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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 01-22-08, 12:24 PM   #1
yoyostock
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Simplest way to keep toes warm

OK, so I've gone through all the various threads on the subject (booties and toe warmers get chewed up pretty quickly as you walk around; how plastic bags and space blankets have been used to trap heat; smart wool socks and poly liners; mountain biking boots; those warming pads; etc.) and still don't have a sense of how to keep the toes warm on a cold day. For me, the temps here in Washington DC have lately dipped to the upper 20s and low 30s in the mornings and evenings, and my commute is about 15 miles each way. I start to feel my toes tingle about half-way through that ride. Thus far, I've been using one pair of Smartwool socks and normal road shoes. So, yes, I know those shoes are really vented and the one pair of socks not the best single layer against my feet. But, I don't think I can squeeze anything else into my shoes - maybe a liner, but definitely not another winter wool sock. Booties or toe warmers? Do they really keep the toes warm or are they just meant to block out a little wind and keep your toes somewhat dry on a wet day? Any bottom line advice shy of getting bigger shoes, stuffing it with insulation, and getting neoprene all around my shoes?
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Old 01-22-08, 01:41 PM   #2
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ok

cover up your feet. this means ditch any shoes with
vents. or tape up the vents.

the key with warm feet in winter are shoes a euro size or 2 bigger than
you normally wear, so you can do the following

wear a wool sock, or two

use a strip of scotch tape and tape a handwarmer
on top of your toes. don't need much tape, just enough
so you can slide your foot in the shoe and the warmer
stays put. that will be good for 5 hours.


if your shoes are too small you will have a real hard time keeping warm.
the next best thing is a handwarmer on the outside of your shoe, over
the toe box, and a full bootie on top.
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Old 01-22-08, 02:08 PM   #3
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You aren't going to have warm toes in any standard cycling shoes when it gets much below freezing.
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Old 01-22-08, 03:09 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by edzo View Post
ok

cover up your feet. this means ditch any shoes with
vents. or tape up the vents.

the key with warm feet in winter are shoes a euro size or 2 bigger than
you normally wear, so you can do the following

wear a wool sock, or two

use a strip of scotch tape and tape a handwarmer
on top of your toes. don't need much tape, just enough
so you can slide your foot in the shoe and the warmer
stays put. that will be good for 5 hours.


if your shoes are too small you will have a real hard time keeping warm.
the next best thing is a handwarmer on the outside of your shoe, over
the toe box, and a full bootie on top.
Thanks, Edzo, for the practical advice. I'll try it tomorrow. The morning temps will be in the upper 20s. Yes! Thing is, I don't have a spare pair of shoes, so that option won't work. And I don't have any warmers (yet). So I'll go with the two pairs of wool socks and tape up the vents. Hey Edzo, what about those neoprene toe covers? No good?
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Old 01-22-08, 04:03 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by yoyostock View Post
Thanks, Edzo, for the practical advice. I'll try it tomorrow. The morning temps will be in the upper 20s. Yes! Thing is, I don't have a spare pair of shoes, so that option won't work. And I don't have any warmers (yet). So I'll go with the two pairs of wool socks and tape up the vents. Hey Edzo, what about those neoprene toe covers? No good?
This may not work, if you don't have the spare room in the shoe, adding another sock will compress any air space and reduce your insulation. maybe just tape up the vents as the best you can do?
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Old 01-22-08, 04:58 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by yoyostock View Post
Thanks, Edzo, for the practical advice. I'll try it tomorrow. The morning temps will be in the upper 20s. Yes! Thing is, I don't have a spare pair of shoes, so that option won't work. And I don't have any warmers (yet). So I'll go with the two pairs of wool socks and tape up the vents. Hey Edzo, what about those neoprene toe covers? No good?
The toe covers might help more than you think. Especially if you can use them to hold a chemical toe warmer there. Better to wear one pair of wool socks that still allow your foot to have a little room and then the toe covers. The toe covers also add a small amount of insulation in addition to blocking cold air from entering your shoe through the front ventilation.

Some people can get by with only one pair of wool socks and toe covers so it's a good inexpensive place to start.
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Old 01-22-08, 09:17 PM   #7
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also you can really make a difference by
taking a thin sheet of plastic, cut out a footbed
shape, 2 per foot (a paper protector or overhead transparency)

slap some aluminum foil between them, tape up the sides in a few spots
make an aluminum foil sandwich and stick this on top of your
footbed. it will reflect your heat back to the foot and also help
act as a barrier to the cold coming up from the bottom

again, if it ends up making the shoe too tight all bets are off
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Old 01-22-08, 09:28 PM   #8
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Your shoes are probably too tight with thick socks on. If you can't buy a pair of shoes that's too big for you, then wear thin socks and cover the shoes!! Seriously! Your feet will be soooo much warmer if air can circulate around them.
That's just my experience. I wear boots 2 sizes too big and a normal pair of socks and my feet are toasty no matter how cold (-30 with windchill tomorrow...)
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Old 01-22-08, 10:22 PM   #9
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"Booties or toe warmers? Do they really keep the toes warm or are they just meant to block out a little wind and keep your toes somewhat dry on a wet day?"

I have a pair of neoprene booties with rubber soles (cut out for SPD pedals). They block the airflow through my shoe's mesh vents and the neoprene insulates and adds a considerable amount of warmth.

Since you say your feet don't get cold until halfway through your ride with vented shoes, neoprene booties should give you more than ample additional warmth.
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Old 01-23-08, 07:18 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by edzo View Post
also you can really make a difference by
taking a thin sheet of plastic, cut out a footbed
shape, 2 per foot (a paper protector or overhead transparency)

slap some aluminum foil between them, tape up the sides in a few spots
make an aluminum foil sandwich and stick this on top of your
footbed. it will reflect your heat back to the foot and also help
act as a barrier to the cold coming up from the bottom

again, if it ends up making the shoe too tight all bets are off
Edzo, OK, so I tried the plastic/aluminum sandwich this morning and it was...OK. I did feel a little bit better - I think it blocked out some of the wind. But then again, it was a few degrees warmer this morning than I thought. I can't say that I could feel the heat reflection, but I'll give it a few more tries.

Quote:
Originally Posted by gmcttr View Post
"Booties or toe warmers? Do they really keep the toes warm or are they just meant to block out a little wind and keep your toes somewhat dry on a wet day?"
I have a pair of neoprene booties with rubber soles (cut out for SPD pedals). They block the airflow through my shoe's mesh vents and the neoprene insulates and adds a considerable amount of warmth.
Since you say your feet don't get cold until halfway through your ride with vented shoes, neoprene booties should give you more than ample additional warmth.
Thanks, GMC...I've been avoiding shelling out the $50 for those booties, but I guess with a couple of more months of winter left, it's probably the simple solution here.
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Old 01-23-08, 08:18 AM   #11
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I've tried numerous methods and have finally come to the conclusion that nothing works better for really cold feet than switching to platform pedals with toe clips and buying a cheap (but well insulated) winter hiking boot. The difference between this and every other method I've tried is huge. This week has been -25F with a -35F windchill and my feet have been fine (although my ride is only about half the distance as yours).

Jalopy
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Old 01-23-08, 09:19 AM   #12
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Edzo, OK, so I tried the plastic/aluminum sandwich this morning and it was...OK. I did feel a little bit better - I think it blocked out some of the wind. But then again, it was a few degrees warmer this morning than I thought. I can't say that I could feel the heat reflection, but I'll give it a few more tries.



Thanks, GMC...I've been avoiding shelling out the $50 for those booties, but I guess with a couple of more months of winter left, it's probably the simple solution here.
you will not feel the heat reflection, rather, your foot will
take longer to freeze up
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Old 01-23-08, 09:28 AM   #13
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I like the foil idea. I bought a pair of larger shoes thinking tow pair of socks would help, along with tappped up shoes and booties. This works at 10 degrees for me for about an hour. I think the key is not to overstuff your shoes. Now I am truing to set up a winter bike, single speed with platforms and better breaks than my current commuter.
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Old 01-23-08, 10:05 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by edzo View Post
also you can really make a difference by
taking a thin sheet of plastic, cut out a footbed
shape, 2 per foot (a paper protector or overhead transparency)

slap some aluminum foil between them, tape up the sides in a few spots
make an aluminum foil sandwich and stick this on top of your
footbed. it will reflect your heat back to the foot and also help
act as a barrier to the cold coming up from the bottom

again, if it ends up making the shoe too tight all bets are off
Good advice. I'd add that a good insole will help too. I use these (along with foil tape on the bottom of the shoe and neoprene covers over the shoe)


Wool socks that are at least calf length help too. If I have to add a second sock, I use a thin bicycle sock under the wool socks.

And, yea, if the shoe is too tight you're screwed
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Old 01-23-08, 10:20 AM   #15
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Pick up one of those emergency blankets - you know, the super-thin mylar ones that packs into a tiny space. It's much more resilient than aluminum foil.
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Old 01-24-08, 05:52 PM   #16
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I use LLBean Snow sneakers with Performance Toesties. That is my winter cycling combo. On really cold days below 20's. I wear wool hiking socks.
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Old 01-24-08, 06:30 PM   #17
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I got out my Airwalks. Un-laced them, laced them really, really loosely and Tied them so that my shoes (with up to three layers of sockage) will slide on and off without a problem. Haven't had a problem since. 1 degree this morning with about 20 minutes of cycling and 15 minutes of standing around waiting for a bus. All I had on my feet was a layer of cotton, a layer of wool and these loose shoes. Worked like a champ.
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Old 01-24-08, 09:54 PM   #18
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I have used neoprene booties and they work okay if money is not an issue for you. But if money is an issue, try the plastic grocery bags over your feet (not very elegant, but it is hard to beat free in my book!). I have done that on several of the coldest days this year and I have been pleasantly surprised at the difference that they have made when teamed up with a pair of wool socks. I initially tried them one day when I froze my toes on the way to work and needed to find something at my office just to get home. Now I'll always keep a couple of bags in a drawer in my desk, just in case!
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Old 01-25-08, 08:07 AM   #19
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Thanks, GMC...I've been avoiding shelling out the $50 for those booties, but I guess with a couple of more months of winter left, it's probably the simple solution here.
They are really not that expensive -- Performance currently has some on sale for $19.99. I use neoprene booties with thicker hiking socks and my road shoes down to the mid 20s. Mine are old style Performance brand that I found at a gear swap for $2. Considering how much bike shoes cost and how convenient a bootie is compared to plastic bags that'll rip and have to be replaced (albeit practically for free), I feel they are a reasonable investment. Feet are just as important as hands, and most people wouldn't think too hard about investing $20-30 for a good pair of gloves. Treat your feet right!
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Old 01-25-08, 08:33 AM   #20
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Pick up one of those emergency blankets - you know, the super-thin mylar ones that packs into a tiny space. It's much more resilient than aluminum foil.

yes this is preferable
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Old 01-25-08, 09:49 AM   #21
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They are really not that expensive -- Performance currently has some on sale for $19.99. I use neoprene booties with thicker hiking socks and my road shoes down to the mid 20s. Mine are old style Performance brand that I found at a gear swap for $2. Considering how much bike shoes cost and how convenient a bootie is compared to plastic bags that'll rip and have to be replaced (albeit practically for free), I feel they are a reasonable investment. Feet are just as important as hands, and most people wouldn't think too hard about investing $20-30 for a good pair of gloves. Treat your feet right!
And they last forever. I'm going on 5 years on my set of Performance booties. Just buy them large and use shoes with few lugs.
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Old 01-25-08, 08:45 PM   #22
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Try some Toasty Feet insoles if you have enough room in your shoes. The other insoles previously mentioned look pretty good also. Insulated insoles should add about 10 degrees comfort, again providing you have room in your shoes so that the bloodflow to your feet are not restricted. That was my problem last year. Now that my shoes have stretched there is plenty of room and my feet are warmer due to the lack of constriction. I think I will also try as previously recommended and not tighten my shoes as much. We go at a more lesiurely pace in the winter so they do not need to be as tight anyway.
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Old 01-25-08, 09:10 PM   #23
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Get a pair of Mizuno Breath Thermal socks, they produce heat when your feet sweat.
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Old 01-26-08, 01:48 AM   #24
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I don't know what kind of winters you guys ride in.What kind of temps you have to endure.But I wear big snowmobile boots and my toes can still get cold.I find when that happens,I get off and walk the bike for a few minutes.Then I can hop on and ride again.
Shoes in the winter?Makes my toes hurt just thinking about it.
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Old 01-26-08, 10:32 PM   #25
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My new and improved article on Cold Feet!

http://www.machka.net/whatworks/coldfeet.htm
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