Rather than prescribe the usual mix of standard summer shoes and shoe covers to tackle cold and wet winter road rides, Louis Garneau have built-in the insulation and cover on their Glacier RD. The result is a dedicated all-in-one package that's more convenient and offers better protection.
Louis Garneau have gotten the protection aspect of the Glacier RD nailed, with a waterproof, vent-free outer cover and effective Thinsulate insulation. Combined with the waterproof zipper and tightly fitting, silicone-rubber-backed upper cuff, the shoe easily shrugs off road spray to keep your feet fantastically dry.
The built-in insulation – augmented by an included heat-reflecting insole – kept our feet warm and cozy down to about the freezing mark even while wearing regular cycling socks. Breathability isn't nearly as good as on a standard vented shoe but that's to be expected, so choose your socks accordingly. The Glacier RD was still pretty reasonable to wear when the mercury climbed over 10°C (50°F), which should increase their appeal for riders who regularly have to tackle wet conditions but only mildly cold temperatures.
The fiber-reinforced nylon sole is impressively rigid for a non-composite plate, too, but Louis Garneau otherwise make a few too many concessions that negatively affect the quality of the fit. It gets the job done but certainly won't generate heaps of praise. First off is the lack of half-sizes – a common theme among dedicated winter shoes but an unfortunate one nonetheless. True, riders who typically wear half-sizes will have a little more room for thicker and warmer socks but given the built-in insulation, that isn't necessary.
Foot holding ability is so-so. The internal lacing system distributes pressure well across the top of the foot but the overall fit isn't that refined nor is the heel cup particularly well shaped. We weren't exactly swimming inside our testers but we didn't enjoy the snug, sock-like fit of a good summer shoe, either. Arch support is also lacking.
Unfortunately, swapping in a more supportive insole eliminates the warmth benefits of the fuzzy, aluminum-backed insert. Louis Garneau compensate a bit by including a single 'Power Strap' on the shoe's exterior but it's placed a bit too far forward to be effective. Cinching it down mostly just squashes your foot down instead of pulling it back into the heel cup.
Finally, there's the issue of durability. Louis Garneau impart the Glacier RD with lots of tough armoring around the toes and sides, plus the walking tabs (which unfortunately aren't replaceable) are soft enough for decent grip but tough enough to show little wear over two months of regular use. The stitching, however, hasn't held up as well and our test shoes have already blown a seam around the upper edge. It'll be easy enough to fix but we'd prefer to not have to.