Let’s be honest – the only thing you really need to ride a bike – is a bike. When it comes to what to wear, you can pretty much wear whatever you like. But cycling kit is specifically designed to make cycling more comfortable, enjoyable and sometimes even enhance your ride. There is always a lot of focus on how comfortable, breathable or warm cycling kit is. But what about your feet? Cycling socks have always been an important part of a cyclists kit. This is because after the legs, the feet are probably the hardest working part of the body. Hears our guide to the different types of cycling socks as things to think about.
Cycling Socks: Things to think about –
Type/style – There has probably never been such a vast choice of sock length, thickness, material or design as there is today. But even with today’s bright colours and loud patterns, cycling socks are still technical in their construction and functional in their design. When thinking about the different style of socks, the most obvious thing to consider is the weather and time of year. Your feet are not going to work for you if you are wearing lightweight summer socks when its 5°C on your ride. Similarly, if your feet get too hot when riding, it can lead to fungal infections like Athlete’s Foot. Make sure you think about your riding conditions.
Length – There is no right or wrong answer to this. Sock length is and should be a personal preference. Cycling socks vary from the super-low ‘no show’ socks which sit below the ankle, to the tall (around 25cm) cuff socks. The thing to think about is comfort and support. Taller cycling socks have the added function of supporting the ankle and Achilles area. Low-cut socks are cooler but can less supportive.
Comfort – If you are going to be riding for more than 20 or 30 mins, your feet are going to be working hard. This may not be noticeable at first, but after a period of time, you may find your feet getting painful hot-spots or aching. Whilst these a commonly caused but cycling shoes and cleat positioning, cycling specific socks could help. Cycling socks are designed to provide support where its needed. There is often be a tighter band around the mid-foot. This supports the arch and instep of the foot. The sole, heal and toe areas of the sock tend to be more cushioned or reinforced to help with impact and prevent blisters.
Colours – I have a saying when it comes to cycling (another one to “all about the ride”). My ride my style. This basically means that if you like it (and it’s not purposely offensive) – wear it! Cycling socks are available in some wild colours, patterns and designs and there is probably a style available for just about everyone. Be unique – be you.
Whilst there is a massive choice of cycling socks available, we’ve listed below four of the main category types these fall into.
Summer cycling socks have two main purposes – keeping your feet comfortable and cool. These socks are lightweight and can be made with synthetic materials like Nylon and Spandex (Lycra). This is because these synthetic materials tend to be lighter, stronger and less expensive that natural fibres like cotton. There is some debate about whether synthetic materials are as breathable as natural fibres – but part of a garments breathability is in its construction. Brands like COOLMAX have developed a mesh-like woven fabric to help wick moisture and increase airflow around the foot. PONGO London socks have their own ‘technical mesh’ style to make their summer socks as light as possible – whilst still supporting the foot and ankle.
Low cut socks always seem to divide opinion. These usually sit just above the ankle bone, although there are brands that make ‘no show’ which sit below the ankle. For some riders low-cut socks are more comfortable to wear whist riding and less restrictive than longer cycling socks. Some riders may find them less supportive than longer socks. The GripGrab Summer Low Cut socks provide a good balance of comfort, support and breathability.
Merino wool socks are an excellent choice for winter cycling socks. Merino wool fibre contains traces of lanolin. This is a oily wax produced from the sheep’s skin and acts as an antibacterial water repellent. Although most of the lanolin is removed in manufacturing, this property helps the wool manage order better than synthetic fibres. The other positive with wearing Merino wool is that it has excellent wicking abilities. Merino wool is believed to be able to absorb up to 30% of its weight in moisture – before it start to feel wet. So your sweaty feet will stay warmer, dryer and less smell.
Hi-Viz & Reflective Socks
For all of those born before 1987 – you may remember wearing neon or fluro socks as a fashion statement. Colours like neon yellow/orange/green and shocking pink were once all the rage. Some people even mixed things up and wore odd socks. 30 years on and super-bright socks are back. Hi-viz socks are worn by (some) cyclists in an effort to increase their visible presence on the road. Others wear them because they (can) look pretty cool. Some brands like Kalf Cycling (above) have gone one step further and added reflective detail into their socks for even more visibility on the road.
As I said earlier in this post, when it comes to cycling socks, style, length, colour all come down to personal preference. It’s your ride, your style. But don’t neglect you feet when it comes to choosing you cycling kit – they work pretty hard for you.