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Winter Cycling Don't let snow and ice discourage you this winter. The key element to year-round cycling is proper attire! Check out this winter cycling forum to chat with other ice bike fanatics.

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Old 10-30-06, 06:52 PM   #1
woodcycl
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Researching Options for Cold Feet ...

I have done a little research on this sub-forum (I'm a regular on the Road Cycling forum and a lurker on the Mountain Bike Forum) in regard to cold feet. The IceBike.com website has a wealth of information!!

I have small, boney, narrow feet that must not have good circulation in general as my feet get cold very easily and once they begin to get cold, they quickly go numb. I've been a cyclist (mainly road) since late 80's so I have plenty of experience in terms of cycling. But, not necessarily riding in temps below 45 or so.

My LBS has the Sidi Winter Freeze road shoes in a size that works for me ... and since those are his only pair and he has had them for over 1.5yrs, he's willing to sell them to me for $120. Is it worth it? It seems like I read a few negative comments about the white rabbit fur inside the shoes when searching for reviews. The other shoes I'd like to try, but don't have any locally, is the Shimano winter road shoe as they are only $90 or so online from Chain Reaction Cycles (in the UK though).

Next thing I found and am interested in is the Heatronics Foot Warmers. Thougths on these? I assume I should either go with winter shoes OR the Foot Warmers ... but both is most likely overkill.

My current road shoes are the Specialized Pro Carbon Comps ... and I love them. But, I can only put on a single pair of DeFeet Blaze wool socks ... anything more and it is too tight which isn't good.

I will also try the chemical toe warmers that are talked about a lot on here. I've heard, though, that they aren't all created equal. And, I also heard that the older they are before they are used (shelf life) ... the shorter the time they work. Comments?

Any suggestions, recommendations, etc. are greatly appreciated.

Current setup:

2005 Specialized Comp Carbon Pro's
DeFeet Blaze Wool Socks (when it is 60 or below)
Toe/Shoe hoods
PI Booties (the warmest ones they have according to their website)

The above setup is good for me ... but only down to low 50's. Yes, my feet are COLD natured!
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Old 10-30-06, 07:27 PM   #2
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Last winter LL Bean had thin, ankle high cashmere socks for something like $12/pair (they sort of resemble tennis socks but without the dingleball thing). I bought these and use them as liners, worked well for me along with wool snowboard socks and Lake MX301 winter boots when it was 9 degrees F--I had warmth to burn.

They say cashmere is even warmer than wool, and I can't disagee.

And that was hands down the cheapest cashmere item I've seen anywhere, partly because you're not buying alot of fabric--not more than I needed, in my case.
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Old 10-30-06, 10:44 PM   #3
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I can relate very well to this: "I have small, boney, narrow feet that must not have good circulation in general as my feet get cold very easily and once they begin to get cold, they quickly go numb." That's exactly my situation.

However, I have spent several years riding right through Canadian winters, in temps as low as -40C/F and my feet have, for the most part, been fine.

Here's what works for me ... discovered through a lot of experimentation, reading, research, etc.:

1. Loose shoes. I used to wear fairly tight cycling shoes and my feet would feel like they were freezing off at temperatures above freezing (like around +10C/50F). I loosened the shoes, and my feet were much warmer. The reason for this is that it allows a pocket of air to be created around your foot, which is warmed by your foot. Tight shoes don't allow for any pockets of air. I have since bought a pair of Lake mtn bike shoes in a size too big for me so that they are loose.

2. Wool socks. I wear Kodiak wool socks. They are thick, and come right up to my knees! They are wonderfully warm!! Because they are thick, if I were still wearing my original small, tight shoes, I'd never be able to get these socks in, but the loose shoes allow me to do just that.

3. Sock layers. When the temps dip below freezing, I wear a light, thin sock underneath my warm wool socks. That layering effect seems to add a few degrees of warmth.

4. Neoprene ankle wrap. I badly injured my achilles tendons in 2002, and started wearing neoprene ankle bands which I bought for about $7 in my local grocery store. These are great ... they are a neoprene "sleeve", with the heel and toes cut out, and then with wide elastic stuff that wraps around, as tight or loose as you want. According to outdoor survival people, the way to keep your feet warm is to keep the pulse point in your ankle warm. With my sock layers, and then my neoprene ankle wrap, that pulse point is well protected from the elements, and my feet are toasty warm down below freezing. One point though ... just like with the shoes, the ankle wrap works best if it is as loose as possible. (Oh, incidentally, the way to keep your hands warm is to make sure the pulse point in your wrist, at the base of your thumb, is warm. Therefore if you wear wrist bands (like the tennis players do), your hands will be much warmer ... it really works!!)

5. Booties. I've got a light nylon pair of booties for warmer temps, or wet conditions, and heavy neoprene booties for colder temps and/or really wet conditions. These go over the shoes. If you get them, get them slightly big.

6. Chemical warmers. When the temperatures really drop (I'm talking down around the -20C range), or if I'm going to be out there in sub-freezing temps for more than about 5 hours, that's when I break out the chemical warmers. Get the ones for hands, not feet. The ones for hands are smaller and won't crowd your shoes so much (yet another reason to get big shoes!!), and they seem to last much longer for some reason. Tuck them into your neoprene ankle wrap, right above where the cleat of the shoe would be, to keep the cold from the metal cleat at bay ... and/or tuck them on top of your shoe, under your neoprene bootie (yet another reason to get your booties slightly big!), right over the mesh part of the shoe that is over your toes to keep your toes warm. I've also tucked them down my neoprene ankle wrap, over the ankle pulse point, on really long cold rides.

7. Sorel winter boots. When the temperatures drop to around the -30C range, and especially if I'm going to be out there for any length of time (several hours), I switch to platform pedals and ride with my heavy duty, rated to -40C/F Sorel winter boots. And I use many of the other techniques described above as well such as the socks, chemical warmers, etc.


I rarely have problems with cold feet anymore. I hope this helps you too!!
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Old 10-30-06, 10:50 PM   #4
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I have found that winter riding shoes are warmer than regular shoes but not by a wide margin. Still, I think it's a good purchase but if you are riding in icy and snowy conditions the winter road shoes are not worth having because the soles are so slick that you can't stand up in them. If only wet conditions they are OK but still not the best. The winter mountain shoes work better for bad conditions because you can walk in them without falling over because of the cleated sole.

You may have to experiment with different things to find what works best for you. For me the feet are the hardest thing to keep warm in conditions below 40 degrees F.

Last edited by Hezz; 10-30-06 at 10:55 PM.
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Old 10-31-06, 08:01 AM   #5
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Lake CXZ301 shoes are a winter road shoe with decent lugs for putting your foot down in the snow. They are made the same as the MXZ301 which seem to be the best winter shoe available. The biggest complaint is that they are not wide enough, you shouldn't have a problem with that. Buy a size too large and wear a couple wool socks if your feet are still cold. This is about the warmest clipless solution you can find without modifiy your own boots for clipless.
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Old 10-31-06, 08:24 AM   #6
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Thanks for all the replies so far!

Looks like LLBean isn't carrying the cashmere socks any longer -- atleast not on their website.

Thanks machka for all the great and detailed info!! I'm sure it will come in handy as I try and figure this out.

I don't plan on riding below 25 F ... and most likely anything below freezing will only be on a handful of nice sunny days in Jan and Feb! But, I do hope to ride as much as possible on everything above freezing. Thus, icy and snowy conditions shouldn't cause a problem. That's what I bought my mountain bike for!

I've read quite a few reviews on the Lake CXZ301's and the MXZ301's. The main problem is I can't find them locally so far. And, online, they are mainly only sold (along with most of the winter road shoes) in the UK -- very hard to find in the US. In addition, the $250 retail price tag is hefty. That's one reason why I was considering the Sidi Winter Freeze that my LBS has. And, they are 1.5 sizes (euro) larger than my typical shoes so I have room for wools socks, etc. Just not sure if they are worth the $120. And, the Shimano's online (in the UK at ChainReactionCycles) are only $90. I'd love to find the Shimano's locally below $100 -- doubtful though.
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Old 10-31-06, 08:51 AM   #7
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Only thing that I would add to the info above:

_ massage your leg muscles and feet for a few minutes before you suit up to encourage plenty of blood flow.

- make sure that you are not bulking up the layers on your feet to the point that you are constricting them and hendering blood flow.

- make sure that you are keeping your core (torso and chest) toasty. If not your brain will automatically start diverting blood flow away from your extremities as a part of its survival response. A lot of cold natured people actually have a higher temp/quicker trigger point for this mechanism than others.
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Old 10-31-06, 09:11 AM   #8
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Do you have to ride on SPD or LOOK style shoes? This is the route I go: I would suggest buying a cheap mountain bike shoe a size too big, wear smartwool socks, and then neoprene socks on top. Put on the shoe and then layer with neoprene winter booties. If its REALLY cold I'll put an extra pair of pack cloth booties on top of the neoprene ones and maybe add some thin summer cycling socks under the smartwool. This setup will be cheaper and much more versatile than any of the winter shoes.

My mountain shoes were $40CAD (Answer Impact), the neoprene socks were $7CAD (MEC paddling socks), the smartwool socks were $10CAD and the booties were $30CAD each pair. Adding all this up is $117CAD and is pretty overkill in my opinion but I can switch any of the accessories to any shoes I own, and even use the mountain shoes for summer riding (even though my feet slip around a little!), plus it makes drying out shoes should they get wet much quicker.
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Old 10-31-06, 09:49 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Drakonchik
Last winter LL Bean had thin, ankle high cashmere socks . . . .
Whoops, it was Lands End, NOT LL Bean, here's the link, no longer any "anklet" socks but some other cashere socks now:

http://www.landsend.com/cd/index/fp/...60182943193020
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Old 10-31-06, 09:51 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Shiznaz
Do you have to ride on SPD or LOOK style shoes? This is the route I go: I would suggest buying a cheap mountain bike shoe a size too big, wear smartwool socks, and then neoprene socks on top. Put on the shoe and then layer with neoprene winter booties. If its REALLY cold I'll put an extra pair of pack cloth booties on top of the neoprene ones and maybe add some thin summer cycling socks under the smartwool. This setup will be cheaper and much more versatile than any of the winter shoes.

My mountain shoes were $40CAD (Answer Impact), the neoprene socks were $7CAD (MEC paddling socks), the smartwool socks were $10CAD and the booties were $30CAD each pair. Adding all this up is $117CAD and is pretty overkill in my opinion but I can switch any of the accessories to any shoes I own, and even use the mountain shoes for summer riding (even though my feet slip around a little!), plus it makes drying out shoes should they get wet much quicker.
I'd suggest a flat soled shoe but not a mountain bike shoe. Do use at least one size larger than you currently wear and wear over the knee socks like Machka suggested. Rather then neoprene socks, cover the shoe with a shoe cover (get a very large one to go ove the shoe without squeezing your foot), preferably neoprene. I think most of your issue is with wind related heat loss from your shoes. If you reduce that, you might find cold weather riding more comfortable.
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Old 10-31-06, 09:58 AM   #11
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an extremly simple, cheap, and effective thing to do is to use plastic grocery bags along with wool socks.

what i do is take a bag, and cut it so that i have just enough pastic to cover my toes and about half of my foot. this goes over the wool socks. then, you just slide your foot in the shoe and the plastic is completely hidden.

the plastic helps to keep the wind at bay and should be plenty for you in temps of 40 degrees. booties are also a good option if you need more. i use wool socks, plastic bags, and booties down to about 20 degrees and i'm fine with that.
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Old 10-31-06, 10:05 AM   #12
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My suggestion was more for commuting versatility rather than winter training rides...

I find lugged mountain shoes much better than flat shoes for any kind of commuting (flat shoe = I slip and fall over), and in the winter I can put the spikes on the front for full-on ice walking. They are typically higher performance than flat shoes as well and generally don't use laces (which I hate). For any temperatures above freezing I wear the mountain shoes with just cotton socks (I wear the cotton socks through the day at work) under neoprene socks which insulate and block the wind from the vents in the shoes. On rainy days I can either wear just the neoprene socks, which keeps my feet pretty dry, or I can layer my various booties over top. I'm generally more inclined to wear the neoprene socks than booties because they are easier to put on and take off, they keep my ankles warm, they allow me to easily tighten and loosen the shoe straps and they don't get destroyed just by walking around like booties.
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Old 10-31-06, 10:49 AM   #13
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+1 on the winter boots + platforms (I use the BMX platforms with the spikes).

Given the icy conditions on the road right now, I'm wondering if I should go for the shoe spikes/covers that give added ice traction for when I have to put my foot down.

Have you had any problems with losing foot traction on ice?
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Old 10-31-06, 11:09 AM   #14
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I've had a few spills while waiting at icy intersections with my foot down just wearing sneakers... If I had studded tires I probably wouldn't have fallen; its the loss of traction on both wheels and your toe that makes you go down! Winter boots should be good enough if you're happy with plain platform pedals. I unfortunately can't stand riding without having my feet attached to the pedals. 2 years ago I wore low profile tread winter hiking boots and cheap platform pedals with powergrip straps. I was pretty happy with them but they can be a little kludgy once you have your big winter boots on.
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Old 10-31-06, 12:04 PM   #15
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performance has the lake mtb shoes for 100 bucks off. i got a pair yesterday.

first commute with them this morning was really nice, even at 20 degrees F.
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Old 10-31-06, 12:07 PM   #16
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I doubt I'll be out in truly icy conditions. And, I'd like to stay with my Keo/Look cleats. Thus, SPDs are not an option right now. And, regular shoes and platform pedals aren't really an option either as I'm first going with all options related to wearing road shoes. I have a couple pair of mtn bike shoes/boots with SPDs for my mountain bike.

I'll try the plastic grocery bag method also to see how it works. Thanks again for all the comments.

Edited to add: I won't be riding thru any cities -- mainly riding in the country on backroads and such. No commuting, only training rides of 20 to 50 miles. See this post for an idea of the areas I ride and similar: Ride Report with PICs from S. Indiana
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Last edited by woodcycl; 10-31-06 at 12:13 PM.
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Old 10-31-06, 12:41 PM   #17
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Well, I would still reccomend what I said earlier, only replace 'mountain bike shoes' with 'road shoes'. You should be able to find a pair of road shoes for under 50 bucks. Get them a little big and rock out. I just can't seem to stay warm in my sidi geniuses because they are too tight to really insulate so I stick to the SPDs for winter. If you're set on staying with your existing road shoes all you can really do is wear wool socks, get some neoprene booties and try to keep your legs warm.

Another tip is to insulate the sole of the shoe under the insole, especially the metal plate your cleats screw into. I cut a piece of reflective mylar that I taped over the plate on the inside of the shoe. It seems to help and I can't feel it there.

I personally just don't like the feeling of plastic bags in my shoes, and on longer rides its a death sentence for foot sweat and chills.
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Old 10-31-06, 12:55 PM   #18
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+1 on waterproof winter boots. Yes, you can do the baggies, or booties, or seal skins...but for consistently warm feet the boots 'do the haul' way better. The booties just don't last if you have to walk any distance in them. Not very warm either...a waste of money.
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Old 10-31-06, 12:57 PM   #19
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Adding... it's said that if your head is warm...you're feet will be warm. If you go fast, or get alot of wind from cars or weather, that's a fallacy. YMMV
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Old 10-31-06, 01:48 PM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by woodcycl
I've read quite a few reviews on the Lake CXZ301's and the MXZ301's. The main problem is I can't find them locally so far. And, online, they are mainly only sold (along with most of the winter road shoes) in the UK -- very hard to find in the US. In addition, the $250 retail price tag is hefty. That's one reason why I was considering the Sidi Winter Freeze that my LBS has. And, they are 1.5 sizes (euro) larger than my typical shoes so I have room for wools socks, etc. Just not sure if they are worth the $120. And, the Shimano's online (in the UK at ChainReactionCycles) are only $90. I'd love to find the Shimano's locally below $100 -- doubtful though.
Lickton Bike has both Lake winter shoes for under $200. I got mine earlier in the season for $150.
If you have plenty of room in the Sidi's for an extra layer of socks then I'm sure they will do well for you. Its good to be able to buy something you can try and support your LBS.
Neither shoe will be as warm as a good winter boot but they will allow you to use your clippless shoes. The cost was well worth it to me because I will use these shoes everyday for 4 or 5 months.
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Old 10-31-06, 05:50 PM   #21
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CBBaron -- thanks a ton for the reference to Lickton. They have the 2006 model in stock, but they are back up to $180. And, not sure the sizes they have available will work since I can't try them on. I think I'll call them tomorrow and find out more about their exchange policy, etc.

I learned today that Sidi made a 301 and then made a better 302 model of their Winter Freeze shoes. The 301 is the one my LBS has which isn't as warm as the newer 302 model. So, still uncertain ther eas well.
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Old 10-31-06, 06:00 PM   #22
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I just got a pair of Winter Storm 3 Sidis. Got 'em off Ebay.

They are a bit snug - narrow - on my feet...

They are not super-warm. I wore them in for a short 30-degree commute, and they were OK, but not fantastic. I bought them for dryness in a rainy Seattle winter, rather than for the last word in warmth, however.

Get the Lake deal at Performance, not the Sidis, if you want warm feet.
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Old 10-31-06, 06:43 PM   #23
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Woodcycl,

You might want to try what I am going to do this year. Find the best fitting warmest winter cycling shoe that will work with your clipless system and then when it gets cold enough that the extra wool socks are not working put on either an additional neoprene cover or else make some breathable insulated nylon shoe covers to give more insulation and wind resistance.

However, I have found that neoprene only works so well though since it traps moisture in the insulating layers. This can be overcome to some degree by wearing a vapor barrier next to the skin but it can be slightly uncomfortable.

Many of the winter shoes use neoprene as a lining. I think this is one reason that they don't work as well as they should since vapor cannot escape well enough and the wool insulating layers get damp. It's amazing to me how little dampness is required to lower the insulating properties of the socks.

Appearantly the manufacturers are more concerned about waterproofness in a winter shoe because they figure few will be riding in below freezing temeratures. But a lot may be riding in cold rain. As far as I'm concerned it's easier to stay warm in snow that 34 degree F rain.

All advice aside, I have found that for rides of one hour or less it's not too hard to keep your feet warm in temperatures of freezing or above. It's the longer rides and colder temperatures that are more difficult to manage.
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Old 11-02-06, 10:26 AM   #24
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I posted a question on L.L. Bean Snow Sneakers on the "Shoes" thread here in this forum (so please forgive the double post ), but this thread seems more active and the reason I'm interested in them is for my freezing feet.

Does anybody have any experience with them at all?

A couple of comments made in this thread ring true to what I'm looking for as well. Haven't tried booties, but afraid of poor durability. Want to put my foot down and not get slush-logged. Want the shoes to keep my feet warm & dry even in an emergency couple-mile walk in snowy conditions (worst-case scenario). Interested in trying Power Grips and platform pedals (these look like they have relatively low-profile treads) because I'm thinking they'll be easier to get in and out of in icy weather (never fallen in my clips since I started using them three-four months ago, but have had several panic moments that I think icy roads would only make worse). That and I feel like the cleats really are acting as a heat-sink.
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Old 11-02-06, 11:09 AM   #25
Shiznaz
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Those look like ideal shoes to use with power grips. Not even any shoelaces to get in the way. If you want to go the power grip/flat pedal route that seems like a good option. I can't say anything about their warmth or water resistance though.
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