 we drew on experiences of folk from England, Scotland and Wales, and have taken our president’s words to heart.
We took the opportunity to get some more winter miles in, all to ensure that we gave the latest offerings from a range of brands to suit most budgets – Cafe du Cycliste, Findra, Rapha, Sealskinz and Stolen Goat – a good run through the mud, wet and cold.
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 also keep in mind that too-tight shoes can restrict blood flow and make your feet colder.
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!
Cafe du Cycliste Primaloft Cycling Socks
Reviewed by: Chris Tyson. Price: £25. Available from: Café du Cycliste.
On first handling these merino wool and Primaloft based cycling socks by Café du Cycliste, they felt lighter and thinner than my current comparable winter socks and have a soft, smooth finish to them.
Looking more closely, the Primaloft layer in the heel, sole and toe make these socks thicker in these high-wear areas, while the merino sections over the rest of the sock are thinner in comparison.
Putting them on, the size large was a comfortable fit for me (UK size 10) and strikes a good balance between being close fitting while not restrictive. The svelte construction of these socks also helps with not being restrictive in cycling shoes, keeping good blood flow to your feet in the colder weather.
These socks were worn for a couple of road rides in the usual December weather in south-east England. The socks did a great job at keeping my feet at a comfortable temperature throughout the rides, staying warm while going easy but with no appreciable overheating when I increased my efforts.
The socks also dried quickly when repeatedly splashed from the numerous flooded sections of road on my routes without any noticeable loss of warmth or comfort.
Findra Skye Merino Block Colour Socks
Reviewed by: Lauren Baker. Price: £16. Available from: Findra.
Happily, the Findra Skye socks arrived on my doormat just as I was getting ready for my first proper cold ride of the year, and trying to locate the winter cycling kit I’d not seen for several months.
The socks are a cheerful ‘pollen’ green, with plenty of other bright colour options available, and made from non-mulesed Merino wool. As a cold-footed person I am a big fan of wool for keeping me warm during wintery cycling exploits, though I was sceptical as to whether these particular socks would be thick enough for optimal foot cosiness.
As it was about 4 degrees out and a little breezy I paired the socks with some heavy-duty neoprene overshoes. The most noticeable thing in the first hour of the ride was how unnoticeable the socks were.
With a lovely soft texture and no seams they were very comfy indeed, and my feet were certainly warmer than I had expected. After a café stop and into hour two of riding a little cold did begin to creep in. Certainly not critical levels of chilliness but enough to draw my attention and make me glad that I wasn’t going to be out all day.
Heat wise, I was pleasantly surprised by how well the socks performed, given their relative thinness. For autumn and spring rides they’ll definitely be high on my list of preferred footwear.
I suspect those who ‘run hotter’ would get along very well with the Skye socks but if you experience cold feet a slightly thicker option would perhaps be beneficial for the depths of winter. I am currently eyeing up the Findra Nordic socks, which could be the answer.
Rapha Merino Regular
Reviewed by: Sam Jones. Price: £18. Available from: Rapha.
With heels and toes the part of socks to wear the fastest, it’s great to see Rapha use harder-wearing nylon for these parts, with the remainder of the body made up of merino and nylon blend (60:40).
It’s not a sock to take on the winter weather by itself, but for cooler days (~5 degrees) or even warmer in the mid-teens, this is an excellent versatile sock.
Similar to the winter socks reviewed below, the blend helps prevent slippage, both on the foot and around the ankle. Around the ankle it’s pleasantly snug though I found those occasions where I tucked my trouser leg in that it began to pinch a bit.
Depending on the shoe or sock, I’m somewhere between a 7 and an 8. Based on this, I’d say these socks run true to size, with the medium fitting perfectly.
Purely for purposes of this review, I put these socks through their paces over a number of consecutive days. Think it’s safe to say by the lack of comment from my partner about any whiffs that they’d make a good touring sock – which will be down to the anti-bacterial qualities of merino.
There are four colour schemes: brown, black, grey and blue, each with different coloured detailing. I plumped for the black with the pink highlights for a splash of colour – which I find essential for a wintry wardrobe!
Definitely a deluxe sock with a price to match, but I feel this will be money well spent given my experience with the longevity of other Rapha socks.
Rapha Pro Team Winter Socks
Reviewed by: Monica Scigliano. Price: £24. Available from: Rapha.
These will keep your feet looking and feeling good on any ride on a mild winter day, or indeed the rest of the year. I tested them out on a cloudy 10-degree day while cycling along muddy forest trails and canal towpaths.
As someone who is perpetually too cold I was initially sceptical that these relatively thin socks – which fit in any of my footwear – would be up to the challenge.
However, the 60% merino content makes them surprisingly toasty while also boasting moisture-wicking properties that meant I didn’t hesitate to head straight to the pub afterwards! And the 40% nylon helped them stayed up throughout it all.
Perhaps most importantly they’re soft and cosy and come in a beautiful pistachio shade. As a size 8 I went with a medium, which was snug without constricting blood flow, though for day-to-day use I would probably opt for a roomier fit.
So, I’ll save them for cycling, though with their reinforced heels and toes this pair would probably last throughout more frequent use.
Can you find equally warm and comfortable socks for less than £24? Absolutely. But if you’re looking to treat yourself or another winter rider, these are a reliable option.
Reviewed by: Ross Adams. Price: £45. Available from: Sealskinz.
Think of waterproof socks and it’s a fair chance the first company that springs to mind is Sealskinz. It’s no surprise given the company’s 30 years’ experience in developing, manufacturing and testing their product line.
They’ve clearly put those years to good use as the range and quality of the products is, with no exaggeration, world class.
I had the pleasure of testing the original, 100% waterproof, windproof and breathable mid-length sock in the shape of the Runton. The first outing was a 20-mile gravel ride around Snowdonia in December.
Quite the baptism of fire for my well-hyped socks, but they dealt with 50mph gusts, driving rain and hub-deep water crossings.
I’d coupled the socks with my waterproof riding shoes, which are great but can, and do, let water in through the ankle opening. The hope was that the Hydrostop cuff on the Runtons would eliminate or at least reduce this, making my new foot protection system impenetrable.
The first puddle was quickly approaching, so I unleashed my inner child and hit it at speed to start the testing procedure, so far so good. This set the tone for the ride and as the miles ticked by my feet stayed dry and warm. We all know how frozen phalanges can ruin a good winter ride, so I’m pleased to say this wasn’t one of them.
Once home, the socks went in the wash, and after air drying look as good as new, ready for their next outing.
If you head out in wet, cold, challenging conditions and are looking for a pair of socks to keep the tootsies toasty, do yourself a massive favour and invest (and that is a specifically chosen word) in a pair. You will not be disappointed.
You can put a price on warm, dry feet, but it’s only £45, available form many retailers but definitely from Sealskinz.
Reviewed by: James Palser. Price: £35. Available from Sealskinz.
I recently had the opportunity to test out the SealSkinz Dunton socks. I must say, having been a long-time user (and as someone who thoroughly detests having wet feet) I am still thoroughly impressed. These socks are perfect for any outdoor enthusiast, whether you are a cyclist or daily dog walker!
I used these socks for a wet cycle commute and a couple of dog walks – and they stayed completely dry throughout. I even found myself living my toddler’s dreams, aiming for puddles in my leakiest shoes, and they still stayed dry.
One thing is that once you have wet shoes, you’ll still feel the cold, but your feet will remain dry, which, if you’re cycling and warm anyway, won’t be an issue. I used them for a dog walk where my feet were a little cold due to having very wet shoes, but they remained bone dry.
In addition to being waterproof, the socks are also quite comfortable. If you’ve not worn waterproof socks before, they can feel stiff, but that soon disappears with a few wears.
I found the hydrostop lining at the top of socks good to stop them sagging down my ankle. However, after several hours wearing the socks (nearly 24, to be precise), it did start to feel a little uncomfortable, but this was quickly remedied.
Of course, anything with a hole in it to get your foot in will allow water in, and I found that the hydrostop lining was quite effective at stopping rain from coming in through the top of the sock. I didn’t test this to its limits by popping my feet in a bucket of water but I can imagine that it would do quite well even in quite a severe downpour.
The Dunton socks come in a couple of different colour choices, as I can imagine the bold fluro look isn’t for everyone.
The washing instructions are woven into the fabric which is a nice touch, and avoid having an uncomfortable label in the sock. I only had the opportunity to wash these once, and they were fine being drip dried, as per the instructions.
Overall, I highly recommend these socks to anyone who enjoys outdoor activities. They are comfortable, durable and waterproof, making them a must have for any adventurer’s wardrobe.
Stolen Goat Iowa Thermolite Crew Socks
Reviewed by: Skip Evans. Price: £15. Available from: Stolen Goat.
Cycling UK members receive 15% off Stolen Goat kit.
When these new socks from Stolen Goat arrived, I took them out for a spin on a chilly December afternoon in Glasgow – a proper road test. I loved the bright colours from the get-go (these are typical of the Stolen Goat range). Paired with thermal bib shorts, these colourful socks stood out!
The socks look and feel smart and very well made. They were not as snug as expected – I’m at the upper end of the EU39-42 size range and they are meant to be mildly compressive. But they were very comfy, didn’t slip inside my shoes, and there are no seams or logos to rub in the wrong places.
They were a little thinner than I expected for cool weather cycling socks, but were fine on this ride (it was about 6°C). If I were wearing them on a longer or slower ride, I’d probably twin them with some light overshoes or a second pair of socks at this time of the year.
Stolen Goat says the hollow-core fibre technology of Thermolite “acts like an air pocket to insulate you and keep you warm”, and they did the job. They are also breathable, so my feet didn’t seem to get sweaty (unlike other parts of me!), as I warmed up on the hills.
This all tallies up with the Stolen Goat specs for the socks online, which promote them as lightweight but warm socks for dry and cool (but not cold) conditions. They do exactly what it says on the tin – but colourfully!
Overall, I’d say these socks are ideal for dry autumn or spring days about 8-10°C, but on cooler days you may want to ride faster (!), or twin them with some overshoes.
Stolen Goat Vulture Thermolite Crew Socks
Reviewed by: Russell Stephens. Price: £15. Available from: Stolen Goat.
I took a gulp when I opened the envelope to reveal a pair of these eye-catching neon yellow socks, not just because of the colour, but because they are relatively thin and it was nearly freezing outside. As a cold toe sufferer I decided to test them on the indoor trainer instead.
The Vultures are extremely comfortable, the fabric is soft and stretches well. The medium (39-42) was perfect for my size 7.5 UK feet. Stolen Goat’s website says they are designed to keep feet warm on cooler rides – which is fair – but they are not really suitable for winter riding outdoors.
On my indoor ride they felt great inside the shoe and most importantly stayed in place – there was no obvious sock slip down the calf. Which was surprising as the Vultures are a long sock, reaching well over half way up my calf, providing a nice level of compression support.
Initially I wondered if the feeling of compression might begin to irritate but in fact it was the reverse. Once I got into my ride I found the calf support quite reassuring and it kept my muscles warm.
If you like the current pro-road rider long-sock look and attention-grabbing colour-way then the Vultures are a very decent and good-value pair of cycling socks for spring/autumn outdoor rides. For those who sometimes choose to retreat to the indoor trainer during winter I’d also recommend them for their all-round comfort and fit.
They only got washed once, so I can’t vouch for how long the retina-burning colour will remain, but they certainly kept their size and shape.