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  1. #1
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    Guys with really cold toes: what's your solution?

    For those of you out there with naturally cold feet, and particularly cold toes, what has been your solution?

    On 35-40F degree days, I wear my normal thin cotton socks, then a thick wool sock over that. I then place a ziploc bag over my toes, put my shoes on, and then put on heavy-duty PI Elite Barrier full shoe covers. Within minutes, my toes are numb and never recover and are generally purple after the ride until I get them warmed up with hot water or a space heater. The rest of the feet are fine, it's just the toes.

    I will say, I do routinely hot-spot on the balls of my feet, so I'm not sure if that might play a part in circulation, but the frozen toes is an annoyance that really hampers my cold weather rides.

  2. #2
    Senior Member bikemig's Avatar
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    Neoprene booties for cycling shoes. When it gets really cold, boots, socks, and platform pedals work for me.

  3. #3
    Senior Member bruised's Avatar
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    I don't have a solution, yet. I thought I'd cracked it with new boots. They worked fine on the first couple rides then back to square one. I think I'll try chemical warmers next
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  4. #4
    Señor Member ericy's Avatar
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    For me, a couple of things. First, I put away my shoes with the SPD cleats and use a heavy hiking shoe that I picked up at the REI yardsale. They are also nice in that they don't let a lot of air through (the summer shoes are designed for good ventilation, which I no longer need in the winter).

    My shoes are a bit on the big side, so I can fit my normal cycling socks (not cotton) plus a thick pair of wool socks over that. All of this together keeps my feet nice and warm down to the mid 30s - I haven't yet tried temps below this, but if I get cold, I guess a 3rd pair of socks.

    For you, I would put away the thin cotton socks - you probably need something that will wick moisture next to your skin. There are synthetics or soft wool socks that you can wear next to your skin that will help. Generally you don't want to wear any cotton at all next to your skin in the winter.

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    I recently rode in the teens, my feet tend to get very cold quickly. I suggest a pair of Irish Setter VaprTrek 2874. I got these specifically for biking not hunting. I bought a pair and they seem to work pretty good. I went up a size and add thicker socks. They are light weight not like a pack boot. Prior to this I was using OR snow show neoprene covers, Gore Shoe covers and heavy socks with hyper sock liner all over a Keen bike shoe. Toes got cold after about 4-5 miles in 20 degree temps. I had bought a pair of winter specific bike shoes and sent those back. Most foot wear appears to have the insulation in the ankles but these boots actually appear to have it in the toe region. I got mine from Bass Pro. I have wide feet and they sell them like that. Prior to these boots I was using the Keens, then tried hiking boots, which worked better than the Keens because the Keens is a sandle type bike shoe and I was using SPD pedals. I then switched to BMX platform pedals for the winter and this allows me to use non bike shoes. The irish setter boots is just one thing that is working better in combination with everything else, but I still get cold feet, just not as quickly.

  6. #6
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    Some questions on your current setup:

    Do you have enough room in your shoes for that many layers? You may be limiting your circulation by sticking so many layers on your feet, actually making your feet colder. Also, I would suggest a synthetic or wool sock against the skin instead of cotton. Finally, is the bag over your whole foot, or literally just the toes? I assume this is for blocking the wind, but it also acts as a vapor barrier, which can be good for warmth retention, but if it is not over your whole foot, is likely a negative. Regardless, VBL's are generally worn between your insulating sock and a base layer sock, since their point is to prevent wetting out insulation.

    As suggested above, either get some really nice ($$$) clipless shoes (the Wolvhammer seems to get good reviews, Lake makes one that isn't as pricy nor as warm), or go to platforms. As much as I like clipless, I can't bring myself to pay $$$ for winter clipless, especially since the Lakes would probably be underkill in my neck of the woods (Wisconsin). Make sure that you get a decent pair of pedals, as the cheap nylon ones are just an invitation to have your feet slip when riding in wet/icy conditions. Pair that with a decent winter boot/shoe, and you are good to go.

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    My solution is to not wear cycling shoes

    For a pretty good list of hard outsoles winter boots you can go there
    Snow Boots | Winter Boots: Baffin, Sorel, Columbia, Merrell, The North Face - WinterBoots.com
    Last edited by erig007; 11-21-14 at 11:56 AM.

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  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by erig007 View Post
    My solution is to not wear cycling shoes
    +1 In fact, I don't even wear any overly winterized shoes - just over the ankle walking shoes and standard dress socks. The key to keeping extremities warm is to keep the torso warm. My feet are fine this way down to -20F and I lack experience with still lower temps.

  10. #10
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    I don't have a huge amount of experience, but what works for me, down to the low thirties, is to use normal cycling shoes, heavy wool socks (if I'm wearing socks, it's Thorlo hiking socks), and PI soft-shell covers. That's worked for me for rides up to two hours.

    For lower temperatures, I just got biking boots (northwave extreme winter gtx road; expensive but very nice). Those and my normal socks work down to about 25. I've gotten down to 18 degrees with them, adding a second layer of (thin wool) socks. Much colder than that, and I think I'll need to put the covers on, but it hasn't gotten that cold yet.

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    Senior Member GravelMN's Avatar
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    First thing to check: Do you toes have plenty of room? The #1 mistake I see in cold weather footwear is to layer heavy socks and then try to scrunch them into shoes that fit well with light summer socks. It doesn't matter how much insulation you have if you cut off the circulation to your toes with too tight footwear. Winter shoes should be about a 1/2 size larger than your summer shoes with a generous toe box. If you can't splay and wiggle your toes, they are too small. If the shoes are large enough, slip a wool felt liner under the regular liner to keep the soles of your feet warm where the neoprene doesn't cover.

    Personally, I find that a good pair of merino wool ski socks (I like the Smart Wool medium weight) in shoes with lots of toe room, and a good neoprene shoe cover is good down to about freezing. Much below that and I switch to insulated, waterproof hiking boots and forgo clipping in.

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    I put my bare feet in produce bags, the socks as usual, then another produce bag and last the high, thin socks that our grandfathers wore. I put this in shoes like my summer shoes only a full size large. I find keeping the socks completely dry, both from outside rain, puddles etc and sweat does wonders.

    Below 30F and for long days, I do the same except I put the last produce bag instead over my shoes, then wear a CX ski sock over all.

    Ben

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    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    My article entitled "Cold Feet" ...
    Charlene Barach (Machka) - Cold Feet

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    Senior Member wolfchild's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dreww10 View Post
    For those of you out there with naturally cold feet, and particularly cold toes, what has been your solution?

    On 35-40F degree days, I wear my normal thin cotton socks, then a thick wool sock over that. I then place a ziploc bag over my toes, put my shoes on, and then put on heavy-duty PI Elite Barrier full shoe covers. Within minutes, my toes are numb and never recover and are generally purple after the ride until I get them warmed up with hot water or a space heater. The rest of the feet are fine, it's just the toes.

    I will say, I do routinely hot-spot on the balls of my feet, so I'm not sure if that might play a part in circulation, but the frozen toes is an annoyance that really hampers my cold weather rides.
    35-40F is not cold. You're overdoing it with too many layers. At those temps all I wear is a pair of running shoes or hiking shoes and 1 pair of wool socks...I suspect that the reason you are getting numb toes is because you're cutting off blood circulation with too tight of a fit. Your shoes may be too small to accommodate all those layers, you need wiggle room in there.
    Also stay away from cotton socks. Cotton absorbs and holds too much moisture especially if you wearing a plastic bag over them, wet socks, cool temps and tight fit will make your feet go numb even if the temps are well above freezing... Plastic bags and cotton socks=bad idea.
    Try different shoes and heavier wool socks and see if that makes a difference, and remember you need wiggle room in there.

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    #6 post mentions the cotton socks, I agree, put the wool against the skin,throw the cotton away, it is responsible for your loss of heat.
    Neoprene booties over your shoes, cut for your cleats will do the trick, don't put to many pair of ultra thin wool or poly socks on, you need full circulation, a little body oil on the bare feet when socking up is good for circulation overall and to keep the socks from possibly bunching, which cuts circulation quickly.

    Of course, the rest of the body requires proper treatment, cold knees cold nuts.

  16. #16
    Senior Member scoatw's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by wolfchild View Post
    35-40F is not cold. You're overdoing it with too many layers. At those temps all I wear is a pair of running shoes or hiking shoes and 1 pair of wool socks...I suspect that the reason you are getting numb toes is because you're cutting off blood circulation with too tight of a fit. Your shoes may be too small to accommodate all those layers, you need wiggle room in there.
    Also stay away from cotton socks. Cotton absorbs and holds too much moisture especially if you wearing a plastic bag over them, wet socks, cool temps and tight fit will make your feet go numb even if the temps are well above freezing... Plastic bags and cotton socks=bad idea.
    Try different shoes and heavier wool socks and see if that makes a difference, and remember you need wiggle room in there.
    I totally agree. At those temperatures I usually wear my sock/sandal combo with the shoe covers. If need be I'll slip on some toe warmers. In the cold weather its insulated hiking boots for me. They fit good in my toe clips. A good thick pair of quality wool sock and my feet are comfortable down to the single digits.

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    I don't generally ride with both the cotton and wool socks doubled-up, but did try it this week as a test of an extra layer and still got the numbness. The result is usually identical with just the wool sock only.

    The shoe fit isn't a problem, as there's still room to spare with the wool sock and the plastic bag, but the shoes (Specialized) are extremely well-ventilated. Even on 100+ degree F days, my feet don't even break a sweat. That said, with baggies over the toes and the bombproof shoe covers, I don't believe any air is really getting in. Seems just a case of extremities that don't like the cold.

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    I use toe covers and wool socks down to the mid thirties. Below that I add chemical warmers. I generally don't ride below thirty.

  19. #19
    Senior Member wolfchild's Avatar
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    It's worth mentioning to keep your core temperature nice a warm, if your core temperature drops your body will draw blood away from the extremities to keep itself warm.

  20. #20
    Senior Member scoatw's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dreww10 View Post
    I don't generally ride with both the cotton and wool socks doubled-up, but did try it this week as a test of an extra layer and still got the numbness. The result is usually identical with just the wool sock only.

    The shoe fit isn't a problem, as there's still room to spare with the wool sock and the plastic bag, but the shoes (Specialized) are extremely well-ventilated. Even on 100+ degree F days, my feet don't even break a sweat. That said, with baggies over the toes and the bombproof shoe covers, I don't believe any air is really getting in. Seems just a case of extremities that don't like the cold.
    I'll bet a dollar that if you replace the Specialized shoe with a insulated shoe more designed for cold weather your problem may be solved. And you could ditch the plastic bag too.

  21. #21
    Senior Member Archwhorides's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Machka View Post
    My article entitled "Cold Feet" ...
    Charlene Barach (Machka) - Cold Feet
    Nice article!

    I agree with other posters that riding in loose-fitting winter-appropriate shoes is the starting point to comfort, and getting the cotton socks out of the equation. I ride in black Smartwool liner socks and layer additional wool as necessary. They are spendy but they are always comfortable and never get skanky, so I can wear them through the day in the office.
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