Your road shoes probably aren't made for riding in the cold, and contrary to popular belief, wearing three pairs of thick wool socks won't necessarily keep your feet warm on a big day out in awful conditions, especially once the water creeps in. With this roundup of the best cycling overshoes and winter toe covers, your toes should remain toasty throughout the darkest months of the year.
One of the ways to keep your feet more comfortable is a pair of winter cycling shoes, which are highly insulated shoes explicitly designed to keep the cold and wet out. However, you don't need to invest in dedicated winter footwear to keep your toes toasty during the colder months. Depending on where you live, winter boots might be overkill, and a pair of toe or shoe covers may be just enough to keep your feet warm. You'll be pleasantly surprised at how cold you can go with just a pair of neoprene overshoes.
What to look for
Toe or shoe covers
Just as you may not need full winter boots, full shoe covers might be too warm if you’re just trying to take a bite out of a brisk afternoon. Toe covers, as the name suggests, only cover the toe box of your shoe, ceasing just past the cleat to hold itself in place.
Cycling overshoes, on the other hand, engulf your whole shoe and see a cuff that will continue up the calf - the length of which varies by brand and model. Of course, the further up the leg, the greater the protection against the elements, and with the additional coverage, it should come as no surprise that full overshoes are considerably warmer.
Windproof or waterproof
Are you riding in the UK where there is a constant threat of rain? Or Colorado, where if the road isn’t covered in snow there probably isn't much precipitation to worry about, but the temperature is likely to dip below freezing?
If the threat of wet weather is a constant, look for something made of neoprene. It does well to keep water out for a while, and when moisture inevitably finds its way in, acts like a wetsuit and keeps you warm.
Windproof shoe covers will have an internal membrane and are ideal for taking the bite out of cold winds. Booties with waterproof membranes are available too, but their neoprene cousins are usually a bit warmer.
Waterproof isn’t totally waterproof
Even if you have the best waterproof shoe covers on the market, your feet are still going to get wet in the rain. Water is a sneaky devil and will make its way in through the upper cuff and the cleat and heel openings in the bottom.
The thicker the shoe cover, the warmer it's going to be, but one thing to keep in mind is how much of the bottom of your shoe it covers. Carbon is a terrible insulator which, combined with the metal cleat screws, can radiate cold into your feet and lead to discomfort. Unfortunately, there needs to be holes in the bottom of your cycling overshoes to accommodate the cleat and heel pad, but in most cases, the more of the sole that is covered, the warmer you will be.
Zips and Velcro
Wrestling shoe covers onto your feet can be a workout all on its own, but well-placed zippers can make the process considerably more manageable. Look for a pair of cycling overshoes that feature a pull tab built into the heel to simplify the process. Velcro straps at the top cuff allow you to seal off the opening and help to prolong water ingress, but its effectiveness will eventually deteriorate.
Pearl Izumi Pro Barrier WxB
Waterproof: Yes | Material: Polyester, Polyurethane, Elastane, Polyamide, Rubber
With a combination of 60% Polyester, 16% Polyurethane, 12% Elastane, 10% Polyamide and 2% Rubber, the Pro Barrier WxB overshoes put the right materials where they're needed to keep the warmth in and the rain out.
When water does eventually overcome the membrane or sneak in through the cuff, the fleece-lined interior maintains its warmth.
The toes are rubber reinforced to aid grip and prevent abrasions. At the back, the overshoes feature a two-stage hook and loop closure for a tight fit and to seal the booties closed. This also makes getting them on a breeze.
Waterproof: No | Material: Polyurethane, Polyester
RoS stands for ‘Rain or Shine’, and Castelli designed the RoS Shoe cover to provide warmth, no matter the weather. The exterior fabric is windproof and water-resistant, while the interior is lined with fleece to keep your toes warm and cosy.
There is an extra tall cuff with a silicone gripper to keep water from sneaking in through the top, and a full-length zipper and pull tab on the heel for easy entry and exit. Most of the spray your feet encounter is splashed from your wheels; the seams on the RoS cover have been moved to the outside of the foot, and the inside splash zone sees extra moisture protection.
Gore C5 Windstopper
Waterproof: No | Material: Windstopper
Membrane masters, Gore Bike Wear, has used its own Windstopper fabric over the front panel of the C5 overshoes to keep the frigid winds on the outside, without sacrificing breathability. The rear is made from a lighter weight fabric, and the entire cover is stretchy for a close-to-form fit.
There is a zippered closure up the side, to help you get them on, but be warned they run small, so consider sizing up. Available in black and neon yellow, we’d recommend the black version as cycling overshoes don't stay clean for long.
Sportful Windstopper Reflex 2
Waterproof: No | Material: Windstopper
Borrowing a bit of tech from Gore-Tex, the bulk of Sportful’s Reflex booties is made from Windstopper fabric which cuts through frigid winds and will keep most of the rain out. Don't expect dry feet in a downpour, although even fully waterproof booties can’t achieve this feat.
The Neoprene side and rear panels add a bit of stretch to these booties to help you get them over your shoes, while also offering some water resistance. A zip at the rear packages everything up nicely and is lined with reflective material for added low-light visibility.
VeloToze Toe Cover
Like a swim cap for your toes
Waterproof: Yes | Material: Latex
VeloToze uses natural Latex rubber in the majority of its shoe covers because it's entirely wind and waterproof; the full shoe covers seal the elements out completely.
The toe covers, on the other hand, still allow your feet to breathe a bit, but encase the front of your shoe in a weatherproof barrier. They conform around any shoe and leave the cleat clear.
For true rain-battling winter warriors, a neoprene overshoe paired with a VeloToze Toe Cover is a worthy pairing to increase ingress protection against road spray.
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