The Bike List

Polaris Merino Sox £9

Tested by Jon Adams, tester for The Bike List

I don't know what we all did before the Merino Sheep's glorious fleece was adopted by outdoor manufacturers, but the fine, soft wool gives near-magical properties to clothing and is especially good for items worn next to the skin. Merino is special because it not only gives the best warmth-to-weight ratio of any wool, but it also has anti-bacterial properties thanks to the built-in lanolin, and it wicks extremely well. Woven into a sheet, it's a bit like a piece of clever blotting paper, and it'll soak up sweat from your skin and transport it through the fabric to be released into the outside world (or the next layer of clothing, depending on what you're wearing).

The important thing is that it takes the moisture off your skin, so you don't feel clammy and damp when grinding up a climb. The ultra-fine fibres that make up the wool can be woven very tightly to give a near windproof finish, or can be woven loosely for breathability, but they can also be stacked into thicker layers to provide padding and cushioning.

In modern garments, Merino is seldom used on its own, but is interwoven with synthetic fibres to create a 'sportwool', so you get all the benefits of Merino mixed with the all benefits of man made fabrics on top. To aid the fit, the Merino Sox from Polaris are woven with synthetic Elastane, and they come in at a very reasonable price of just £9 a pair. They're very warm - too toastie for the summer - but are great for late Autumn through to early spring when the temperture drops to the single figures (or the 30s and 40s for our Fahrenheit friends).

We've tried them with insulated, Gore-tex-lined winter boots, and with three season shoes, and the wool padding really does keep your toes comfortable, both on and off the bike. You can easily pay £12 or more for high quality outdoor socks, but these tend to give padding and around the ankle and lower shin, too -­ not areas you need for cycling use. The tops of the Merino Sox are just ankle high and don't contain any more fabric than needed to maintain the shape and fit - and this makes them ideal for use with legwarmers or winter tights.

All in all, we haven't got a bad word to say about these - they're warm, comfortable, nicely made with flat seams, and will find their way into a lot more than just cycling shoes. At £9 a pair they offer great value given the Merino content, and the anti-bacterial properties of the lanolin mean that they don't hum too badly after a long day out. Recommended.

Buy from

Polaris says:

  • Ultimate comfort and performance sock.
  • Resilient soft Merino wool cushioning provides shock absorption.
  • Merino wool fibres feel soft and warm whilst wicking sweat away.
  • Arch grip section for optimum fit.
  • Flat toe seam to help prevent blisters.
  • contains Elastane for a better fit.
  • Colour: Black
  • Sizes: S(3.5-6.5), M(6.5-9.5), L(9.5-12.5)

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At a glance

Verdict Warm, comfortable cycling socks made from Merino wool to keep your toes toasty and feet odour-free in cooler weather.