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: Amanda Wagstaffe, Corra Boushel, Jess Hay, Nik Hart, 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 Primal a good run through the mud, wet and cold.
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!
Alpkit Rana Waterproof £26.99
Rana Waterproof socks were tried and tested in the Highlands on a 2.5 hr trail ride in wet, boggy conditions, temperature 2c.
This is a mid-weight good sized sock. The tops are long enough to wear with a boot. Surprisingly stretchy and soft to touch, which is better than some other brands I’ve worn. There wasn’t the dry, rustle noise you can sometimes get which sounds a bit like putting plastic bags on your feet. These socks were a good fit around the foot and weren’t too tight due to the extra stretch. I tried them on with no sock underneath and with an extra sock, and both were very comfortable with no restriction to movement. Even better, there was no unwanted seams to cause rubbing.
On my test ride, I chose some trails which consisted of water logged, heather forest tracks. I wore them with another sock underneath due to the cold weather. They kept my feet reasonably warm, as in the name of science I made sure I got the inside of my boots totally wet with the puddles and wet heather. The socks didn’t slide down or create any discomfort on the ride. Back at the car, time to remove the boots. The socks were wet on the outside, inside the next sock was totally dry, not even slightly damp. Result!
I would recommend these socks They will be my preferred choice of “go to” waterproof socks in my drawer from now on. I do get cold feet, so in the winter these will be worn with other socks underneath. Autumn or spring rides they’ll be no need for that extra sock.
Amanda Wagstaffe – winter highland wanderer
Endura – Women’s BaaBaa Merino Winter socks (rrp £15.99)
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
How did I get the reputation that “he’ll wear anything festive”? Following last year’s funky elf socks, now I’ve been upgraded to wearing the boss’ socks – it’s the Santa design!
These socks will definitely get heads turning with their festive look. I usually try and match my kit, although I confess, I’m yet to brave a Santa suit on the bike. Straight out the packet these are really comfy and fit well on my size 11’s.
For those that like the details, Primal claim to make these socks from an “advanced air transfer system fabric composition” of 70% Cotton, 20% Polyurethane and 10% Polyester, designed for comfort and performance. It’s a thumbs up for comfort, even on longer rides, and the wicking on these socks is great. Not the thickest of socks, I would be adding overshoes in cold conditions – which does rather ruin the fun of the design. Fingers crossed for mild weather and I will be able to show them off on a Christmas day ride.
Nik Hart – (still) Santa's little helper
IRIS Merino Socks – Pansy Purple 19 euro / £18 Velovixen
A merino blend that is soft on the skin, these socks provide stylish insulation for colder rides. In the interests of journalistic integrity I wore odd socks for a chilly two hour ride to compare the Rapha “deep winter” against these far more aesthetically appealing Iris competitors. Both brands delayed the onset of deep toe freeze, but the Rapha’s held out longer before the numbness set in. However, the Iris socks are thinner – comparable to a normal sock but with added merino wool, which is a definite bonus if your cycling shoes are a neat fit already or you prefer to layer your socks.
Corra Boushel – scientific tester
Pulled up to knee high, these “deep winter” socks gave me a bit of a flashback to dreaded school football in the squelching mud. I’d never gone for full lower leg cover from a sock while riding but it did help to keep those all-important cycling calf muscles warm without the over-heating risk of thermal leggings. The only potential downside is that socks are thicker than average, similar to a winter hiking sock. This definitely helped their insulation, but something to watch out for if you ride in snug shoes as you may find there’s not enough toe wiggle room.
Made from a lightweight nylon blend, the socks are lightweight and breathable. Having worn them a few times, they hold up well after a few washes and are just as comfortable as the first time I pulled them on. The fit is good and apparently the same as that on their professional racing kit. I’m in the socks-to-calf-length camp so the length and stretchiness of these is perfect for me and my long legs.
Rapha claim these are ideal for use in all but the coldest conditions, but I’d probably be going for something thicker for winter months. They feature a reinforced heel cup and toe box for durability, and this doesn’t take away from the design. The graphic triangle pattern stands out but without being too bright or garish for those that want their kit to be understated.
Due to the bulkiness of the sock I had to wear with an old pair of shoes not my usual boots as my foot wouldn’t fit in the boot with these on. They were pretty baggy on the fit, around the toe box and above the ankle. They are a size 6-8 and I am a 6. There is more elastic situated around the bridge, above the ankle and at the calf to keep them firmly in place. They never slipped down once, though they don’t look great though with the baggy bits in between.
The feel is a typical waterproof sock feel – so expect rustles with movement and a slightly rougher feel. They state they are 100% waterproof, I can confirm they are, they kept my feet totally dry as I rode over Highland estate tracks and through burns, nothing was avoided.
It was only 1 degree most of my 4.5 hour ride. My feet did get cold - I would recommend if you have space in your boots to wear a liner sock underneath. A good winter sock. Fit not perfect, but still comfy to wear.
Endura - BaaBaa Merino Winter socks (£15.99)
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.
I absolutely love socks but add a penguin onto them and I will probably only ever wear this one pair! Apart from the stylish penguin graphic these socks are brilliantly comfortable - and surprisingly fit my very small size 4 UK feet. Potentially not the sock of choice for winter as they are not made for the cold but absolutely my sock of choice for the summer months as they dry quickly and are very breathable.
I decided to test the socks while cycling as well as running and found them ideal for both. Although they may not be my choice of sock for winter cycling, they are absolutely my choice of sock for winter running. I make sure to pull the socks over my tights so that the penguin shows, as I love how people smile when they see them.
The high merino wool content (70%) combined with the primaloft makes these a cosy pair of socks. Coupled with a festive red and they’re almost ideal for that Christmas sock, especially as they come with their own cotton tote bag. They reach up to about mid-calf so whether you’re wearing tights or trousers there’s no risk of skin exposure while riding.
The base feels slightly more padded than the upper, which is a bonus given a lot of warmth is lost through the sole. I put these to the test on a cold winter’s day when I spent close to six hours outdoors riding to and from pals houses to deliver Christmas cards and good cheer (in a socially distanced way).
Standing around on the street outside of friends’ houses for long stretches, my feet were the last extremity to feel the chill, and in the saddle I had no complaints. Can see these becoming my go to winter sock – heartily recommend.
Sam Jones – bikepacking Sam
These socks from Morvelo are a great all rounder. A sock that can hold its own in the cold and wet weather but lightweight enough to feel comfortable.
I have tested these over a few weeks during November and as you can imagine this means some changeable weather. They have been through soaking wet days on the road, muddy days of- road and commuting in the cold. They have stood up to the everyday routine and coped with this very well, however the extremes of rain and mud proved a little too much. A well made sock for all occasions on or off the bike as long as you like bright pink (which I do).
Sam Reedman - roady Sam
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.