QUESTION: I don’t mind riding in the cold weather during the wintertime except for one issue – I can’t keep my feet warm! My toes feel like they are going numb after half an hour on rides when the temperatures are under around 35 degrees. How can I keep them warm? – Brian R
ANSWER: Cold hands or feet can completely ruin an otherwise enjoyable winter bike ride. Fortunately, we’ve gotten a lot of great tips from other readers over the years on keeping your feet warm. Here are our top tips.
1. Buy some high quality winter wool socks. You can buy them from brands like Gore, Assos, Specialized, Defeet, Giro and Pearl Izumi, just to name a few brands. Wool socks make a big difference.
2. If you still have room inside your shoes, there are even more options — some of them free. We’ve heard from riders who wrap the front of their feet in aluminum foil, over their socks. The foil blocks the wind and helps keep feet warm. Other riders use a plastic sandwich bag over their socks for a similar effect. I wear a set of Gore Windstopper oversocks, which are a tight but still reasonable fit inside my cycling shoes. They make a big difference for me when temperatures are lower than 35 degrees.
3. Use a set of Hothands toe warmers. Hothands warmers contain iron powder, water, salt, activated charcoal, and wood fiber. When exposed to air, these materials react together to produce heat through an extremely fast oxidation (or rusting) process. They last up to eight hours once you take them out of the package. But here’s a cool trick. Instead of cramming them inside your cycling shoes, place them on the outside top of your shoes, over the toes. The tight fit inside your shoes combined with sweat from your feet can sometimes prevent the warmers from working correctly. But you’ll still feel the warmth if you have them on top of your shoes, held in place under a winter shoe cover.
4. Which leads us to cycling shoe covers! Cycling shoes are designed to have air flow and keep your feet cool in hot weather, so it’s no surprise that they can be quite miserable when it’s cold. Thermal shoe covers block the wind and keep your feet insulated. They also generally go up over your ankles too, like a boot. Shoe covers come in many different materials and are designed for different temperatures. Some are even waterproof for riding in the rain. Toe covers are sometimes enough to keep your feet warm when the temperatures don’t dip too far, especially if you choose a set made of neoprene.
5. Feet still too cold? Get yourself a set of dedicated winter cycling shoes. Unlike regular cycling shoes, these are designed specifically to block wind and keep your feet warm. They aren’t cheap, but neither is a trip to the doctor because you have frostbitten toes.
Depending on the temperature, you might use many different combinations of these options to find what works just right for you. Keep notes on what worked and what didn’t — either on paper or by writing them on your Strava or Garmin Connect electronically recorded ride descriptions — so that you can remember next winter exactly what you did.