Cycling can be all fun and games until you come face to face with the outdoor elements. And perhaps at the epitome of all cycling misery is when you have to slog down a road with cold feet.
Getting cold feet while cycling is a common phenomenon in countries in Europe and many northern parts of North America. Countries in the UK have the extra benefit (or not) of having wetness added to the mix.
Cold winds and wet weather conditions are the primary beneficiaries of cold feet.
Why does this happen?
As the temperature drops around you, your body prioritizes and diverts heat to your core, leaving your extremities, like your hands and feet, cold.
What to do?
Since we will be focusing on feet in this article, let’s stick with that.
There are many ways to go about to keep your feet warm in these conditions. From DIY taping methods to getting yourself winter specific cycling shoes with all the insulation and coverage that you can think of.
We will be approaching this article starting from what to do in mild winter conditions to extreme cold and wet situations.
Steps to Take to Keep Your Feet Warm
1. Taping Over the Vents
Your regular cycling shoes will naturally have vents or meshes to encourage airflow. While this is good to prevent hot feet or to just keep your feet cool during extreme riding stretches, it can prove to be detrimental when temperatures drop.
A temporary, yet simple, solution to this is to cover these vents with tape. Yes, your all-purpose tape.
This inexpensive solution will help to seal up the vents of your shoes and keep your feet insulated and warm. And you can easily take them off after you are done.
As simple as they may be, it does come with a couple of downsides:
- It may not stay on in wet conditions. The adhesive might wear off during a ride.
- May not be aesthetically pleasing. It may make your $150 shoes look old and worn out.
The next natural solution are the socks.
Buying winter specific insulating socks may cost you a few extra bucks, but the investment is well worth it.
But take special care about the thickness of your new, warmer socks.
If your cycling shoes already fit perfectly on your feet, chances are that thicker socks may end up making your shoes feel tight. This will restrict your blood circulation to your feet and end up having the exact opposite to your desired effect.
Loosening your fastening system might provide an easy solution to this. But if that is not possible, you can always remove your insoles to create more space.
Many cyclists also wear two pairs of thin socks to avoid this problem. But this is another reason why our next solution is the most popular when it comes to keeping your feet warm while cycling.
As the name suggests, these go over your cycling shoes and clamp down snugly around the upper section of your ankles.
These are usually waterproof, insulated and heavy-duty to provide the best warmth even on harsh and wet winter conditions.
Also known as booties, the insulating material (usually made of neoprene) can easily cut through chilling winds on top of also being breathable, making for a very comfortable wear.
Though the higher quality of material may cost you a few extra bucks.
Another added benefit that these provide is their ability to keep your shoes fresh even through a rough cycling session. Just keep an eye out for the right model that covers a good portion of the soles but with enough space for the cleat and heel.
A more premium option for overshoes is the heated variety. Much like heated insoles, you can heat these bad boys up as temperatures drop with the help of, usually, batteries perched on the top of these overshoes.
4. Winter Shoes/Boots
Why get an extra component when you can get yourself a pair of winter-ready cycling shoes?
Though they will take a significant investment, around $150 or more, these shoes provide the benefit of having a great cycling shoe integrated with an overshoe, all in one.
All the vents are sealed off with insulating liners, with an outer body made of tough weather resistant material. These provide the ultimate protection against dropping temperatures.
Keeping the price in mind, these are obviously a niche pick, but they are well worth it if you are planning on riding for more than a couple of months in cold conditions, or you just happen to live in a place with a colder climate.
- Heated Insoles: As mentioned earlier, these can be heated up during your ride to keep your feet warm. These may not be as comfortable as the ones that come along with your shoes, but it gets the work done.
- Foot Warmers: These are chemically activated pads that can be placed inside your shoes and can provide up to five hours of warmth depending on the severity of the cold. These typically cost under $5 a pair and can be a good option if you do not ride in winter conditions regularly.
- Consider Warming Up: Not only your body, consider leaving your shoes and socks over a radiator around half an hour before you head out. This will help you begin your session feeling warm and toasty.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q1) How cold is too cold for cycling?
Ans.: While we can’t give you exact figures for temperature, we doubt anyone can, we can however give you certain factors that may make riding in the cold seem unbearable:
- Improper clothing: Being unprepared for a winter ride is the first mistake many cyclists make. Make sure you are wearing windproof and insulated jackets, gloves and socks before heading out. Being unable to equip yourself properly will see you being miserable even at sub 10 degrees Celsius.
- Cold Air: While your nose and airways do warm up the air as you inhale, cold air can still make it painful for you to breathe, especially if you have problems like asthma.
- Wind chill: Gusts of cold air is the biggest factor in stopping cyclists from enjoying their ride in cold climates. Riding in under negative 10 degrees with calm air is exponentially easier than riding in 0 degrees with decent wind speed.
Q2) Does wearing two pairs of socks keep your feet warmer?
Ans.: Theoretically speaking, yes, wearing two pairs of socks does keep your feet warmer. But practical implementation of this gives rise to problems in and of itself.
Your cycling shoe is designed to hold only the combination of a foot and a sock. Adding more thickness to that will only tighten the feet and eventually stop blood circulation.
This will make your feet feel numb during a ride and maybe even cold, which is counter intuitive.
However, you can wear two pairs of thinner insulating socks to overcome this issue.
As you can see, keeping yourself warm under cold weather conditions is not really that difficult. By following certain steps and buying yourself some easy to find components, you can see yourself performing better while keeping yourself toasty.
Of course, the intensity of the weather conditions will warrant a more expensive pursuit to keep yourself warm. But knowing how much we love cycling and how serious we can be, this investment may as well be justified.