The type of socks you wear play an important role in the comfort of your feet while cycling. If sweat is trapped against your feet, your skin will begin to absorb moisture, making skin tissue more sensitive to heat and pressure, resulting in blisters and skin irritations. In addition, damp feet are more likely to become a breeding ground for bacteria and fungi.
The Concept of Moisture Management
Yarns That Wick Moisture
Technical cycling socks use fibers that are designed to pull moisture away from the skin. Once moisture has been pulled away from the skin, it is then transferred to an outer absorbent layer where moisture is trapped, allowing the skin to continue to breath. This enables feet to remain dry, and free of blisters and skin irritations.
Yarns That Absorb Moisture
In order for any wicking material to work, there has to be a place for the moisture to go. If your cycling shoes have great ventilation, moisture that is wicked away from the skin can evaporate. However, most tecnical cycling socks don't rely on the breathability of the shoe to evaporate sweat. They combine special "hydrophilic" (water loving) yarns, with wicking yarns, to absorb the sweat and lock it away from the skin. Natural fibers such as Wool and Cotton are great examples of fibers used to absorb moisture.
Keeping Feet Warm During Cold and Wet Weather
Yarns That Insulate
The most difficult parts of your body to keep warm are your extremities, because they’re the farthest from your body’s warm core. Heat loss is a function of core body temperature, outside air temperature, and wind speed. In order for feet to stay warm, the cyclist needs to balance the rate of heat produced by the body, with the insulation value of the socks. Insulating fibers work by trapping air. The more air that is trapped, the more efficient the insulation. Insulating fibers also work by reflecting back the body’s radiant heat. Technical winter cycling socks combine fibers that keep feet dry from the sweat that your body produces, with insulating fibers to keep feet warm.
Waterproofing Your Feet
To keep feet warm, feet have to stay dry. Wicking fibers pull moisture away from the feet keeping feet dry from the sweat generated by the body during exercise. Insulating fibers keep feet warm. Waterproofing your shoes will keep feet dry from rain and other exterior wetness. In extreme cold, or extreme wetness, wear a lightweight wicking sock under a thermal sock. Add a waterproof bootie over the top of your shoes. You'll stay dry inside and out, and your feet will remain warm.
By combining different fibers, and changing the weave and construction of certain parts of the sock, socks can be designed to meet different temperature requirements, as well as provide support and comfort for different types of cycling.
Basic Sock Design & Features
The cuff is designed to hold the sock in place. Most technical cycling socks have Lycra® knitted in the sock. Lycra® stretches, allowing the sock to fit like a "second skin". You want the sock to hold its shape against your foot. Sweaty socks can get heavy and bunch up, creating friction between the socks and the feet. By combining Lycra® with wicking and absorbing fibers, you have a sock that does not get wet with sweat, does not bunch, but remains fitted against the skin reducing the possibility of blisters and other skin irritations. Many socks have a double cuff which gives extra hold so that socks do not slide, clump and bunch.
Some socks are knitted with a tighter weave across the ankle so that the sock does not bunch when the ankle is flexed. This feature is not as important in socks that contain Lycra®. The stretch added by Lycra® allows the sock to fit skin tight without bunchng when the foot moves.
Ankle & Arch Support
A heavier woven band knitted around the ankle, or the arch of the foot can help support your ankles and your arches.
Using a more open weave in certain areas of the sock provides greater ventillation and breathability.
Many sock manufacturers will place additional padding in certain parts of the sock. The extra support and protection is dependent on temperature, and type of cycling. Reinforced
Toe & Heal
Reinforcing the toe and heal give the sock greater life span and durability.
A heal dart, cups the heal, allowing the sock to conform perfectly to the anatomy of your foot providing a more anatomical fit.
Most athletic socks try and eliminate, or reduce toe seams in order to prevent skin irritations and blisters.