OXFORD OX SOCKS
10-12 as tested 120g £39.99
The Oxford Ox Socks aren’t the cheapest, or waterproof in the hell and highwater sense. Nor are they cycling specific. They are however, by far the most comfortable water repelling socks I’ve ever used. Feet remained warm and dry, through torrential rains and shoes immersed in boggy bridle path.
Pros: Highly water resistant, windproof and yet very breathable. Length great for trail and mixed terrain/winter riding.
Cons: Limited range of sizes, designed for commuter and mtb, rather than sportier road/touring shoes.
These are really well made, in every respect. They’re a three-layer design that employs the familiar PU lining and seamless inner. However, unlike several competitors the inner layer has a decent Merino content - 42%. The remainder being 42% Acrylic, 13% Polyester, 1% Nylon, 1% Spandex, 1% Lycra. The outer yarn is 88% Nylon, 7% Lycra, 3% Spandex, 1% Polyester. Reinforced grey panels at toe, sole and heel are designed to prevent blistering and tactile elastics keep them at their intended height.
Continuing this theme, they’re described as having a “light compression fit” for even arch and ankle support. I should perhaps say they are the flagship models in a range of technical socks, denoted by colour and pricing. These include Oxford Mernio Ox Socks (Available in grey, or Khakhi) £19.99, Coolmax (£9.99) and two thermal models (£7.99 and £8.99 respectively).
There are three sizes, small, medium and large, which translate as 4-6, 10-12 and 12-14. In theory, this should cover most bases. Put into context, I’m a 43/44 (street and cycling shoes respectively).
The 10-12 were bang on, with a little wriggle room. Not the sort that results in bunching. However, they err on the smaller side. This might be an issue if you’re at the upper end of their sizing range.
Otherwise, the fit is snug, yet tactile. Talking of which, they are relatively thick, so you’ll struggle to pair them with a race slipper. Things were on the cramped side with sportier touring shoes (including my Quoc Pham go-tos). Conversely, these BTwin Triban 520 are a fraction too big for me, so the Ox socks plugged the gap, perfectly.
Couldn’t be simpler, really. Bung them in with the household wash at 30/40degrees and minimal detergent, allow to dry naturally. I’ve tended to leave ours overnight, simply because I’ve done washing, last thing before bed. However, given their tog-weight, bargain on 3-4 hours, before they’re bone dry.
Compared with more traditional, TPU lined models, the Ox Socks feel remarkably tactile and the PU mid layer, less restrictive. As I said in my introduction, the tog weight precludes road and somel touring shoes. No problems with wider commu-trail
models, such as these Scott, and Lake MTB booties, or the BTwin Triban 520 I referred to earlier.
Pulling them on, the Waterproof PU lining is, like everyone elses’ immediately apparent. However, whereas others tend to leave feet feeling “boiled in the bag”; the Ox socks stay much fresher. Worn with ¾ lengths, such as these Primal Dawn Bib Knickers the calve length hasn’t quite overlapped but still offered excellent coverage. Elastics around the hem are similarly effective.
No hint of unravelling, even after 3-4 hours at 95rpm on my fixed. No unsightly branding either, which is another plus. Padded heel and toe sections also add to the comfort, preventing hot-spots and similar discomfort.
Crucially, the mixed yarns are much better at regulating inner temperature. Yes, I’ve always been aware of that mid-layer but my legs and feet have never become clammy - even when temperatures have hovered around 12 degrees and I’ve been wearing water-repellant tights and synthetic shoes.
In similar contexts, impervious models, such as these Bridgedale Storm Socks Ankle Sock have left my feet feeling “boiled in the bag”, leading to athlete’s foot and similar nasties. At the other extreme, when temperatures have struggled above freezing; they’ve retained welcome warmth.
So, to the issue of waterproofing. Well, there’s been no shortage of standing water in these parts and my feet have remained completely dry, despite riding though flooded coastal roads, being (unintendedly) drenched by passing trucks etc. My feet have also remained warm and dry when immersed in boggy, churned sections of bridle path.
Total, cuff-line, immersion sees the fabric begin to absorb moisture. By contrast, wearing the Bridgedale, or Seal Skinz, there’s a curious sensation of water pressure building up but its locked firmly outside.
These definitely have an edge, when it comes to mid-winter cross country mountain biking and they’ll remain slightly warmer than the Ox Socks, in that respect. However, those impermeable liners can create an uncomfortably clammy inner climate, leading to fungal infections, on day rides. Submerged in a very cold puddle/river, the Ox Socks will feel cold but quickly utilise rider generated heat, locking it in, wicking dry at the same time.
£39.99 is very much the upper end of the market, although reasonable given the specification and materials used. Bridgedale Stormsocks retail at £38.00 seem truly impervious and are available in a wider choice of sizes. In common with the Oxford, they’re not cycling specific, which is a consideration. Seal Skinz All Weather Mid Length Sock with Hydrostop is probably the Ox Socks closest rival. It also features merino wool and costs £37.50.
There’s some trade-off between waterproofing and comfort here. I personally prefer a fabric that is highly weather resistant but favour fast wicking/breathability over truly impervious designs. Hence the Ox Socks have gone down well with me. However, sizing could be tweaked and there are better choices for those seeking a cycling specific option.