The best winter cycling shoes are designed to solve the problem affecting most other cycling shoes. They are meant to keep your feet cool, which is great in the summer, but can make keeping them warm in the winter an almost impossible task.
It feels as though we have the same conversation every year: ‘How do I stop my feet getting cold in the winter?’. And while there’s an endless array of socks, overshoes and ingenious tricks that are claimed to help with cycling in the rain and to be able to put an end to your misery, for some people and conditions, none of these will even come close.
This is where the dedicated winter cycling shoe comes in.
Free of superfluous ventilation, roomy enough for thick, woolly socks and built with materials designed specifically to protect your feet from the elements, winter cycling shoes are the equivalent of a proper winter jacket for your feet.
Do you need winter cycling shoes?
It depends. Do you get cold feet while cycling in the winter and how much does it bother you?
If the answer to those two questions is ‘no’ and ‘not much’, then you probably don’t need winter cycling shoes.
In milder parts of the world, for example, the best overshoes will keep your lovely disco slippers clean and your feet dry and fairly warm.
If your answers to the above questions are ‘yes’ and ‘a lot’, it’s likely you could benefit greatly from a pair of dedicated winter cycling shoes.
Not only are they more likely to keep your feet warm and dry in the harshest conditions, the best winter cycling shoes are also considerably more durable than overshoes, many of which begin to fall apart the instant they come into contact with the ground.
There’s also the ‘hassle factor’. Getting ready for a winter ride can become a chore if you’ve got countless layers to pull on – winter cycling shoes can remove the inconvenience often associated with overshoes.
The buyer’s guide below our product recommendations gives more detail on what to look for in a winter cycling shoe.
Best winter cycling shoes 2023, as rated by our expert testers
Fizik Artica X5
- £190 / $229 / €200 as tested
- Completely waterproof
- Exceptionally grippy
- MTB cleat
For off-road riding when extended periods of walking are expected, the Fizik Artica X5 is the best winter cycling shoe we’ve tested.
With a reinforced nylon sole that is covered with a very soft and grippy rubber sole, the shoes are tenaciously tacky on slimy and wet surfaces.
On the bike, the shoes give a supportive pedalling platform with a pleasingly supportive and firm heel cup.
Scott MTB Heater Gore-Tex
- £219.99 / €229.90 / $229.99 as tested
- Warm with good breathability
- Excellent in wet and submerged conditions
- MTB cleat
Scott’s Heater boots offer neutral proportions that weren’t too tight or roomy on our tester’s foot, allowing enough room for the type of thick socks needed for winter riding.
Though slightly bulky, the insulation makes the boot warm enough for the majority of what winter has to offer, and a neoprene cuff helps the shoe stay dry when submerged.
These have become our tester’s winter shoe of choice for mountain biking.
Five Ten Trailcross Gore-Tex
- £150 / €170 / $200 as tested
- Superb flat-pedal grip
- Totally waterproof
- Flat-pedal specific
Five Ten’s Trailcross GTX shoes are the industry’s first flat-pedal specific winter mountain bike shoe to be lined with a Gore-Tex membrane.
Our tester found the shoes to be impervious to rain in even the most foul conditions, provided you get the rest of your outfit sorted. This was matched with phenomenal grip and a comfortable fit, making them a solid choice if you’re a dedicated flat-pedal rider.
Fizik Artica R5
- £189.99 / €200 / $229 as tested
- Warm and water-resistant
- Good value
- Road cleat
These might be the perfect winter cycling shoes for road cyclists worried about sacrificing style for comfort.
Now into their second winter, our tester’s pair is still going as strong as ever. Highly water-resistant and warm, they also have a great fit (which is about half a size larger than usual Fizik shoes to accommodate thick socks) and, for winter-specific cycling shoes, also retain very sleek looks.
The inner soles were a particular highlight, while the bottoms are foil-lined for a bit of extra heat retention. The tops are covered in a soft, almost fleecy fabric that makes them very comfortable.
Northwave Himalaya Boot
- £230 / €252.09 / $252.99 as tested
- Very warm and weatherproof
- MTB cleat
Possibly the ultimate bad-weather cycling shoe, Northwave’s Himalaya Boots look as if they’re built to take on a cycling trip up Everest, and they don’t disappoint when out on the road or trail.
The only question is whether you ride enough in the terrible conditions that these will protect you against to make them worth the cost.
If you do, you won’t be disappointed. These are probably the warmest boots we’ve ever tested, and their waterproofing is great too – easily shrugging off plenty of rain and deep puddles.
Shimano MW7 MTB
- £189.99 / €242 / $275 as tested
- Warm and comfortable
- Gore-Tex lining for great wind and water resistance
- MTB cleat
The MW7s are Shimano’s top-of-the-range winter riding shoes and they offer performance to match, keeping your feet happy in pretty terrible winter conditions.
They’re designed for SPD pedals, but you can still use them on a road bike – you just need the right pedals. Even roadies will appreciate the chunky, grippy sole for when you need to get off the bike at any point.
They have a Gore-Tex lining that means the upper is essentially waterproof and windproof, although they will get overwhelmed eventually if you’re out for hours. The integrated lace shield also stops the Boa closure from becoming overwhelmed with mud when you’re off-road.
The following winter cycling shoes scored fewer than four stars in our reviews, but are still worth considering.
Fizik Terra Artica X2
- £280 / €280 / $280 as tested
- Impressively warm and comfortable
- Difficult to get on and off, and quite pricey
- MTB cleat
If you can get them on, Fizik’s Terra Artica X2 shoes are wonderfully plush and warm, with decent stiffness and a super-grippy sole.
However, our tester found them frustratingly difficult to pull on, even with dry, warm hands at the start of a ride.
Their performance also comes at a relatively high price compared to the competition, so it’s worth trying these on in a shop before buying, if possible.
Northwave Celsius R Arctic GTX
- £210 / €250 / $280 / AU$378 as tested
- Comfortable and fully waterproof uppers
- Collar leaks
- Road cleat
We found Northwave’s Celsius R Arctic GTX boots to be luxuriously soft and comfortable, with a lovely fleece lining that kept our tootsies warm, even with thin socks.
However, the SLW2 dials were really fiddly to use with thick gloves and suffered from water ingress around the neoprene collar.
- £230.95 / €230.95 / $274.33
- BOA dial provides a good fit
- Generous amounts of internal room
The MW702 is the latest iteration of Shimano’s MW7 shoe, and is built around a chunky XC sole with a hint of toe flex to assist with walking.
A Gore-Tex liner in the upper and a neoprene sleeve help keep water at bay, and also protect the Boa dial from wheel spray.
The shoe is let down partially by pressure points in the fit and a loose heel-hold.
Fizik Artica GTX Tempo
- £250 / €259 / $260 as tested
- Warm in the dry
- Poor in the wet
The Fizik Artica GTX Tempo winter cycling shoe is a step down in quality from its predecessor, the Artica R5.
Although insulation is ample to keep your feet warm in low temperatures, waterproofing is inconsistent.
The upper of the shoe is impermeable, but water running down your leg seeps in through the top. This meant our tester had to wear them with overshoes in the rain, which is an inconvenience you’re trying to avoid.
Giro Blaze MTB
- £209.99 / €229.95 / $250
- Great insulation
- Keeps slashes at bay
Giro’s Blaze features a single-piece outer waterproof jacket that zips up the whole shoe. It offers one of the highest levels of warmth around, being rated down to -7 degrees.
The shoe isn’t too bulky, and still manages to maintain a good fit with ample room for thicker socks.
The Blaze was let down by its laces, which slipped when the boot flexed while walking.
Lake CXZ 176
- £155 / €159 / $190 as tested
- Great fit
- Not that warm nor waterproof
- Road cleat
Lake’s CXZ 176 shoes are an interesting take on the winter cycling shoe, pairing a fairly standard last with less venting and a more weatherproof construction.
Unfortunately, the design doesn’t quite hit the mark, with our tester finding the shoes to be neither that warm nor waterproof.
What to look for when buying winter cycling shoes
It’s not only chilly temperatures and the wind that make your feet cold in winter. Wet conditions are a real problem, too, so the key to a good pair of winter cycling shoes is weatherproofing and added insulation.
Look for shoes with Gore-Tex or other waterproof membranes built into the uppers. Just like with waterproof jackets for cyclists, these fabrics help make shoes waterproof, windproof and breathable (the last of which is important to avoid sweat building up on the inside and eventually making feet cold).
However, while winter shoes are designed to keep rain out, the cuff sometimes acts as a weak spot for water ingress.
Insulation, through the addition of thicker, fleecy fabrics, and a lack of ventilation in the uppers, is also important because you want to trap heat within the shoe, rather than let it escape to the outside air.
Winter-specific cycling shoes tend to have a more flexible sole than race-dedicated summer shoes, and while you might be giving up a couple of watts when really cranking on the pedals, you’ll appreciate the extra comfort over the course of a long ride or whenever you have to get off the bike and walk.
If you’re a dedicated road rider, then a shoe with a road sole (i.e. one without any tread and designed to accommodate a road cleat), as found on the Fizik Artica R5, will do fine and often go better with the sleek look of your road kit.
But if there’s any chance of going off-road, or even just on rough or icy surfaces, then the grippy tread present on an MTB-style sole is a real boon – you don’t want to have to resort to walking on road cleats during the winter.
Road or MTB cleat?
Similar to the previous point about soles and tread, it’s easy to assume that if you ride a road bike you should get shoes that are compatible with road cleats, and though these will be fine on cold, dry rides on nice roads, for everything else, it’s worth considering mountain bike cleats.
Though they usually mean a smaller, marginally less stable platform than road pedals, MTB cleats and compatible shoes often have a number of advantages over road shoes, that come into their own during the winter.
Concepts such as tread and mud clearance aren’t things most roadies usually have to pay much attention to, but come across a slippery section of road or an overly muddy farm track that you just can’t traverse on your road bike, and you’ll instantly regret having to climb off and shuffle delicately over the obstacle in your road shoes.
If you want a more in-depth look at the difference between road and MTB pedals and cleat systems, check out our guide on how to use clipless pedals.
While you usually want a pair of summer cycling shoes to fit snugly with thin, lightweight socks, a little extra room for warm socks can be invaluable in winter shoes.
Many brands build in this extra room as standard, meaning you might be able to just go with your normal size, but this isn’t always the case.
As always with shoes, it’s worth visiting a shop in person or ordering from a retailer with a good returns policy, so you can try them on for size with the kind of socks you’re likely to want to wear while riding.
One of the most important areas of a winter cycling shoe is the ankle cuff. A well-designed cuff should fit snugly to help keep out wind and water, while still enabling you to get the shoes on and off without too much trouble.
While it might also add a little weight and bulk, a tall cuff that extends a bit further up your calf will also add a bit more protection and enable you to utilise one of BikeRadar staffers’ most beloved tricks: putting the end of your tights over the top of the cuff of the shoe or overshoes.
The idea is that water will run off the bottom of the tight and onto the outside of the shoe, rather than soaking down the inside of the cuff and into your socks. It’s not necessarily a great look, we’ll admit, but if you can get over that, it works very well.