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 tootsie testing!
Here are the best mountain bike winter boots for autumn and winter 2021/22. Baby it’s cold outside. Nothing is more important than keeping your feet warm on a bike ride.
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.
Best mountain bike winter boots
- Shimano MW5 review – CLIPLESS WINNER
- Ride Concepts TNT review – FLAT PEDAL WINNER
- Mavic Crossmax SL Pro Thermo review
- Lake MX180 review
- Northwave Celcius Arctic 2 review
- Specialized Defroster Trail review
- Giro Alpineduro review
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How we tested the best mountain bike winter boots
When testing MTB footwear we normally focus on comfort and power transfer, but with winter boots, key features are water resistance and warmth. These are easy enough to quantify, but slightly more difficult to assess are the practical details, like how easy is it to get the boots on and off, considering your fingers may be cold and wet after a ride. Are the laces sticky and prone to getting choked up with grime? Can the soles handle muddy slopes when you are pushing? Do the boots still keep you warm when filled with water?
The only way to find that out is to live in them, which is what we did through autumn and, what is turning into, a pretty chilly Scottish winter. As usual we used our Scottish squad of bearded mountain men and race whippets to put the boots through their paces.
Price: £130.00 | Weight: 988g | Sizes: 38-48 | Colours: Black
Pros: All of Shimano’s experience in a perfect boot
Cons: Nothing (apart from the dull looks)
Some boots you can just pull-on and forget they are there, with every function and practicality covered to the point that they just blend into the background. Most riders went out assuming the MW5 was of a comparable price to the rest on test and still came back firmly nailing them to the top of the heap. We found it hard to fault this shoe — warm, perfect stiffness and cheap — a worthy winner.
Ride Concepts TNT
Flat pedal winner!
Price: £144.99 | Weight: 1,100g | Sizes: 4-10.5 (37-45)
Pros: Sticky sole, weather protection, comfort
Cons: Rather clumpy (until worn in)
When it comes to winter riding, flat pedal users are poorly served. Sure, Five Ten used to do hi-tops and/or shoes with light DWR coatings but that was about it. And Five Ten have seemingly stopped making their ‘EPS’ and ‘Element’ models. Step forward (ha!) Ride Concepts and these excellent TNT boots. Although not explicitly targeted at winter riding – 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.
Mavic Crossmax SL Pro Thermo
Price: £170.00 | Weight: 992g | Sizes: 38-48.5 | Colours: Black
Pros: Surprisingly racey and tech
Cons: Very stiff to hike around in
The super high collar may look restrictive but you needn’t worry, it’s actually very supple and conforming during pedalling and hiking. This boot is really good at keeping out the wet stuff and, whilst it’s warmer than a regular cycling shoe, it isn’t as toasty as some others in this test. We are also not usually big fans of zips on garments intended to be bathed in filth but the zips have proven trouble-free throughout testing and they definitely stay closed no matter what (unlike Velcro which can unstick in snow, for example). Stiff sole is powerful when pedaling but makes the boots not great for extended hiking periods.
Good value considering
Price: £150.00 | Weight: 940g | Sizes: 39-50 (wide fit special order) | Colours: Black
Pros: Low-cut makes for greater maneuverability
Cons: Low-cut does let more puddle water ingress
These are excellent boots that do a great job of both keeping you dry and also keeping your feet from chilling when the temperatures drop. The lack of a high collar wasn’t too much of an issue in testing bar the occasioanl time puddle spray got in over the top of the boot. These boots are particularly good for hike-a-bike riding, or indeed for hiding in the woods in winter and doing push-back-up sessions. Well worth their price tag too.
Northwave Celcius Arctic 2
Cold feet? Get these!
Price: £180.00 | Weight: 1,074g | Sizes: 37-49 | Colours: Black, flouro yellow
Pros: The warmest boot here by far
Cons: Stiff and hard plastic sole is sketchy on rock
If you absolutely must have the warmest and most waterproofed mountain bike boot currently available, these are the boots for you. Fleece-lined. Genuine Gore-Tex lining. They are also one of the stiffest boots we’ve ever encountered which is a good and bad thing: great for pedal power transfer, not so comfy for long periods of hiking about in mountains. The ahr plastic sole also slipped about on roots and damp rock. But if you don’t spend much time hike-a-biking in mountains, these are impressive paw protectors.
Specialized Defroster Trail
Good looks and performance
Price: £160.00 | Weight: 982g | Sizes: 39-49 | Colours: Black/orange, black/grey
Pros: Good balance of comfort and protection
Cons: Sizing comes up large
The tall collar does a good job of keeping trail- and tyre-flung wet out of the boot but it is rather stiff. It does loosen up a bit but it takes over a dozen rides before it does so, which can be as many rides as most folk actually get to do during a winter! The waterproof liner does a decent job but it does ionly go as high as the top of the lace bed so beware submerging them too deep. All in all, it’s a good boot but for the money it needs to have fewer niggles. By the way, they size up on the large side; we found that a size 42 fitted our size 43 feet.
Hiking boot with cleats
Price: £169.99 | Weight: 946g | Sizes: 37-48 | Colours: Black
Pros: Retro looks with decent performance
Cons: Shallow tread struggles in deep filth
Giro’s lace-up shoes get somethin gof a split response. Some folk love their looks and (claim to) prefer traditional lacing to modern alternatives like BOA dials and ratchet straps etc. Other folk think they are just far too hipster and form over function. The truth, as ever, is somewhere in between. Laces really aren’t the best way of doing up boots – especially boots designed to ridden in conditions that make fingers numbs – but laces aren’t totally useless in winter. There is something to be said for their infinite adjustability. Regardless, if you’re not put off by the laces, these are some really decent winter MTBing boots.
The best mountain bike winter boots: the verdict
The good news is that every one of these boots kept us warm and dry, with only one boot (the Mavic Crossmax SL Pro Thermo) struggling slightly when the temperature really plummeted several degrees below zero. Even then we were making a point of only wearing summer thickness socks to really test the shoe’s mettle. Chances are the Crossmax SL Pro Thermo would have been fine with more sensible socks.
The Specialized was penalised slightly for that stiff and ungainly ankle cuff, poor tread for muddy trekking, plus a surprisingly low-level seal for the waterproof liner — right at the bottom of the laces, rather than the top for all the others. Otherwise it was a warm boot with plenty of wriggle room for toes. Just remember and order a size below your usual.
Level pegging was the Northwave, another superb and extremely warm and waterproof boot. We couldn’t fault it on the bike, with a stiff sole helping the miles fly by, but off the bike it was a little ungainly, and that hard plastic tread skated easily on frozen surfaces.
A step up was the Mavic, with its high yet comfortable splash proofing, aggressive tread and sleek lines complementing an efficiently shank to boost pedal power. A Gore-Tex liner added big name performance to the waterproofing, but as we’ve mentioned, you need a thick sock when the temperature drops.
The Lake was a great find. It’s a warm and waterproof boot, and while it did lack some of the splash-proof height, the lack of a sealed ankle meant it breathed better in warmer conditions, and this extended its use into the warmer months. With this versatility, and a decent price, the Lake is one of the best value winter boots on test.
Great value is something we can also say about our test winner. At £130, the Shimano MW5 is up to £50 cheaper than its rivals, and when you combine this with excellent weatherproofing, comfort, ease of use and good compromise of pedalling and walking stiffness…
The ultimate 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.
There is no such thing as a winter boot that keeps 100 per cent 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.
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.
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.
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.
Since you’re 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.