While it would be easy to dismiss heated insoles as a gimmick only fit for a dark corner of Kickstarter, these Plus-T +Winter heated insoles have actually managed to impress me and helped me through several sub-zero rides. I'd be highly recommending them if they weren't so ruddy expensive; it's a real shame because I know plenty of cyclists could use a heated insole.
I'll 'fess up, I've got terrible circulation, and it doesn't have to be that cold before it causes severe pain in my extremities. I've been known to cut rides short, and I've finished many rides unable to feel my feet at all. Yeah, I'm a wimp etc... So my hand went straight up in the air when asked for a candidate to test these heated insoles.
Setting them up couldn't be easier. The insoles slotted into my Sidi shoes with no trimming needed, and pairing each sole to the free app on my iPhone via Bluetooth was a cinch and took just a few minutes. You first pair each insole and then it's just a case of setting the desired temperature, putting the phone in your pocket and hitting the road.
And out on the road, the first thing you notice is the extra bulk in the insole just aft of the midfoot. It's not uncomfortable as such, and a couple of hours into the first ride I wasn't really noticing it anymore. I can imagine some people with more particular inner sole setups might struggle with it, and it's something I'd really like to see refined.
But you can live with it. I reckon it's an acceptable compromise to pay for the temperature they deliver to your toes. Rather than use them daily, I saved them for the really cold rides when you're breaking out your deepest winter clothing, doubling up gloves and wearing your thickest jacket, and taking all precautions short of actually being sensible and staying indoors.
The heating element is right at the front of the inner sole so the heat is concentrated where it needs to be, around the toes. The heat that the sole outputs is noticeable but it's not so extreme that it's going to cause discomfort even on the max setting. Instead, the soles emit a nice warming sensation that does actually stave off the cold on the very coldest rides. While it doesn't exactly provide you with toasty tootsies, it does fend off the icicles for a good few hours.
The inner soles are smart enough to adjust the heat automatically once the desired level has been reached, helping to conserve battery life. Battery life is good, too, almost delivering the claimed 3.5 hours. Even on one of my longer rides, after the batteries had both run flat, the soles continued to provide enough warmth that I was reasonably comfortable for the next couple of hours.
Charging the battery is done using a separate wireless charge pod (included) that you place each inner sole onto separately. You can only charge one sole at a time, but you can purchase an additional charging pod for €20 (or see the pre-order deal below).
As well as cold rides, I've ridden them on very wet days and they have coped with a soaking just fine. It's worth adding that you can't use the insoles for running or jumping, which rules out cyclo-cross use, unfortunately.
The app, while mostly intuitive to use, could do with a bit more polish to make it sleeker, with a bit more actual feedback when you've made a change. Also, while the extra weight of the insole is not a problem for winter training rides, I'd prefer a smoother integration of the battery so the difference to regular insoles isn't so pronounced.
I confess I was a little cynical when they first arrived, but I've been pleasantly surprised, and while they're not perfect, they are useful on those coldest of cold days. If, like me, you suffer from poor circulation but you're determined to do long rides in the winter, these might just make a difference.
They are rather expensive at around £120, though, and for typical UK winters, where we might just get a couple of really cold days, it's a tall order to justify the cost. If you're commuting daily then the cost per ride would soon plummet, and I can see them being a boon for those hardy souls who commute year-round in all weathers.
Why are we publishing a review of heated insoles in spring? Because if you like the idea and want some for next winter, you can get money off if you order now. We spoke to Plus-T who told us it had sold out of the insoles this winter, but they will be available again in September, and if you order now you can get €39 off. "On our website people can buy and book the new production and they will receive them next winter: they can do this for another couple of months at the special price of €129, one pair of insoles and two chargers, instead of €159."
The Plus-T +Winter heated insoles are available in sizes from 38 to 46.
Heated insoles that actually work, but the price is mighty
road.cc test report
Make and model: Plus-T +Winter heated insoles
Size tested: 10
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?
+Winter insoles will keep you warm in those long and cold winter days.
+Winter insoles are rechargeable, incredibly light and wafer-thin: simply slot them inside your favourite shoes and turn them on. With our cutting edge technology and an easy to use +t smartphone app you can fully control the perfect temperature and enjoy the most amazing warmth.
In two years of intense development all of our components have been tested and shrunk in order to bring you the thinnest insole on the market: +Winter are no bigger than your average 'non heated' insoles and offer you the best ergonomic fit.
The wireless charging system and the adjustable temperature make +Winter insoles truly easy-to-use, handy in all those situations where your feet get cold and consequently your entire body. With +Winter insoles you will no longer suffer when your toes are freezing on those frosty winter mornings, wearing +Winter will be the ideal to start your day.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
+Winter insoles are designed in Switzerland and made in Italy, not in China: they are manufactured in the North of Italy, in one of the best manufacturing district of the world.
You can check the battery status and set the temperature of both insoles thanks to the latest Bluetooth 4.0 technology through an application that can be downloaded for free from the App Store and Google Play.
There are no wires to connect, just place +Winter inside your shoes and you are ready to go
+Winter batteries are recharged with wireless technology, simply rest the insoles on top of the wireless charger.
They certainly help to keep the cold at bay.
They coped well with repeated use and survived the rain.
They're much heavier than regular insoles but for steady paced winter riding that's not really a problem.
There's a small step where the battery is located and it's noticeable at first, though not uncomfortable, and you soon get used to it.
There's no getting away from it, they're very expensive. If you suffer cold feet and ride regularly in the winter they might be worth the investment. More expensive than overshoes, but cheaper than a smart trainer...
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Delivered reasonably good performance and staved off the cold on the chilliest rides.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Kept the cold at bay.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Expensive and could be more comfortable.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Maybe
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Maybe
Use this box to explain your score
If they weren't so expensive and they were a little more comfortable, these would score higher. For those people who suffer poor circulation for battling cold rides, though, they're a good option.
About the tester
I usually ride: My best bike is:
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, cyclo-cross, commuting, touring, mountain biking
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.