Capo apparel began with socks. They, following Alessandro Petacchi’s lead, created a longer-than-average sock for bike riders. It was a hit in the cycling world and a certain Tour de France winner gravitated toward the lengthy hose as well, furthering the trend in long leggings.
Once again, Capo is leading with their socks, taking a good idea and making it their own. Compression socks are gaining in popularity, for use in both recovery and performance. Capo has had a performance-oriented, knee-high compression sock for some time. These tall socks we’re reviewing, the Active 12 Compression and Active 15 Compression, owe some of their inspiration from that knee-high, the Compression Skinlife sock, and some of their inspiration from a competitor, Swiftwick. Swiftwick makes 200-needle socks with a heavy concentration of Olefin fiber. The Capo Compression Sock line comes off 200-needle looms and is made of Olefin as well. Olefin is a great fiber. It breathes very well, retains almost no water when wet, and can have great controlled stretch.
There are a number of differences between these socks and others on the market. Capo uses a vertically-ribbed construction for both the foot and the leg, where Swiftwick uses two different weaves, the one on the leg being both more dense and doubled-over. Capo’s toe and heel are thinner. Capo has a seam over the toe. And, of course, Capo works their style into the leg.
Capo has a diverse line of socks. Socks of differing materials, thicknesses, weaves, heights. The Active Compression line comes in three styles—the 6, 12, and 15. The numbers refer to the length of the cuff in centimeters in an unstretched state. The measurement starts at the ankle protuberance and goes up. If measuring the 15 in hand from the seam where the heel is created, you can add another 3cm. Once stretched onto our leg, the length of the 15, from the ankle to the top of the cuff, is more like 19cm.
The material is thin everywhere—at the toe and heel, around the foot, and around the leg. The same weave runs from the toe to the cuff. There’s no padding, and the only doubling-over of material is a slim, 1.75cm band at the top. Thin has many advantages: provides more room inside the shoe, easier to stretch over the foot, and breathes better. We’re at a loss to explain why cyclists need padding in their socks, and are happy that Capo skips any thickening of their material underneath the feet.
That the socks are thin is something we noticed right away. While the sock, like every sock we’ve tried that boasts of compression, takes a little more effort to get on than the standard cycling sock, the effort is worth it. Shoes feel a bit roomier at the start of the ride, which, on a hot day, is a plus for us, as we’ve found foot-swelling can be a problem in the heat. It also seems that our feet swell less on hot rides when wearing the socks.
We never forget that we have these socks on. The compression seems to mean that we can feel the sock stretching at the ankle when we push down on the pedals and then lift up. Even though we can feel the sock stretching and compressing, it’s also clear that the sock isn’t sliding anywhere, or slipping in any direction. Even on hot and humid days, the kind of days that put perspiration sleeves over our limbs, the socks didn’t slip down one bit.
Despite this ample above-the-ankle coverage, the socks never felt hot or damp, even when doing threshold intervals on low-90s days with high humidity. The socks also never slipped down, even when the 15s were stretched over the bottom of our calves.
In terms of comfort, the foot portion of the socks was superior. Never hot, never moving—we want all our socks to feel this way. The uppers, however, felt different from one another. The 12 felt like it has constant compression from our ankle up to the cuff, which stopped just below our calf muscles. It felt great, and never moved, though we didn’t try to waterlog them to see what would happen. The 15 felt like it has graduated compression, the main difference being that the cuff reached all the way up onto our calf, covering it by about 4cm (1.5 inches) at the calf’s longest point on the down stroke and about 2cm at the calf’s shortest point. This overlap of the bottom of our calves was a bit distracting. Taller folks probably won’t have this problem.
We don’t know how to evaluate whether the compression element to the socks aids performance. We certainly believe that being comfortable makes us faster, if for no other reason than it reduces distractions. The muscles in our feet and ankles don’t seem so large that compressing them would result in any measurable difference, but perhaps they do. Or perhaps the compression reduces swelling on a hot day, which, in itself, should be a performance benefit. And, with ‘marginal gains’ being all the rage thanks to Bradley Wiggins and British Cycling, compression socks for cycling are worth considering on that possibility alone.
Aesthetically, we’ve often had a problem with long socks for bike riding. Maybe it’s the length of our shorts, maybe it’s the lack of length to our lower legs, or maybe we’re just prisoners of our original days on the bike when short socks were the only option available. For the length of our lower legs, the 15s are a bit too long, both aesthetically and in terms of comfort, with the 12s being about the longest we can probably comfortably wear. Interestingly, the people at Capo told us that the 15 is their hottest selling sock of the moment. We’d suggest trying out the Active Compression 6, but the ‘wisdom of the crowd’ is for the 15.
That written, the simple, bold style of the socks appeals to us. Particularly the turned, vertical lettering of the 15. It’s eye-catching without being overwhelming. The 12’s horizontal stripes remind us of the longer socks worn before we learned to yearn for cycling anklets.