When it comes to cycling socks, I am telling you, cyclists have OPINIONS. From material, to sock height, to compression vs. non-compression, and of course, the all important style element – there are just so many choices out there. I know some cyclists just throw on any old sock that they would normally use, skip all of the sock choice drama, and call it a day.
I am not one of those people. I have always been VERY particular about my socks, cycling and otherwise. To be honest, it’s less about the fashion element (though I do appreciate an awesome pattern or stand-out color!).
For me the fabric, feel, comfort, and performance is what is the most important.
I have been plagued with foot issues over the years, including plantar fasciitis, so I take my sock choices very seriously. With cycling socks, you want your socks to be breathable, and to wick away moisture. When it’s cold outside you want to add warmth without adding excess bulk.
In this article I will discuss why you might want to choose cycling specific socks, what to consider when choosing your cycling socks, and some recommended sock options for you to consider. All of these socks come recommended by myself and other female cyclists I polled.
Why Cycling Specific Socks?
Any time you are expending energy, the performance of your clothing is important. You do not want to neglect the socks!
You may be thinking that running socks or regular athletic socks work perfectly well, and in some cases they might, but please choose them with the understanding that running socks are designed to provide extra cushion on the foot pad.
A cyclist doesn’t really need this cushion for cycling, and it can cause extra problems in your cycling shoes by creating hot spots…especially on longer rides.
What Should I Consider When Choosing a Cycling Sock?
Weather Conditions, Material, and Structure
When choosing your cycling specific sock, you want to consider the weather conditions you normally ride in, and what type of material you prefer.
Wool and synthetic wool (think polyester) options tend to be a favorite with cyclists, or some blend of the two. Also be sure to consider the structure of your cycling sock. The best cycling socks, in my opinion, have no toe seams (they can be uncomfortable in your shoe) and have some kind of arch compression (think ribbing around the middle of the sock).
Sock Height and Compression
Then, there is the all-important consideration of sock height. This is where so many cyclists have VERY strong opinions. Opinions can be fashion focused opinions in terms of what looks good, or opinions based on how much or how little compression should be utilized while cycling.
I remember being told early on in cycling that ankle cycling socks were something of a cycling fashion don’t. More recently they seem to have become more acceptable, which just goes to show that cycling fashion trends are ever-changing.
Spoiler: I own several pairs of ankle-length cycling socks and I LOVE them!
My advice related to sock height and compression is to choose according to personal style preference, and what works best for you. If you hate compression and pulling on a tighter sock makes you feel like you are stuffing your poor legs into a sausage casing, then go with an ankle cycling sock or a non-compression higher sock. If you like the squeeze and like the look of a higher sock, then pick a calf/mid-leg length sock.
Speaking of compression, the jury is out, so to speak, on whether or not compression socks actually improve cycling performance. There apparently was enough evidence of this for the UCI (Union Cycliste International) to ban them from their events and enforce a maximum sock height. The thought is that they may provide a performance advantage, and that they may also assist in recovery if worn/left on after cycling.
Recommended Cycling Sock Brands
Here are the brands that we love!
My absolute favorite cycling socks, hands down, are Swiftwick Cycling Socks. As you can see, our family has a number of pairs of these…and this isn’t even all of them! We have had these socks for literally years, have worn them day in and day out (especially my husband, he cycles a LOT), and have never once so much as gotten a pull or hole in single pair. Swiftwick socks are very durable.
Swiftwick is based out of Franklin, Tennessee, and all Swiftwick socks are made in the US. The brand was started when a mountain biker was in pursuit of a high quality, moisture wicking sock.
You get a choice of materials/sock height, and they do come in a small variety of colors. I do find that the patterns are limited to mostly solids and stripes, so if you like super cool fun socks this might not be the brand of sock for you.
The price can be a little cringe-worthy for a pair of socks, and of the sock brands reviewed these seem to trend on the more spendy side.
Swiftwick socks are excellent at moisture wicking, and my feet stay the coolest in Swiftwick socks of all of the brands I have tried.
I have tried pretty much everything from their Aspire one (shorter) to Aspire seven (longer) and I truly enjoy all of the different lengths they have to offer.
Most of their socks have ribbed arch support, and are unisex. They have the size of the sock woven into the toe which is extremely helpful if you have multiple cyclists in the family and want to be able to tell whose socks are whose!
Finally, it’s important to mention that the socks with striped cuffs can be more constricting/provide a bit more compression than the solids. I have large calves and the stripes dig in to the point where they are still visible on my legs even after I take the socks off.
Also, the lack of design makes these socks feel a lot more utilitarian than fun, which is something to consider.
The Sock Guy
Even though “Sock Guy” has “guy” right there in the title, there are actually women’s cycling clothing manufacturers (including Terry) that use Sock Guy to manufacture their socks because they like them so much! Sock Guy socks are lightweight and extremely comfortable.
These socks are colorful, fun, and have been made in the USA since 1996. They also offer custom designs so you can choose your own design for your group/team and have Sock Guy manufacture your socks for you.
Sock Guy definitely has a leg up over Swiftwick in terms of color, variety, and design. These socks are FUN! If you want to be able to choose from ducks, lady bugs, owls, or even a “Biker Chick” sock, then sock guy socks are definitely for you.
In terms of comfort, I find while they are very soft and comfortable, my feet do run a little warmer in sock guy socks than some others…especially if I put on sneakers after I change out of my cycling shoes.
DeFeet is another USA cycling sock manufacturer that comes up again and again when female cyclists share their favorite brand of cycling socks. They focus on ethical, sustainable production, and have been making cycling socks since 1992.
Like Sock Guy, DeFeet also manufactures custom cycling socks, so you can absolutely design your own for your group or team.
In terms of style and design, they fall somewhere in-between Sock Guy and Swiftwick. They definitely have more design options than Swiftwick, but their offerings tend to be a little less flashy than Sock Guy, and, in my opinion, tend to trend a little less feminine.
Darn Tough of Vermont
If you are looking for a nice, breathable merino wool sock, look no further than Darn Tough. Even though their merino wool athletic socks are not cycling specific, they have been recommended by the female cyclists in my group as a great sock for when you want to keep your feet warm in cooler temps and still wick away moisture.
Darn Tough Socks is a family-owned company and all socks are made out of their mill in Northfield, Vermont. Their prices are definitely on the higher end, but as they mention on their website, “They have yet to make the perfect sock.” They are very committed to developing the best sock they can, and feel there is always room for improvement.
Additionally, Darn Tough is a very socially conscious company that is committed to sustainability and diversity. It is always great when in addition to getting a good product you can support a company that has a mission and focus that meets your own worldview.
Pearl Izumi and Shimano
Both Pearl Izumi and Shimano also came up in my research of cycling socks for women, though admittedly less often. Neither Pearl Izumi nor Shimano is a cycling sock specific manufacturer, but they are well-known in the industry for creating exceptional cycling gear and clothing.
It is clear that Shimano, in particular, takes the manufacturing of their cycling socks VERY seriously, and a good friend and seasoned cyclocross racer and occasional road cyclist absolutely swears by the S-Phyre sock. I think she maybe even loves her Shimano socks more than I love my Swiftwicks! The Shimano S-Phyre tall sock claims that it actually makes a shoe function better which is a pretty bold claim, but Shimano is a very trusted name in the cycling industry so there may be some truth to it.
I will say that though some love Pearl Izumi socks I find them to be just OK. They are very comfortable and have some cute designs, but I feel like my feet run a little hotter in them and sweat a bit more than in some of my other cycling socks.
Some Final Sock Selection Comments
When researching and purchasing cycling socks, it’s important to consider what aspects are most important to you, because different socks and different sock brands will offer different materials, design, and features. Definitely visit the manufacturer’s website of each cycling sock mentioned in order to read up on the features of the socks of your choice.
Sock-specific companies, especially the ones mentioned here, include a number of details on the materials, performance, features, and of course, price, of their socks. You want to be sure to get the most bang for your buck, and in no time you will find a cycling sock that is just right for you!
More Stuff You Might Like
About The Author
Stacy Ann Smith is a New England-based cyclist who strives to stay upright on her bike. She is the founder of Sascy Cycling, and her mission is to encourage women to love their body and focus on what it can do, not what it looks like. When Stacy’s not cycling she is teaching high school history and eating pizza with her husband and son. For awesome women’s cycling tips and to learn more about Stacy, visit Sascy Cycling at www.sascy.com.