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The Kalf Winter Merino Sock is comfortable and warm even when the mercury drops below freezing. With generous reflectives on the back for visibility, it's hard to imagine a much better winter sock.
A background in long-distance running means I'm incredibly sensitive to what I put on my feet. This isn't just about being precious – get this wrong when you're running 100 miles and you literally pay for it in blood. As a result I have become ridiculously attuned to the comfort of everything that goes near my toes. So I'm delighted to report that the Kalf socks felt snug and cosy from the moment I pulled them on. I could tell instantly that these were a Nice Place to put my feet.
I immediately took the Kalfs out on an all-day ride. Starting before dawn and ending in the night, this ride saw temperatures ranging from -3 to +9 degrees. I wore ordinary cycling shoes with just these socks and a pair of overshoes. I won't quite say my feet were sweating during the colder and darker sections, and there were one or two moments I felt a slight chill, but my toes were never uncomfortably cold. Throughout almost all of the ride, I never thought about my feet at all – which is exactly what I'd want, and quite impressive on such a long ride in those temperatures.
A couple of days later, to see how the socks held up without overshoes, I wore them on my hour-and-a-half morning commute in temperatures down to -5°C. Once again, I had moments of being dimly aware of my feet on the very coldest sections, but I was never uncomfortable. In the showers afterwards, I didn't experience the painful sensation of the bloodflow returning to the toes that has often been genuinely excruciating after riding in with my regular winter socks. A big plus for the Kalfs there. They really did seem to be warmer than other winter socks I've worn in the past on the same commute.
The reflective chevrons on the back are large and, when I shone a headlamp onto them across a dark room, appeared effective.
The socks don't seem to move around when worn. And, unlike some other cycling socks I own, this isn't achieved by making them ridiculously tight: these socks slip on and off easily, which can be a good thing when you're trying to undress with cold hands. The seams are flat and I never experienced any sort of rubbing or hot-spot, even on all-day rides.
After four or five washes the socks don't show any more signs of wear than you would expect, despite being largely made of real wool (they're 67% merino wool, 31% nylon and 2% Lycra). The reflective dots are holding up well so far too.
Overall, the Zero-Degree Merino Reflective Socks (as the packet calls them – the website calls them Winter Merino Socks) are extremely impressive. They're surprisingly warm and comfortable. If you're in the market for a pair of warm winter socks, I highly recommend you give these a go.
Warm and comfortable even in sub-zero temperatures
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Kalf Winter Merino Sock
Size tested: Large
Tell us what the product is for
Evans says: "Time spent in the saddle is so much more enjoyable with warm and dry feet. That's why the Kalf Winter Merino Sock is made with a blend of soft merino and polyester for high thermal protection and moisture control. There's also a reflective chevron detail and three colours to choose from that fit perfectly with the rest of the Kalf winter range."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
These are 67% merino wool, 31% nylon and 2% Lycra.
The socks are nicely stitched and show no signs of premature wear despite a few washes. The reflective details are very neatly applied.
Much warmer and more comfortable than other winter socks I have worn. No signs of rubbing or hotspots, yet easy to get on and off. Performed just fine in temperatures down to below freezing. I can't imagine a sock delivering much more than this.
After five washes they look almost as good as new. I see no reason to be concerned about durability.
Very comfortable, with no signs of rubbing or pressure.
Perhaps because they're soft wool, these might come up slightly larger than you'd expect. I had the large size (nominally size 8-10) but they were just fine on my size 10.5 feet. If in doubt, consider sizing down.
There's clearly something to these when you hold them in the hand, but no more than you would expect from a thick winter sock.
At £15 they're worthwhile if you ride in cold temperatures.
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
I've washed them five times and they're holding up well. They still look largely new.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Very warm and comfortable, even on all-day rides. Definitely warmer than other winter socks I own.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
All-day comfort and sufficient warmth even when below freezing.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your overall score
Short of the ability to make coffee, I don't know if I could imagine a sock delivering more for cold weather. I'd have gone 10/10 if the price were slightly lower.
About the tester
I usually ride: Cannondale Synapse My best bike is: Whyte Wessex One
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, touring, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding, mountain biking, audax and long-distance riding
A research psychologist by day, Ian spends quite a lot of time on bikes, particularly commuting between Bristol and Bath or doing audax rides. For years he was an ultradistance runner, but this came to an end when he realised getting back onto a bicycle offered the chance to race over much more preposterous distances. In recent years he has ridden in the Transcontinental Race, the TransWales and the North Cape 4000. He has even finished first in some of these.