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What is the perfect cycling sock height, and should we even care?
As cyclists’ we spend a lot of time thinking about the small details when it comes to cycling kit and equipment, with sock choice always being a hot topic of debate. Whilst the UCI has their own idea of what the cycling sock height should be, as individuals we seem to be pretty divided on what the perfect sock height actually is.
Cycling sock height when you want to be a PRO
If you’re a tester¹ in the UK and race under CTT² rules, there are no limits on how short or high your socks must be. Therefore, sock height is all down to #aerogainz, and more often than not you’ll only see some knees poking out between knee high socks, and knee length bibshorts. Because, well, a full-length skinsuit would look a bit silly wouldn’t it? I jest, the restriction around the knee and wrinkling fabric would impair the aerodynamics and feeling, so it’s better keep those knees out.
Those who are racing under the UCI rules and regulations don’t have it so easy, with the UCI making their stance clear: “Socks and overshoes used in competition may not rise above the height defined by half the distance between the middle of the lateral malleolus and the middle of the fibula head.”³ So, no #aerogainz and poky knees for you.
Cycling sock height when you just love riding your bike
However, for the rest of us who are not chasing those #aerogainz, or restricted by governing bodies, how do we go about choosing the perfect sock height, and why do we seem to care so much?
If you’re a follower of the Velominati, your guidance is simply: “Not too long and not too short.”⁴ This isn’t all to helpful to the uninitiated or those who require more guidance, what does that even mean? You might take that to mean not ankle socks, and not school sock length and go from there, finding the in-between.
Cycling sock height as you see it
I recently posed the question to my Instagram following, “what is your sock height of choice?” The majority came back with roughly the same answer, below the calf muscle, or my favourite interpretation by a friend of mine; “[the] cuff sits just under the impregnated portion of the calves”. A few individuals came back with the longer the sock the better, and even fewer the complete opposite, the shorter the sock the better. While a number of people gave me an exact measurement of how high the perfect sock should be, this height would appear different on different individuals depending how tall or short you are.
When I then posed the question, “do you think about sock height when buying cycling socks?”, the majority came back with a hard “YES!”. On a whole, the reasons differed; from those wanting shorter socks to avoid tan lines, and those wanting the longer socks for #aerogainz, and a few exceptions bringing up the point that height matters and is considered due to warmth. However, the most common answer was simply aesthetics. Cycling sock height resonates with us for mainly how they look, not really for any functional purpose.
For many of us cyclists, cycling is as much about looking and feeling good as it is about the sport… be honest about why you shave your legs; is it really for that post ride massage you have once or twice a year, for those #aerogainz on the Sunday club run, or for the off chance you might kiss the tarmac? Or is the real reason down to the fact that you feel it just looks better?
Don’t get me wrong, I care about my own look on the bike, and I wear or don’t wear certain things because I don’t like the style they project. I believe that as long as you’re not pushing your own expectations, rules, and regulations onto anyone else (unless you’re a governing body) and judging others for their choices, whether we care about sock height or not, it simply doesn’t matter as long as you’re happy. Choose the cycling socks that call out to you, be it for height, colour combo, warmth, or even aero gains.
¹ – Another term for Time Trialist
² – Cycling Time Trials; The National Governing Body for Cycling Time Trials
³ – UCI Regulation 1.3.033
⁴ – Rule 27: Shorts and Socks Should Be Like Goldilocks; https://www.velominati.com/
I am a cycling fanatic living in Girona, ex-lawyer, and am working in marketing and social media for a number of cycling brands. I also have a passion for environmentalism and spend my free time volunteering on a permaculture farm.
@rocketrawrrs instagram | YouTube | website
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