Included in this guide:
Getting cold toes on a winter ride can very quickly put a damper on your day because once your feet begin to numb, there isn't a whole lot you can do about it short of ending your ride and heading inside to warm up. Depending on where you live, a shoe-and-overshoe combo might not do the trick, but luckily, the best winter cycling shoes present a better option, specifically designed to keep your feet protected from the elements.
Like other cycling shoes, winter cycling shoes come with varying cleat fitment options, with both three-bolt road cleats and two-bolt mountain bike cleats catered for. They typically come with a mid- or high-top ankle, which provides increased coverage and protection against the rain and wind, as well as any water being sprayed up from your wheels, and most will feature some sort of insulation, waterproof or windproof material - or a combination of all three - to further this protection.
Ultimately, as a result of the increased amount of material, even the best winter cycling shoes can be heavy but for their intended use the weight penalty is a small price to pay when warm, dry feet is the reward.
For many, winter cycling shoes might be considered overkill. How ‘wintery’ your winter riding gets will be the main factor as to whether you might actually need winter cycling shoes at all. If you're fat biking across the frozen tundra in North Dakota, then winter shoes will make you vastly more comfortable and might even save you from frostbite. However, if you're a roadie living in Melbourne, you'll probably get away with wearing your best cycling shoes all year round, adding on a pair of the best cycling overshoes for the cooler days.
Most of us will sit in the middle of those two extremes, so to help you decide whether or not you need winter cycling shoes, head to the bottom for our guide on how to choose. Alternatively, scroll down to see our pick of the best winter cycling shoes available today.
Best winter cycling shoes
Fizik R5 Artica
Best waterproof winter cycling shoes for road riders
Closure: Speedlace, zip | Cleat compatibility: Three-bolt | Sole material: Carbon reinforced nylon | Price: £189.99 / $229.99 / €200.00
Sandwiched between the Microtex exterior shell and the plush fleece-lined interior is a fully waterproof membrane that keeps the rain out but also allows your feet to breathe. There's also a layer of foil insulation to keep the cold from infiltrating the shoe without much bulk.
Underneath the waterproof zipper is a speed lace system that's adjusted with a tug and distributes pressure evenly over your entire foot. With a high ankle cuff, the upper section is made from neoprene and sees a velcro closure to create a rainproof seal.
Fizik's Artica R5 is a winter cycling shoe with a carbon composite sole, though it's not twangy stiff as a carbon plate, it's solid enough for base miles and does well to mute road vibrations too. As a result, it's our pick as the best for road only use.
Winter cycling shoes to prevent slips and falls when riding off the beaten path
Closure: Boa, Velcro | Cleat compatibility: Two-bolt | Sole material: Fibreglass-injected nylon | Price: £195.00 / $195.00 / €TBC
Based out of Bloomington, Minnesota, where temperatures as low as -60F/-51C have occurred during winter, it is safe to say that 45NRTH know a thing or two about riding in the cold.
With a 3/4 height waterproof membrane, the shoes have a rubberised shell to resist water and abrasion, and a neoprene wrap-over ankle gusset to keep your feet warm and dry. Compatible with two-hole cleats only, 45NRTH has used a special 'microglass' rubber compound which uses glass fibres embedded in the rubber to create abrasive protruding shards for purchase on slippery surfaces.
Retention is performed with a single Boa dial, and the wrap-over ankle strap is held in place with velcro, so while the snug fit will be a given, be prepared for this area to lose its secure hold over the years.
The Ragnarok boots feature reflective detailing dotted around the black upper, or for those who regularly ride in low light conditions, a fully reflective version is also available.
Lake CX 145
Highly adjustable winter cycling shoes
Closure: Twin Boa | Cleat compatibility: Two-bolt, three-bolt | Sole material: Fibreglass-injected nylon | Price: £200.00 / $259.99 / €220.14
Made from a mix of waxed canvas and leather, the Lake CX 145 winter cycling shoes also have a waterproof membrane to keep your feet dry. Using two Boa IP1 dials to cinch the shoe tight, including the ankle cuff, adjustments on the fly can be done even with cold fingers.
There are slots for two and three-hole cleats, and the sole is made from Lake's Competition fibreglass injected nylon sole. It's plenty stiff enough for pedalling but does well to absorb buzz and features both heel and toe bumpers.
Beware as with most Lake shoes, these run a bit small, but there are separate lasts for men, women and wide feet.
Warm and comfortable with added visibility
Closure: Speedlace, Velcro | Cleat compatibility: Two-bolt, three-bolt | Sole material: Nylon | Price: £129.99 / $200.00 / €TBC
Shimano's RW5 appears to take a few design cues from the brand's flagship ME7 trail shoes, like using a similar last, speed lace, and cover setup to the MTB kicks. That's where the similarities end though, with the RW5 featuring a Dryshield membrane and fleece liner to stave off the wet and cold.
The sole is compatible with both two and three-bolt shoes, however, it's one of the few that includes the mounting hardware for both. The sole itself is reinforced nylon with a carbon cleat plate providing a bit of stiffness right under the pedal. The sole is vented, however, the waterproof membrane completely encapsulates your foot.
At the top, Shimano has taken extra care to keep even the foulest weather at bay with a neoprene cuff the wraps your ankle like a burrito. With the majority of these shoes being black on black so they don't show as much road grime, the high vis accents are a nice touch, but reflective would be better.
Northwave Celsius R Arctic GTX
Snug-fitting, performance-oriented winter cycling shoes
Closure: SWL2 reel | Cleat compatibility: Two-bolt, three-bolt | Sole material: Carbon reinforced nylon | Price: £209.99 / $279.99 / €206.60
Looking at its Celsius R Arctic GTX winter boot, Northwave is making a statement that keeping your toes toasty and warm should not come at the expense of power transfer and performance. With the brand’s NRG Air Carbon reinforced outsole that rates 8/15 on Northwave’s stiffness scale, and its Arctic 4Layer insole providing heavy-duty thermal insulation, it’s clear that these winter cycling shoes mean business.
The synthetic leather upper and aerodynamic overlap tongue cinches together using the brand’s SLW2 dial, which offers minute adjustments to achieve a precision fit.
Northwave has combined the extreme flexibility of a Gore-Tex Rattler membrane with the superior thermal insulation of Neoprene to create the ankle cuff, though this does make these shoes a bear to wrestle onto your feet, especially if you're late for a group ride.
Sidi Frost Gore 2
Rough and tumble winter kicks for a bit of gravel road versatility
Closure: Tecno-3 dial, Twin Velcro | Cleat compatibility: Two-bolt | Sole material: Nylon | Price: £240.00 / $324.99 / €249.95
The Sidi Frost Gore MTB/gravel shoes look a bit like some of the brand's moto boots. The upper is made from a mix of synthetic leather and microfibre mesh, but don't worry, there's a Gore-Tex membrane underneath to keep the rain from soaking through. With a tall neoprene ankle cuff secured by Velcro at the top, the shoes also feature a Tecno-3 dial over the forefoot and a Velcro strap to cinch the toe box.
The sole is the brands Millennium 5 Carbon Composite sole, which Sidi says allows the plate to provide efficient power transfer and is unaffected by significant temperature gradients. At the back is Sidi's trademark reinforced heel cup to prevent heel lift.
While this shoe comes in a road version too (the Sidi Zero Gore 2), we like the off-road Frost Gore 2 for added versatility, and greatly appreciate the added traction on offer from the aggressive lugs, we just wish they were replaceable.
It does mean you'll need mountain bike pedals, but for a winter commuter or gravel grinder, that's not too big a price to pay for toasty toes.
Gaerne G. Ice Storm GoreTex
A well proven design to keep your toes warm
Closure: Boa IP1 | Cleat compatibility: Three-bolt | Sole material: Carbon reinforced nylon | Price: £229.99 / $279.99 / €247.00
Gaerne's G. Ice Storm GoreTex shoes are available in both MTB and road versions, sharing the same Gore-Tex upper and ankle cuff. The Gore-Tex Duratherm membrane locks the warmth in and the wet out, while the Gore-Tex Rattler ankle collar seals the weather away while remaining flexible enough to pedal. The shoes also feature an aluminium lined insole to help reflect heat back to your feet as you ride.
Up top, the thermal upper is cinched closed using a Boa IP1 dial and a speed lace system, while the carbon composite sole has an 8/12 stiffness rating, offering decent power transfer without creating discomfort after hours on the bike.
How to choose the best winter cycling shoes
When looking to buy the best winter cycling shoes, there will be a number of things you'll need to consider to ensure you get the correct pair for you.
Things such as cleat compatibility, fit, suitability for conditions and ease of adjustment will all come into play to ensure you stave off the winter weather and find pedalling perfection this winter.
How should my winter cycling shoes fit?
Firstly, and most importantly, is to find a shoe that fits. It seems obvious, but bear with us. A shoe that hurts your feet at room temperature is going to be exponentially worse in the cold, so it's absolutely essential to find a pair that fits comfortably.
When investing in a pair of winter cycling shoes, you might be tempted to size up so that you can throw on a second pair of socks underneath, but this should be avoided at all costs. When I was a ski instructor, the bane of my existence was parents whacking two pairs of ski socks on their kid's feet before they stuff them into rental boots in the hope it would make them warmer — the thinking being more layers meant additional warmth. The outer pair of socks would inevitably wrinkle or bind, causing hot spots, cutting off circulation and making for cold feet. The same goes for winter cycling; you're much better off with a single pair of some of the best winter cycling socks.
What's more, the best winter cycling shoes are designed specifically to keep out the colder weather, and as such, there's rarely a need for a second pair of socks anyway. If you think your feet need extra protection over and above that offered by the shoes, add a pair of overshoes.
Should I get road or mountain bike cleats?
Next up is cleat compatibility, which will need to match your pedals.
The best cycling shoes for road cycling are traditionally based around a three-bolt cleat — or four if you swing for Wahoo Speedplay (although they are still three-bolt compatible). These cleats are large, protrude from the sole of the shoe, and while they offer a great amount of stability and power transfer, they feature little in the way of grip for walking.
Meanwhile, mountain bike shoes are based around a two-bolt cleat, which is smaller, more durable, and often recessed into the sole and surrounded by rubber lugs so that walking isn't affected.
When it comes to the best winter cycling shoes, both types are available, and both have their merits, but for most users the balance will swing slightly in favour of soles with a two-bolt cleat interface.
Road shoes can be slippery at the best of times, and we've all had a brown bike shorts moment when trying to walk into a cafe or convenience store. Add in rain, puddles or even snow and that slipperiness gets even worse. So for that reason, even road cyclists might consider mountain bike pedals and cleats on their road bike in winter. That bit of extra rubber on the bottom of your shoes could be the difference between laying flat on your back in the middle of a coffee shop and making it to your table.
Mountain bike cleats also clear the mud, snow and slush you're likely to encounter during the winter months considerably better than road cleats and pedals. These days there aren't many compromises with mountain bike shoes, bar the minor weight penalty. But, if your shoes already have neoprene panels, an extended cuff and insulation, you probably aren't stressing over grams.
However, if you're riding for multiple hours and the only walking will involve walking to the garage and back again at each end of your ride, then the improved pedalling platform of a road cleat will still be the preferred option.
And of course, if you already have a bike with one type of pedal, then the cheaper solution will most likely be sticking with what you have already.
Do I need a carbon fibre sole for winter cycling shoes?
During the winter months, any ride you choose to wear winter cycling shoes is likely going to be where you're commuting, riding for leisure, or logging base miles, not racing criteriums, so a super-stiff sole isn't necessary. Plus, a less rigid sole won't be quite so hard on your feet.
Brands understand this, so for the most part, winter cycling shoes are made with nylon or fibre-reinforced soles. There are carbon-soled winter cycling shoes out there but expect to pay through the nose for a pair.
How tall should my winter cycling shoes be?
Look for riding shoes with an extended ankle and adjustable cuff that will overlap your tights or leg warmers. This gusset needs to fit tight and track your leg as you pedal to help keep cold, rain and road spray from creeping into your boots. If you can, wear your tights over the ankle of your boots, so that any water that lands on the fabric covering your lower legs doesn't just seep downwards into your socks.
Which cycling shoe retention system is best?
Winter cycling shoes come with Boa dials, velcro, and some even have the fast lace system commonly found in MTB shoes. For wet weather riding, we like the fast lace closures, because they usually have a flap that covers the laces adding an extra layer of weather protection, but the preference is yours.
If you find that you regularly return home with frozen fingers, then short of upgrading your gloves, be mindful to choose something that is easy to loosen when you arrive home.
Do I need winter cycling shoes?
Before you add a pair of burly winter kicks to your shopping cart, take a look at what else you're wearing, because if you keep your core warm, your extremities will stay warmer. Make sure you've looked at the best cycling base layers, the best winter cycling jackets, and don't forget to warm your hands with some of the best winter cycling gloves.
Finally, look at your overshoes, are they wind and waterproof? For those that live in an area where wet-weather riding is a given, the best cycling overshoes will feature a waterproof membrane or something made from neoprene for maximum protection and warmth.
If you've ticked these boxes and your feet are still cold, then it's time to look into a pair of the best winter cycling shoes, so click here to browse our pick of the best.
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