The Northwave Celcius R Arctic GTX offers great warmth, effective fastening and decent pedalling performance, but is let down a little by its loose ankle cuff.
- - Impressively warm shoes
- - Simple, effective fastening and on-the-fly adjustment
- - Good low light visibility
- - The ankle cuff doesn't fit closely around the lower leg
- - Getting in and out requires more effort than some
- - Non-replaceable heel and toe bumpers aren't very generous
First of all, some housekeeping. Northwave’s website and that of the UK distributor both refer to these as ‘Arctic’, but the Northwave box they’re supplied in says ‘Artic’. Since the former clearly refers to a polar region, rather than an abbreviated type of lorry, I’m running with it.
And secondly, is it a shoe or a boot? Northwave’s Celcius R Arctic GTX bears some resemblance to the Northwave Flash TH winter shoes, now seemingly replaced by the Magma R Core, but with an ankle-warming cuff added. That cuff is completely flexible, unlike the main shoe, giving a more shoe-like feel, but still looking like a boot. The dictionary definition of boot is a covering of the foot and all, or part of, the leg, and on that basis, it’s definitely a boot.
With that out of the way, let's dive in to see whether the Northwave Celcius R Arctic GTX is worthy of a place on our guide to the best winter cycling shoes.
Design and aesthetics
The Arctic GTX uppers are made with two panels of waterproof microfibre material, which overlap at the front, in lieu of a tongue. It’s cut much like a normal shoe around the ankle and heel, but a tall ankle cover rises from the raw microfibre edges, to significantly increase protection.
What Northwave calls the Easyfit Climaflex collar, is the boot’s non-adjustable opening, which comfortably covers to just above the ankle bones. Made from a combination of Neoprene and a Gore-Tex Rattler membrane, it allows limited sideways stretch and is completely flexible. Generous pull loops are attached at the front and rear of the collar, and anchored deep down inside the uppers for security, as they’re very necessary when putting the boots on.
As well as the Gore-Tex membrane, the shoe itself is lined with a shaggy fleecy fabric, which feels luxurious, and traps a lot of warm air. Arctic 4layer insoles include a microfleece top surface and a foil layer above their perforated base, all aimed at keeping the heat in.
Externally, the shoe has tiny perforations all over for breathability, and a reinforced rubber layer around the toe box to resist scuffing. The rear is well covered with reflective elements, and the NW logo on the outside of each shoe reflects light too. The single rotary dial of Northwave’s proprietary SLW2 (Speed Lace Winch) closure system is neatly positioned, and its fastening lace zig-zags across the overlapped uppers five times before its anchor point.
The sole is Northwave’s NRG Air carbon-reinforced sole, with a stiffness index of eight, although as manufacturers decide on their own stiffness index, and there’s no centralised reference point, this will only be relevant to current Northwave owners. It has a standard three-bolt fixing for cleats, with no fore-aft adjustment, twin slots for two-bolt SPD cleats and minimal alignment markings. There are small plastic walking bumpers on the heel and toe, but neither are replaceable, or generous.
Their construction certainly makes the Arctic GTX a light boot, with our pair of size EU45s weighing in at an impressive 749g.
As an Italian company, Northwave’s shoes have historically been typically narrow, but in recent years, they’ve become more generous. My averagely wide, not slim, feet find Northwave’s road shoes of the past four years a far better fit, and as winter boots - designed for thicker socks and not ultimate performance - the Arctic GTX are even more accommodating.
In my normal size EU45 shoes, with my usual Merino winter socks on, I could tighten the shoes sufficiently, and still have wiggle room around my toes. They’re also made wide enough that I can’t feel the edges of the sole either, something that has been the case with some shoes in the past.
Actually putting the Northwaves on is like pulling on a rather snug pair of Chelsea boots. It’s often easier to insert your toes with the boot rotated 90 degrees, then twist your foot around again while pulling up on both loops. The ankle collar is flexible, but you often need to wriggle your foot, or pull harder to get your heel into the heel cup, but once you do, that’s it. Just rotate the SLW2 dial until comfortable and you’re good to go.
The relative simplicity of putting the Arctic GTX boots on has good and bad points. Once on, there’s nothing else to do, no extra Velcro straps to fasten, and no lengthy laces to stow under a flap. The ankle collar is rigid enough, thanks to the stiffened pull loop attachments at the front and rear, to remain standing upright, but soft and pliable enough to move with your ankle, and not impede it in any way. If you’ve ever found the opening of a winter boot to be too rigid and press into your shin, you may appreciate this aspect.
Conversely, because the ankle collar isn’t adjustable, and has a circumference of a finite size, it can crease a little when the boot is fastened. I only noticed the feeling of a crease once during testing, and with a little adjustment before fastening the boot, it should be avoidable.
However, the other issue is unavoidable, or at least it was for me. The elastic effect around the top of the collar is minimal, which creates a finger-width gap at the front and rear of it, which alternates within each pedal revolution – when the pedal is on the downstroke, the gap is at the front, and vice versa. I’m a 78kg rider who still races, and would say my lower legs are of normal size, but it is still possible that riders with more sizeable legs could completely fill the ankle collar.
The Arctic GTX is an impressively warm shoe, all that shaggy fleece lining makes them feel like a luxurious slipper, but I could feel a definite chill just below the boot’s top. Other riders will most likely have differing experiences, but my winter tights usually end a little higher than my ankles, and are only just overlapped by the ankle collar. Usually this is fine, but here, I could feel cool air on my socks. Wearing tights with an ankle loop helps, but the gap also allows spray to enter, instantly defeating the Gore-Tex protection.
They’re extremely comfortable to ride in, with great sole stiffness, robust uppers and brilliant micro adjustment from the SLW2 lacing system. It’s easy to tighten or loosen by tiny increments while riding as well, something that internally laced boots can’t offer. Foot warmth is very good, even in sub-zero conditions, although that depends on how you respond to cold, and what socks you wear. The boot uppers and ankle collar resist wet conditions very well, but water ingress down the leg is made far easier because of the gap. If your feet do eventually get wet, they will still be warm.
It’s hard to judge breathability, as it varies depending on ride intensity, sock thickness and ambient temperature, but possibly aided by the additional ankle ventilation, I never felt that my feet overheated, even in fairly warm (8C/46F) conditions.
The blue plastic heel and toe walking bumpers do their job, but are fairly thin. The front one in particular is only 3mm tall, and set back a little from the toe, so it doesn’t prevent the front of the sole and uppers from contacting the ground when walking. On boots aimed at winter riding, when stops are almost guaranteed, and walking is likely to be more common, it’s not an area to compromise on.
Once used to the very firm tugs required to put on and remove the Arctic GTX boots, I appreciated their simplicity, and the low-bulk ankle collar is very comfortable. They often feel more like a shoe, because the ankle collar doesn’t grip tightly, and most of the time I wasn’t concerned about the small gaps around it. On the coldest days, or when it was wet though, those gaps were harder to ignore.
If you want decent performance and comfort, with good winter protection, and are willing to accept a little potential ankle bagginess, then the Celcius R Arctic GTX is a solid choice.
Should I buy the Northwave Celcius R Arctic GTX?
Buy it if:
- You appreciate its simple pull-on design
- You think you’ll want to adjust shoe fit on the move
- Night time visibility is important
Don’t buy it if:
- You have slim ankles and are very sensitive to draughts and cold
- You want to keep water at bay for as long as possible
Tech Specs: Northwave Celcius R Arctic GTX
- Price: £214.00 / $279.95 / €199.99 / AU$378.00
- Available colours: Black
- Upper: Microfibre with waterproof Gore-Tex membrane
- Outsole: NRG Air carbon reinforced sole
- Closure: SLW2 closure system
- Weight: 749g (pair, size 45)
- Size availability: 37-49, half sizes from 39.5-45.5
Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1
*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription
Try your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1
Thank you for signing up to Cycling News. You will receive a verification email shortly.
There was a problem. Please refresh the page and try again.