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: Georgi Cox, Helen Cook, Nik Hart, Adrian Wills, Sam Reedman, 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, Cafe du Cycliste, Rapha and of course Cycling UK's new sock 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
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!
The Baabaa Merino socks from Endura are a sure treat for your feet! I loved testing these and as the temperature is dipping in the winter months, these kept my toes nice and toasty. The 50% merino wool 50% acrylic mix makes these a soft and comfortable wear. They are a good mid-shin length and don’t find their way wiggling down when riding. With the added bonus of the merino wool being naturally anti-bacterial and odour controlling, these would be a first choice for multi-day trips.
These socks come in a choice of three colours, black (with blue detailing), red, or green. At a reasonable price of £9.99, the quality of these socks would make me a very happy purchaser.
Pip Munday – will travel for gravel
Endura – Women’s BaaBaa Merino Winter socks (rrp £14.99)
Having never owned Merino socks previously, I was pleasantly surprised with the Endura BaaBaa Merino Winter Socks. Not only are the socks warm and comfortable, they are breathable and not too thick which is ideal not only for cycling but also for running. As I have small feet, and struggle to find socks that fit well, I was pleased to find the fit of the socks to be perfect.
I found the shorter length of the socks to be very appealing as it makes them interchangeable as cycling socks and running socks. With the winter setting in I am pleased to have my feet looking stylish while at the same time warm and comfy on my rides and runs.
Jess Hay – rides as much as she runs
Endura - BaaBaa Merino Winter socks (£14.99)
These socks are made from a merino blend that combines 50% wool and 50% acrylic. They are noticeably soft to touch and feel great when you first pull them on. I like the long cuff and they fit well and hold up nicely even on longer trips, they feel really comfortable even at the end of an all-day ride. There is a good stretch to the socks and the padded sole is a nice touch.
The design is understated but with a classic look, so simple enough to match well with most kit. Endura claim a high warmth to weight ratio even when these get wet. Unfortunately, I’ve not yet had the chance to test these in the rain, but they are incredibly warm even on some particularly cold, wintery mornings. After a couple of washes in the machine these socks still feel good and fit well, so they will see plenty of use over the next couple of months.
Nik Hart – will ride anywhere so long as it’s road
FINDRA – Merino Nordic socks (rrp £24)
Made in the UK from top grade Australian merino wool and low pilling acrylic (50:50 mix), these socks definitely fit my definition of hygge (Norwegian and Danish for cozy). It’s not just the thick warm woollen welcome they give to my feet, but also the Fair Isle pattern that puts me in the mind of log cabins in the snow and roaring log fires.
Ideal for long country walks in the frost, or as I found out recently also for sub-zero night rides where my bike picked up a thin layer of ice and my water froze. While these Nordic socks would struggle with the extremes of an arctic circle winter, they should easily allow you to head out into a British winter with confidence that you’ll not suffer from frozen toes.
Sam Jones – this winter will mostly be riding in mud
There was a proper ‘oooh, new socks!’ reaction when these arrived. I didn’t have to feel guilty at loving the funky packaging– the lovely zip-up pouch is reusable and a good, practical size.
I’m always a sucker for anything pink and tartan, but what I particularly liked was that these socks are very lightweight. Most of my merino socks are quite thick so aren’t suitable for warmer weather. I was sceptical, but my feet remained snug in below 5 degrees (admittedly with overshoes too, but I do get extremely chilly toes in the winter).
The thinner material also means that they would dry quickly too – essential in our communal office ‘drying room’ during the wet winter months, or sweaty summer season!
They are obviously designed with the svelte Italian in mind, so do come up quite small (my 8-year-old claimed that they were just right for her). The foot fitted well, but the tube and cuff were tighter than I’d like, although not uncomfortably so.
Georgi Cox – tartan road rider
IRIS – Hammer socks (€16)
I am a bit of a natural fibres snob, so I was a bit wary of these and their 100% synthetic fabric. However, I’m happy to report that they feel great on my feet. There’s a really subtle mesh across the top of the feet, which obviously helps with breathability. I really like the design and colours, and they’re a good length. Probably a bit too thin for me to be wearing them much over the winter, but I’ll look forward to showing them off with shorts when spring rolls around again.
Emily Ryder – on and off the road through the heart of the Scottish winter
IRIS – Merino socks (€19)
I love these socks! All of IRIS’s kit is stylish and these socks are no exception. The signature IRIS eyes design elevates these from being ‘just black socks’ while still being subtle enough to wear these with anything. They’re thinner than other merino cycling socks that I have, and my feet tend to get very cold, so I was glad they kept my toes toasty on the bike. If I was going out for a long ride on an extremely cold day, they probably wouldn’t be enough on their own, but for most of the riding I’ll be doing over winter, these are fab.
BAM – bamboo socks (Dartmouth Pack – rrp £18.50)
I have been attempting to purchase and wear more environmentally friendly items of clothing over the past few year and when I stumbled on bamboo clothing I was intrigued. This is the most sustainable crop currently in the market so I hoped I like the product. Bamboo only needs minimal water and limited pesticides to thrive therefore it’s an ideal product to make clothing from.
I put these through their paces in the office, cycling and running, and as soon as I slipped them on I was in sock heaven.
Office - these socks are perfect for cozy inside environments you almost feel like you are wearing wooly winter socks, which I guess you actually are in theory. The difference here is they are thin enough to slip under a pair of office shoes so you still get that snug feeling hidden under your brogues or whatever your preferred choice of shoe.
Cycling - I wore these for commuting and while the distance isn't far, on the colder days they stretched to pull up over my ankles which was much appreciated. The only criticism I can make is when they get wet they can take a long time to dry.
Overall these socks have proven themselves to be very versatile and ideal for the majority of occasions. Not only are they affordable, suitable for a variety of activities you also get the feel good factor of using a sustainable product.
Alex Cuppleditch – world traveller
I love these BAM socks! They are the Holy Grail of socks for me: warm but not too thick so the air can circulate, comfortable, easy to put on and take off, thus saving faffing time, hard-wearing, easy to wash, and beautiful colours that match my other cycling gear. They also wick moisture so my feet don’t get too hot and sweaty either.
Above all, they are sustainable, being made out of bamboo, which is apparently the world’s most sustainable crop, and also don’t irritate my wool-sensitive skin. The reinforced heel and toe should also make them hard-wearing.
Primal - Cycling UK socks (rrp £10)
What to say about these Primal socks? They are an extremely comfortable pair of cycling socks that fit snugly on the leg without being too tight (unlike many pairs of cycling socks). I love the bright colours, though perhaps not ideal for riding through the mud in, and the Cycling UK design alongside really make them stand out in a world of grey and black, which is the most common colour for much cycle clothing. Primal socks are made from an ‘Advanced Air Transfer System Fabric Composition’ which is 70% cotton, 20% Polyester and 10% PU, whatever that is. They certainly keep my feet cool in warm weather but are not so useful in winter, when my toes tend to develop frostbite. The socks come in S/M and L/XL, which is equivalent to a size 4-7 and 8-12, which should fit most adult feet.
Julie Rand – rides wherever in any weather
It’s fair to say the first thing you notice about these socks is the design. Primal are known for their funky patterns and these are no exception. Bright and festive, these socks will ensure you get noticed – they certainly caused a few comments from staff on our top of the sock’s photoshoot!
Made from a claimed “advanced air transfer system fabric composition” (that’s 70% Cotton, 20% Polyurethane and 10% Polyester if you want the details) the socks are close-fitting, stretchy and really comfortable to wear. I’m a big fan of Primal socks and have a few pairs as they function well, the wicking properties of the sock are great and keep your feet dry in most conditions.
They last well through a few washes and don’t lose their shape, texture or colour. If there is a downside it’s that they aren’t the thickest socks and if you suffer with cold feet when you cycle then these probably won’t be for you through the winter, but they are great on milder days – or for the Christmas party.
Nik Hart - Santa's little helper
Rapha – Reflective Brevet socks (rrp £20)
I’ll be honest, socks have never been high on my priority list when it comes to cycling kit. I usually buy the cheapest, most functional pair I can find. The only time I ever give them much thought is in the depths of winter when I resort to a thick pair of skiing socks. So the Rapha Brevet Socks were a bit of a revelation to me. The quality was telling from the moment I slipped them on. Not only a great fit (I tested a size L and I’m a size 10 shoe) but incredibly comfortable, no doubt thanks to the 28% Merino wool. They grip nicely around the lower leg without being tight and the reflective strip around the top of the sock is a neat touch.
A little too thin for my winter riding (full disclosure: I get really cold feet in winter!) but I look forward to trying these socks in the spring and summer where I suspect they will come into their own. The marketing blurb from Rapha says they’ve been developed with long-distance riding in mind and I have no doubt they’ll live up to their billing. I look forward to testing this claim in the months ahead.
Adrian Wills – roadie forever
I live in the west of Scotland, where it rains a lot, all year round and I must admit, I have long been sceptical of waterproof socks. Can they really keep my feet dry?! These socks feel a bit like wetsuit shoes when you put them on, which surely bodes well from a waterproof perspective, and right enough, they do keep my feet dry. They have a bamboo inner, meaning they’re also warm which I really appreciated. For rides where I’m likely to get soaked to the skin, I think these would be a very welcome accessory.
These Sealskin socks are made of the same material as their ever-popular gloves meaning they promise to keep you warm and dry while out on your bike. From the moment you open the packaging they have a very different feel to them than your everyday sock, they are much more rigid and hold their shape which is a little odd to see.
The socks come into their own when you have a cold day either commuting early in the morning or extending the ride over the weekend. They feel secure when with the shoe on, this may be the fact that it takes up more room in your shoe but it is a welcome feeling.
When the rain begins to fall these socks will keep the vast majority of rain away from your feet but eventually, they will lose the fight. This is not to down play their ability to keep the majority out.
In summary a very good sock for the more extreme weather but perhaps not your first choice on a warmer or dry day.
Sam Reedman - all year road warrior