For such a seemingly insignificant piece of kit, cyclists have a strange affinity for finding the best cycling socks, and riders stress over every detail, from the material, cuff height and colour scheme.
The market for cycling socks is ever-expanding, with super-techy cycling socks that offer compression, carbon-fibre construction and aero benefit, to socks that turn the saturation up to 11. Beyond just being a fashion faux pas, running or ankle socks are designed around footsteps rather than pedal strokes, often having extra padding in the wrong place, which can wrinkle and cause hotspots over the course of a ride. Some of the best cycling socks also provide a small layer of protection for your ankle bone, so it doesn't get shredded by the tarmac should you hit the deck.
Socks have been quite a source of controversy over the past few years within cycling, with the UCI enacting, scrapping and then re-instating its rules regarding height. When done correctly, socks can offer an aero advantage, although it's marginal at best and dependant on variables, some of which can be controlled, like fabric texture, and some that can't, like leg speed and size.
The UCI is intent on smoking out the #sockdopers and officials are now present at WorldTour races with a purpose-built measuring device to ensure socks don't "rise above the height defined by half the distance between the middle of the lateral malleolus and the middle of the fibula head" – their words – deemed by some as a farcical priority considering other battles currently facing the sport of cycling.
For the rest of us, socks just need to feel comfortable and look good. Socks with a four-to-seven-inch cuff seem to be the sweet spot for length, and while some tend to gravitate towards bright and colourful socks, others will argue there's no classier look than a pair of new white socks.
There is more to bright socks than just fashion
While the fashionistas among us have long accented kits with tall bright socks, they were improving their visibility on the road whether they knew it or not.
A 2013 study conducted by the University of Queensland found the best place for reflective detailing to help drivers identify riders in low light situations more quickly is moving parts like the knees and ankles.
Studies conducted by Clemson University and Trek Bikes into visible perception found through a phenomenon called sensitivity bio-motion (humans are really good at seeing other humans) that we are especially good at picking out human movement against cluttered backgrounds. The studies concluded with this acuity for human motion, drawing attention to major movable joints with reflective accents or bright and contrasting colours (during the day) helps drivers see us.
So by slipping into a colourful pair of socks, you're also increasing your visibility on the road.
The most comfortable cycling socks you can buy
When we first read the technical claims that Swiftwick makes about its fibres and knitting process, we thought it was typical over-hyped marketing. They are just socks, after all. Then we tried them.
The Aspire socks are available in a number of cuff lengths and have a thin profile with minimal cushioning, seamless construction, and the Olefin fibre is lightweight, highly breathable, and quick-drying. Over the years the Brentwood, Tennessee-based outfit has cultivated a fervent following, so much so that one of our former colleagues even travelled to the US so that he could replenish his supply before they were available in the UK.
The most breathable socks you can buy, in a fabulous array of colors
Used as a base-model for other brands, the Aireator is the original DeFeet sock. It really is the gold standard.
Besides performance and comfort benefits, which we'll get to in a moment, the Aireator socks are manufactured in North Carolina, USA, from recycled water bottles.
Comfort is unparalleled, and the Aireator mesh that adorns the forefoot increases breathability to prevent overheating. You can get Aireator socks in a range of styles, from classy white with a simple Defeet logo, or more extravagant designs including one called Moon Doggo, which is literally a dog on the moon.
All the benefits of compression socks, plus fun and bold color options
Compressprint as a name is quite self explanatory. 'Compress' eludes to the compressive, well-fitting nature of the socks. 'Print' is a nod to the obvious fact that these socks take bright colors and design seriously - there are no plain white socks here.
Made from 100% Nylon and spandex, the socks have high elasticity to prevent bunching or chafing. For your money, you're getting four pairs, so value for money is the order of the day.
Be a rebel and break the sock-doping rules
Don't believe the hype when cyclists tell you how your socks have to reach a certain hype. If you're on the shorter side and are proud of your stumpy legs, then enjoy showing them off in their full glory, right down to the ankles, with this multi-pack of ankle socks from Saucony. Not only do they come in a good range of colors, they're comfortable to wear, don't have any irritating seams that chafe in your cycling shoes, and they're an absolute bargain.
Perfect for all-weather riding, thanks to Gore selected fabrics
Gore Wear is synonymous with all-weather protection, thanks to their use of the most premium materials. Of course, premium comes at a cost, so what if you don’t want to break the bank on a pair of socks? Thankfully, Gore Wear also produces garments made with their favourite ‘selected’ fabrics, which they don’t make themselves, but they come highly recommended. That way you can trust that what you’re buying will live up to their very high standards, without costing an arm and a leg.
These C3 Mid Socks are a great example of this. They’re really versatile, constructed from Gore Selected fabrics which offer fast moisture-wicking, extreme breathability, and quick drying, so your feet will stay feeling fresh in all weathers. The heel and toe areas are reinforced to prevent blistering, while your Achilles tendon is protected from strains with extra padding.
Keep your toes toasty in the depths of winter
There’s nothing worse than cold feet during a winter ride, so make sure you wrap up well with these thick and warming woolly socks from Danish Endurance. Made from 40% merino wool, these winter socks offer amazing comfort. Don't be put off by the fact that they're labelled as hiking socks either, as according to several reviewers, they make great cycling shoes. They’re thin enough to fit under your favourite winter cycling shoes, but rugged enough to offer long-lasting durability for on- and off-road winter riding.
Merino wool offers certain properties that lend well to cycling. As it becomes wet, it retains heat, meaning that even if your feet get saturated, these socks will keep them warm. Plus, merino is resistant to odors, so you won’t be embarrassed to kick off your shoes when you stop for some hot food after a cold ride.
Keep your feet warm and dry in even the wettest weather
Of course, while the warming wetness of merino can save your feet in the depths of winter, it would surely be better to not get wet feed at all. Sealskinz is well known and respected for its incredible lineup of waterproof socks, for all climates, and all disciplines.
These waterproof socks are made from a blend of polypropylene, nylon, elastane, merino wool, acrylic, and polyester. Their three-layer construction provides warmth, durability, and waterproofing against the worst of rain showers and puddles. The inner layer is mostly merino wool, providing a soft lining that wicks away moisture and prevents odor build-up. Unlike many waterproof socks that feel like you’re wearing a wetsuit, these wear like any other comfortable socks.
Thank you for signing up to Cycling News. You will receive a verification email shortly.
There was a problem. Please refresh the page and try again.