Cyclists’ clothing has long since ceased to be simple sports clothing. An arsenal of technical clothing is available to anyone who wants to purchase clothing designed and manufactured to promote maximum performance without neglecting design.
What was once only available to top professionals has become accessible to all types of cycling enthusiasts who want to train and compete wearing quality accessories. Socks are a perfect example of this evolution.
Anyone who has spent a few hours pedaling on a bike knows that even the smallest detail of the bike and the clothing we wear takes on enormous importance.
Using good socks is just as important as using good gloves or the right sunglasses.
The fit of the foot in the shoe, key
Yes, the shoe makes contact with the bike thanks, in most cases, to the automatic pedals. But what is it that allows the foot to stay without difficulty? Right, our socks.
This importance of adjustment is decisive for making each of our pedalings efficient, but also it is key to avoid friction and the dreaded blisters. Currently, the vast majority of cycling socks do not have seams precisely to avoid the effects of constant rubbing on different parts of the foot.
They are responsible for perspiration
Our feet are one of the parts of the body with the most sweat glands (about 250,000 each, if you’re curious about the data). That’s why these limbs take one of the worst parts during long days of pedaling.
Excess moisture can cause problems such as blistering.
If the sweat emission is added to the heat generated inside the shoe due to the force with which it is printed on the pedal, we understand why it is essential that our cycling socks offer good breathability.
Excess moisture can cause problems such as blistering and discomfort in combination with cycling shoes. So it’s no wonder that brands put a lot of emphasis on ensuring that their socks are effective at keeping your feet dry.
Moisture control can be achieved with natural and synthetic fibers, but the latter are the most common. The ability to have higher concentrations of hydrophobic fibers (those that repel moisture) allows the sock to handle sweat much more efficiently. While natural fibers, such as merino wool, usually offer remarkable levels of moisture retention (around 7%), there are synthetic fibers that do not exceed 1%.
Synthetic fibers, light and bacteria proof
The synthetic fibers with which the vast majority of cycling socks are made today outperform natural ones. Lighter and more breathable due to the fact that their fibers are hydrophobic, polyester and nylon are great allies for sports practice.
Although they are very absorbent, they have the advantage that they do not accumulate sweat and keep the feet drywhich helps keep the feet warm.
Another advantage of synthetic fibers is that they prevent the proliferation of fungi and bacteria. If, after a long cycling day, you take off your socks and barely notice a bad smell, blame them.
Wool socks for winter
Cycling socks made of merino wool are the best choice for your rides in cold climates. It’s a great insulator, but it’s also light and soft, which makes it a perfect fit for cycling shoes. The wool fiber traps the incoming air and blocks the cold before it reaches the feet. It also regulates your body temperature by absorbing and then evaporating moisture.
On the other hand, the lanolin contained in merino wool acts as a bacteria repellent, so socks made with this material will not smell bad after use. In short, a very good performance material for cycling practice.
Less padding, better
Cycling socks are created with cycling shoes in mind: they need to be thin and hug the foot. In general, padded socks do not work well.
Some athletic socks, such as those used for running, feature generous padding strategically placed throughout the sock to help with shock absorption.
In general, padded socks do not work well in combination with cycling shoes.
However, in cycling things are a little different. When cycling, the foot is placed in a unique and stable position, so thinner and tighter socks are more beneficial. This allows the technical characteristics of the sock to work in the best possible way.
What is sought is pedaling as efficiently as possible, saving valuable energy by providing greater tactile response and, as a result, better power transfer.
Over-cushioned socks, or too much movement of the feet inside the shoes, are often the culprits of blisters and other discomfort.
The right height
Image: Getty Images.
In its regulations, the UCI introduced a rule in 2018 that requires that the maximum height of the sock not exceed “half the distance between the middle of the lateral malleolus and the middle of the head of the fibula”. To be clear, without covering half the calf (more or less). And this, to avoid any kind of marginal power gain.
For those of us who are not professionals, the ideal height will depend on our personal preferences and, why deny it, on fashion. The options on the market are diverse. There are cycling socks that barely come below the ankle. There are low cane (about 14 cm), medium cane (18 cm), high cane (23 cm) and very high cane (30 cm). Currently, ankle socks are no longer in style, and mid-calf and high-calf socks are the most sought after by cyclists who want to be the latest.
A fun addition
Cycling socks are a great way to have fun and show off your personality. It can be tempting to prioritize originality when choosing cycling socks, but style should never come before quality, comfort or performance. Fortunately, many cycling socks meet all the performance criteria while setting a fashion trend.
The general rule is that your cycling socks can be any color or pattern, as long as they don’t clash with the rest of your cycling kit. There are those who choose to buy them in fluorescent colors, but let’s say that the trends are not going in this direction. That doesn’t mean your socks don’t stand out. In fact, well chosen, they can be the best way to add dynamism to your look.
And compression stockings?
Stockings that constantly compress the legs up to the knee or up to the hip (depending on the model) came to cycling a few years ago from the world of running.
They have supporters, who argue that it promotes blood flow and helps muscles recover because it contributes to more oxygen reaching them. But this textile accessory does not lack its detractors either, who do not trust its supposed properties of the garment and attribute the benefits, or supposed benefits, to this placebo effect.
The truth is that there are no scientific studies that link their use to measurable improvements, although there is the possibility that they help cyclists with specific circulation problems in their legs.