I've been on the hunt for the perfect winter boots for a long time now, and while the new Fizik Artica R5 cycling shoes don't tick every single box they are pretty damn close. Waterproof and toasty warm, they certainly make riding in the winter a much more pleasurable experience.
For me, riding year-round, I've found that keeping my extremities warm is key to having an enjoyable time on the bike. As long as my ears, fingers and, most importantly, feet are toasty it doesn't matter what other clothing faux pas I've made.
I've used various types of overshoe, sandwich bags over the top of my socks, and various takes on winter socks, which have all done the job to various degrees, but the Fiziks are the best 'all round' solution that I've used.
They are basically a double layer shoe. The outer is a waterproof membrane which is impenetrable to rain and road spray; nothing is getting through, whatever the weather. Even the zip is waterproof. Fizik has even avoided putting any vents in the sole of the R5s, so no water can get in here, plus once the cleats are fitted no moisture can get past the screws either.
Water will still get in though the neoprene cuff, as it will with any other shoe, even if it is paired with a form of overshoe. If you are using a mudguard with decent coverage, though, this is kept to an absolute minimum as road spray is kept lower than the ankle of the boot.
One issue with being so good at keeping water out is that when it does get in it takes a while to escape. Things do stay warm, though, no matter what the temperature outside, but make sure you give the shoes a good airing when you get home.
Once dry, the material of the shoes doesn't shrink, so you don't get that tight shoe syndrome going on.
The inner part of the shoe is a snug fit, similar to that of a summer race shoe. Your foot is secured by way of a quick lace system similar to that seen on off-road running shoes. You just pull the cord tight before dragging the toggle down to secure the system. It spreads the load evenly so you don't get any hot spots, and retention is just as secure as any Boa system you might find on the market.
The only downside I'd say is that the toggle is a little bulky, which can make doing the outside zip up a little difficult. You have to jiggle the position a bit to get everything sorted, but once in place it isn't an issue.
When it comes to warmth the R5s are hard to fault. I went out for a two-hour ride before storm Emma hit the south-west and with the Garmin showing -6.8°C my feet were still toasty. Since then, we've seen a second dumping of snow and even walking through a 3ft snow drift with the bike on my shoulder I had no issues with chilly toes.
The insoles, Winter Edition Cycling Insoles to be precise, have a fleece upper and "an insulating aluminum foil underside" – yep, the old tin foil trick – and certainly seem to keep the cold at bay.
As for comfort around the rest of the shoe, on the whole things are very good. They size up well without being tight, allowing some wiggle room for your toes to keep the blood pumping.
The tall cuff takes a little getting used to compared to road shoes and overshoes, as you don't feel like you have the same degree of movement when pedalling, but you soon get used to it.
The sole is a carbon injected composite rather than full carbon fibre like that found on most performance summer race shoes, and this is my main criticism of the R5s. This is a pair of shoes that costs £189.99, and for that I'd expect ultimate performance. Just because it is freezing outside or raining cats and dogs doesn't mean I want to slacken off the pace.
The sole itself is stiffer than Northwave's Flash TF winter shoes I tested a few months ago, but it's still not up to a really hard session. There is some flex which can create hot spots if you are really pushing it, even with the bit of foam padding added to the bottom of the insole.
As for finishing touches, you get a heel and toe bumper to protect the sole plus there is some reflective detailing at the rear. Always a good thing as revolving reflectives certainly help to get you noticed.
When it comes to money they are, like many winter shoes, pricey – especially when you think what you can get for a pair of summer shoes nudging 200 quid.
That said, you save yourself £50 over Northwave's Extreme RR GTX shoes at £239.99, and they are a real step up from the Flash TH winter shoes I mentioned above.
On the whole I think the R5s are one of the best solutions out there if you ride whatever the weather, and while they can be seen as an extravagance compared with summer shoes and overshoes, if you are a commuter for instance I can really see you getting your money's worth in a matter of months.
There's very little to fault other than that less-than-perfect sole for the racers.
Awesome shoes for keeping the water and cold out, though if ultimate stiffness is your thing you might want to look elsewhere
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Fizik Artica R5 Road Shoes
Size tested: 45
Tell us what the product is for
Fizik says, "Artica R5 is the perfect winter road cycling shoe for warmth, comfort, protection and performance riding in even the coldest, wettest conditions. Fully waterproof, easy to fit and featuring advanced insulation properties, Artica R5 beats the elements, yet is a lightweight and stiff high performance shoe.
"The Artica R5's Internal Speed Lacing system makes fitting to your foot shape quick and accurate. Its Microtex Reinforced Shell offers structured support while the Breathable Membrane maximizes airflow. The waterproof outer is easy to clean and the waterproof zip ensures that the worst of the weather stays out.
"The Carbon Composite outsole – light and stiff for maximum power transfer – is combined with the supportive and comfortable fi'zi:k Winter Edition Cycling Insole, which features a cosy fleece upper and an insulating aluminum foil underside, for all-season warmth.
"Like all fi'zi:k's performance road shoes, the Artica R5 benefits from our program of designing with, and for, leading professional racing cyclists to create the best possible shoes for you, whatever the season."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Upper: Waterproof and Breathable Membrane, Microtex Reinforced Shell
Outsole: Rubber Outsole / Carbon Reinforced Midsole
Closure: Internal Speed Lacing system
Insole: fi'zi:k cycling Insole
Sizing is absolutely spot on, I regularly wear a size 45 and these were perfect. Snug enough but still allowing some wiggle room for your toes.
I'd expect a full carbon sole at this price.
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
The outer literally wipes clean.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Great in the cold and the rain.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
I'd like 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
The Fizik Artica R5s are great shoes for winter use if you want to do away with the overshoes and tin foil, but that obviously comes at a price. For this money I'd really expect to see a full-carbon fibre sole too for the performance rider.
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
With 20 years of road cycling and over 150,000 miles in his legs it's safe to say Stu is happiest when on the bike whatever the weather. Since writing his first review for road.cc back in 2009 he has also had a career in engineering including 3D-CAD design and product development, so has a real passion for all of the latest technology coming through in the industry but is also a sucker for a classic steel frame, skinny tyres, rim brakes and a damn good paintjob.
His fascination with gravel bikes is getting out of control too!