Sealskinz waterproof socks have been around for a while now. They're very popular, for the simple reason that they work. But while they have their fanatical adherents, they're by no means perfect. They're rather stiff and bulky, you have to get the right size or the fit is bad and the feel of the material isn't necessarily something that you want to put your feet in.

These, however, are the all-new Merino Sealskinz. It says something for evolution that, while scientists around the world attempt to conjure up stretchy, warm, breathable, soft and washable fabrics from crude oil, there's a bunch of sheep in New Zealand with the stuff growing on their backs. Merino wool is remarkable stuff, and thankfully it shares few of the less desirable attributes of wool. It doesn't itch, you can wash it without it taking on gnome-like proportions and it doesn't smell.

So Sealskinz have taken Merino wool, combined it with their existing waterproof membrane and made new, softer, stretchier socks. The number of sizes is down to four, and thanks to the extra stretch the fit is a lot better. They're also lovely and soft inside. Mmmm... The new material is also pretty warm in its own right, so with that and the softness we haven't found a need to use an extra pair of thin socks inside.

While the socks are breathable, how efficiently moisture escapes from your feet is limited by your shoes. Don't be surprised if you still get damp feet from condensation if you've got shoes with little venting or lots of plastic. In our book that still beats two feet full of freezing river water - at least condensation is warmer. It's also entirely possible to overtop the Mid socks with enthusiastic river crossings, so if you're into those you may wish to wait for the forthcoming long version...

The Merino socks are still significantly thicker than regular cycling socks, but if you habitually wear thicker socks anyway (and in autumn and winter you probably do) you won't have any problems.

Verdict

The Merino Sealskinz are a substantial improvement over the already-popular originals. They're warmer, the fit is better and they're more comfy. £25 is still quite pricey, and they're still fairly bulky, but if you do a lot of riding in the wet and cold, you'll find them well worthwhile.

Performance: 4/5

Value: 4/5

Overall: 4/5