Buyer’s guide: Overshoes
What to look for in cycling overshoes and six from Castelli, Craft, Bioflex, PRO, GripGrab and BBB
Riding at this time of year is challenging, and wet and frozen feet don't make it any easier. Your feet, right in the line of spray generated by the front wheel (especially without mudguards), can suffer more than any other body part. Overshoes, designed to protect your feet from the weather, are a top investment if you're aiming to ride through the winter, whether you’re a racer or commuter.
Put simply, overshoes are made from a weatherproof fabric designed to sit snugly over your shoes and keep the rain and wind out, preventing your feet from getting wet and cold. They broadly fall into two camps, those that are waterproof and those that are just windproof. Neoprene is a popular material for waterproof overshoes, and have the advantage that when water does finally breach them, your feet don’t freeze - the dampness stays relatively warm in there. Nylon and polyurethane are other popular materials, used sometimes in combination with neoprene, with a waterproof layer to add extra protection.
Overshoes aren’t perfect by any means. Ride in heavy rain and your feet will get wet sooner or later, but you can delay that from happening with good quality overshoes. The biggest chink in their armour is water getting in around the leg openings, soaking down your tights, and through the cleat holes in the sole. Overshoes with good weather protection, including taped seams, a Velcro strip around the ankle, waterproof zips and a taller ankle will delay the onset of wet feet.
Overshoes typically have a rear opening with a zip to seal them up, making pulling them on and off easy. For insulation in really cold weather, you want to keep the soles of your shoes as well covered as possible because a lot of heat can escape there. Some overshoes have much more sole coverage than others – it's something that's worth checking before you splash the cash.
Sizing is very important. It’s always worth trying on overshoes with your own shoes in the shop. Differently designed shoes with various buckles and ratchets can work better with some overshoes. Typically black (to hide all the dirt) though other colours are available, some overshoes have generous reflective details to boost your night-time visibility - some are better suited to commuting for this reason.
As well as keeping the wet out, overshoes provide another layer of insulation, and some have a thicker material to provide more warmth on really cold rides. Generally speaking, the thicker the overshoe, the more it's going to keep the cold out. A trick some cyclists resort to on really awful days is two wear two pairs of overshoes for even more protection, although that will have an effect on flexibility around your ankle.
Toe covers are handy for days when it’s not cold or damp enough for full overshoes. Typically made from neoprene, they're ideal if your shoes are well vented, and are very useful in the autumn. Another use for them, and one we’ll admit to have resorted to on more than a few occasions, is wearing toe covers under overshoes for a double layer of protection.
So, now you know what to look for in overshoes, here are six good examples.
Pro Blaze Overshoe £24.99
Pro’s entry level Blaze strike a near perfect balance between performance and value for money but they’re best saved for the depths of winter as milder conditions can leave feet feeling boiled in the bag.
Bioflex Zero Overshoe £29.99
If you want to keep riding when the elements throw all they can at you, then you'll need a decent weatherproof pair, and this Bioflex Zero Overshoe is very decent for the spring and autumn. These aren't a pair for brutally cold or wet conditions, but when the temperature drops as opposed to plummets or there is a whiff of showers these would be the reach-for overshoes.
Craft Neoprene Bootie £30.00
The Craft Neoprene Bootie is a simple overshoe made from, you guessed it, neoprene, with a full zip rear closure and Velcro tab underfoot. The seams that run down the top of the overshoe and around the toe section are taped for increased waterproofing, while the toe and heel are reinforced with Kevlar to improve durability. The large Craft logos along the side, and the thin strip of reflective material which runs parallel to the zip ensure decent visibility in low light.
The Castelli Diluvio 16 overshoes are warm and a touch taller than usual, and they do a good job of keeping water out. These are made from 3mm thick neoprene that's stretchy enough to pull over your shoes really easily. The neoprene wraps around the sides of your feet and round to the soles with just holes for your cleat and heel, so you get good insulation here.
The GripGrab Hammerhead Winter Overshoes have been rock solid in winter weather with their coated neoprene construction doing an unbelievable job of keeping the weather on the outside, and not in my shoes where it usually ends up after a couple of hours in the wind and rain.
BBB Arctic Duty overshoes £50.00
At first glance you could be forgiven in thinking these are some sort of white water footwear. They're quite thick and rubbery rather than the svelte neoprene jobs we wear in warmer 'cool' weather. These are the wellies of the overshoe world. Not exactly sexy. What they lack in glamour and sophistication they more than make up for in their ability to deflect falling rain, road spray and even deep bow wave trips through flood puddles.
If overshoes aren't enough, there are always winter boots. We'll cover those in a future guide.