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How to keep your feet warm while cycling in winter

Joseph Delves
16 Nov 2021

Freezing temperatures don't have to result in freezing toes. Find out how to keep yours warm while cycling this winter...

While some riders seem to suffer more than others, if you keep plugging through winter, at some point your feet are bound to get cold.

Luckily there are several things you can do to improve the situation and keep your feet warm while cycling in winter. Some of which won’t even cost you a penny.

Read on for our expert advice and, if you're interested in the science, don't miss our in-depth feature on why your hands and feet get cold when you're cycling

How to keep your feet warm while cycling in winter

1. Overshoes

The traditional way of keeping your feet warm while cycling is to add insulation over the top of them. Cycling overshoes range from lightweight wind-blocking options to heavy-duty models made of waterproof material.

With the benefit of keeping your shoes clean and fresh, if it does really hammer down, they'll probably eventually let some water through, although your feet will still be in far better condition for having worn them.

Just a basic windproof model will help drastically cut the breeze affecting your toes. For colder conditions, look for insulated or neoprene models. Just like the rest of your kit, it pays to spend more for something breathable, as warm, clammy toes can quickly become cold and wet ones.

2. Warmer socks 

Warmer socks might seem like an obvious answer. However, assuming your shoes are already a tight fit, adding bulkier socks could restrict your circulation, and have the opposite effect from the one you were after. One potential answer is to remove the insoles from your shoes to generate more space.

If you can fit them in, thicker socks will normally mean warmer feet. Some people swear by two sets of thin socks. Some even go for water and windproof models.

We like DeFeet Woolie Boolie socks, which have the benefit of staying fresh thanks to their high wool content.

3. Modify your shoes

Take a quick audit of your shoes. Many racing models will have vents on the sole to keep you cool during the summer. To get access to these, pop out the insole. Now employ duct tape or similar to temporarily block them off. This will keep the worst of the wind and rain from getting in via the bottom, and can easily be reversed later.

Mesh panels on the upper part of the shoe can sometimes also be blocked off in this way. You could also try swapping your insoles for winter-specific models like these Lake Winter Thermal Insoles.

Alternatively, if you're not fussy about keeping your shoes pristine, you can fill the mesh with a smear of mastic sealant. Mini 'toe-only' overshoes will also accomplish the same thing and can be left semi-permanently on your shoes over winter.

4. Bigger shoes

Not much use if your current shoes are too small, but next time you replace them, first consider: what socks do you want to ride in? If you're always in summer-weight socklets, great.

If you want to be able to wear thicker socks, you might want to go up half a size. Equally, having your shoes fit too tightly will restrict blood flow. Try slackening off the straps and you might find your feet warm-up of their own accord.

5. Winter-specific shoes

Not all shoes are summer-specific. Heavy winter options include a greater amount of insulation, often along with higher cuffs and some degree of waterproofing.

While there’s a good range of three-bolt road bike pedal-compatible winter shoes out there, switching to mountain bike-style SPD pedals will open up an even greater choice, particularly at the budget end of the market.

For our money, the greater amount of tread on SPD shoes and increased mud-resistance of SPD pedals also makes the system worth investigating for winter use.

Assuming you want to stick with standard road pedals, we don’t think you’ll go far wrong with Fizik’s R5 Artica Winter shoes which feature a waterproof and breathable membrane, high, flexible ankle and foil-lined insoles.

Cleverly, they also size up slightly large, allowing you to fit thicker socks in too.

6. Heated overshoes and insoles

While we’ve not tried them ourselves, there are now plenty of brands that will sell you heated insoles. Popular with skiers and motorbikers, thanks to improved battery technology these could now be a possibility for cyclists too.

Established cycling brand Ekoi also makes a set of heated cycling overshoes that use a flexible element and lithium batteries to keep their interior warm.

Necessarily quite chunky, they work well and could be a good option if you’re habitually unable to retain warmth in your toes.

Claiming to provide a run time of between two and five hours, along with an interior heat of between 25 and 40°C, their effect is easily noticeable. The downside is a chunky design, added weight and reasonably increased cost.

7. Fit mudguards

More precaution than prevention. If your feet get wet, they'll get cold. Fitting mudguards will stop standing water or showers from soaking your shoes, leaving you with more chance of staying warm.

For fitting to a road bike without conventional fittings, we think the SKS Race Blade mudguards shown above are some of the very best you can find.

For bikes with proper mounts, nothing beats a set of full-coverage mudguards.

8. Wrap it up

In desperation having been caught out by a change of weather we've occasionally wrapped plastic bags over our feet. Get them in between a twin set of socks and no one need ever know what a mess you really are.

And you know what? In heavy rain, it works pretty well. Your feet get sweaty and wrinkled, but as the water is trapped against them, they definitely stay warmer.

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