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The Howies Gary Socks are a great choice for multi-day adventures – their above average merino wool content successfully keeps odours at bay, so you can wear them for several without them needing a wash. The length will appeal to those wanting to avoid a high sock tan-line.
Check out our best cycling socks buyer's guide for our foot-friendly faves.
Like much of Howies clothing range, the Gary socks don't carry a specific 'cycling' label, but they are well-suited to cycling as well as other outdoor pursuits. They come in three sizes: 3-6, 6-9 and 9-12. I have been testing a 6-9 pair and have found them to be a good fit. I'm a size 8 shoe. They don't feel in anyway stretched but, at the same time, I've never once had them slip off over my heel. Howies describes them as 'quarter-length'. For me, that meant that the top edge of the socks sat pretty much on my ankle bone. There's a lip at the rear for extra protection if you're wearing more substantial, high-backed shoes.
The socks are well made and have stood up to plenty of use, including being worn around the house in an effort to maximise wear-and-tear on the sole. In spite of this, they are showing nothing more than minimal signs of wear – some furring up of the underside, but no piling or loose threads.
The sole feels soft and well cushioned, a cosy sensation in most shoes – I say most, as they are quite bulky, so they're not necessarily a great match with tight-fitting shoes. The toe-box and heel area have a marginally denser weave for added durability and protection, with the tops of the socks much thinner for greatly improved breathability. Howies has ensured that there's no seam at the toe, so zero irritation here.
You might be thinking 'merino in summer?' but these socks really did work well, much better than I'd thought. I've done most of the testing on multi-day bike trips ridden at a leisurely pace. And without doubt, this is where the socks shine. I managed a full six days with a single pair before beginning to detect a light pong! I wore them on and off the bike during these trips, for hikes and strolls, and felt very comfortable throughout.
I should say that I had favourable conditions – a maximum of 20°C, and mostly in the teens. In my opinion, 20°C or so is probably around their upper limit. That said, even at 20°C, I never once sensed sweaty feet, or socks – just verging on a sensation that my feet were getting a little too warm. On cooler days around 15-16°C my toes were comfortable – not too hot, not too cold.
I'd say the socks are very capable of protecting feet in single figures, though the longer Garret Socks might be a better option in colder weather. The 'quarter-length' was ideal for the temperatures I had – air flow just above the ankle was likely helping to regulate the temperature of my feet.
For me personally, the Garys are a bit too thick to wear them as a running sock. I found them perfectly good for hiking, which makes them ideal for hike-a-bike gravel riders. It's also good to know that they make for a superb added layer when the temperatures dip at night and you want to keep your feet warm in your sleeping bag.
The socks are available in two different 'colours': orange and lemon. Part of the weave on the top of the sock is coloured with most of the sock a practical, charcoal shade.
If the performance credentials aren't enough to win you over, it's worth adding that the 70% merino content is from non-mulesed sheep. Mulesing is a technique that involves removal of the skin around a sheep's buttocks to avoid flystrike; a cruel process that is painful for the animal.
If you like the sock length, the Gary is a great choice, especially since there are very few merino socks of similar length out there.
Forego the merino and you can get the Gore Essential Short Socks for £14.99.
However, in my opinion, the essence of the Howies socks is their ability to perform day after day without needing to be washed and, it goes without saying, that's down to the merino.
Other merino options with more height will set you back at least a tenner for a single pair, for example the Iris Merino Socks are £18 a pair, but Laura thought they felt like 'little hugs for your feet'. Awww!
With this in mind, £25 for two pairs is very good value for money, especially given their robust nature – they are made to last. Fortunately, you won't pay any more if you prefer the longer Garret socks.
A great sock at a good price, especially if you regularly embark on multi-day adventures and don't feel the need to have too much height in a sock.
Superb choice for multi-day adventures. And while the length might divide opinion, the performance is indisputable.
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Howies Gary Merino Wool Socks (Pack of 2)
Size tested: 6-9
Tell us what the product is for
Howies say that its Gary Socks are "...ideal for sport, the Merino wicks moisture so your feet stay dry and comfortable in all conditions. These feature a seamless toebox construction that eliminates ridges and reduces friction and blisters when you're running. They also have cushioned toe and heel sections for more protection and durability. Warm in winter and cool in summer, the 70% Merino content also helps repel bacteria and odour, naturally."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
70% Merino Wool, 28% Polyamide, 2% elastane
Sold as a pack of 2 pairs.
Sizing is based on UK sizes.
Warm & breathable
Cushioned heel & toe
No bunching, no blisters
Built to last
Made in Portugal
I fell in the middle of a size bracket, if you're at either extreme of a size bracket the fit might not be so good...
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
Washed it with other kit at 30 degrees without any problems.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Superb for multi-day trips as well as leisurely gravel and off-road outings.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Versatility and comfort.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
Fairly priced. Other merino socks will set you back around £15 a pair, so £25 for two pairs is good.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes – and the longer 'Garret' socks too.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your overall score
Performance and comfort with a niche length – not everyone wants high sock tanlines. The price is good too.
About the tester
I usually ride: Road My best bike is: Carbon road.
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, general fitness riding, Getting to grips with off roading too!
Emma’s first encounters with a road bike were in between swimming and running. Soon after competing for GB in the World Age Group Triathlon Championships in Edmonton in 2001 she saw the light and decided to focus on cycling.
After a couple of half decent UK road seasons racing for Leisure Lakes, she went out to Belgium to sample the racing there and spent two years with Lotto-Belisol Ladies team, racing alongside the likes of Sara Carrigan, Grace Verbeke, Rochelle Gilmore and Lizzie Deignan. Emma moved from Lotto-Belisol to Dutch team Redsun, then a new Belgian team of primarily developing riders, where there was less pressure, an opportunity to share her experience and help build a whole new team; a nice way to spend her final years of professional racing.
Since retiring Emma has returned to teaching. When not coercing kids to do maths, she is invariably out on two wheels. In addition to the daily commute, Emma still enjoys getting out on her road bike and having her legs ripped off on the local club rides and chain gangs. She has also developed an addiction to touring, with destinations including Iceland, Georgia and Albania, to mention just a few. There have also been rare sightings of Emma off-road on a mountain bike…