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Do Winter Cycling Shoes Work?

Road bike rider logoQ:  I hate shoe covers because they’re such a pain to get on. Does anyone make insulated winter cycling shoes? Do they work? – Mary P.

Coach Fred Matheny:  Some shoe covers are easy to get on – like the Gore Race Power model that has a full-length hook-and-loop strip on the back. And shoe covers are better than most insulated winter cycling shoes in the wet and cold. However, insulated shoes are a good choice in dry, chilly conditions.

Several companies make winter shoes. Examples from Sidi are the Hydro and Diablo. Many other shoe companies have winter models, too.

For several years, I used Lake’s winter shoes (the precursor of the current Lake MXZ 300). They had a high leather top, lugged sole and worked great down to about 30F degrees (-1C). For colder conditions, I added Pearl Izumi CalienToe toe covers.

Manufacturers often offer winter shoes in an off-road style with a lugged sole. That’s a good choice for sure-footed walking on wet or snowy surfaces. Of course, to use this style you need mountain bike pedals and cleats.

Beware of buying winter shoes online or through a catalog. You need to try them on to be certain of your size. Because of the insulation, the size that fits you perfectly in a standard cycling shoe might be too tight in the winter model. You’ll probably want to wear thicker socks, too.

Winter shoes aren’t stocked by all shops, but give your LBS a try to at least get size guidance for the brands they’re familiar with. A shop may be willing to order your two or three most likely sizes so you can pick the best fit.

During more than 30 years in cycling journalism, Fred Matheny has written hundreds of fitness & training articles for top bike magazines and websites. Many of his best eBooks and eArticles are on sale in the RBR eBookstore. As a rider, he has raced to medals in state and national championships, plus a senior world record in the Team Race Across America. As a coach, he has worked with hundreds of riders at PAC Tour Training Camps, Carpenter/Phinney Bike Camps, and Dirt Camp.

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3 comments to Do Winter Cycling Shoes Work?

  • Tracey

    I chose a pair of women’s Merrrills for winter biking a half size larger. They are gore-tex and waterproof, but need to be sprayed every now and again and they are nice and warm with themal socks and some hotties (toe warmers) when it’s really cold. Even in downpours I don’t get soaked (fenders are a must), but Outdoor Sports places carry gaiters (long and short) for around $20.00 that work great on top of the shoes or short hiking boots. I stay toasty and dry down to -16.

  • Donna Lowe

    I tried for a few years to find winter cycling shoes. The problem is that most manufacturers don’t make shoes small enough – they’ll start the run at size 39, or men’s 7. Northwave makes them smaller, I need a size 37, but they are impossible to get. The local bike stores did try, but there was no stock available in Canada. So I continue to use road style booties, and they are a pain to get on/off.

  • Alexx

    hmm, sounds like advice for people who don’t live in Canada… -1 is warm for us!

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