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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 11-04-06, 06:27 PM   #1
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Cold Feet

I've started working on a new section of my webpage which I've entitled "What Works for Me": http://www.machka.net/whatworks/whatworks.htm

And the first "article" in it is something which is applicable to winter cycling, entitled: "Cold Feet": http://www.machka.net/whatworks/coldfeet.htm

Note that these are things which work for me in the conditions in which I ride. They may not work for you, but if you are looking for ideas to combat cold feet while cycling, perhaps something I mention might be useful to you.
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Old 11-04-06, 06:45 PM   #2
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These look like good cycling tips from an experienced rider. At first I thought maybe someone had called off a wedding!
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Old 11-04-06, 06:51 PM   #3
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Those are some good tips there, esp. about keeping your feet loose. It's a frequent mistake to assume you need to wrap your feet so tight they can't move in the boot.
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Old 11-04-06, 07:12 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cosmoline
Those are some good tips there, esp. about keeping your feet loose. It's a frequent mistake to assume you need to wrap your feet so tight they can't move in the boot.

That's how I tried to ride during my first winter cycling!! I figured if I added several layers of socks (which made my shoes almost uncomfortably tight) my feet would be warm. After all, all those layers should protect them from the cold, right? Well, it wasn't even that cold yet (October), and I hardly have words to describe the agonizing cold and pain in my feet. I could hardly pedal let alone walk!

For some reason, it took me a couple years to figure out what a difference it makes to loosen the shoes off a bit!
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Old 11-05-06, 12:31 AM   #5
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These are some good techniques for keeping feet warm. However, I would like to discuss some aspects of this approach and some of the weakness of this approach.

I have two pair of cycling shoes which are oversized. A pair of Answer Kashmires and a pair of Sidi mesh bullet 2's. Both are about 1.5 sizes too big. Even so, I can really only wear one pair of medium thick pair of wool socks. The reason I say medium thick is because these socks are a special sock that is thick on the bottom, toe, and heal, but much thinner on the top of the foot where less insulation is usually needed.

The purpose of this sock style is to take up less total volume inside the shoe. Now, I have several pair of really thick wool socks. They are so thick that I think that I would have to have my shoes at least three sizes too big for me to fit into them without being too tight. So in reality I cannot wear these really thick socks. The fact of the matter is that if the socks are compressed too much then they loose much of their insulation value and further, your foot is very uncomfortable and gets cold easily due to reduced circulation.

So we have this issue of having to have really oversized shoes (like three sizes), to get big thick socks on underneath the shoes. Once the socks become so thick they start to contribute to the stiff soled shoe becoming less efficient because the sock compresses and expands on the down and upstrokes of the pedalling cycle. The thicker and more loose the sock insulation is the more this problem shows itself.

So, while the method of stacking thick socks (or multiple thin ones), underneath the shoe can work to keep the foot warm we see that it has at least two down sides. Namely that the shoe must be more than one size oversize to get the really thick socks on. And that too much soft insulation inside the shoe reduces the shoes pedalling efficiency more and more with thicker sock layers.

Another problem with the oversized shoe approach is that the wideness of the shoe does not increase at the same rate as the length. So even with oversized shoes, sometimes the width is still not sufficient to allow a bit of looseness with really thick socks and so the foot and insulation is compressed around the foot in the joint area.

Now I am not shooting down this approach, and indeed I have used this method with varying degrees of success. And yet I feel that there is a more simpler and better way. To me it makes more sense to have a high loft wind resistant bootie covering the outside of the cycling shoe. There are several reasons for this.

First, the insulation on the outside of the shoe can keep the whole shoe warm, and a well ventilated shoe that would have given little warmth in cool weather suddenly becomes an internal layer that adds air trapping micro pockets in it's breathable mesh.

Second, with the insulation on the outside of the shoe it can be of a thicker and more light and lofty shape without being compressed. Except in such places like underneath the shoe were it attaches to the pedal or binding. And on the inside of the foot were crank arm clearance is an issue. Still, it seems that the largest portion of the upper foot can be enclosed in a very light weight and wind resistant shell of very warm thickness.

It is also perhaps true that the foot actually needs more insulation in cold weather bike riding than other parts of the body because of decreased blood flow in the foot from constant pressure with the pedal. And also because it is an outer extremity that is going to have reduced blood flow in cold conditions due to the bodies need to preserve core temperture.

Third, moving the insulation outside of the shoe lets us maintain a reasonable sock thickness so the shoe can perform the way it is intended.

Fourth, since we have more room for insulation on the outside of a large portion of the foot. Thick and lighter and higher performance insulations can be used like primaloft or polargard 3D in thicknesses up on one inch thick on large portions of the top of the foot and ankle.

Fifth, many cycling shoes are made from plastics which are poor insulations when cast in stiff forms to make the cycling shoe work. The sole of the typical cycling shoe becomes a very good conduit for cold to enter the foot and if the whole plastic shell of the shoe can be kept more warm by a low mass high insulating layer the plastic sole materials will not contribute so much to the conduction of heat away from the foot and into the cold surrounding convective airstream.

The only downside that I can see to this approach is that it is not as cool looking and aero-dynamic as the snug fitting neoprene booties.

Which brings up another advantage of this approach. They will be easir to put on since they don't have to be stretched on over the shoe. In fact, stretching the type of shoe covers that I am proposing here would lower thier function.

The last advantage that I can think of which this approach is that it is easier to make the whole foot and shoe system breathable which will in the end be more warm and except in really soaking wet conditions perform much better.

And even as I conclude this rather long winded treatise I realize that there is still one more advantage to this approach and that is that it is much lighter than many or several or very thick wool socks.
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Old 11-05-06, 12:50 AM   #6
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Ah, but I'm not proposing that cyclists wear several layers of thick socks. I never go with more than one thin sock as a base layer and a thick wool sock on top. That way, I don't have to wear shoes which are more than one size bigger than I normally wear.

And, in my case, I've got very narrow feet, so I've got extra room in most shoes anyway. I know that will not necessarily be the case with everyone.

I too believe that an outer covering, over the shoe, is a better choice than going with too many multiple inner layers. The double layers of socks in a slightly looser shoe will work for temps above the freezing point (and apparently it works for some below the freezing point too ... but not me), but as I approach the freezing point, I need to add some sort of wind-resistant bootie. That's where the nylon bootie comes in. They are good because they do have some breathability ... or maybe I should say "venting". If it is going to warm up, or if it is chilly but not too cold (situations where your feet might sweat), then that bootie is the right choice.

The neoprene bootie works well for me in colder temps.

To create additional warmth, without overcrowding the shoe, a person can use chemical warmers, as I mentioned on the webpage in my first post. The chemical warmer can be placed outside the shoe, on top of the toes, but under the bootie, so the bootie holds it in place Because most cycling shoes have mesh over the toes, placing the chemical warmer there is quite effective to keep the toes warm.


But I'm curious ... what sort of shoe cover are you referring to? Is it one that exists? If so, could you post a link to it? If not, is there a way you could draw it? I'm not sure I'm picturing exactly what you mean. When I first started cycling in the winter and was suffering so badly from cold feet, someone suggested that I wear a wool work sock OVER my shoes ... and another person suggested duct tape over the venting on my shoes. Would your suggestion be a combination of the two? Something like a wool work sock over the shoe (the high loft part?), with duct tape overtop (the windproof part?)??
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Old 11-05-06, 08:32 AM   #7
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Good Job Machka, I alway like to read about your experiences

I'm one of those people that do not like to by bigger shoes if I don't have to. What has worked for me is using an Ultimax sock Liner (designed hicking) under a thin wool sock. This has keprt my feet warm enough for commuting and for general playing in the snow on a bike. If it's really cold, I put a bootie on top.

I have just orderd a pair of winter cycling shoes from MEC, I ordered them in my regular size cyling shoe. I hope to try some polypro socks with that and see how they work out.
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Old 11-05-06, 01:36 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ViperZ
I'm one of those people that do not like to by bigger shoes if I don't have to.

I've found that the slightly bigger shoe (only one size bigger) also works very well on my long Randonnees. My feet tend to swell after riding for 30+ hours, and when I was wearing a smaller pair of shoes (the "right" size), I ended up with various foot problems by the end of the ride. A size larger, and my feet are much happier.
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Old 11-05-06, 02:59 PM   #9
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Machka,

Thanks for your response. The fact that you are putting on only one thick wool sock with maybe a thin liner does make sense to me. But I have a couple of really thick wool socks that I cannot even wear under my 1.5 oversize shoes and for some reason I have this block about buying shoes that are 3 sizes too big.

The boot covers that I am referring to do not exist except that I have seen some homemade versions. My discussion was more of a theoretical treatise which I intend to put into action and test this winter.

I am not much good at sewing, nor do I like to do it but I fiqure tht I can hack some of these shoe covers together to try out. I have tried just about everything and although I can keep my feet reasonably warm for 90 minutes or so. I still feel that I have not really got the ideal solution yet.

So far, my best for warmth solution is something similar to yours but I can only go about 60 - 90 minutes down to about 20 degrees F. Any colder than this and I don't want to deal with it. I wear one thin neoprene sock next to the skin which works as a vapor barrier. This helps keep the next insulation layer dry. Then the thickest wool sock that I can put on with my shoes. Then the neoprene overshoes over the shoes. This keeps my feet warm for about an hour at below freezing temperatures so long as it is not colder than 20 degrees F. But I hate putting all this on because it is so much work. Both the neoprene socks and booties are really hard to get on and I have the largest size and my feet are only 9.5 US size.
I usually wear US size 10.

I still feel strongly that a more breathable and thick light insulation approach will be better so long as it is well below freezing or dry cold. Just try to visualize something like a down parka over the shoes and you will have a general idea what I am trying to make. Like some streamlined down booties but more form fitting and not using down but something like thinsulate or primaloft.
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Old 11-05-06, 03:53 PM   #10
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Hezz,

Something like these which are lined with wool:
http://www.bikemania.biz/ProductDeta...interBootiesSW


Or these two which are fleece-lined:
http://www.performancebike.com/shop/...slisearch=true

http://www.rei.com/product/47922326.htm


Or these, modified to take a cleat:
http://greatoutdoors.altrec.com/outd.../down-booties/
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Old 11-05-06, 08:29 PM   #11
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bigger shoes, a thick sock, absolutely.

for large, lightweight, loose winter shoe cover (that extends to your knee!) a set of Outdoor Research Mukluks will slide over most biking footwear and provide a winter 'shell' over the top of shoes an lower legs. better to use with an oversized toeclip versus a cleat system, but if cleats were required, the soles of the mukluks could be cut out for access and glued down to the shoe.

putting a mukluk on top of a slightly oversized shoe- add an oversized sock over the shoe for even greater warmth- will add a great amount of foot warmth without a lot of bulk/ weight.

Now, I've always liked USAF Mukluks with the removable wool felt liner for snow riding when it gets WELL below freezing. hella lighter than Sorels.

Last edited by Bekologist; 11-05-06 at 08:35 PM.
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Old 11-05-06, 08:55 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Machka
I've found that the slightly bigger shoe (only one size bigger) also works very well on my long Randonnees. My feet tend to swell after riding for 30+ hours, and when I was wearing a smaller pair of shoes (the "right" size), I ended up with various foot problems by the end of the ride. A size larger, and my feet are much happier.

That I can understand, however I don't think my attention span could last on a bike for more than say 6 hours
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Old 11-09-06, 10:49 PM   #13
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Thanks Machka for those links,

The Teo Sport Windtex breathable booties look really good but they sure are pricy. When I get to making my homemade booties I will post a picture though I don't think they will look all that great.
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Old 11-10-06, 06:09 AM   #14
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I've had a lot of trouble keeping both my legs and my feet warm. When I finally found some really good warm winter bib tights (Assos Thermax, thicker fleece than their other tights, and airblock over 100% of the fabric) it also kept my feet from getting cold too. So now I can ride in temperatures in the 30s with just my Smartwool socks and neoprene booties. No chemical warmers, plastic bags, or anything else. So don't forget that keeping your legs warm will help keep your feet warm too.
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Old 11-10-06, 11:13 AM   #15
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JJakucyk,

I think this brings up a good point which many riders fail to consider. That is if your legs are not adequately insulated then your feet are going to be much more cold due to your bodies natural response to shutting down blood flow in outer appendages.
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Old 11-10-06, 12:59 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hezz
JJakucyk,

I think this brings up a good point which many riders fail to consider. That is if your legs are not adequately insulated then your feet are going to be much more cold due to your bodies natural response to shutting down blood flow in outer appendages.

Which is exactly why I suggest the Kodiak wool socks. They are a thick wool sock which comes almost to my knees. They are great for keeping my calves nice and warm.

When I wear those socks around the house, I actually have to push them down around my ankles (like the late 1980s slouch socks! ) because if I wear them up, my feet get too warm.
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Old 11-28-06, 09:17 AM   #17
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Great read Machka.

I've found my Answer Kashmirs and Lake MX300 winter shoes to be much more functional (in terms of comfort with thicker / multiple socks) once I changed out the insert. The Lakes in particular have an overly thick insert, which may provide a degree of insulation, but probably no more so then a good pair of heavy wools.

My Lakes are about "normal" sizing, the Answers are 45's (43 being my normal). The Lakes are employed from the mid 30s (stock insert and thin sock) down to about 20F (no insert, mid weigh wool), then the Answers are pressed into service. By manipulating what insert and socks I use, I can cycle comfortably for an hour+ down to about -20F.
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Old 11-28-06, 09:36 AM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Machka
That's how I tried to ride during my first winter cycling!! I figured if I added several layers of socks (which made my shoes almost uncomfortably tight) my feet would be warm. After all, all those layers should protect them from the cold, right? Well, it wasn't even that cold yet (October), and I hardly have words to describe the agonizing cold and pain in my feet. I could hardly pedal let alone walk!

For some reason, it took me a couple years to figure out what a difference it makes to loosen the shoes off a bit!

Me Too. I did exactly the same thing..

One important point I want to add.

There is a huge difference in what you need to wear on a long all day ride in the cold, compared to even a 20 minute commute. You can start to get pretty cold on a 20 minute ride, or pretty sweaty, and still be OK. Not so on an all day ride. Everything needs to be just right.
If one is giving an example of footwear in the cold, you need to include how long you will be out.

Machka typically means all day. Right?
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Old 11-28-06, 09:41 AM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Machka

The neoprene bootie works well for me in colder temps.

bingo, my solution for riding in -30C and under is now a pair of neoprene booties over the top of my Lake 300s. I tried this combination on Sunday and it was big improvement. I usually wear a size 46 and my Lakes are 47s but they aren't really floppy (I don't think 1 size in euro sizes is the same as going from say a size 11 to size 12). Maybe someday someone will make a true cold weather cycling shoe, I think something like a double-climbing boot would work or maybe going the other direction and enclose a cycling shoe with a soft outer mukluk, a good pair of ski boots is $600+ these days so something for crazy winter cyclists is likely to be pricey.
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Old 11-28-06, 10:12 AM   #20
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Good article(s) Machka.

A covered head, face and neck with blocked vents on the helmets ALONG WITH the Boots and 1-2 layers of wool socks were the only thing that seemed to keep the feet warm. Dobber's got the right idea.

-iceberg in Seattle
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Old 11-28-06, 11:30 AM   #21
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What about the hands? I wimped out yesterday (wind chill of -39C) because I've been experiencing problems with my hands... I'm fine down to -15 or so, but after that my pinky and 4th finger freeze up. I have lobster gloves (Nanu from MEC), with polypro liners, and I tried some plastic bags, but they didn't seem to help. Calgary doesn't have pogies for sale anywhere I can find, and I don't want to spend a lot of money for a 'solution' that doesn't work.

BTW other than my hands, I'm fine. My commute is only 25 min-35 min depending on conditions.
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Old 11-28-06, 12:24 PM   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rajman
What about the hands? I wimped out yesterday (wind chill of -39C) because I've been experiencing problems with my hands... I'm fine down to -15 or so, but after that my pinky and 4th finger freeze up. I have lobster gloves (Nanu from MEC), with polypro liners, and I tried some plastic bags, but they didn't seem to help. Calgary doesn't have pogies for sale anywhere I can find, and I don't want to spend a lot of money for a 'solution' that doesn't work.

BTW other than my hands, I'm fine. My commute is only 25 min-35 min depending on conditions.
Add a fleece liner glove to the nanu set-up. My hands have been perfect the past two days (the first 15 min of my commute is downhill). Polypro is meant to wick sweat away, not insulate (plus it freakin stinks).
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Old 11-28-06, 09:13 PM   #23
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Old 11-28-06, 09:17 PM   #24
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Great site! For those who don't have much money sitting around, putting plastic bags over your socks and under your shoes can help a lot too. Loose fit is absolutely crucial.
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Old 11-30-06, 03:20 PM   #25
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Lets not forget ...

Quote:
Originally Posted by dobber
Great read Machka.

I've found my Answer Kashmirs and Lake MX300 winter shoes to be much more functional (in terms of comfort with thicker / multiple socks) once I changed out the insert. The Lakes in particular have an overly thick insert, which may provide a degree of insulation, but probably no more so then a good pair of heavy wools.

My Lakes are about "normal" sizing, the Answers are 45's (43 being my normal). The Lakes are employed from the mid 30s (stock insert and thin sock) down to about 20F (no insert, mid weigh wool), then the Answers are pressed into service. By manipulating what insert and socks I use, I can cycle comfortably for an hour+ down to about -20F.

Lets not forget that you can always put a neoprene booty over one of the excellent (but still deficient) cycling boot offering like the Answer, Lake or Sidi.

But we must remember that only the winter boots (in most cases) are waterproof up to the cuff. Future offerings would do well to extend the waterproof capability to just below the calf.

Personally I used a thin wool underneath a thick wool. Then I put gaters on top of the whole affair. I used the gaters primarily because I'm too cheap to buy winter tights. Cheap nylon pants from Wal-Mart then suffice. The added benefit is that the gaters keep your whole lower leg warmer and hence the feet are VERY comfy. The gaters also add a small degree of water resistance all the way up the calf.
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