Five of the best: Winter Cycling Socks
Your feet connect you too your bike. It’s through your feet that all that power generation manifests itself, so the very least you can do in winter is keep them happy!
Deep winter riding is all about ensuring you wear the right kit. In recent posts on gloves, headwear and cycling overshoes we have stressed the importance of keeping your extremities warm and your feet are especially vulnerable to the cold and wet. Just as a good pair of walking socks is designed to provide the perfect accompaniment to a sturdy leather boot, buying a good pair of the best winter cycling socks you can afford really can make a huge difference when combined with a cycling shoe and your rhythmic pedalling motion.
Virtually all cycle clothing manufacturers offer a road specific winter sock, so there is all manner of colours, materials, cuff lengths and densities to chose from. Granted, you could just opt for a decent winter sock, but cycling specific socks tend to have padding in the areas most prone to pressure and wear caused by the pedalling motion. They will also, to varying degrees, be ergonomically designed to maximise comfort, whilst delivering the necessary warmth and protection.
Whether you have a preference for synthetic fibres or wool, there is a pair out there to suit every budget and style. Synthetic materials have their respective strengths, but if you want to stay au naturel, then a merino wool based sock is going to keep your feet warm, even if they do get damp in wet conditions. Anyone who has cycled through a Welsh mountain and seen sheep staring nonchalantly out of the cold mist will appreciate that, as is often the case, nature knows best.
I have seen grown men weep in roadside cafes during winter rides, massaging their feet in a vain attempt to cajole some warmth back into their frostbitten toes. With so many options on the market, there is really no excuse for such a basic, elementary wardrobe malfunction and here are a few of the best on the market, tried and tested, that will help you to ride those cold winter days in comfort.
And if you swear by a particular winter cycling sock of choice then let other members know!
Endura Cashmere Sock
The most luxurious tested and, at a tad over 40 grams in the large size, easily the lightest. Such is the unsubstantial feel of the material that you could easily dismiss this as a summer sock. Deliciously soft on the foot, yet delivering a level of warmth that belies the delicacy of the yarn, the 62% cashmere wool and manmade fibres that make up this sock deliver a luxuriant warmth, yet it wicks so efficiently and feels so smooth that you really feel your feet are being pampered as you pedal! It’s a beautifully crafted cycling sock that boasts a seamless toe, which mitigates the danger of rubbing seams and also incorporates a stretch support over the arch of your foot – though whether this is a necessary addition is irrelevant when the fit of the sock is so perfect. Our only quibble is with the packaging: whoever decided that such a finely woven pair of socks should come fastened together with metal hooked clips and a plastic fitment should have a serious rethink as they both entwine themselves in the fine yarn. So be warned, unpack with care!
RRP £15.99. Visit Endura Equipe for more product information and UK stockists
Sealskinz Thick Mid Length Socks
If you are not convinced your overshoes are going to keep the wet at bay, but you want to keep your feet both dry and warm, then look no further than these waterproof socks from the Norfolk based company. This is a bulky, hardcore sock aimed at the cyclist who laughs in the face of the wet and coldest winter days! The exterior of the sock is made of 98% polyamide that provides the breathable, waterproof membrane on which the strengths of this sock are founded. We were unable to test these in severe conditions, such has been the lack on inclement weather of late, but we were impressed by their ability to keep out water. In fact, for such a soft garment it is astounding: we saturated the outside of the sock and then inserted some paper towels into it, which emerged bone dry without a hint of moisture. OK, not the most scientific of tests but it emphatically substantiates the claims of the manufacturer. The sock has excellent padding, especially in the toe and sole area, but we found the ankle area a little baggy, though this was not an issue once bib tights were pulled on. The high calf length (another plus) was wrapped off with a softer, elasticated cuff which is a nice touch. The inside of the sock incorporates merino wool in the toe, sole an rear ankle area, which provides a little additional comfort and thermal benefits too. We should make it clear that this is a thick sock – if your cycling shoes are on the tight side then their bulk could be and issue on longer rides. However, if riding in snow and sub-zero conditions floats your boat, then you’d be wise to consider a pair of these on your toots!
DHB Winter Thermo Sock
Affordable quality, synonymous with the Dhb label, again comes to the fore with their stylish take on the winter sock. Despite this not being particularly thick, it offers a good degree of thermal insulation due to the synthetic Thermolite Polyester which has the ability to trap air, which is then warmed by your natural body heat providing the thermal insulation you require in the cold. The fit is a good length over the ankle and paired with a decent neoprene overshoe we found that they delivered a very good level of comfort and protection. How robust the man-made fibres will be over prolonged winter use is open to debate, but the toe and heel area is a little bulkier so should stand up to a sustained use. In short, a cracking winter sock that will not require you to break the bank to shod your toes – you’d be hard pressed to find one better for double the price! And there is a good choice of colours too, which is not always the case with this humble, but all important accessory!
RRP: £8.99 Available exclusively at Wiggle
DeFeet Woolie Boolie
DeFeet have been making homespun wool socks for over 20 years from their HQ in Hildebran, North Carolina. Their winter Woolie Boolie is a luxuriously soft and thick sock which is a perennial favourite of fans of the US brand. Advocates of the Woolie Boolie will wear nothing else on a winter ride and we too were impressed by the level of comfort and warmth in temperatures just above freezing, no doubt thanks to the higher grade 70% merino wool that makes up the Woolie Boolie and the incorporation of enough lycra (15%) to ensure that the fit is stretchy and snug. The sock incorporates a robust cushioned sole and despite numerous outings the sock is looking as good as new. Coming in either a 4″ or 6″ cuff, this was the thickest sock on test and it’s worth bearing in mind that if your cycling shoes are on the tighter side, then they may be a bit of a squeeze, such is the substantial character. Robust, snug and very warm – your feet will love you all the more if you wrap them in a pair of these!
Gore Bike Apparel Universal Windstopper® Socks
These are totally different from all the other socks on test and had us (briefly) scratching our heads as to whether this was a sock to be worn over the foot or an oversock to be worn over the shoe! Made of Gore’s innovative Windstopper® fabric, the sock is worn over the foot and will protect your foot from the coldest winds on those New Year training rides! There is no lining, so the synthetic fabric might not be for all, but worn over a lighter merino sock, even a summer specific one, there was no denying that these perform to a very high level – in temperatures of 3°-5°C the wind chill was all but negated. For those of you wanting a more conventional looking (and feeling) sock, then the US manufacturer also offers a stylish thermal merino based winter road cycling sock too, which ticks all the necessary boxes for winter riding comfort.
Both Gore Bike Wear socks are available to buy online from Wiggle or visit Gore Bike Apparel for more product information and for UK stockists. Prices start a £14.99 for the thermo sock and £34.99 for the Universal Windstopper® socks.
Check on the websites of stockists or the respective manufacturers for sizes available and for more product information on the socks featured in this post.