Urban Cycling

Best Winter Cycling Socks [Top 5 Warm Thermal Cycling Socks in 2024]

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Why do we need winter cycling socks? Well, if you’ve ever cycled with freezing, or freezing and wet feet, you’ll understand that it’s a no-brainer. There are few things worse than your feet feeling like blocks of ice on your pedals.

Unfortunately, it’s cold for a good chunk of the year in the UK, but that shouldn’t deter you from getting on your bike, for commuting or leisure.

Why is it that our feet get so cold? When the temperature drops, your body works to keep your core warm. The blood vessels in your hands and feet constrict, limiting the flow of blood to the core part of the body.

We actually lose more heat from our feet than our head. Feet don’t have a lot of muscle, and muscles produce heat. This, along with the fact that they’re at the end of your limbs, means they cool down more than other parts of the body.

It’s a natural reaction, but it’s also a seriously unpleasant one that can destroy a winter bike ride. Wet feet lose heat 25 times faster than dry feet, and persistently cold, wet feet can lead to further horrors such as chilblains. And yes, young people can get chilblains too. They’re easily treatable, but with the right socks? Easier to prevent.

How Do Cyclists Keep Their Feet Warm?

Most cyclists keep their feet warm with footwear that is specifically designed to protect against the elements. Winter shoes, socks and overshoes are windproof, waterproof and often insulated.

There are also some common DIY hacks to fend off the cold and wet, such as putting a plastic bag over your socks to keep out the wet, or putting socks on a radiator to heat up before you set off on the bike.

Some people even opt for foot warmers. I tried the air-activated ones once and found that when inside a sock, pressing against a shoe, there isn’t a lot of air. This could be why they didn’t work. They’re also just horrible for the environment, and they feel bulky and strange in a shoe.

The bottom line is, winter footwear is probably the most effective way to keep your feet warm on a cold day. Wearing waterproof overtrousers is also a good idea, as these can help prevent rain from running down into the top of your shoes.

But whether you choose waterproof shoes or insulated overshoes, a decent pair of warm cycling socks should make up part of your winter gear.

The power of warm winter cycling socks cannot be underestimated. Even the best waterproof shoes can let in some water over time in persistent rain, and good waterproof socks can keep your feet dry even when your shoes aren’t.

And if it’s not raining? Winter cycling socks will still keep the chill off.

What Types of Socks Are Best for Cycling?

The best type of socks for cycling are socks that will regulate temperature but are not overly thick. If they’re too thick and tight within your shoes, they’ll restrict blood flow and won’t keep you warm. The best materials for regulating temperature are synthetic, or Merino wool.

Merino wool can keep you cool in summer and warm in winter, as can synthetic materials such as nylon or polyester. Importantly, the socks need to allow your feet to breathe which is why cotton should be avoided. Cotton absorbs water quickly, retains it, and is slow to dry.

There are some incredibly expensive socks out there. A quick Google search will show you socks for £800 plus, crafted from the rarest of animal fibres. But luckily, you won’t have to spend this to get a good pair of winter cycling socks.

Although cycling socks do generally cost more than regular socks, you don’t have to spend a fortune to get a decent pair that do the job, and they’ll make a huge difference to your comfort level on a cold day.

Cycling Socks vs Regular Socks: Differences Explained

The main difference between cycling socks and regular socks is in the materials used. Cycling socks are designed to be breathable (even winter ones), and to have a low moisture retention rate. They’re mostly made of synthetic materials or Merino wool as opposed to cotton, which is commonly used for regular socks.

So, if you thought cycling socks were just snazzed-up normal socks, you’d be wrong. Cycling socks are a different beast indeed. Here, we’ll break down the differences in more detail:

Cycling SocksRegular Socks
  • Often have a seamless or flat seam toe design to prevent rubbing from friction

  • Are made from synthetic fibres, Merino wool or a combination of both

  • Have a higher thread count – the synthetic fibres allow for a tighter weave and to wick moisture more effectively (synthetic fibres offer moisture retention rates as low as 1%)

  • Synthetics also have antibacterial fibres woven in – this helps to prevent skin irritation and to control odour

  • Are close-fitting and stretchy, which helps to avoid rubbing

  • Are breathable, which is achieved through the blend of fibres along with mesh ventilation panels

  • Often have a reinforced heel and strategic paddingAre more expensive than (most) regular socks
  • Usually made of cotton, which absorbs water quickly

  • Generally do not have a compressed fit

  • Have more prominent seams, which can rub during exercise

  • Have less odour control

  • Are generally less expensive than cycling socks
  • By “regular” socks, I’m talking of course about the standard 3-for-a-tenner variety, and not the £800+ blend of silk and vicuña.

    Regular socks are fine for doing regular things in, but the tech included in a cycling sock will make a significant difference to the comfort of your ride. And winter cycling socks will simply keep your feet much warmer.

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    Top 5: Best Winter Bike Socks

    Most Comfortable
    GORE WEAR Unisex Thermo Winter Bike Socks
    Sealskinz Mid-Length Socks
    Thermal Socks
    GribGrab Thermal Cushioned Cycling Socks
    GOREWEAR M Thermo Mid Socks, Black/Graphite Grey, 41-43
    SEALSKINZ Men's Walking Thin Mid Socks, Black/Grey Marl, L
    GripGrab Merino Winter Cycling Socks Insulated Thermal Padded Cushioned Breathable Warm Soft Thick Wool Bike Sock
    Most Comfortable
    GORE WEAR Unisex Thermo Winter Bike Socks
    GOREWEAR M Thermo Mid Socks, Black/Graphite Grey, 41-43
    Sealskinz Mid-Length Socks
    SEALSKINZ Men's Walking Thin Mid Socks, Black/Grey Marl, L
    Thermal Socks
    GribGrab Thermal Cushioned Cycling Socks
    GripGrab Merino Winter Cycling Socks Insulated Thermal Padded Cushioned Breathable Warm Soft Thick Wool Bike Sock

    For the best winter bike socks, we’re looking for warmth without bulk. They also need to be breathable, have excellent thermoregulation and to wick moisture away from the skin, keeping the feet dry. With this in mind, they’ll be comprised of synthetic fibres or a synthetic/Merino wool combo.

    A stretchy, supportive and close fit is also a must, to avoid rubbing and to be as comfortable as possible.

    Best Thermal Bike Socks

    1. GORE WEAR Unisex Thermo Winter Bike Socks (£20.96)

    These cold weather socks are made from GORE selected fabrics for fast moisture wicking, keeping your feet warm with the wool material construction whilst working to move the sweat away from your skin quickly.

    The supportive, firm material keeps the sock in place to prevent rubbing and the material on the heels and toes is reinforced to prevent blisters. With padding also on the Achilles tendons to prevent any strain, along with flat seam toes, comfort is key here. This is a versatile, durable and fast-drying sock for rides on chilly days.

    Warm Waterproof Cycling Socks

    2. SEALSKINZ Mid-Length Socks (£32.98)

    For those looking for a premium waterproof cycling sock, SEALSKINZ offer a fully waterproof, breathable and windproof sock that will protect your feet from the worst the elements can throw at them.

    Although it wears and feels like a regular stretchy sock – this sock is anything but. It has a three-layer construction for warmth, durability and waterproofing along with Merino wool lining for moisture control, insulation and comfort.

    With a four-way stretch fit and zonal elastication for extra support, you’ll be protected from water, wind, mud, cold and blisters. These socks are perfect for use in all weather conditions and will keep you comfortable on your commute, and everywhere else.

    Are Sealskinz Socks Good for Cycling?

    Sealskinz socks are excellent for cycling because the materials used – Merino wool along with other fabrics – wick moisture effectively and provide outstanding thermoregulation. They’re fully waterproof, windproof and breathable, offering unbeatable comfort and support without being bulky.

    Best Merino Wool Cycling Socks

    3. GribGrab Thermal Cushioned Cycling Socks (£20.00)

    These thermal socks, insulated with Merino wool and a padded sole, will keep your feet toasty throughout the winter. With a soft feel from the natural fibre, they’re also breathable, keeping moisture away from your skin and controlling odour- perfect if you’re changing your shoes when arriving at the office.

    And that’s not all. With stretch zones for a snug and comfortable fit, and stretch arch support, you certainly won’t be chaffing as you ride.

    This is a high-performance cycling sock for any type of cycling in the coldest of weather conditions, offering total comfort, warmth and superb protection.

    Are Merino Wool Socks Good for Cycling?

    Merino wool is a clear favourite among cyclists, many of whom consider it pretty much perfect. The natural fibre is durable, soft and regulates temperature, keeping your feet warm in winter and cool in the summer. It also only retains around 7% of moisture, unlike cotton which retains far more.

    Heated Cycling Socks

    4. SNOW DEER Upgraded Heated Socks (No products found.)

    No products found.

    Although naturally more expensive than other winter cycling socks, the SNOW DEER heated socks could answer the prayers of those who suffer from extremely cold feet. As a Raynaud’s Syndrome sufferer myself – sometimes even the best insulation in socks or gloves just isn’t enough.

    And that’s where heated socks come in. With a rechargeable battery, these electric socks have three different heat settings, keeping your feet warm for between 2 – 7 hours at a time. The heating element covers the whole toes, which is where the warmth is really needed.

    Made of thick, quality material and ergonomically knitted for maximum comfort and protection, these socks are also breathable and stretchy. A perfect addition to a winter ride.

    How Do Heated Socks Work?

    Heated socks have a heating element on the sole that heats the bottom of your foot – usually covering the forefoot and toes. This is achieved by wire that is threaded into the fabric, leading and connecting to a rechargeable battery pack that is placed in a pocket at the top of the sock.

    Warm Cycling Socks for Winter

    5. Rapha Winter Socks (£20)

    With a padded toe and footbed, the Rapha Winter Socks offer more insulation than the standard Merino Socks, being specifically designed for the best level of comfort and warmth, even on the coldest days.

    Made from a thicker yarn than the regular version, the natural fibre will still absorb sweat and keep your feet dry. Flat, handlocked stitching in the toes prevents the seams from rubbing.

    These are outstanding, warm socks with a Merino-rich blend that provides itch-free, anti-bacterial and odour-resistant comfort.

    Are Rapha Socks Good?

    Yes, they are exceptionally good. Rapha make some of the best cycling-specific socks on the market, combining Merino wool with synthetic fibre to create highly insulated socks that wick moisture effectively, allowing your feet to breathe while keeping them warm and dry.

    What Are the Warmest Cycling Socks? [CONCLUSION]

    We’ve judged the supremely comfortable GORE WEAR winter cycling socks to be the warmest cycling socks – unless you want to use the power of a heated electric sock like the SNOW DEER socks above, which heat your feet up like a hot water bottle.

    So, most of the warmest cycling socks do contain at least some Merino wool, which could be regarded as the king of fibres where cycling’s concerned.

    Best Vegan Winter Cycling Socks

    If you’re looking for a vegan-friendly Merino alternative, I’d recommend the seriously snazzy Handlebar Mustache North of the Wall Winter Cycling Socks. Rather than Merino, they use THERMOLITE – a special hollow core performance fibre that is 30% lighter in weight, breathable and quick-drying.

    With a mid-density thickness and a full cushion sole, they deliver all the comfort and performance without any extra weight. The only ‘cool’ thing about these socks is the colour, so they’re ideal for the nastiest weather out there.


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