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Northwave's Flash Arctic GTX boots are very good winter all-rounders. They keep your feet warm and – for the most part – dry, and they're well designed and super-visible after dark. You're paying for the privilege, but if you're serious about winter riding you'll get your money's worth out of them.
Once the mercury drops it's your extremities that catch the worst of it, and your feet are often the first to go. Winter overshoes can be effective but also tend to be pretty bulky; these Flash Arctic GTX boots offer similar protection in a more compact package. They look a bit neater, give you more crank clearance, and they're probably a bit more aero if you care about such things.
The boots are waterproof thanks to a Gore-Tex Koala membrane in the main body of the shoe, and a neoprene cuff that also has a membrane layer built in. That also makes the boots fully windproof, which on cold, dry rides is the most important thing. Both windproofing and waterproofing I've found to be excellent; the one proviso here is that on longer wet rides the rain can seep in around the top of the cuff, and once it's in it tends to stick around.
That's true of pretty much any winter boot design – you have to get your foot in and out somehow – and the Flash Arctic GTX boots are certainly better than some I've tried. If you're planning some wet weather epics you can always try the old audax trick of snipping the tops off a pair or rubber dishwashing gloves and fitting them as a kind of skin-tight garter over the top. It's not pretty, but hey, it works.
The outers of the boots are perforated as far as the membrane to help breathability, but realistically your feet getting hot and sweaty is the least of your worries here. You're more likely to be concerned about frostbite in your toes, so I'm happy to report that the Flash Arctic GTX boots are pretty effective at keeping the chills at bay.
The whole of the upper is lined with a low-density fleece, and the footbed is a four-layer aluminium and fleece construction that stops the cold seeping up from cold air under the boot, or road spray if it's wet. With a single pair of merino socks and temperatures hovering around zero, I found that my feet were less cold than with road shoes and neoprene overshoes after a couple of hours.
They're less bulky than a big overshoe too, which means you get a bit more clearance between the shoe and the crank. I have wide feet and often find that a thick overshoe rubs more or less continuously on the crank, which is annoying and not very good for your overshoes or your crank finish, especially when it's wet and gritty. With the Flash Arctic GTX boots I found it easy enough to set them up so they cleared the cranks, with only the odd minor rub when standing up out of the saddle.
In terms of the overall pedalling feel, they're pretty good. High-cuff boots never feel quite as free as shoes, but the neoprene cuff is the more flexible part of the boot and doesn't restrict you that much.
The sole is rated as an 8.0 on Northwave's own stiffness scale, which in the road category starts at 6.0 for the £75 Jet 2 shoe and tops out at 15.0 for its £340 Extreme Pro race slippers. That suggests they're, well, fairly stiff but not too stiff. And they are: they're certainly not race stiff, but they're stiff enough to tackle sharp climbs out of the saddle on the winter fixed bike without feeling sloppy.
The SLW2 dial closure is pretty easy to use, and opens up far enough to make it easy to slide your foot in once you've managed to work yourself past the cuff; Northwave has gone for a one-piece cuff with no closure, which helps to keep water out but is a bit of a faff when you're pulling them on. The SLW2 dial has a dual action release mechanism: push it in to release one click at a time or pull it out to undo in one go. It works well, and the single wire lace adjusts to keep an even pressure on your foot.
In terms of sizing they're fairly generous, perhaps because you might need extra room for thick socks. I was happy in the size 46 boots when I'd normally expect to be a 47. I didn't have any real problems with my heel moving about in the review pair, but if I'd gone for the size I'd normally wear then the extra space might have made it an issue.
Being seen in winter is part of the challenge, so it's great that these boots are covered in very effective reflective panels. The pull tab on the back of the cuff is reflective and there's a V-shaped panel on the heel that's especially good for getting you seen from behind. The upper of the boot is covered in reflective decals which aren't as bright but still catch headlights pretty well. There's a bit of fluoro chucked in for daytime visibility too.
Clearly, forking out over 200 quid is a lot more spendy than just adding some overshoes to your existing footwear repertoire, but if you're going to be committing to some long winter miles then keeping your feet happy is going to be high on your list of priorities, and these Flash Arctic GTX boots are certainly up to that task.
They're more expensive than some of the other options out there – Shimano's RW5, for example – but the performance is good enough that I'd not feel hard done by if it was my bank balance taking the hit. They're among the best-insulated road shoes I've tried, achieving that without being overly bulky or heavy, and the waterproofing is better than most too.
Very good winter road boots that are comfortable and warm without being too restrictive or bulky
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Northwave Flash Arctic GTX Winter Boots
Size tested: 46
Tell us what the product is for
Northwave says, "Flash Artic GTX Northwave's versatile road boot for extreme conditions, designed to deliver comfort, warmth and performance in a winter boot. Constructed from GoreTex's Koala membrane, a winter specific material suitable for temperatures from -10 to +5°C, these boots supply all the warmth and comfort you would expect in these winter conditions.
"The shoes provide a waterproof barrier with excellent thermal insulation and the same outstanding power transfer that Northwave owners have come to expect from their shoes. The addition of the Climaflex collar completes the package as a superb pair of boots to tackle many winter road riding seasons.
"No matter the season, riders just want to focus on pedalling and maximizing their performance with no distractions. Northwave's next generation of winter boots is now one-step closer to riders' needs with the brand new Climaflex collar construction.Free from overlaps and Velcro, the Climaflex collar is designed to deliver unprecedented mobility for riders."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
NRG Air Carbon Reinforced sole with a stiffness index of 8.0
The water- and windproof Gore-Tex® Koala membrane keeps your feet perfectly insulated and warm even in the coldest conditions
Ultra-snug fitting upper with BioMap Aero Overlap construction reduces aerodynamic drag
Extra thermal coating strategically placed on the toe
TPU reinforcement on tip
SLW2 dial: the only one with step-by-step and full release in a single button
The Climaflex collar made of extremely elastic Gore-Tex Rattler® membrane and highly insulating Neoprene delivers unprecedented mobility and protection from the weather
Integrated heel system ensures efficient heel retention
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
Very well put together.
Excellent insulation properties, good waterproofing, comfortable fit.
Holding up nicely.
Well shaped, comfortable and easy to adjust.
I'd say sizing was a touch on the large side, even accounting for big winter socks.
Given the protection on offer, pretty good.
They're not cheap, but given the performance they're worth the money, and you can pay a lot more...
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
Do you wash winter boots? I don't.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Comfortable, warm, pretty waterproof, reflective.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Expensive, quite hard to get on, sized a bit big.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
They're nearer the top end than the bottom, with full membrane winter road boots starting at about £130 and topping out quite a way north of this.
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
Very good: the combination of insulation and waterproofing with fairly low bulk and weight is just what you need from a winter road boot.
About the tester
I usually ride: whatever I'm testing... My best bike is: Kinesis Tripster ATR, Merida Scultura, Dward Design fixed
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, cyclo-cross, commuting, touring, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, mountain biking, Mountain Bike Bog Snorkelling, track
Dave is a founding father of road.cc, having previously worked on Cycling Plus and What Mountain Bike magazines back in the day. He also writes about e-bikes for our sister publication ebiketips. He's won three mountain bike bog snorkelling World Championships, and races at the back of the third cats.