It only takes one miserable, trench foot experience sloshing around in a pair of icy shoes to realise how much better life becomes once wearing a pair of the best mountain bike winter boots. Toasty tootsies are just around the corner!
Baby it’s cold outside, but we’ve got the best mountain bike winter boots for autumn and winter riding to keep your feet warm and dry. And a much cheaper alternative at the bottom of the list that’s almost as good…
Obviously a winter boot is a substantial investment, but you’ll only be wearing it for a few months at a time, so it should last several years before it needs replacing. This also allows you to save your summer best mountain bike shoes from a frozen and grimy beating, and that should in turn make them last longer, too.
Kick-ass winter kicks
Weight: 850g | Sizes: 36-50 | Colours: Black | Rating: 8/10
Reasons to buy: Ultimate flat pedal grip.
Reasons to avoid: Stiff to begin with. Difficult to get on and off.
Five Ten is the kind of flat pedal shoes thanks to its incredible Stealth rubber compounds. Offering leech-like grip, with the advent of the Trailcross Gore-Tex you can now enjoy warm, dry feet when slopping about on winter trails. The famous Dotty rubber sole has been adapted with ridges at the toe and heel for additional hiking traction, and there’s an extended neoprene ankle cuff to keep water from running down into the shoe. This is fastened with a hook and loop closure, while the shoe itself uses simple laces. But they’re not too long and repel most water. If you want to ride year round and still get the best purchase on your flat pedals, these are the shoes for you.
Effective winter warmer
Weight: 830g | Sizes: 38-48 | Colours: Black | Rating: 9/10
Reasons to buy: Easy to get on and off. Effective barrier against the elements. Good cleat clearance.
Reasons to avoid: You’ll need to be an avid storm chaser to swallow the high price.
Shimano has always made some of the best winter boots for mountain biking, and we’ve rated MW series boots highly in the past. The latest MW7 has an insulated Gore-Tex liner for warmth and waterproofing with a wraparound neoprene cuff to stop water ingress from above. The BOA closure lets you easily adjust the fit depending on the temperature and also makes them easy to release, with no annoying laces hanging in a muddy puddle as you put them on or off. There’s a Michelin rubber outsole to help grip on slippery hike-a-bikes and the whole package is discreetly styled.
Flat pedal slipper
Weight: 1,100g | Sizes: 4-10.5 (37-45) | Rating: 9/10
Reasons to buy: Sticky sole, weather protection, comfort.
Reasons to avoid: Rather clumpy (until worn in).
When it comes to winter riding, flat pedal users have been poorly served, up until now. Step forward (ha!) Ride Concepts and these excellent TNT boots, giving relief from the elements to flat pedal riders. Although not explicitly targeted at winter – presumably to maximise their year-round audience appeal – they are impressively protected against water ingress. Which in itself really helps keep your feet from getting cold. That said, you’d be wise to pair these with some decent winter waterproof socks too. They have excellent feel on the pedals, although you do have to wait a few rides for them to bed in and loosen up.
Sock it to filthy conditions!
Weight: 784g | Sizes: 40-48 | Colours: Black | Rating: 8/10
Reasons to buy: Reasonable value. Good fit and protection.
Reasons to avoid: Sticky zip. Restrictive size range.
Giro has wrapped the Blaze with a loose material, which consists of a stretchy face fabric, a waterproof and breathable membrane, and a Primaloft synthetic fleece interior. To stop water ingress, it’s fully seam-sealed, and there’s a water-resistant YKK zipper with internal storm flap down the front of the shoe. Unlike some here, the waterproof layer does extend all the way to the top of the shoe.
It was a close-run thing between this and the Shimano MW702. Both are excellent winter boots, and in terms of feel, stiffness and ease of engagement, we found it hard to separate them. But after one ride the zip started to get sticky.
Cost-effective way of keeping your feet dry
Sizes: S-XL | Rating: 10/10
Reasons to buy: Excellent waterproofing. Not too bulky. Good insulation.
Reasons to avoid: Can’t think of anything.
If you baulk at the thought of spending over £100 on a pair of boots that will only get used a few months of the year, a great cost-effective alternative is just to get a pair of waterproof socks. Not only do they help keep your feet dry, but they tend to be better insulated, too, so toes stay toasty and warm. One of the best we’ve tried are the Dexshell Ultrathin waterproof socks. With a Porelle membrane, they stay really waterproof, even when splashed and soaked all day long. The use of thinner materials and a streamlined cut is also welcome as they feel nice and supple and closer to a wearing a normal sock than a wetsuit boot. Breathability is excellent with way less boil-in-a-bag sweaty sensation. And thanks to their windproofing and lack of clamminess they actually keep feet as warm as most thicker models too.
The best mountain bike winter boots: what you need to know
How we tested the best mountain bike winter boots
With all the extra zips and straps it can be hard getting your feet into a pair of winter boots. To find out how long we timed a couple of testers putting the boots on to see which one glided on like Cinderella’s slipper and which ones felt like learning Japanese rope bondage. We then looked at how much the heavily lugged sole affected the ability to clip-in smoothly, along with the amount of heel, crank and cleat clearance. We also looked at whether the fastenings were easy to adjust and could accommodate the different foot shapes. We evaluated the grip by pushing up a slick climb and tested the waterproofness by just slogging round in the slop – of which there was no shortage.
What’s the best closure system for a winter boot?
The last thing you want to be doing in winter is fiddling with frozen laces or getting frustrated at ineffective Velcro. Speed laces, with sliding jams, are fine, but our favourite at the moment is the BOA dial system — it’s a simple twist to tension, easy to release on the move, and it rarely goes wrong. In addition, it evens out pressure on the top of the foot, streamlines the design of the upper and reduces shoe weight. There are different models of the BOA in use, but they all work in the same way – you turn the dial to tighten the wire and pull it up to release it.
Do I need a Gore-Tex liner?
There is no such thing as a winter boot that keeps 100% water out, because if you step in a deep pool, water will simply come over the top. Even if you avoided that puddle, rain and splashes will still be able to run down your leg and into the shoe. That said, it’s still worth opting for a Gore-Tex liner, or a similar proprietary membrane, because this holds the water next to your foot, where it stays warm, rather than allowing cold water to flush through constantly. The Gore-Tex liner is usually sandwiched between a heavy-duty outer nylon skin and backed with a highly wicking and/or fleecy inner layer. On some shoes the membrane extends all the way up, on some it ends just below the ankle.
Should I go for a winter boot with a gaiter or lace flap?
A flap over the lace system not only deflects splashes from this potential water entry point, it also means you aren’t going to be scraping mud away from your lacing system when trying to take the shoe off. A rubberised zip is mandatory on a winter boot, but zip placement is also important. Side zips look neater, but they’re often short and you’ll struggle getting into the shoe. A front facing zip is longer, so offers greater access, but it’s less aesthetically pleasing.
Is an ankle cuff worthwhile?
Lifting the height of the protection is a good idea to stop water ingress. Lighter and flexible is best as this stops it interfering with pedalling. The cuff is rarely fully waterproof, it’s only there to deflect splashes, rather than survive submersion.
Do I need a stiffer or more flexible sole with a winter boot?
As with all bike shoes, there is a variety of sole stiffness out there — stiffer for better power transfer, more flexible for easier wear off the bike. In winter you are more likely to be walking sections, so a more flexible outsole is preferable.
What makes a good sole on a winter boot?
Since you’ll be trudging through mud and snow in the winter, it also makes sense to have a fairly aggressive tread on your shoe. Stud fitments are also useful if you are going to be attacking muddy inclines. Also look for soft compound rubber, as this will skate less on greasy rocks and roots. Equally, the bigger the cleat pocket the better, to reduce the chance of clogging. Also check the depth of the pocket because that can affect cleat engagement and float.