Five of the Best: Winter Overshoes 2015

December 1st marked the first day of winter and though we enjoyed a relatively benign autumn, albeit with a little too much rain in the latter weeks, the colder months are now upon us. Some of us will retire to our turbos and spin classes, but the hardy souls will still be banging out the miles. Cycling in wintery conditions soon exposes the flaws in your wardrobe and your feet, which are essentially static on your pedals, are vulnerable to low temperatures and water ingress, so a decent pair of overshoes is an absolute necessity for winter riding.

Overshoes are not a glamorous part of the cyclists’ attire. Unlike that new thermal jacket you’ve treated yourself to, overshoes will rarely garner favourable nods from your cycling brethren, but it is equally important to invest care and attention when selecting a pair that will provide the necessary level of warmth and protection suitable for the riding conditions you expect to experience.  Even if it is not raining, your feet are defenceless against standing water or slurry on the road flicked up by your wheels and those of the rider in front of you. Wet is one enemy, but the cold is its cruel accomplice and if your feet are unprotected then they will be assailable from all sides and will quickly succumb.   

Rule number one is to always ensure you select the correct size:  the fit should be snug, to ensure that water ingress is kept to a minimum, but should not be so tight that they feel constrictive or impossible to pull on and off. Fit is everything with an overshoe – too baggy and they look unsightly and can slip off the shoe, exposing your defences and leaving you with damp and increasingly cold feet within.

The majority of winter overshoes are constructed using neoprene – an inherently stretchy synthetic rubber material  that is fully waterproof. The downside is that neoprene does not allow your feet to breath and that’s the trade-off. Gore-Tex and a few similar fully water resistant fabrics allow for a little more breathability, but if you are happy to sacrifice protection from water in favour of greater breathability then a more breathable softshell fabric, like Windstopper, is preferable, especially if the manufacturer has incorporated thermal properties too.

The devil is also in the detail: wherever possible, check that the overshoes you are considering have taped seams, robust velcro fastenings or zips, a high cuff that is either elasticated or has a strap that can tighten around your ankle. Overshoes will not keep out a deluge or if you are riding in conditions where there is substantial standing water on the road, but ensuring that your overshoes are made of premium products, with a robust construction and anatomical fit and you will you’re your feet drier and warmer for longer.

As you will be waddling around in your overshoes it’s worth ensuring the toes, sole traps and heels are reinforced with a textile such as kevlar or a material that is resistant to abrasion. Toes and heels have a tendency to wear through or bad construction can see the sole parting company from the upper, so check the material used in the sole is robust and has a strong bond with the upper part of the overshoe.

Lastly, a quick word on the etiquette of wearing overshoes and bib tights. Does one tuck the tights into the overshoe or pull them over the overshoe?  The majority would opt for the former – it looks a little neater and all decent overshoes incorporate a reflective strip or logo on the heel, so the latter option will obviously obscure them somewhat. In wet conditions, however, pulling your bib tights over your overshoe (assuming you they don’t have foot straps) will allow water droplets to pass over your foot rather than channel it straight into your shoe. It’s an even more effective option if your bib tights are water resistant, which several on the market now are.

Here are our picks of five of the best on the market to give you an overview on the array of designs available, but if you have a particular overshoe that you rely on to keep your feet dry and warm over the winter months then tell us about it!

 

Sealskinz Neoprene Halo Overshoe

The innovative Halo overshoe range, from Norfolk based Sealskinz, picked up a golden gong at the prestigious ISPO Awards this year, which celebrate ‘exceptional’ sporting products. The award was predominantly a recognition of the innovative addition of a removable light in the heel of the overshoe. We were impressed by the Halo Lightweight Overshoe, when we road tested a pair earlier in the year – perfect for riding in dim conditions in autumn and spring, but for the coldest days of the year, you’d be far better off reaching for their more substantial neoprene sibling. 

These have been tested in miserable conditions in the last few weeks, on several rides over 60 miles. First impressions are good: they feel robust with visibly good quality stitching and a reinforced material around the cleat area. For a neoprene overshoe they are also reasonably flexible, making them easy to take on and off.  They also provide a very good fit (which helps if the right size is chosen – the Medium tested were spot on for my Size 9/EU 43 shoes). Throughout the ride they provided good level of protection – my feet never felt wet or cold. The light is a good auxiliary add-on which is easy to operate and secure.

The 4 lumen output (powered by a single CR2032 battery) throws out a decent enough light, especially when you factor in that your feet will be rotating, making you that little more visible to approaching motorists. Personally, I found the green velcro closure strap a little necessary. If the right shoes size is chosen then I feel the closure strap becomes redundant as the zip stays pretty well in place without the need for the closure strap. It’s a minor quibble, however, but overall these are a very good pair of robust overshoes that provide a decent level of protection from the elements.

The Sealskinz Halo Overshoes cost £40 and come in sizes ranging from Small (36-38) to XL (47-49) and are widely available to buy online, including via Wiggle, Chain Reaction, Evans and directly from the Sealskinz website, where you will find more information about the Halo Overshoe range and their cycling specific products in their collection.

 

Lizard Skins Dry-Fiant Insulated Shoe Cover

The name may be a bit of a mouthful (Defiant, geddit?) but the manufacturer of arguably the best bar tape on the market, have produced a well-designed and lightweight winter overshoe. The real plus point for me was how easy it is to put these overshoes on as they completely open up, allowing you to position them over your shoe and then secure the velcro fastenings on the rear and on the sole. No wrestling around on the floor in contortions, manically trying to pull these over your shoes, whilst simultaneously cursing and worrying whether you will make that pre-ride coffee before your mates decide to leave without you.

I admit that I had misgivings about whether the Velcro fastenings would offer adequate protection from water ingress, but having worn these in (light) rain and with surface water they provide good protection from the wet – the fact that the main velcro fastening is to the rear, and therefore in a far less vulnerable position, certainly helps with the protection. The outer fabric has a stretchy, wetsuit feel to it and Lizard Skins claim the outer shell is waterproof and I have yet to have found any reason to question this claim, though in a severe downpour or with a lot of surface water I would suspect that water would quickly ingress via the sole, but that is an issue I have had with even the tightest full neoprene overshoes in the past.

The inside has a fleecy lining that keeps your feet warm all the time and I also found that these breathe a  little more effectively than full neoprene overshoes. The inside also has taped seams, so ensuring water penetration is kept to a minimum.

Robustly made with good stitching and a Teflon fabric on the toe and sole straps, plus a reflective Sealskinz logo on the side that will illuminate you to traffic approaching from the side. I like the fact that the wide reflective strip on the heel is stitched on, which suggests it will stand up to repeated use – reflective strips simply heat applied to neoprene overshoes do have a tendency to disintegrate far too quickly.

These are a well-constructed overshoe, but I would suggest you err towards a smaller size as they could look a little ungainly if too big. The velcro straps to allow for adjustment to accommodate different shoe sizes. If I was certain I was going to encounter a deluge or sustained rainfall, then I’d probably opt for a tighter fittings neoprene overshoe over these, but for winter warmth and protection from occasional rain showers, these would be preferable as they are lighter and the fabric used stop one’s feet from overheating.

The Lizard Skins Dry-Fiant Insulated Shoe Cover retail at £29.99. They are widely available to buy online and come in sizes ranging from Small (36-39) through to  XL (47-49).

 

Gore Bike Wear Road Thermo Overshoes

There is not getting away from the fact that £75 is a lot of money to shelve out on a pair of overshoes. They may sit alongside certain designer brands when it comes to price, but these top of the range overshoes from Gore come with the reassurance that they are manufactured using the companies ubiquitous Gore-Tex fabric, which allows a certain level of  breathability, but 100% water resistance.

These may not be the most stylish or attractive overshoes available and they do have a utilitarian look to them. Some will shy away from them for this reason alone, though others (this tester included) will like the fact that their cumbersome character accentuates the high level of the protection they offer. These are a pair of overshoes that have one objective – to protect you from the worst that a northern hemisphere winter can throw at you. With these on your feet, you know you have the right foundations to head fearlessly towards malevolent skies.

Construction quality is a given with Gore and all their products go through months of testing and evaluation, constantly fine-tuned until Gore’s R&D department feel confident that the garment is fit for purpose. These overshoes are no different and from top to bottom there is nothing that is left over to chance. The high cuff, which fits tightly around your ankle thanks to the incorporation of neoprene right down to the tough sole that feels and looks reassuringly strong. They overshoes also feature an anatomical cut, following the form of the human foot. This may not be a necessity with the rubbery quality of a neoprene overshoe, but Gore-Tex is a fabric, so the anatomical shape ensures that they fit snugly around the contours of your feet.

In short, a quality, workhorse pair of overshoes for the dedicated cyclist who intends to train throughout the winter, whatever the weather. If you can stomach the price, then look no further.They are available to buy online via Wiggle and Evans or visit goreapparel.co.uk  for stockists. They are available in sizes ranging from XS (36-38) to a whopping XL (48-50). Price is an equally whopping £74.99/

 

dhb Neoprene Nylon Overshoe review.

At £20.00 dab’s neoprene nylon overshoe sits in the middle of their range, between their lighter weight windproof overshoe at £10.00 and their extreme weather neoprene overshoe at £30.00. I’ve been impressed with other pieces of kit from dhb, especially given their price point, so I felt that these overshoes also warranted some attention.

My initial impressions were all positive, with a high standard of materials and construction one would expect on a more expensive overshoe. There are reinforced panels on the toe, heel and soul between the holes for the cleat and heel. All the panels are joined with wide, double stitched elasticated seams. The only exception to this is the zip, which instead has double stitched reflective seams on either side. The dhb logo, which runs down the outside of the zip seam is also reflective. A velcro tab sits at the top of the zip to keep everything in place. Other than that, these overshoes are a very simple design. Not a tour de force of technology, but neither do they need to be at this price.

As with all overshoes, they are finicky to put on, but once fitted, they feel snug, but well-proportioned, with just enough clearance for the cleat. The heel clearance could be a bit smaller as it easier than it should be to leave the back of the heel exposed, but it’s no real problem if they’re properly adjusted when first put on.

So how do they perform? For one ride, the weather was surprisingly warm for the time of year (late October) but biblical in every other sense. Noah might have been fine with the rain, but the wind that day would have blown his shizzle! After approximately 45 miles my feet were sodden. No overshoe would have been able to cope with the Ark-floating conditions that day. This however, was not a problem for me as the sturdy neoprene layer not only kept my feet warm, but also negated any wind chill.  

On another ride in wet conditions (again!) but it temperatures around the 7°C they still shone (unlike the early November sun) In temperatures a couple of degrees lower, they have again been excellent, although admittedly the conditions were much drier.There will be a point this winter when these overshoes will struggle, but only when it becomes a real test of motivation to get out in the depths of the worst weather. That makes them versatile too, as I can foresee wearing these on cooler autumn/winter days and mid-single figure temperatures if it is not too wet.

These overshoes may not appeal to the premium label lovers out there, but if you are looking for a keenly priced, sturdy and well-made pair of overshoes then these are highly recommended

The dhb Neoprene Nylon Overshoe is available to buy exclusively on Wiggle, priced at £20. It is available only in Black and in sizes ranging from XS (37-39) to XL (46-48)

 

Sportful Neoprene SR Booties

From the sister company of Italian brand Castelli, come these stylish pair of overshoes – or booties as they prefer to call them - that combine neoprene with 16% polyester, which results in a highly stretchy warm overshoe to keep your feet toasty when the mercury is just over freezing. The warmth and wind protection of these is excellent, yet the incorporation of 78% neoprene coupled with welded seams helps to maximise protection against water ingress. OK, these may not stand up to a deluge (what overshoes can?) but they offer a good level of versatility to cover most weather conditions you will encounter when training on the road throughout the winter months. Reflective piping and logo, a handy pull tag and a high, tight ankle rounds off a very effective and good looking winter overshoe. Pair these with Sportful’s highly regarded bib tights and you are making the right moves towards more endurable winter riding.

The Sportful Neoprene SR Booties retail at £30 and come in sizes ranging from Small (36-39) to XXL (44-46) and are widely available to buy online, including Wiggle and Chain Reaction

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Comment by Terry Hayward on December 9, 2015 at 17:21
My DHB extremes are now starting their 3rd season and they are still going strong. Fantastic value and when doubled up with sealskin socks they are toasty in the most extreme conditions. And I live at 1000' up in the Peaks where it's always 4-5 degrees colder than most of England.

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