You're probably here because you already know the importance of having a great pair of cycling socks.
Especially for long-distance riders, having a pair of quality socks that are designed specifically for the needs of cyclists can help improve your comfort and performance.
Here's the bottom line.
Not all socks are created equal. The cotton socks you buy in normal retail stores are not designed to help cyclists (or runners) at all.
We created this list to help you choose a pair of cycling socks that will actually help you on your ride. Here's a quick preview of our top choices. You can click "Jump To More Details" on any selection to read more about them.
Prices as of 15th August 2018
Defeet Ridge Supply Aireator Socks
Made from 60% Nylon / 39% CoolMax / 1% Lycra. Minimum cushion, medium compression. Coolmax yarn promotes evaporative cooling.
Swiftwick Aspire Four
Made from 67% Nylon / 27% Olefin / 5% Spandex. Firm compression, moisture wicking, stretchy, lightweight. Great summer cycling socks.
Giro Classic Racer Socks
Made from Meryl® Skinlife™ fabric which provides anti-microbial and anti-odor properties. Great for warm weather. Medium compression, medium cushion.
Smartwool PhD Cycling Ultra Light Pattern Crew Sock
Made of 48% Merino Wool / 47% Nylon / 5% Elastane. Great for colder weather, water wicking, medium compression, medium cushion.
Swiftwick Aspire Zero
Made of 55% Nylon / 40% Olefin / 5% Spandex. Incredible water wicking properties. The most durable sock option that provides compression and support.
What To Look For In Cycling Socks
In a basic sense, generic cotton socks are just there to prevent blisters. Cycling specific socks have more to offer.
Unlike regular socks, a good pair of cycling socks are engineered to provide strategic support, wick away sweat quickly, increase circulation and prevent lactic acid buildup to improve endurance.
From experience, when you choose a pair of cycling socks, there are 3 key things to consider:
The amount of cushion you require is ultimately up to preference. For cycling, you generally want to stick to minimum-medium cushion socks. Heavy cushion socks are going to be too restrictive in tight cycling shoes and could prevent proper ventilation and circulation on longer rides.
Minimum cushion socks are great if you have a pair of well-broken-in cycling shoes and don't need as much blister protection. They are great for hotter areas where you need to prevent sweaty feet.
Medium cushion socks are the safest bet. They offer just the right amount of support for a cyclists foot, while also generally providing enough wiggle room to not restrict blood or airflow. Medium cushion socks are my personal preference.
Like the cushion, the amount of compression you like is up to preference. For cyclists, you want to stick to moderate-firm compression. Anything less than that won't do you much help.
Why do cyclists need compression socks?
Compression socks are designed to be tighter around the foot and ankle, but ease the pressure as you move up the leg and into the thigh. This helps with things like reducing lactic acid buildup, providing extra leg support, promoting blood and oxygen flow and increased comfort.
The way your sock performs depends a lot on the materials used. For cycling, you should opt for a fabric blend. By going for a blend, you get the benefits of each material without the drawbacks. This being said, blended fabric socks are generally a little more expensive, but the performance and comfort boost is worth it.
Cotton is the most common material for socks, but you should stay away from it. 100% cotton socks can shrink in the wash which affects the fit, and more importantly, they hold onto moisture. When looking for cycling socks (especially online where I don't get to feel them), I stick to a primarily Nylon and olefin blend.
Nylon is a solid, versatile fabric. It can range from thin and silky to bulky and incredibly elastic. It is best when combined with other materials to give the socks stretch and durability.
Olefin (Polypropylene) is a synthetic, water repelling material. It is often combined with materials like cotton or nylon. The combination of fabrics gives the socks water wicking properties while also having the ability to be elastic and durable.
The Swiftwick Aspire Zero may not the cheapest socks, but I will buy them over any other pair of cycling socks - every. single. time.
They are made out of 55% Nylon / 40% Olefin / 5% Spandex. This is the ideal combination of material for cyclists because the nylon provides durability, strength, and support, the Olefin provides incredible water wicking ability, and the spandex gives them stretch.
Swiftwick is based out of Tennessee, and their entire business model centers around providing the best athletic socks possible. The company is run by a team of athletes. The brand came to be when one of the founders, a mountain bike racer, couldn't find a pair of socks that provided a good fit, had superior moisture wicking ability, while also providing compression and support, so he started to the company to fulfill the need. I stand behind this brand, I have several pairs of their socks, and I love them all.
These socks are 48% Merino Wool / 47% Nylon / 5% Elastane. This combination of materials is durable, water resistant and warm. Although not as water wicking as the Swiftwick, these are still a great option if you need a warmer pair of socks. They shine when riding in around 50 - 60-degree weather.
They are lightweight and are great for cycling and hiking. They provide medium compression and medium cushion. Keep in mind, if you live in a hotter area, these wool socks may be too warm.
Another great option for cycling socks is the Giro Classic Racer Socks. These socks are made from Meryl® Skinlife™ fabric. This fabrics main selling point is it is anti-microbial and provides odor control. They are moisture wicking and best for hot rides.
These socks are medium compression and medium cushion, making them an excellent all-around pair of cycling socks. They will also be useful for other activities like running.
Another great choice from Swiftwick, the Aspire Four is a higher-fitting, thin compression pair of cycling socks. They are made of 67% Nylon / 27% Olefin / 5% Spandex. This combination of materials is going to provide firm compression and support for the contours of your feet. They are also moisture-wicking, stretchy and lightweight.
If you are looking for a pair of summer riding socks that fit above the ankle, these are the top choice. They will keep your feet cool and dry while also providing the compression and support that you need for long rides.
These socks are made of 60% Nylon / 39% CoolMax / 1% Lycra. This combination of materials will provide minimum cushion and medium compression. The CoolMax EcoMade yarn is designed to wick moisture and promote evaporative cooling.
These socks are great for multiple activities, but they shine for cycling and hiking. If you are a fan of both, these socks are an excellent choice. The minimum cushion means they will fit in snug shoes, and medium compression will promote blood and oxygen flow to help prevent fatigue.
I get defensive when people say the type of socks you use for cycling doesn't matter. The people who say that are the people who have never tried a pair of cycling-specific socks. The difference is astonishing.
If you are serious about cycling in comfort, a good pair of socks can go a long way. I suggest buying socks online because you get to read reviews and research the materials and the company you are buying from. Socks sold in big-box retail stores are often nothing more than smart designs on sub-par fabrics. If you care about performance, look for a pair of socks with an intuitive fabric blend that will provide support and ventilation.
I am a big fan of supporting companies that stand behind their products, so make sure you buy from a company that guarantees their products.
Now it's your turn!
Which pair of cycling socks are you going to choose? Let us know in the comments section below!