Best Cycling Socks (The Ultimate Guide to Bike Socks)

Posted On December 13, 2022 / Gear Tips

By: Drew Hincapie

cyclist wearing black logo socks

As a cyclist, your feet work hard to keep you moving, so they’re worth protecting. Cycling socks are designed to be worn with cycling shoes to prevent blisters and numb feet. If you’re not sure if cycling socks are worth it, a 20-mile ride in cycling shoes in a generic pair of socks or reading our guide on whether or not you really need bike socks might change your mind. Avid cyclists know that finding the best cycling socks is crucial. We invest in quality cycling kits from head to toe because even a small item like socks can hinder performance and comfort. But knowing that a great pair of cycling socks is important doesn’t make finding one easy. With countless options to choose from, it can be challenging to filter out the good socks from the bad and the best from the good. It can feel so much easier to grab any old socks from the closet and go. But we’d hate for those socks to keep you from enjoying your ride, so we’ve curated a list of the 10 best cycling socks for all seasons and styles. 

How to find a pair of cycling socks 

No two kinds of cycling socks are equal, but there are a few fundamentals all cyclists should consider when looking for a great pair of cycling socks, regardless of personal preferences or level of cycling experience. 

1. Climate comes first. 

Before you can begin to narrow down the selection of cycling socks, decide if you need cycling socks for hot or cold (or something in between) weather. If you live in an area that experiences the full spectrum of seasons throughout the year, from hot summers to freezing winters, you may need socks for all temperatures. Also, consider how long and intense the seasons are in your region. For example, if you live somewhere, that reaches below-freezing a few times throughout the winter but has mild weather most of the time, you may only need a pair or two of cold-weather socks, but the majority will be for warm-weather. 

Cycling socks are also designed to perform well in different temperatures and weather conditions. If you live in a rainy climate, you need to make sure that most of your cycling socks are waterproof. If you’re expecting strong winds in winter, you’ll want tall socks with wind resistance. 

2. Fabric choice is a science. 

Cycling sock manufacturers use materials strategically. Often, cycling socks are made from a blend of different materials that serve a unique purpose. Lycra adds stretch, nylon gives strength and blocks water and wind, and merino wool wicks moisture and adds warmth. 

Some fabrics are summer or winter specific. Merino wool, for instance, is excellent in winter because of its insulating and moisture-wicking properties, but it doesn’t hold up as well as synthetic fibers when it gets wet. So, in months when you sweat more, merino wool isn’t the optimal choice. Synthetic materials can be soft and cozy, but don’t insulate quite as well as wool in winter. Fabric weights extend from ultra-light to heavyweight depending on the season or temperature they’re made to withstand. 

Fabric placement and fabric percentage make different styles of cycling socks unique. Designers place different materials in strategic locations for warmth or ventilation right where you need it. Many cycling socks are designed with blends of materials in different percentages. These combinations make different styles of socks unique and effective. 

3. Height is a preference (in most cases).

Sock height is only a matter of concern to professional cyclists, and even then, only when they’re competing because of regulations. Outside of race day, your sock height is completely up to your preferences. 

Sock height refers to the length of your sock cuff in inches. 5–7” cuffs are popular, but lengths will look different on different people depending on stature and calf shape. Sizing is the only significant difference between men’s and women’s cycling socks. Both genders wear cycling socks for the same reasons, but women might find men’s cycling socks too baggy, and they might bunch and cause sores. 

4. Moisture must be managed. 

Wet cycling socks create many problems, from discomfort to blisters to freezing toes. Socks for all seasons should repel water and regulate the body’s temperature. Pedaling is an intense and repetitive motion, so if your socks are the wrong fit and don’t keep your feet dry, your feet will be blistered by the end of the ride. The best cycling socks have perfected their blends of materials to keep moisture under control. 

5. Ventilation is important in all seasons.

Hot or cold weather, rain or shine, your feet need to breathe so moisture can move away from them. Summer cycling socks have the most ventilation because they’re light and made to let cool air in. Breathability is more challenging to achieve in winter socks, but it’s still important. Winter socks that insulate and ventilate well are hard to come by, but the best winter cycling socks will do both well. 

6. Cushion does not equal comfort.

Unlike other sports socks, “extra cushion” does not excite cyclists. Cushioning can create hot spots that cause blisters. Also, cycling socks are created with cycling shoes in mind—they should be thin and hug the foot. Cushioned socks don’t work well with cycling shoes.

7. Compression is comfortable, not critical. 

Compression socks aid circulation and deliver oxygen to tired muscles and reduce the build-up of lactic acid. However, compression socks are most effective during recovery and only work marginally well during performance. But some find socks with compression more comfortable than those without, and comfort does affect performance.

8. Fun is a factor. 

Cycling socks are a great way to show personality and have fun. It’s tempting to put fun first when choosing cycling socks, but style should never trump quality, comfort, or performance. Thankfully, many cycling socks meet all the performance criteria and are also unique, colorful, and cool. The general rule of thumb is that your cycling socks can be any color or pattern as long as they match your cycling kit. But, of course, this doesn’t mean that your socks can’t stand out. Socks are one of the best ways to add pizzazz to your kit.

Winter cycling socks for cold weather 

Winter cycling socks are constructed for either cold or freezing temperatures. They keep your feet well-insulated and protected from wind and water. Merino wool is a popular winter material in a cycling kit because it’s soft and warm and wicks moisture at the same time. Merino wool might be combined with synthetic fibers to add stretch, ventilation, and durability. If winter wool socks are itchy, then they’re probably not of the best quality and would be uncomfortable and annoying on a long ride. Socks for cool to cold weather don’t necessarily need to be thick, especially if worn with cycling shoe covers. Warmth doesn’t come from how thick your socks are—the fabric choices and their weave provide insulation. Cycling socks for riding in below-freezing and snowy or icy conditions will be heavier and taller than other types. 

Summer cycling socks for hot weather

Summer cycling socks are made from more synthetic materials than winter socks. They need to provide even greater ventilation and moisture-wicking than cold-weather socks because feet sweat more in hot weather. When it’s hot outside, your socks should be thin or ultra-thin to keep you cool. Summer is the best time to don fun socks as you put away the cycling tights and pull-out shorts and bib shorts that show off your calves and ankles. 

Year-round cycling socks for cool—warm weather

You can find cycling socks that work well in all seasons because they’re thin but insulated due to their tightly knitted fibers. Usually, these all-season socks are made of a blend of merino wool and synthetic materials, so they’re great at moisture-wicking to cool you down and insulating to warm you up. However, year-round cycling cocks are best for mildly cool and warm weather and not for extreme cold or heat. The Hincapie Power Midweight is our most versatile sock that helps you ward off the early morning chill and cool you down as temperatures start to rise. 

10 of the Best Cycling Socks 

1. Hincapie Power Merino – Best socks for performance in cold weather 

Power Merino Wool Sock 6 Cuff

Colors: charcoal 

Weather: cold 

Cost: $17

As the name implies, these Hincapie cycling socks power you through the cold to help you perform your best. You won’t have to worry about cold feet keeping you from reaching your goals because they’ll be well-insulated in soft, itch-free merino wool. The knitted mesh on the top of the feet keeps them warm and well-ventilated. And the charcoal grey color looks great with nearly any cycling kit. 

2. DeFeet Aireator – Best combination of comfort, quality, and fun 

Defeet Aireater Schmiley
Defeet Aireater Schmiley. Photo credit Defeet. Used with permission.

Colors: multiple colors and patterns 

Weather: cool–warm

Cost: $14.99

The DeFeet Aireator socks don’t make you choose between performance and personality—they make high-quality cycling socks fun and quirky. The socks are light and durable and come in many different colors and patterns. We chose the Aireator 6” Schmiley because these socks give us several reasons to smile. The Aireator is a “4-season” sock, meaning it can be worn in warm or cool weather. These socks have a breathable mesh-weave instep, which isn’t unique to the Aireator, but DeFeet claims to be the first company to have constructed socks with this feature. DeFeet socks also combine performance with sustainability. The recycled polyester, making up 39% of the Aireator, comes from recycled water bottles. A pair of DeFeet Aireator comes with a 5-year warranty. 5 years is a long time for a pair of socks, but it’s indicative of their quality—these socks hold up so well. 

3. Swiftwick Aspire Seven – Best compression socks for summer 

Colors: black/white-stripe, black/pink-Stripe, black/blue-stripe, green, black, white

Weather: warm

Cost: $19.99

The Swiftwick Aspire Seven provides firm but breathable support for tired feet and legs. Swiftwick describes these compression socks as having a “barely there feeling.” These socks hug your feet with a combination of carefully selected synthetic materials that give them amazing moisture-wicking abilities. The Aspire 7 is made of fibers that dry fast and stay that way. Channeling in the upper part of the sock and mesh over the footbed make these ultra-thin and supportive socks breathable. 

4. Hincapie Logo Sock – Best socks for hot and humid summers 

Hincapie Logo Sock

Colors: blue, black, green, neon yellow, red 

Weather: warm

Cost: $10

The classic Hincapie Logo socks are the perfect ultra-thin sock for hot and humid summers like we have in the southeast. They’re super light and breathable, so you don’t have to get distracted by ill-fitting socks. These socks come in all the primary colors and at an incredible value for quality performance socks.

5. Rapha Pro Team Socks – Best racing socks 

Colors: dark navy, grey marle, dark green, white, black, hi-vis pink

Weather: warm 

Cost: $25 

The Rapha Pro Team socks are a performance essential designed for elite cyclists. Don’t let the soft and simple look of these socks fool you. They are strong and made to handle the sweat of tempo riding. These Rapha socks are made of 50% Meryl Skinlife which prevents the growth of bacteria. They fit snugly but with just enough stretch to respond to your fast pace. 

6. Le Col Cycling Socks – Best socks for breathability 

Colors: black/white, white/black, yellow/navy, navy/white, saffron/navy, plum/pomegranate, racing green/sage

Weather: cool–warm 

Cost: $22

The Le Col Cycling Socks are sleek and stylish and designed by professional cyclist Yanto Barker. They have a unique honeycomb structure made entirely of moisture-wicking performance polyamide that incorporates compression, comfort, and breathability into one sock. The Le Col socks have a highly reviewed comfort and fit and come in vivid and interesting colors like saffron and pomegranate.

7. Rapha Deep Winter Socks – Best socks for insulation

Colors: black/hi-vis pink 

Weather: cold 

Cost: $37

The Rapha Deep Winter socks are designed for those who don’t let the freezing cold stop them from cycling. With these half merino and half synthetic-fiber socks, warmth is the priority and height is entirely practical. They are tall with a wind-resistant panel that covers the entire shin. While everything around you is frozen, your feet will stay toasty in Rapha’s Deep winter socks. 

9. Sealskinz Waterproof Cold Weather w/ Hydrostop – Best socks for mountain biking 

Sealskinz waterproof cycling socks
Sealskinz Waterproof Cold Weather w/ Hydrostop. Image used with permission.

Colors: grey/black/yellow, navy/red, green/red/white 

Weather: cold 

Cost: $58 

The Sealskinz Waterproof Cold Weather Socks with Hydrostop are the ideal choice for mountain biking in cold, wet, and muddy conditions, when you need something 100% waterproof. These socks come with a high price tag, but they’re one of the best socks available for extreme weather. Sealskinz creates a 100% waterproof sock with three layers—the outer is stretchy and durable, the middle is the hydrophilic membrane, and the inner is a blend of soft synthetic and merino fibers. The cuff is wrapped in an elastic tape called the Hydrostop barrier that repels water drops. “Hydrophilic” means “love for water” and describes the middle membrane because it attracts and draws water out so well. Sealskin includes a disclaimer not to wear these socks for a long time because the Hyrdrostop barrier will begin to rub, but these socks are made for temperatures that you wouldn’t want to withstand for a long time. The cold-weather socks are bulky, but they’re the best at what they’re designed to do. 

10. Castelli Fast Feet – Best aero socks 

Colors: black, white 

Weather: cool–warm

Cost: $44.99

The Castelli Fast Feet socks are made for aerodynamic riding, particularly when the climate is too warm to wear aero shoe covers. These socks have two main parts—the leg and the foot. The leg is made of grooved Lycra to reduce drag, and the foot is designed for comfort. According to Castelli, this one-of-a-kind sock is created specifically to achieve “maximum aerodynamics in time trialing.”

Cycling socks and shoes are a duo—the socks are constructed to support your foot in a cycling shoe. Learn the fundamentals of cycling shoes in our Cycling Shoe Size, Fit, and Style Guide.

Like cycling socks, baselayers are a foundational part of your cycling kit designed to keep you warm and dry. Learn how to find a great cycling base layer, or choose a base layer from the Hincapie collection.

 

You might also like:

More Gear Tips

cyclist measuring reach

How To Measure Bike Size: Road Bike Sizing Guide

Gear Tips, Lifestyle, Training Intel

When shopping for a bike, sizing it properly should be the highest priority. In this guide, we’ll give you all the information needed to measure a bike frame size and become a bike fitting guru.

Read More

cyclist putting on base layer

How to Buy a Cycling Base Layer: Size, Fit, & Style Guide

Gear Tips

A cycling base layer is the inconspicuous hero of an enjoyable ride. We'll dive into hot and cold weather base layers, what to look for, how to wear them, and our top picks for whatever the weather throws at you.

Read More

How to Buy Cycling Tights

How to Buy Cycling Tights: Sizing, Fit, and Style Guide

Gear Tips

Cycling tights are an essential piece of your winter cycling kit. We’ve gathered all the information you need to shop for cycling tights and a list of 10 of the best options to choose from.

Read More