Assos winterPlus Socks
In the past we've been reluctant to embrace the concept of winter cycling socks. People seem to believe in overbundling their feet in winter, which we think is a bad idea. Overbundling, in our opinion, makes feet colder, not warmer. As your feet get warm, they start to sweat. The sweat, presuming you're wearing non-cotton socks (cotton=death), moves to the outside of the sock, then the shoe. Since most booties are only slightly breathable, if by no other means than gaps between the shoe and bootie and ankle, some vapor can escape. Some booties are more breathable than others. But over-do the sweat and the socks go from moist to wet, because there isn't enough exhaust for the vapor to escape. The socks just get wetter and wetter, and eventually your feet are soaked and only get colder and colder. If you've ever come home with cold feet, soaked socks, and it wasn't wet on the roads, chances are your feet overheated.
Assos Winter Plus socks are the warmest of the Assos sock line. They come only in black, and have representations of snowflakes across the top in case you can't read "Winter Plus" on the bottom. The Assos "A" is deployed fairly sparingly, once on the bottom of each sock and once above the heel. We take the low-key presentation to be a result of designers figuring these socks will only be seen by the wearer in the sock drawer, and both before and after rides. They use soft, Merino wool throughout the socks.
We usually pull out wool cycling socks when the mercury is in the 40s. Sometimes adding oversocks. As the temp continues to dip, we then pull out booties, but switch back to CoolMax socks, as they're not as warm. We find booties over shoes over CoolMax socks a better option when the thermometer says it is anywhere from 35-42 degrees. After that, it is wool socks under the booties thereon down.
Our second concern with wearing "winter" socks is they are typically thicker than our regular cycling socks. This is no small change when shoes are supposed to fit snug, and a three-dimensional insole takes up most of the space under your feet. The thicker socks often take up too much room in the shoe and change our foot's position over the insole. These changes often lead to discomfort; both in squeezing the toes against the toe box and in giving too much squish on top of the insoles. .
Because of our aversion to thicker socks, we typically move on to wool versions of our CoolMax socks in the winter, typically Sock Guy Wool and DeFeet Wooleators. They work for us because they don't take up more room in the shoe. They have a similarly thin sole and similarly thin material, often a woven wool mesh, atop the foot. The only drawback is the shorter cuff, which is great with shorts and knee warmers, but we would love the cuffs to extend the length of the bootie so there's multiple overlaps; sock, then tight, then bootie, keeping the skin covered and protected on cold days.
Assos Winter Plus socks didn't initially appeal to us because Assos boasts of a thicker sole on the socks. But they are claimed to be "no compression" and that the thickness absorbs moisture. The cuff isn't doubled-over like most cycling socks, just single, and long enough to extend to the top of a bootie. The wool here is Merino (70%, mixed with nylon and elastic), which is the light, warm, non-itchy stuff. It's also used in the wool socks we already ride. Just as important, Assos has a proven record of making great winter clothing. We don't know if we can go back to life without the Fugujack, now that we've had it a few winters. .
So we rode. The sock is warmer than our other wool cycling socks, though not so warm as to overheat. We might have to revise our concern about thicker sock soles; these are noticeably thicker yet we've had no problem with them on rides long and short. It might have to do with the sole being dense, not a "brushed" or "lofted" treatment where the inside of the sock sole looks like a high-loft towel. The longer cuff does a nice job on the overlapping we like at the tight and bootie cuff. The portion of sock across the top of the foot isn't vented like the rest of our wool cycling socks, but here, too, the difference didn't seem to be a drawback, but a benefit.
We wore the socks both with and without booties over our cycling shoes. Without booties, the cuff felt a bit thin, but the sock body remained nice and warm. Bootie'd, we took them out on rides from the high 20s to about 40-degrees Fahrenheit. They were comfortable in all temperatures, even when riding slowly in the high 20s.
People who have sweaty feet under booties can tell you that unzipping at the end of a ride can sometimes yield unpleasant results. With the Assos Winter Plus wool, we didn't experience that once, and we wore them a few times in a row just to see how they'd manage.
For us, winter gear has to work above all else. Stuff that merely looks good isn't smart to bring out when the margin of error between being warm and miserably, painfully cold is pretty thin. While the appearance of the Assos Winter Plus socks initially caused us to doubt we could include them in the sub-freezing gear rotation, regular riding has convinced us otherwise. Now that winter is here, we've got an extra weapon in our warm arsenal and we look forward to happy feet on those icy endurance rides.