Best Winter Cycling Shoes
As many cyclists know, cycling is an art form and it is one that can be mastered. Any old average Joe can hop on a bike and go for a ride but it takes a true professional to master the craft. Of course, owning the right equipment helps too and today we want to look at a specific piece. In order for you to maximize the efficiency of your ride, you will need a high-quality pair of cycling shoes. However, what happens when the temperatures drop but you still want to ride? Well, that is the true reason that you are here today. You see, engineers around the world have implemented their knowledge and skill to create special footwear that is tailored to winter bikers. And, down below is the information you will be seeking to buy yourself a pair.
In a Hurry? The test winner after 3 hrs of research
Remains comfortable in freezing temperatures
Designed with a Gore-Tex membrane
The membrane guarantees total resistance to abrasion
- NORTHWAVE EXTREME GTX
- XLC WINTER MTB
- NORTHWAVE EXTREME XCM
- LOUIS GARNEAU KLONDIKE
- NORTHWAVE CELSIUS ARTIC
- LAKE MXZ303
- SHIMANO SH-RW500
- LAKE CX145
- 45NRTH JAPANTHER
- FIZIK R5 ARTICA
- Criteria Used for Evaluation
- Expert Interviews & Opinions
- Frequently Asked Questions
OUR TOP PICKS FOR THE BEST WINTER CYCLING SHOES
1. NORTHWAVE EXTREME GTX
Remains comfortable in freezing temperatures
Designed with a Gore-Tex membrane
The membrane guarantees total resistance to abrasion
The tread is made of hard plastic
Northwave is a name that you will certainly be familiar with before this list ends. Their name is plastered all over this technology and it just so happens that their GTX footwear tops the list.Read more
Thanks to the double Boa closure system, it is much easier to achieve a perfect fit. In addition to this, this is also designed with an additional Velcro strap.
First off, this is equipped with a Gore-Tex membrane and this allows for excellent heat insulation. Additionally, this is built with double shield construction for even more protection against the cold.
The same Gore-Tex membrane that enhances the insulation also makes the core of this shoe waterproof. That is the true beauty of Gore-Tex.
Even though the Speedlight 3D outsole is equipped with nylon and carbon fiber to obtain efficient pedaling, the tread is made of hard plastic and this does not provide much grip on hard surfaces.
In addition to the high-quality materials that have been integrated, the membrane also virtually guarantees that abrasions will not occur.
Can you see why this is the best of the best? In nearly every area, this excels. If the tread was rubber instead of hard plastic, though, it would have been even better (somehow).
2. XLC WINTER MTB
Sports a rigid sole
Designed with a waterproof coating
Provides a very stiff ride
Tends to run small
This entry is a perfect example showing that this type of footwear is not exactly cheap. However, you are paying for the quality and the performance and that is on full display here.Read more
The lace-up closure system is quite nice here. With that said, one buyer did note that the fit of this shoe was on the small side. You may want to order a size larger, as a result.
For optimal thermal insulation, this has been outfitted with Lycra and also a waterproof coating of polyurethane. Also, the interior is padded for further insulation.
As you probably guessed, the waterproof polyurethane coating adds a layer of waterproofness to this shoe.
Arguably the most impressive aspect of this design is the sole. First off, it is comprised of both nylon and fiberglass and is extremely rugged. Secondly, and most importantly, is sports bolt-on TPU studs for even more grip.
Really, when you want to point to the longevity of this shoe, just look at the materials. High-quality nylon, fiberglass, fleece and polyurethane are just some of the materials utilized.
A lot of money will need to be forked over to buy this model but, as mentioned, this is going to be worth every penny for serious winter biking enthusiasts.
3. NORTHWAVE EXTREME XCM
Includes abrasion-resistant rubber reinforcements
Sports a waterproof and windproof Gore-Tex membrane
Designed with ultralight materials
Can be difficult to put on due to the closure system
This is another great example of Northwave’s brilliance as their XCM GTX shoe is not only perfectly insulated but it is also waterproof thanks to its Gore-Tex membrane.Read more
Due to the SLW2 dial instead of a Boa system, it can be a little tougher to put this shoe on. And, this has been a common complain amongst the buyers who have tried it.
Let’s just say this is going to keep your toes warm. It is outfitted with a windproof Gore-Tex membrane, four-layer aluminum and fleece construction, and also extra thermal coating that has been strategically placed on the toe.
As alluded to, this does implement a Gore-Tex membrane and that means that you can expect it to wick away sweat and keep your toes dry.
Thanks to the triple-density Speedlight 3D carbon sole that has been integrated, you can rest easy knowing that you will be provided with a stiff cycling shoe.
To enhance the longevity, Northwave designed their XCM GTX with rubber reinforcements and this is going to make it harder for abrasions to develop.
Although it can take some time to get accustomed to the lacing system of the XCM GTX, once you do, you will never look back as this is one of the best offerings on the market.
4. LOUIS GARNEAU KLONDIKE
The neoprene cuff adds warmth
Designed with rubber soles
The included hook allows for gaiters to be attached
There is no mention of the water resistance
In addition to the fact that the Klondike sports superb insulation to keep you warm in freezing temperatures, it also implements the world famous Boa quick attachment system for easy adjustments on the fly.Read more
As alluded to, this does implement the Boa quick attachment system. Not only does this reduce pressure point to enhance the fit but it also is extremely easy to use on the go.
Thanks to the triple-layered insole (which sports 400 grams of Thinsulate insulation) and the neoprene cuff that traps in the warm air, your toes will not be left cold in frigid climates.
There is actually no mention of the water resistance of this model by the designer. The neoprene cuff does stay snug against your skin but you may not want to submerge the Klondike.
Rest assured that the Klondike does feature a sole that is adapted for the winter. It sports rubber lugs instead of hard plastic and this enhances the traction you get in the snow (when you do need to walk).
The upper of this shoe is crafted of Cordura 1680-denier fabric and it is safe to say that it is both durable and highly resistant to abrasions. The rest of the design holds up very well, also.
It is hard to not admire the design at play here. The Klondike is an extremely durable, highly insulated and ideally fitted shoe that will work for just about anyone and everyone.
5. NORTHWAVE CELSIUS ARTIC
Sports anti-slip rubber on the heel
The provided insulation is superb
Designed with a Gore-Tex membrane
The lacing system can be awkward to use
One user noted the fit was narrow
Hey, would you look at that it is Northwave again? To nobody’s surprise, they appear one more time on this list but the thing about their Celsius Artic GTX is it can be tricky to get the right size.Read more
While one buyer noted that the speed lace system can be awkward to use, another complained about the narrow fit. It is safe to say the fitting is far from perfect here.
The synthetic upper is just one of the features that allow this shoe to retain its heat. To give you an idea of how much warmth this provides, one buyer claimed they would not want to wear it in temperatures beyond 45 degrees.
One way to tell that this is top-notch is that a Gore-Tex membrane was implemented. Besides shedding water and enhances the waterproofness, it also provides ideal wind protection.
The rubber sole with integrated lugs provides you with secure footing anywhere that you go.
By now, you should be familiar with the fact that Northwave designs high-quality winter cycling shoes. This is no different with its durable synthetic upper and long-lasting Gore-Tex core.
Other top-end options on the market do possess better fitting than this bad boy but everything else is elite. That will be a reasonable compromise for most of you (given you can still achieve a solid fit).
6. LAKE MXZ303
Designed to be extra wide
Sports a rugged and durable Vibram sole
Includes 3M Thinsulate insulation
Several users claim that the fit is not exactly wide
Right here is another manufacturer that has gotten their feet wet with this technology. They have released quite a few superb winter cycling shoes but their MXZ303 could be their best.Read more
Here is what is interesting. Lake specifies that they specially designed their MXZ303 to accommodate for wide feet. Yet, numerous buyers have reported that, in spite of this, the shoe still fits normally and is not wide at all.
In both the insole and the toe box, there is 3M Thinsulate insulation present to keep your toes warm. Additionally, both the heel and the tongue are lined with Outlast heat-reflective technology.
With waterproof and windproof flaps at the ankle, it enhances the waterproofness just a bit.
Lake outfitted their model with a rugged Vibram sole. In the instance where you need to chug through some snow, this provides an enhanced grip.
Let’s just say that this is not cheaply made. The Vibram sole is a great example as this is a sole that has garnered a reputation for its durability and longevity.
Even though the “wide” claim of this shoe appears to be vastly exaggerated, everything else is tremendous including its outsole, insulation, and durability.
7. SHIMANO SH-RW500
Designed with reflective elements for maximum visibility
Outfitted to accept both SPD and SPD-SL cleats
Sports DryShield technology
The cuff around the ankle is a bit short
Water will probably seep through the ankle
Shimano is another designer that deserves some love and even though their model right here is not flawless, it is pretty impressive with quality features at every turn.Read more
Shimano incorporated a speed lacing system with their model and it makes for fast and easy adjustments. Also, while the ankle cuff is a bit short, it does sport Velcro for custom fitting.
Not only does the fleece liner keep all of your toes nice and cozy, but the DryShield membrane also keeps water at bay and enhances the heat retention properties.
Now, even though the aforementioned DryShield technology is going to prevent water from seeping through the core of the SH-RW500, water can still seep through the top ankle cuff.
What is nice about the design of the outsole is it is going to allow for both SPD and SPD-SL cleats. Either way, the pedaling efficiency provided by the Dynalast outsole is fantastic.
You can take great comfort in knowing that Shimano designed their model with premium materials.
If you are scoring this based on points, it scores high in every area besides the ankle cuff. This is the lone issue, really, with the entire design (which is not too shabby, all things considered).
8. LAKE CX145
It is very stiff for efficient pedaling
Your foot is held securely in place
It is equipped with a waterproof membrane
One reviewer claimed it struggled to keep them warm
This is a bit of a unique model in that it is designed with a waxed canvas upper. Additionally, it does sport a waterproof membrane that will keep your toes dry under most conditions.Read more
As with most of Lake’s models, the CX145 does seem to run on the small side. One nice feature, looking past this, is the precise fitting toe box as this prevents slippage.
In theory, this should keep you warm because of the waxed canvas upper and leather construction. Yet, one specific reviewer documented that this could not keep their toes warm for more than an hour or so.
Due to the waterproof core that was alluded to earlier, this will protect you from water. Be aware, though, that they will not handle full submersion very well.
The sole that is included is made of fiberglass-injected nylon and it provides suitable stiffness for your rides. Additionally, it accepts 2-bolt Mountain and 3-bolt road cleats.
Whether you want to look at the fiberglass-injected nylon sole or the waxed canvas and leather upper, the quality of the materials is there and that should result in superb longevity.
In a way, this can be tough to summarize. Sometimes, it is hard to base your purchase on the opinions of one or two reviewers. But, as great as this is, there are documented issues with its provided warmth.
9. RTH JAPANTHER
Designed with a waterproof membrane
The outsole delivers superb traction
Optimized with a roomier forefoot
The insulation could be enhanced
The zipper can cause durability issues
This right here is sort of an off-the-wall pick that you may or may not have ever heard of. One thing is for sure, though, you soon will never forget the name "Japanther".Read more
What is so unique about this shoe is the fact that it was designed with the purpose of fitting like a normal summer bike shoe. Also, it is optimized with a roomier forefoot.
If your pace slows down while you are biking then your toes will probably get a bit cold with these on. However, while pedaling, the warmth is definitely delivered.
Arguably the best aspect of this design is the waterproof membrane. Not only that but this combines with a rubberized shell that extends above the ankle. Let’s just say snow is not going to be an issue for you.
Thanks to the built-in lugs on this outsole, your grip is enhanced. Of course, this outsole is also going to accept two-bolt cleats, so keep that in mind.
Though the entirety of this design is high-quality, the zipper can be problematic. If you are not careful, the pressure from the upper can cause the zipper to break.
For a relatively unknown cycling shoe, the Japanther is pretty impressive, to be honest. Sure, there are better options out there but this is still an excellent way to cap off this list.
10. FIZIK R5 ARTICA
The breathable membrane prevents overheating
Features a fleece upper for increased heat retention
The internal lacing system is very easy to use
One buyer noted the zipper stopped working
At the end of the day, the R5 Artica has everything that you look for in a winter cycling shoe. It is another expensive option but, at this point, it is about what you expect.Read more
According to a previous buyer, the R5 Artica runs large. So, you may want to consider ordering a size down. As for the closure system, this implements a speed lacing system.
For the record, this is the winter edition of this shoe and it comes with a special insole. Also, this sports a fleece upper with an aluminum foil underside which provides insulation.
While Gore-Tex is not the fabric that was used here, Fizik did integrate a Microtex-reinforced shell. Yes, this is waterproof and it is also breathable to prevent overheating.
The carbon-reinforced nylon sole is as optimal as it gets. It is both stiff and light to ensure maximum power transfer when you are pedaling.
Unfortunately, there was a previous buyer who documented their issues with the zipper. They claimed, at the time of their review, that they were already on their second pair because the zipper broke.
As a precaution, you should be careful with the zipper if you go with this model. But, given the impressive insulation capabilities and outsole, this will be a wise choice for anyone.
Criteria Used for Evaluation
Not only does the fit need to be perfect for you but you need to also pick the lacing system you desire.
It literally is irrelevant what type of footwear you are in the market for, the way it fits your feet is going to be the most crucial factor. And, indeed, that is 100 percent the case here. But, for winter cycling shoes, it is going to be crucial to analyze the lacing system in addition to the way the pair actually fits you. To begin, let’s start with the latter. It may surprise you a little but a good pair of cycling shoes should fit much as your daily sneakers should. So, this means your heel needs to be snug and your toes need to have a little breathing room at the end. Additionally, your foot should be stable and should not be moving around freely (but also not too tight where circulation is cut off).
However, the lacing system is also very important. A very popular one, in fact, is the Boa closure system. Even though each Boa system can be custom designed, each one will sport three integral parts that will allow you to achieve an optimized fit with great efficiency. Of course, there are others like a speed lacing system. As the name implies, this system is designed to allow users to quickly and effortlessly adjust the fit.
Since these are winter models, you will need to look for options that implement an ideal amount of insulation and warmth.
Generic cycling shoes are not going to be optimized for winter weather. However, designers have gone out of their way to design models that specifically do. But, in order for this to be possible, engineers need to implement certain features to ensure that their model is not only heavily insulated but also protected. To make this as easy as possible, let’s break down the different areas and technologies you should look for. For starters, it is appropriate to start with the membrane. While this is not a mandatory technology, it is never a bad idea to look out for Gore-Tex. In addition to its waterproofness, it adds much-needed insulation.
Speaking of insulation, this is absolutely critical. Common insulation that designers will implement is known as Thinsulate. This is a very popular insulation and for good reason, as it retains heat efficiently. Of course, the gram-count will dictate just how warm the shoe is going to be so look out for that. Also, keep an eye out for heat-reflective technology. If the interior is lined with this technology, your body warmth will be reflected and it will enhance the warmth overall. Oh, and also ensure that the model you buy has neoprene cuffs as hot air will not escape as a result.
Most models will be somewhat waterproof and this can come in handy during snowfall.
The reality of the situation is it is preferred if you never need to worry about the waterproofness of your cycling shoes. Because this footwear is not exactly for walking, you will probably not be submerging them very often. But, do remember that snow melts and if you need to walk through snow, your feet will get wet if the shoes are not waterproof. Now, even though there are some design implementations that you can look out for (which will be detailed shortly), most models will not be 100 percent waterproof. In other words, you will not be able to fully submerge most of them (which should not be too big of a deal).
With all that being said, it is never a bad idea to prioritize certain features that will, at the very least, create a somewhat waterproof (or water-resistant) core. One of those features has already been alluded to and that is a Gore-Tex membrane. Waterproofness is what Gore-Tex is known for the most so this makes sense. Furthermore, look for waterproof coatings (such as polyurethane) in the interior.
This is where the cleat-compatibility and overall design of the outsole come into play.
For a standard shoe, you would typically look for an outsole that offers traction and that’s about it. Yet, that could not be farther from the truth here. You see, cycling shoes are unique in the fact that they can improve your pedaling experience (which is the main reason for buying them). At the same time, however, they are not exactly optimized for walking. There are different types available, though, with two of them being road shoes and mountain bike shoes (MTB). The former are specially designed for outdoor use and are compatible with LOOK Delta cleats and the latter can be used both indoors and outdoors and are compatible with SPD cleats. Also, the actual sole (which is the bottom-most layer of a shoe) should provide traction. Vibram soles specifically come to mind and work great for cycling shoes.
Now, you need to also be aware that cleats are not going to come with your purchase. But, if you want to physically attach your new pair of shoes to your pedals then you will need compatible cleats (which will be touched on later).
Though these will not wear as quickly as other footwear, it is still optimal to look for high-quality materials.
You may be asking why the durability is so far down on this guide. Now, it is not due to the fact that it does not matter as much as it usually does. Instead, it is simply due to the designed purpose of winter cycling shoes. Because they are not designed for running and walking and do not need to withstand the abuse of such activities, there is less chance for them to wear down quickly.
Do not assume with that rhetoric, however, that any cycling shoes you buy will last you years on end. As always, the materials that are utilized is going to dictate a lot. It is pretty simple; if higher quality materials are used for construction, the construction is going to last longer. Keep this in mind and if you see materials such as fiberglass, nylon, Gore-Tex, and even Vibram soles, you know the durability should be ideal.
Expert Interviews & Opinions
If you anything about buying footwear then it really should not be too much of a surprise that the fitting is one of the most important criterions. No matter how great a model might be if it does not fit you properly, what is the point of wearing it? Additionally, you will also want to keep a close eye on the lacing system. You may need to make adjustments on the fly, after all.
This is where winter cycling shoes stand apart from just simply ordinary footwear that is optimized for bike riding. In order for any footwear to be suitable for winter use, to be honest, it is going to need to keep your feet warm. To achieve this, designers will need to implement a suitable amount of insulation and protection from the cold and chilling air. This is especially vital if you plan to bike in frigid climates.
Now, you could make a strong claim for either the water resistance or the outsole being in this last spot. But, because the shoes you buy need to be optimized for winter riding, it means snow is going to be a factor. If it starts snowing or even if you have to walk through a bit of snow, having a pair of cycling shoes on that is at least somewhat waterproof will be ideal.
Frequently Asked Questions
q: What is the purpose?
The answer to this question has been alluded to a few times in this guide. But, it seemed appropriate to reserve a section to pinpoint the exact reasons why you would want a pair of winter cycling shoes, in the first place. In regard to why you would want a pair for the winter, this one is easy. Normal models will not keep your feet warm and these types will. As for why you would want cycling shoes, to begin with, they can make your biking experience more efficient and safer. This is because they are optimized for biking and biking alone.
q: Will they stretch?
If you do happen to buy a pair of these shoes that do not fit your feet right (and is tight, in particular), then you may be wondering if they can be stretched. It sure would be nice if this was the case but, nine times out of ten, you will not have much success in attempting to do so. Sure, you could probably stretch out the width a little bit but if you are aiming for something substantial, you should probably opt for a larger size. Over time, the length is not going to drastically change.
q: Will they fit all types of cleats?
One of the reasons why it can be complicated to buy a pair of cycling shoes is because you also need to keep in mind what cleats you will be using. You see, the cleats you will be using need to be compatible with the shoes that you end up buying. As was mentioned earlier, there are different types of soles and some will be drilled to accept three-hole cleats while others only two holes. This becomes important because models that are drilled to accept two-hole cleats can’t be modified to fit a three-hole cleat.
q: When is it time to replace your pair?
One of the advantages that this footwear has over others (such as running or walking shoes) is that they are not going to wear down that quickly. This was briefly documented earlier, also. But, they are not going to last forever, right? Considering nothing lasts forever, except paying taxes, you will need to replace them eventually. However, honestly, you will probably need to replace the cleats more often than not. The more you clip them in and out, the more the cleats are going to wear down. So, if you bike frequently, then consider replacing your cleats every year.
q: How do you clean a pair?
Right from the get-go, it is worth mentioning that it will always be wise to reference the seller’s care instructions to see how they recommend washing their model. While a washing machine could be a solution, you may want to avoid it as this can be quite harsh. A good, and extremely convenient, manner instead is to use baby wipes. While this can require some elbow grease on your part, this allows you to clean your pair without exposing them to excess moisture.
q: What about drying?
Alright, so now that you have washed your pair, how do you go about drying? A tried and true formula (and one that you have probably either heard of or implemented) is to stuff the shoes with newspaper. This is going to absorb the moisture that is present and if left overnight will result in dry footwear. Another option is to simply leave them out overnight in a highly ventilated area (away from a direct heat source or sunlight). Oh, and avoid using the dryer at all costs to err on the side of caution.