Suffer from cold feet when cycling? Here are a few products to keep you warm, including socks, overshoes, winter boots and heated insoles.
Do you feel the cold in your feet on a ride? Unless you have exceptionally good circulation, you’re bound to feel the cold in your feet at some point during the winter. Your feet don’t have to work hard when you’re cycling, and the body can very quickly divert blood away from your toes to other parts of your body that need it more.
And when your feet get so cold that it hurts, there’s no chance of them getting any better until you finish your ride and get home. If you have any hope of putting in the miles over the winter, it’s essential to make sure you can cycle in relative comfort when the mercury is dipping below zero degrees.
Some people don’t have a problem with cold feet at all during the winter, but some people can suffer very badly with painful and numb feet, turning a ride into a miserable experience. I count myself in the latter camp. My circulation is so bad that after just an hour, or even sooner, my feet and hands have had enough. Keeping them warm isn’t easy.
There are many measures you can take to delay the onset of cold toes and feet, so here are a few tips for keeping them warm. We’d like to hear your tips too, so feel free to comment at the bottom of the article.
Your first layer of insulation is the most important, so good socks are vital and a very important investment. There’s a good selection of chunky socks that offer a bit more insulation than thin summer socks. Importantly, they should be thin enough not to squeeze your feet in your shoes.
Cram three pairs of socks into shoes that fit and all of a sudden they don’t fit anymore. Plus, squeezing them in your shoes makes them tight so your circulation suffers, defeating the object.
Socks can either be made from synthetic or naturally occurring fabrics like Merino wool. Merino wool offers very good warmth and insulation and is very comfortable. The addition of synthetic fabrics can give socks better moisture management, keeping your feet drier for longer. Merino has the benefit of not only keeping your feet warm but also being very soft next to the skin, giving a little added luxury.
Winter socks can generally be a little longer than summer ones, providing an increased overlap with tights and overshoes. And as you’ll be wearing them with tights, it really doesn’t matter what they look like or what colour they are.
DeFeet – Innovative, durable and striking, DeFeet are the masters of all things knitted. Their popular Merino Woolie Boolies are extremely comfortable and fairly priced; excellent winter socks. Without doubt, they will keep your feet warm in winter, but they’re definitely thicker than ‘normal’ cycling socks, so you may find them a bit of a jam in your shoes (unless, like many wise cyclists, your winter shoes are a tad bigger than your summer shoes).
Sealskinz – This is a company specialising in fully waterproof, windproof and breathable hand, foot and head accessories. Their Ankle Length Socks use a three-layer merino wool/nylon/elastane sandwich with a waterproof and breathable membrane that will not only keep the cold out, but also keep your feet dry.
The next obvious line of defence is overshoes. As well as keeping cold wind out, overshoes will protect your feet from spray from front wheel and other road muck getting into your shoes. If you can stop the wind and rain getting at your shoes and then your feet, you shouldn’t suffer quite as much.
Overshoes are made from various materials including neoprene and various windproof and waterproof fabrics. Some are general purpose and some are designed specifically to keep out wind or water.
An overshoe needs to fit well, so correct sizing is important. The fewer openings there are on the shoe and around the back, the less cold air can sneak inside.
In extreme conditions, I’ve resorted to wearing two pairs of overshoes. A popular trick is to wear a neoprene toe warmer over the shoe and underneath your overshoes.
SealSkinz Neoprene Halo Overshoes – These shoes incorporate a powerful LED light in the heel, a clever idea that I’m surprised has never been done before. Don’t discount them as being a gimmick, they really do work well and are ideal for regular after dark cyclists.
Caratti Neoprene Windproof Toe Warmer — These brilliantly simple stretchy toe covers are worth a tenner any day of the week. Made from 3mm neoprene these toe covers provide a lot of warmth for heavily vented summer shoes on a chilly ride. You’ve got an upper and a lower section stitched together at shoe sole height which makes for a good fit when they are on the shoe.
The alternative option to wrapping your cycling shoes with overshoes is to invest in some winter boots. Essentially, they are shoes with integrated overshoes. With all the vents closed up and lots of insulating and weather protecting materials, they provide the ultimate protection when the weather turns bad.
If you’re going to spend two or three months cycling through the winter, it does seem ever so slightly mad to do so in shoes that are really designed for the summer.
Shimano MW81 Winter Boots – The windproof construction, insulated liner, and fleece insole of Shimano’s MW81 Winter Boots all really help to keep the heat in. The Gore-Tex liner keeps out water, but your feet don’t get overly sweaty thanks to its breathable properties.
Northwave Extreme GTX winter boots – The latest version of these lightweight, fully waterproof and well-insulated boots is very much the luxury option in winter foot protection.
Heated insoles and inserts
If none of the above is enough, then heated insoles might offer a solution. There aren’t that many cycling brands offering them, though Italian brand Sidi did release a heated insole a couple of years ago, but they’ve since been discontinued.
There is still hope for heated insoles and a look to the outdoors/hiking world reveals a few possible products that could work well in cycling.