A few years ago, I began the migration to wool socks. I just bought a pair here and there, and over time, they’ve pushed all the other socks out of the sock drawer. I wear ultra-light wool socks in the summer, mid-weight socks in the Spring and Fall, and thick over the calf wool socks in the winter. It’s hard to beat wool’s natural properties for insulation, moisture-wicking, and odor control.
If you have bad memories of wool from childhood, you’re not alone. I remember wearing wool socks and sweaters that were almost unbearable itchy. The Sunday sweater vests would even itch when worn OVER another shirt! Luckily, today’s high end wool garments are made from Merino sheep wool, the finest and softest wool of any sheep. This allows clothing manufacturers to make soft, non-irritating clothing you can wear all day.
Back in September, I purchased a pair of KEEN Wildwood Sox. Although these mid-weight, quarter height socks are from KEEN’s hiking line, I found they work great for cycling as well. The Wildwoods are constructed similar to other high-end wool socks I’ve tried, with ample padding on the sole, an arch support zone, and a mesh top to vent excess heat. What’s notable about the KEEN sock line though, is that they are specifically designed for left and right feet. The socks are cut in the same shape as your foot, giving a better fit with no extra material to bunch up in your shoe.
Wildwood Construction: Merino Wool 65%, Nylon 30%, Lycra Spandex 3%, Polyester 2%
The Wildwoods turned out to be a very comfortable sock to wear, both on and off the bike. They fit in my cycling shoe properly without excess bulk or bunching, the height of the sock allows them to be worn with my mid-top hiking boots, and they also feel great for all-day casual use. Additionally, the mid-weight loft of the Wildwoods makes them ideal for Fall cycling.
KEEN recently sent me a pair of their all-new Springwater ultra-light cycling socks to demo. These new socks will be released as part of KEEN’s Spring/Summer 2010 line, and in stores early 2010. Sharing the same name, the Springwater Sox will compliment KEEN’s Springwater cycling shoe.
The Springwater Sox are constructed of a merino wool blend for wicking and quick-drying, and have a design that combines the cushioning of a mid-weight sock with the heat dissipating qualities of an ultra-light sock. If you turn the sock inside out, you can see all the different zones of the sock. The forefoot is well padded for comfort over the high pressure area of the pedal area, the bottom midsection of the sock is snug to provide arch support, a mesh weave over the instep provides breathability, and there is padding at various pressure points around the ankle. This translates into a very comfortable sock with very little bulk.
A few things to note about the Springwater test socks from KEEN’s Assistant Product Line Manager:
- Springwaters are bike specific socks with cushioning in just the places that a pedaler needs. If you turn the sock inside out you can see where.
- The top of the sock is mesh, so there is plenty of breathability.
- All KEEN socks have the seam under the toe where your toes naturally bend. This way there is no pesky seam or chaffing. We run our knitting machines backwards to get this effect.
- Our socks are left and right specific for a more comfortable fit.
So how do they work?
We had a warm spell this Fall, and I got to try the Springwaters out in some balmy 70 degree temperatures. Although only factory samples, the socks fit very well with no obvious construction flaws. The extra padding in the front of the sock really added comfort, but my feet stayed nice and cool since the rest of the sock is not nearly as bulky. It felt as if I was wearing a very thin sock. There isn’t much padding under the heel, but I didn’t find this to be a problem at all on the bike, as almost all of the pressure is at the ball of the foot when pedaling. The left and right specific design kept the socks snug and didn’t allow them to wander around my feet.
I also spent the day walking around in the Springwaters to see how they felt as an ordinary, everyday sock. Like I mentioned above, there isn’t as much padding under the heel like you would find in a hiking sock. Towards the end of the day, I started to notice fatigue in my heel, and decided the Springwaters wouldn’t make the best hiking or casual sock. They really are a cycling specific sock, and they excel in that particular area.
If you are used to buying your socks by the bagful at Costco, you may be a little shocked at the price of these high-end socks. Both the Wildwood and the Springwater retail for $16.00, putting them in the same price range as similarly spec’ed wool socks from other manufacturers. KEEN has done a great job with their shoe line, making shoes that look great and work well for active people. KEEN has done the same with their socks, and have created a top of the line product. I would recommend these socks to fellow cyclists, and I plan to buy more.