The Wölvhammer Boa Premium Insulated Winter Cycling Boot from 45NRTH is a fabulously warm and comfortable way to survive the worst possible British winter. The dual-boot construction and large Boa dial make for a premium extreme-cold-weather experience.
45NRTH is based in Minnesota, where winter temperatures can hit -40°C – before wind chill. The company specialises in super-cold-weather riding clothing and tyres, the Wölvhammer boot being its mid-range design, rated to -18°C. The even more expensive Wolfgar boot with two Boa dials is rated to -31°C.
Now I accept there's an argument that a boot like the Wölvhammer is overkill for a British winter, but I live in the Scottish Highlands and we have had snow on the ground here pretty much for the last two months. Certainly over the high ground near where I ride. And where there wasn't snow, there was ice.
Prior to trying the Wölvhammers, my winter cycling footwear was a pair of oversized mountain bike flat shoes and two pairs of merino waterproof socks – but the inevitable soaking meant that rides longer than an hour got pretty miserable, pretty fast. And then the shoes took days to dry out. So a boot that promises luxurious warmth and waterproofness, that would make daily rides an experience to be looked forward to not dreaded, has great appeal.
The Wölvhammer is a pretty hefty beast. Weighing a kilo each and resembling a snowboard boot with clear mountaineering DNA, these mean business. A major reason for the size and heft is that there's actually a removable quilted liner boot inside, made of Primaloft, with a long, separate tongue so you can pack it all in around your foot snugly. The top half is lined with fluffyness too. The inner is shaped to fit the contours of the outer boot perfectly, so when on it feels like one piece.
The outer boot is properly technical. Standing 9 inches tall, the tongue is attached up to 6 inches high – so you can stand in a deep puddle or stream and be OK. The sole is a mixture of rubber tread blocks and inserts of 'anti-slip microglass'. The grip when walking is good, but putting a foot down on ice you still need to take care – spiked these are not. You can't fit studs to them either – possibly an omission, but then I'm not sure studs will help much in snow or ice.
There's a removable plate covering a Shimano-compatible SPD cleat attachment area, with just 20mm of fore-aft position choice on what is a pretty aggressively forward position to begin with. Given how badly SPDs handle snow, I can't see many people opting to use cleats. After one ride where clipping back in was impossible I stuck with my go-to mountain bike platform pedals and had no issues at all with grip and shifting my feet around. Surprise surprise, 45NRTH recommends using its own-brand pedals.
If you aren't riding in snow, just bitterly cold weather, using SPDs should be fine. As you can see from the photos, the cleat is closer to the inside edge of the boot, with about 50mm between the centreline of the cleat fixing and the edge.
The Boa dial is well positioned on the tongue to allow you to crank down hard, and you'll need to, to get the fit right. After some trial and error I learned how to overlap the inner boot/tongue, then pack the outer boot's tongue down, then tighten as much as possible, then stand, lean my knees forward with feet flat on the ground to further flex things, then retighten. Doing this I was then fine for hours of riding/walking, and didn't need to re-tension.
The dial is large enough that retightening is easy even with thick gloves on regardless. 45NRTH's website is a mixed bag of feedback on the Boa, after it changed the design from laces a few years back. With practice I didn't find the Boa to be an issue. I wore them around the house for half a day and didn't notice any discomfort apart from my wife's pained looks at the floors.
Looks-wise there's a reflective patch on the heel, and about 50 small holes on the outside backed with reflective material to aid visibility. Given their bulk, the Wölvhammers would look pretty silly matched with shorts – I ride in a pair of Endura MT500 insulated mountain bike pants, and with the cuffs unzipped they slip over the Wölvhammers perfectly. You could also wear a pair of boot gaiters if you wanted extra protection against water spray/snow/mud/sticks, as there's a metal loop at the front of the tongue for the gaiter clip.
My first ride was into -5°C, on every pedal stroke my toes battering through the sides of the six-inch-deep frozen-solid snow trench left by 4x4s on the estate tracks. I wore a single pair of thick knee-length socks and my feet were perfectly warm and comfortable. I was able to walk and pedal freely, and didn't feel the need to adjust the Boa or liner boot over the two hours of riding. I was also able to drive to and from the ride just fine. The grip was good walking in firm/icy snow, but slick ice still needed good care.
Over the following weeks I rode every few days for an hour or two, in temperatures as low as -13°C. Adding in windchill that makes for about -25 equivalent, all with a single sock layer and not a hint of cold in the toes.
It's unlikely you'll sweat much in the temperatures the Wölvhammer is designed for, but if you do get wet the removable liner boot will make drying out and putting back on the next day a lot more pleasant.
You need to pay close attention to the sizing process and the type of sock you will wear. I normally wear an EU 45 shoe, but wore a 47 Wölvhammer with a thick single sock, giving plenty of wiggle-room for the toes. 45NRTH has a webpage dedicated to getting your fit right, including how to trace out and measure your feet in your chosen socks, then put into a calculator to predict your best-fit sizing.
In terms of competition, the only winter cycling boot that really comes close is the Lake MXZ304 – another single-Boa boot for just a tenner less at rrp. I haven't worn these (Lara tested the 302s back in 2015) but online comparison reviews are favourable, tending toward the Wölvhammer for overall value as it has the removable liner and is rated to lower temperatures. The Lakes are more readily available in the UK than the Wölvhammers.
Overall, I'm sold on the Wölvhammers. They turn sub-zero rides into experiences to be anticipated, not dreaded. If you live someplace where snow/ice is common, these will keep you riding year-round, especially when paired with studded tyres. Yes, they are £275 – there's no getting away from that – but given how over-engineered they are and that you're only likely to need them in winter months for shorter rides, they are likely to last you many, many years. If you suffer with cold feet, like I do, the Wölvhammers will give you back months of cycling fun.
Pretty much the last word in extreme cold-weather cycling footwear, with great features
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road.cc test report
Make and model: 45NRTH Wolvhammer Boa Premium Insulated Winter Cycling Boot
Size tested: 47
Tell us what the product is for
They are for people wanting to ride in serious cold, wet weather and still have happy feet.
Originating from the conceptual standpoint of a mountaineering boot, the new and evolved Wölvhammer is lighter, more comfortable, and grippier. The overhauled design features a removable synthetic liner and a three-piece proprietary bottom assembly compatible with flat and clipless pedals. When the cold winter creeps in, Wölvhammer has you covered.
Removable synthetic liner boot for quick drying
3-piece proprietary bottom assembly is lighter, warmer offers more walking traction
Aerogel insulation blocks cold cleats and allows use of preferred insoles without sacrificing warmth
0 to 25F / -18 to -4C Comfort
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
UPPER Coated microfiber with ballistic nylon underlays and ®Techtuff toe outside of a waterproof-breathable membrane.
MIDSOLE 3/4 length fiberglass-injected nylon nested inside EVA foam for reduced weight, added comfort and increased traction.
OUTSOLE 45NRTH real rubber outsole with anti-slip microglass rubber lugs, flat pedal and 2-bolt compatible. Comes with removable cleat plate for flat pedal use. A note on flat pedals: we recommend using 45NRTH's winter specific Helva and Heiruspecs pedals, and not aggressive downhill pedals with sharp metal pins.
INSULATION 200g Primaloft quilted inside removable liner boot; 2mm aerogel blanket under the foot to thermally block metal cleats
CLOSURE Single-zone BOA M3 mid-power reel and lacing system
LASTS XX-wide last with tall toe box for extra insulation on top of the foot
SIZES Mens wide 36 - 50 (no size 49), full sizes only
SUGGESTED TEMP RANGE 0 (18 C) to 25 F (-3 C)
Very well assembled. Can't fault them.
Perfect – stayed stuck to the pedals, warm and supportive. Capable of hours bashing through thick snow crusts.
Early days but the materials are tough and still look like new after a month or so of testing.
Just snug enough to feel connected, but still enough wiggle room for toes – important in the cold and for long periods.
Follow the measurement process and they size perfectly.
I'm amazed they are as light as they are for the performance and bulk.
They are defintiely stiffer than a normal cycling boot, but that's down to the multiple layers of insulation. Still comfortable enough to wear for many hours at a time.
Compared with the similarly priced Lakes, you get more for your money here. I rate the Wolvhammers highly. You are getting a seriously capable, comfortable and warm pair of boots for the money.
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
Being waterproof, a hose and stiff brush gets them looking like new.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Can't fault them.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The warmth. Lordy they are snuggly. No complaints at all.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Nothing really. Maybe that they lack studs, but then studs on the toe won't help that much on ice.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
They are just a tenner more than the Lake MXZ304, but include a separate liner and are rated warmer – hence slightly better value in my book.
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
I can only rate the Wolvhammers down on the single Boa, and lack of studs. Other than that, they're great. I feel they are better value than the Lakes, because they are warmer-rated and have a removable liner. They're very good.
About the tester
I usually ride: Sonder Camino Gravelaxe My best bike is: Nah bro that's it
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: A few times a week I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: cyclo cross, general fitness riding, mtb, G-R-A-V-E-L