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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.

Socks

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. 

DeFeet WoolieBoolie Merino socks 1

DeFeet WoolieBoolie Merino socks 1

Socks can either be made from synthetic or naturally occurring fabrics like Merino wool, one of our favourite sock materials.

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.

Moose NordKapp socks

Moose NordKapp socks

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. Here are a few we really like.

Castelli Quindici Soft Sock — £15.99

Castelli Quindici socks

These socks from Castelli aren’t cheap but they are comfortable and provide a good level of insulation for chilly off-season rides.

They’re made mostly from Merino wool – with acrylic, nylon, Lycra and elastic thrown into the mix – and are noticeably warmer than most synthetic socks of a similar weight. Plus, the wool naturally wicks moisture away from your skin to keep your feet feeling fresh when you work up a sweat.

Read our review of the Castelli Quindici socks
Find a Castelli dealer

DeFeet Woolie Boolie 2 — £7.49

DeFeet Woolie Boolie 2 Merino socks

The latest, higher-cuff version of the 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).

Read our review of the DeFeet Woolie Boolie 2 Merino socks
Find a DeFeet dealer

Sealskinz Thin Ankle Length Socks — £31.49

SealSkinz-MTB-Hydrostop-Thin-Ankle-Socks-Waterproof-Socks-Grey-Green-SS16-111162003310-4.jpg

SealSkinz-MTB-Hydrostop-Thin-Ankle-Socks-Waterproof-Socks-Grey-Green-SS16-111162003310-4.jpg

 

Sealskinz Thin 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. They've been rebranded as mountain bike socks, but they still keep out the wet on the road.

Read our review of the Sealskinz Thin Ankle Length Socks
Find a Sealskinz dealer

dhb Professional ASV Merino Thermal Cycle Socks — £12.00

dhb-ASV-Race-Merino-Thermal-Cycle-Sock-Cycling-Socks-Black-Red-AW16-NU0512-2.jpg

dhb-ASV-Race-Merino-Thermal-Cycle-Sock-Cycling-Socks-Black-Red-AW16-NU0512-2.jpg

 

The latest version of some socks we tested and rated highly back in 2011, these are thin enough to fit under your usual cycling shoes without shutting off your circulation, and made from a Merino mix that helps keep you warm at a very good price.

Read our review of the dhb Merino Socks

View the sock review archive

Overshoes

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.

Sportful WS Bootie Reflex

Sportful WS Bootie Reflex

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.

GripGrab Easy On Toe Cover

GripGrab Easy On Toe Cover

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. Let's look at some of our favourites.

Caratti Neoprene Windproof Toe Warmers — £10

Caratti Neoprene Windproof Toe Warmer

Caratti Neoprene Windproof Toe Warmer

These brilliantly simple stretchy toe covers that 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.

Read our review of the Caratti Neoprene Windproof Toe Warmers

B'Twin 700 Aerofit shoe covers — £19.99

These affordable B'Twin Aerofit overshoes are constructed from a 0.3mm neoprene that provides decent insulation on cold days, keeping both the wind and rain out, and they don't have the bulk of some overshoes. And they're half the price of some overshoes.

Read our review of the B'Twin 700 Aerofit shoe covers

SealSkinz Neoprene Halo Overshoes — £26.99

SealSkinz Halo overshoes

SealSkinz Neoprene Halo Overshoes 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.

Read our review of the SealSkinz Neoprene Halo Overshoes
Find a SealSkinz dealer

Northwave H2O Winter Reflective Shoecovers — £26.99

Northwave H20 Winter Shoecover Reflective.jpg

Northwave H20 Winter Shoecover Reflective.jpg

As well as protecting your feet from cold and wet, Northwave's H2O overshoes have plenty of reflective areas. Making your feet glow in headlights is an ideal way to improve visibility to other road users because they are moving at 90rpm. For a piece of kit that is generally used in poor light that's a really good move.

Read our review of the Northwave H2O Winter Reflective Shoe Covers
Find a Northwave dealer

Want more options? See our buyer's guide to overshoes and full archive of reviews of overshoes.

Winter boots

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. There isn't a vast amount of choice in winter boots, so let's take a look at our favourites.

Shimano MW7 Gore-Tex MTB Winter Boots — £122.99

Shimano MW7.jpeg

Shimano MW7.jpeg

The windproof construction, insulated liner, and fleece insole of Shimano's MW7 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.

Read our review of the very similar Shimano MW81 Winter Boots
Find a Shimano dealer

Northwave Extreme Winter Road GTX Boots — £179.99

NorthWave Extreme Road Winter GTX.jpg

NorthWave Extreme Road Winter GTX.jpg

The latest version of these lightweight, fully waterproof and well-insulated boots is very much the luxury option in winter foot protection. We tested and liked the mountain bike version back in 2013 and first impressions of the 2016 version we currently have on test are very favourable. The full price of £230 is a bit ouchy, but if you’re wearing them your feet won’t be, and they can be found quite a bit cheaper.

Read our review of the Northwave Extreme Winter GTX Boots

Find a Northwave dealer

Lake MXZ303 Winter Boots — £188.99

Lake MXZ303

Lake MXZ303

The successor to the broadly similar MXZ302s, these are not strictly road orientated winter cycling boots; they have a two-bolt mountain bike sole. Tackling icy road surfaces with smooth road type soles is a dicey activity anyway, so the rugged Vibram outsole is definitely not a negative feature. The downside of this is that the MXZ303s are only suited to use with SPD cleats rather than road style cleats. Again though, if you’re a multi-cycle household (and let’s face it who isn’t?) then a boot you can pop on for road riding, touring or mountain biking has got to be a good thing, provided you run SPD pedals on all of them.

Read our review of the Lake MXZ302 Winter Boots
Find a Lake dealer

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.

Exo heatsole.jpg

Exo heatsole.jpg

 

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. We found the EXO2 HeatSole with a little searching. A cut-to-fit insole uses a FacRoc heat panel that self-regulates to 45°C. It's powered by small Li-Ion batteries that last up to seven hours. They’re expensive though, at £90.

A bit more searching and we stumbled across these 3M Thinsulate Thermal insoles. The microfibres of the Thinsulate fabric traps warm air and provide insulation. We haven’t tried them though, so we can't comment on how well they work.

Hothands Foot Warmers.jpg

Hothands Foot Warmers.jpg

And another left field solution to cold feet could be Hothands foot warmers. Available from outdoor shops, these self-activating small foot warmers are slim enough to go inside your shoes and provide up to five hours of heat. We’ve only ever used them snowboarding, but we're guessing that they should work on the bike too.

How do you tackle the problem of cold feet? We'd love to hear your tips.

David has worked on the road.cc tech team since July 2012. Previously he was editor of Bikemagic.com and before that staff writer at RCUK. He's a seasoned cyclist of all disciplines, from road to mountain biking, touring to cyclo-cross, he only wishes he had time to ride them all. He's mildly competitive, though he'll never admit it, and is a frequent road racer but is too lazy to do really well. He currently resides in the Cotswolds.

11 comments

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Peowpeowpeowlasers [429 posts] 1 month ago
2 likes

If you want warm feet when cycling in the winter, keep your torso warm.  Then your arms and legs, and finally the extremities.  In that order.

If your torso gets cold then it doesn't matter how many layers of astronaut socks you have on, your feet will get cold too.

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Chez_worldwide [25 posts] 1 month ago
3 likes

+1 for disposable hand/ feet warmers. I got a box of them from Decathlon last year for not much money, and they work a treat. Just slip them into the shoe first and toasty warm tootsies for 3+ hours. Small enough to carry a spare set in the back pocket just in case. Great things.

A quick search reveals 30 pairs of "little hotties" from Amazon for 18 quid.

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tigrolino22 [9 posts] 2 weeks ago
0 likes

Provided you are dressed for the season, the Number 1 to extra protect is then the brain. This is the center of command. When the head gets too cold the brain decides to draw the blood away from the extremities and divert to the the vital organs.

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corski [1 post] 2 weeks ago
5 likes
tigrolino22 wrote:

Provided you are dressed for the season, the Number 1 to extra protect is then the brain. This is the center of command. When the head gets too cold the brain decides to draw the blood away from the extremities and divert to the the vital organs.

 

if what you're saying is correct and many other theories of various parts of the body being cold thus causing the body to shut circulation to extremities are true then explain to me why when I'm riding that my torso can be sweating as well as my head even my hands are warm.....but my feet remain blocks of ice.

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barbarus [330 posts] 5 days ago
0 likes

Any tips on overshoes for people with skinny ankles? I often end up with lots of overlap.

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Leviathan [2269 posts] 5 days ago
0 likes
barbarus wrote:

Any tips on overshoes for people with skinny ankles? I often end up with lots of overlap.

Skinny ankles or hobbit feet?

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barbarus [330 posts] 5 days ago
0 likes

Definitely skinny ankles. No hair on the soles as yet but I will keep an eye out.

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ridein [159 posts] 5 days ago
1 like

I would suggest using shoes one half size larger which will give you more wiggle room for sock layers. A good layer of protection over wool socks is using neoprene socks and/or wearing shoe-covers, but inside the shoe.

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FatBoyW [132 posts] 5 days ago
0 likes

I find that When the weather is  really bad clingfilming the shoe before putting on the overshoes helps. Have to do it after putting the shoe on found it does help a lot.

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bigfatron [26 posts] 3 days ago
1 like

No mention of the silk sock?

I've tried most of the above, as well as plastic bags over your socks and a tinfoil wrap.

I think I need heated shoes, I just have cold feet

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carytb [90 posts] 2 days ago
0 likes

I was out yesterday for about 4 hours in 2/3 degrees and for the first time EVER my feet weren't like blocks of ice, in fact they were actually warm. My normal pair of thick merino socks and my shoes done up unbelievably slack, in fact the overshoes were the thing keeping my shoes on. Also a new sey O Prendas air tunnel or something overshoes, completely windproof and highly breathable. I think that in the past my feet were sweating and then getting frozen. With these overshoes my perception was my feet got nowhere near as damp.