Still firmly in the throes of winter as we are, lightweight shoes and ankle socks are a good few months off yet. For those who suffer with the annual discomfort of frozen feet, a pair of dedicated all-weather winter cycling shoes can make a huge difference.
Conceived as a mountain bike boot (only SPD style pedal compatible), but versatile enough for road use with the right pedals, the Pearl Izumi Barrier GTX Boot is similar in purpose to the Lake MXZ302, but fundamentally different in its approach and technology.
The relatively lightweight Barrier (452g for a size 39.5 including cleat) features a Gore-Tex membrane for full waterproofing and uses 200g 3M Thinsulate insulation to keep your tootsies warm. The boot is well-built and rugged, with good reflectivity for after dark and low light riding. The sole is stiff enough for good power transfer, but the hard moulded plastic, even with its improved traction tips is not the grippiest and slips a little on wet and smooth surfaces, so not as confidence inspiring as a Vibram sole in icy conditions. The open tread does shed mud well though, so it’s good for off-road use. The Barriers also come with optional studs, two each for the fronts of the shoe, and a stud spanner.
In wear, the Barrier keeps feet pleasantly warm, even in very cold conditions, while the Gore-Tex breathes sufficiently to keep the worst of any foot moisture from hanging around to cause discomfort. They’re not as breathable as the non-Gore-Tex Lake MXZ302s, but you’re trading that breathability for an inherently waterproof, low maintenance upper.
The Barrier is fairly low on the ankle as boots go, but with a snug neoprene collar, meaning little rain will get in down the top anyway, although socks could soak up excess wet stuff at this point if protruding above the cuff. The Velcro fastening of this collar was one of the minor niggles I had with the design of the Barrier. The design of the collar means that pretty much every time you pull the boot on, the Velcro affixes itself firmly to your socks. Not the end of the world but mildly irritating and potentially expensive if you favour merino socks.
The integral insulated inner bootie fastens with easy pull lacing, which is quick and effective, while the snug zip up front that covers the laces means everything is kept tidy and watertight.
As with other winter shoes/boots, cleat adjustment is somewhat limited by the volume of the boots, but isn’t unduly tricky in this case.
The Barrier GTX’s come in a unisex fit which suited my average feet just fine, in sizes 38-47 (including half sizes). Sizing is on the small side, and the 39.5 was just a touch small for my size 38.5-39 feet with warm but not over-thick socks. I’d have been better off with a size 40 I think.
Capable and warm winter riding footwear that will keep out the worst the weather can throw at you, but at a price.
Grippier Vibram soles would have been preferred, and less vicious Velcro.
road.cc test report
Make and model: Pearl Izumi Barrier GTX Boot
Size tested: 39
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
For all kinds of winter riding. Designed to keep out rain, snow and wind and keep feet warm at all times.
The snug ankle cuff, Gore-Tex and covered front do keep feet dry, while the insulation helps maintain a comfortable temperature no matter how cold outside.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
SELECT Grade Nylon and Composite Fiber sole plate for lightweight stiffness and durability; concave shaping for enhanced plate stiffness and anatomic support; and built in Longitudinal Arch Support for optimal support, power, and efficiency.
•Gore Tex® lining for waterproof protection
•200g 3M Thinsulate® insulation offers maximum warmth
•TPU Toe Cap and Carbonized rubber lugs deliver off-road durability and traction
•Integrated gaiter and water-resistant, zip-up lace cover to keep out unwanted debris
•Internal speed-lacing system for an exact fit
38-47 in 1/2 sizes, 48
Weight: 455g (size 43)
Solidly constructed and built to last several hard winters. Easy to take care of.
Pleasantly warm in use and kept feet dry.
Gore-Tex takes care of itself, meaning little or no maintenance required to keep these waterproof. However, the breathability of Gore-tex does eventually fail with prolonged use, meaning these have a finite life span, especially if you have particularly sweaty feet.
Really light for a fully waterproof winter shoe with thermal properties.
Comfortable, 'suits most' fit, although sizing is on the small side. Go up a size from usual.
These are one hell of an investment, but should last you long enough to pay for themselves. Plus you can't put a price on getting back that lost winter cycling time!
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Great performance. Did just what they were designed to do.
Would have preferred a longer ankle collar to protect socks and a grippier sole for extra traction.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Light and really easy to put on and wear.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Design of ankle collar that means the Velcro grabs your socks.
Height of ankle collar - would have preferred increased protection from weather of longer one.
Non-Vibram hard plastic sole can be slippery in wet and smooth conditions.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Probably
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Anything further to say about the product in conclusion?
A lightweight, warm and protective winter riding shoe for those who like Gore-Tex.
But watch that Velcro!
About the tester
Age: 37 Height: 1.65m Weight: 67kg
I usually ride: My best bike is:
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, touring, general fitness riding, mtb,
Lara has been riding bikes for longer than she'd care to admit, and writing about them nearly as long. Since 2009 she has been working as part of the road.cc review team whilst championing women's cycling on the side, most notably via two years as editor of the, sadly now defunct, UK's first and only women's cycling mag, erm, Women's Cycling.
Believing fervently that cycling will save the world, she wishes that more people would just ride a bike and be pleasant to each other.
She will ride anything with two wheels, occasionally likes to go fast, definitely likes to go far and is always up for a bit of exploring somewhere new and exciting.