While there are some who will ride in any old socks, but like most bike-specific gear, the best cycling socks are a much better option. Socks designed with riding in mind will wick away moisture more quickly, dry more rapidly, be more resilient to dirt and should definitely not end up bunching up in your shoe mid-way through your ride.
For information on Bike Perfect's testing procedures and how our scoring system works, see our how we test page.
We've rounded up five of the best cycling socks for mountain biking in mind, but obviously they are suitable for use in any other cycling situation. If you're after some general buying advice for cycling socks, we've got an FAQ section at the bottom of this article.
Of course, you'll need something else to go with your cycling socks, as we wouldn't recommend going riding in your stocking feet. So when you've finished with this article, why not have a look at our guides to the best mountain biking shoes and the best MTB flat pedal shoes?
The best cycling socks
On a hot, sweaty day in a bike park, Endura's Jagged socks managed to feel relatively cool without sacrificing too much comfort. The mid-length socks also stayed where they were put and didn't wrinkle up to give Nora Batty ankles (opens in new tab) despite repeated runs over roots and rocks.
Endura have designed the Jagged socks to be both moisture wicking and comfortable – lots of high wicking socks are made with a minimal construction that doesn't afford much foot comfort. Four different material weaves make up the sock, which are elasticated on the leg, have a tight mesh on the top of the foot, Terry toweling on the footbed for comfort, and are more heavily woven at the high wear areas of the toe and heel.
This all adds up to a high performance sock that feels great, guards against moisture build-up and looks good too. However, repeated washing has resulted in some threads coming loose on the inside of the sock which can snag your toes when you put them on.
Like pretty much all the Peaty's products we've tested, the Shredsocks are solid and dependable without being overly fancy. They come in two colors, black and black with pinstripes at the ankle cuff.
Unlike the original versions, which were mostly Polyester-based, the newer versions are 75 percent cotton and 23 percent Polyester. Being cotton-rich, the socks are really comfortable and a thick Terry toweling footbed helps enhance the foot-pampering feel. On the flip side, they don't dry as rapidly as other socks constructed from purely man-made materials and run a tad warmer than the most highly wicking socks tested here.
If you're looking for a casual-looking, comfortable sock that does the job without being overly expensive, Peaty's Shredsocks are a solid choice.
Very much like the Endura Jagged socks, the SockGuy Krakens are technical socks made with four different fabric constructions. The leg is ribbed and elasticated, a tight mesh section sits on the top of the foot, a heavier mesh on the footbed, while the toe and heel are reinforced.
Without a toweling footbed, the Krakens are not quite as comfortable as the Endura Jagged socks, but they are lighter feeling and wick away moisture very well so are a much better option in warmer conditions.
The complex tentacle design means there are lots of loose threads on the upper section inside of the sock, which can snag your toes when putting them on. However, I think the odd snagged thread is a price worth paying for tentacles that wrap around your ankles.
Ride Concepts' Ride Every Day socks are a great option for warm days, which may seem counter-intuitive given they are the only full length model on test. However, unlike some other models that have Terry toweling footbeds, which cushion but also trap heat and moisture, the Ride Concepts socks are made entirely from wicking materials.
Elastic in the legs helps keep the long uppers in place, while the looser feeling, mesh fabric foot section is pulled in around the arch by a ribbed elasticated section. Despite the stitched logo on the rear of the socks, there are no loose threads hanging inside.
Should you end up with soggy feet on your ride, being highly wicking throughout, the socks dry out quicker than most too.
Rapha have opted for a Merino wool and Nylon mix for their Trail socks. Merino brings a level of natural moisture wicking and insulation which helps to stop your feet from getting too hot and too cold. It also absorbs the smells produced by bacteria, unlike synthetic fibers which can get pretty whiffy, it’s durable and it’s a natural material, of course. The Nylon element helps to keep the socks where you want them and prevents them from slipping down your ankles
The Rapha Trails worked well in the widest range of temperatures of the selection on test here. They were great on the cooler days and while my feet never felt overly sweaty, on the warmest rides they were definitely more toasty than in the others here.
Over repeated rides and washes, there has been no sign of pulling or loose fibers. Ensure to wash them on a cool cycle to guard against shrinkage though.
Best cycling socks: everything you need to know
Surely I can wear any old socks for cycling?
You can, of course, wear regular socks, but like standard t-shirts, shorts and footwear, bike-specific versions will do a much better job and allow you to your riding more as a result. Made with technical materials that help prevent moisture build-up, softer areas for comfort and elasticated sections to keep them in place, we definitely recommend wearing the best cycling socks.
What are wicking fabrics and how do they work?
Wicking fabrics are materials that draw moisture away from the body and release that moisture into the air. They can be synthetic, such as Polyester, or natural, such as Merino wool. Trapped moisture also means trapped heat, so wicking fabrics help keep you cooler as well as keeping you drier. You'll find them used extensively in clothing designed for cycling and other sports.
Are long or short socks better for cycling?
This mostly comes down to personal preference and the conditions you're riding in. If riding off-road, longer socks will give you some protection from scratches and stinging plants. Obviously on colder rides, they'll help keep to keep you warm too. In general, road riders tend to lean towards shorter socks – as they need less protection, while MTB-ers tend to opt for mid length – which is a good sock sweet spot for use all year round.