Best winter cycling socks 2023: Keep your toes toasty through the cold and the rain

a grid of winter cycling socks
(Image credit: Will Jones)

Enjoying riding through the winter is partially a state of mind, but it’s a whole lot easier to enjoy yourself when you have kit appropriate for the conditions. Winter cycling socks are often overlooked in favour of more flashy, big-ticket items, and even among the extremities, they seem to come beneath the best winter cycling gloves in terms of priority for many riders. Yes, the best winter cycling socks are going to cost more than a normal pair of socks, cycling or otherwise, but in terms of bang for your buck they are an inexpensive way to really improve your winter comfort.

If you’re regularly cursed with cold feet then be sure to check out our top tips for keeping your feet warm, and our guide to both the best cycling overshoes and the best winter cycling shoes, but just as your winter layering starts with the best cycling base layers, you should think of a decent set of winter socks as the basis for everything. 

The best winter cycling socks you can buy today

In a bid to work out which are the best, I've spent the past few months wearing winter cycling socks from dozens of different brands, and I've narrowed the list down to the following products. 

While I am more than happy to use any of the recommendations below, providing they're appropriate for the conditions, it's always telling which products I gravitate towards once testing is complete. For general use, I tend to pick the dhb Merino Trail Sock over the competitors. I value how sturdy they feel, as my winter gravel riding tends to take in a fair bit of hike-a-bike, and given they're also the cheapest, I'm less afraid of trashing them.

It's also worth noting that in my experience, the differences between the waterproof socks were relatively minimal, and for wet rides when not explicitly testing a single model, I'd just grab the first one that came to hand.  

How to choose the best winter cycling socks for you

While this list encompasses my favourite options, there are myriad others out there, and forewarned is forearmed. With that in mind I’m going to attempt to answer some common winter sock FAQ’s so that, if none of these options take your fancy, you can still make informed purchasing decisions, and ultimately have a better riding experience. 

What are the warmest winter cycling socks?

If absolute warmth is what you’re after then the Rapha Deep Winter Socks take the crown, but they’re an extreme example best suited to those who ride in very cold conditions, or who suffer from chronically chilly toes. 

As with all gear, there is a trade-off. Warmer socks are also more sweaty if the mercury rises, so be sure to pick something that’s right for your needs and not just an absolutist option. 

How do you keep your feet warm cycling?

Luckily for you we have a whole guide on how to keep your feet warm while cycling. The trick is keeping your feet warm and dry, as well as uncompressed. This means a decent set of winter cycling socks, paired with some winter cycling shoes or overshoes, and not doubling up on socks.

Dryness is key, and while overshoes or winter cycling shoes do an admirable job, as do waterproof cycling socks, nothing beats a full set of mudguards.

What is the best material for cycling socks?

Wool does a marvellous job of insulating, far better for the same weight than synthetic options. It’s also sturdy, and breathable. Merino wool even more so, and it has the added benefit of being slightly antibacterial, cutting down on the stink a little bit; you'll still have to wash them, though!

If you want a more insulating sock then look for a higher wool content, but there needs to be some elastane and other fibres to provide stretch and the next-to-skin fit that we all want in a sock. Also, a thicker wool sock with a lower wool content may well be warmer than a thinner one with higher wool content.

It’s also, in a lighter weave, perfect for hotter days too, but for the summer, synthetic weaves seem to take over with some very open mesh options. 

Does wearing two pairs of socks keep your feet warmer?

No. If you wear two pairs of socks you’re going to compress your feet. This leads to a reduction in circulation, meaning nice warm blood is cut off from reaching your feet and ultimately you’ll probably end up with colder feet than if you just wore one pair of socks.  

Do I need waterproof cycling socks?

Waterproof socks do a remarkable job of keeping your feet dry. They have two layers of fabric, with a waterproof membrane sandwiched between them. They do feel quite stiff and thick, and they’re not going to be as breathable as a normal sock, but particularly for gravel riding through puddles where you can’t really wear overshoes for fear of shredding the bases, they’re an excellent option.

For really cold days they can also act as a warmer option, if you don’t mind getting a bit sweaty. The membrane, though nominally breathable, is akin to wrapping your feet in a plastic bag. This seals the heat in and creates a little microclimate.

If you want the ultimate in dry feet then remember to add mudguards. They may not be fashionable, but they are hugely effective. 

Do socks go under or over leg warmers?

The biggest debate in cycling, and we’re not going to alienate half our readership by coming down on one side or the other. The fence is actually very comfortable to sit on.

Personally I mix it up. If it’s cold and dry then I go over to show off my socks, if it’s wet I keep them under so they don’t get filthy.

How do we test winter cycling socks?

This winter I’ve been testing all the bad weather gear, so while I’ve been out in the rain and the cold testing the best waterproof cycling jackets, waterproof trousers, leg warmers, thermal shorts etc, I’ve also been throwing on a load of winter cycling socks to see which ones cut it. 

They’ve been frozen, sprayed with mud, and regularly totally submerged thanks to some flooded trails. They’ve been washed multiple times to see how they hold their shape too. Lots of use in bad conditions is (unfortunately for me) the only way to sort the wheat from the chaff.

Will Jones
Reviews Writer, Cyclingnews

Will joined the Cyclingnews team as a reviews writer in 2022, having previously written for Cyclist, BikeRadar and Advntr. There are very few types of cycling he's not dabbled in, and he has a particular affection for older bikes and long lasting components. Road riding was his first love, before graduating to racing CX in Yorkshire. He's been touring on a vintage tandem all the way through to fixed gear gravel riding and MTB too. When he's not out riding one of his many bikes he can usually be found in the garage making his own frames and components as a part time framebuilder, restoring old mountain bikes, or walking his collie in the Lake District.

Height: 182cm

Weight: 72Kg

Rides: Custom Zetland Audax, Bowman Palace:R, Peugeot Grand Tourisme Tandem, 1988 Specialized Rockhopper, Stooge Mk4, Falcon Explorer Tracklocross