Keeping your extremities warm is a must for winter riding and these Northwave Flash TH winter shoes address the issues of chilly toes without the faff of layering up. A distinct lack of vents keeps the wind at bay, although if you're used to a stiff carbon sole on your summer shoes you may find these a little soft for performance riding.
- Pros: Excellent insulation, roomy fit
- Cons: Flexible sole
Northwave has been making their GTX winter boots for a good few years now and these Flash TH shoes are a less extreme version for those who don't necessarily need the full extreme weather protection.
Keeping the icy cool wind out is the main objective here and they do that by removing any form of vent from the upper.
The shoe is designed to encase your foot, so instead of the usual two sections being pulled by the straps, laces or whatever together over a tongue, the Flash TH's wrap over each other before being held in position by a Boa style cable system.
Cable-tightened systems like these are great for getting an even tension spread over the top of your foot so you can get a snug fit without pressure points or hot spots. They are quick and easy to adjust too.
Using Northwave's SLW2 ratchet system, you can have them done up in a matter of seconds just by turning the dial. Each increment of the ratchet pulls or releases 0.7mm of cable so you can ultra-fine-tune them to get that fit spot on.
Undoing the shoe on the fly is a one-finger operation should you need a bit more movement just by pushing down on the silver lever above the dial. One click releases the ratchet one tooth and so on.
Straight out of the box things were a little tight when it came to the ratchet undoing itself and I had to give the dial a little nudge with a finger to get things moving, but after a bit of use things were soon working exactly as they should.
To remove the shoes at the end of the ride, literally pull the lever up while pulling your foot or the upper up and the cable spool spins freely.
Northwave is often quite roomy when it comes to sizing, so they can be a bit 'try before you buy' to get the perfect fit. I own some Northwave mountain bike shoes in a 44 which fit but are a little too snug for winter use; I can't get away with thicker socks, for instance.
In all other shoes I'm a 45, the size I'm testing here, and while the Flash THs felt a little big at first, they soon felt just right. Firstly when it comes to cold weather things like tight gloves or shoes make a real difference to blood flow, often leading to those vulnerable body parts becoming uncomfortably cold, so having some element of movement here is a big bonus. There is also room to wear thicker merino winter socks if the temperature really starts to drop below freezing.
Slop at the heel isn't an issue at all thanks to a grippier Velcro-esque material being used. I've seen it on quite a few shoes but I'd love to see it on more as it really keeps things secure by keeping hold of your sock even when you are really pulling on the up stroke.
Uppers & inners
On the outside the upper's man-made material doesn't feel any thicker than any other shoe (other than those designed specifically for climbing) so you don't get any added bulk which is good: spinning heavy shoes around is something you don't want to be doing.
It's water repellent too, which keeps your feet dry from road spray if the road's already wet when you head out, but obviously if it is actually raining water still enters from your tights as it runs down into the shoe. Once the water is in there, it's staying in there for a while too, until it seeps out around the edge of the insole to escape through the vent/drainage holes in the sole.
That Arctic insole is from Northwave's GTX boots and it is constructed from four layers of thin aluminium and fleece for insulation. It works very well indeed: it's comfortable and nothing is getting through it to chill those toes.
In fact the whole shoe is unbelievably warm. As soon as you start riding your feet don't just stay at the same temperature they actually get warmer. You'll have windchill whipping around other parts of your body as you pedal off into the winter murk, but your feet will feel like you've slipped on your favourite pair of slippers which just happen to have been sat there next to an open fire... mmmmmm.
With standard socks – road.cc of course – I've worn these shoes out when there has been ice on the cars and frost on the verge with no ill effects and as I said earlier you could slip some thicker socks on if the temperature drops further without restricting blood flow.
Glowing reports so far then. And more, literally in fact, as the amount of reflectives on display here are perfect for those dark rides. Spinning shiny feet are great for catching a following driver's eye, so it's great to see the entire heel section being designed to bounce the light beams back.
The NW side logo has also been given the reflective treatment, along with other detailing on both sides of the shoe. Impressive indeed.
The sole is my only real criticism, especially at this price point. For a pair of shoes costing £139.99 I'd like to see a carbon fibre sole like you find on the £120 dhb Aerons.
Here, I found the carbon-reinforced nylon sole on the flexible side, especially when you get out of the saddle or put the power down. And bear in mind Northwave has aimed these at winter training for those type of riders who, like myself, wear carbon-soled shoes throughout the rest of the year.
If you go out for an exceptionally spirited ride this flex can easily lead to hot spots around the cleat area, which is very uncomfortable. Keep things at a more moderate pace though, and I can live with them on rides of four to five hours.
On the whole I like the Flash THs. They are great at what they are designed for: keeping the elements out and making sure your feet remain warm.
Great for keeping your toes warm, and with great amounts of adjustment, but a little flexible
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Northwave Flash TH Winter Shoes
Size tested: 45
Tell us what the product is for
Northwave says, "The Northwave Flash TH Winter Shoes are perfect for the road cyclist who wants to continue training through the winter. Thinsulate® lining keeps feet warm and the snug-fitting Biomap Aero Overlap construction reduces aerodynamic drag.
"The Northwave Flash TH Winter Shoes feature the Arctic GTX footbed with a four-layer aluminium and fleece construction works with the membrane to deliver outstanding warmth and insulation and the extra thermal protection on the toe means no more numb feet ruining your winter training. The NRG Air Carbon Reinforced sole with a stiffness index of 8.0 means you won't sacrifice performance for comfort."
Warm shoes for those chilly rides but could do with a little more stiffness in the soles.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
NRG Air Carbon Reinforced sole with a stiffness index of 8.0
* Ultra-snug fitting upper with BioMap Aero Overlap construction reduces aerodynamic drag
* Thinsulate® 200g insulation for optimum insulation and warmth
* Extra thermal coating strategically placed on the toe
* Abrasion-resistant tip TPU reinforcements
* SLW2 dial: the only one with step-by-step and full release in a single button
* Integrated heel system containing directional fibre prevents any slipping
* The Arctic GTX footbed with a four-layer aluminium and fleece construction works with the membrane to deliver outstanding warmth and insulation
* 360° reflective inserts
Quite roomy for a size 45.
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
A clean with a wet wipe keeps them clean.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Great windproofing, making them ideal for cold rides.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Great at keeping your feet warm.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
I'd prefer a stiffer sole.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your overall score
Warm shoes which allow you to ditch the overshoes in the cold, but if you are after a shoe to replicate your summer race models you might find these a bit flexible. A slightly stiffer sole and these would be an 8.
About the tester
I usually ride: This month's test bike My best bike is: Kinesis Aithein
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: time trialling, commuting, club rides, sportives, fixed/singlespeed
Stu knocked out his first road.cc review back in 2009 and since then he's chucked the best part of seventy test bikes around the West Country, a couple of them quite literally! With three alloy and two steel bikes in his fleet he's definitely a metal man (that'll be the engineering background) but is slowly warming to that modern carbon fibre stuff along with fat tyres & disc brakes.
It's not all nostalgia though, after spending the last few years in product design Stu keeps banging on about how 3D printing is going to be the next big thing and he's a sucker for a beautiful paint job too.