You'd rightfully expect a pair of dedicated winter cycling shoes to keep your feet both warm and dry.
Snug up the handy single-reel Boa cable closure system on the Defroster Trail and you'd be hard pressed to discern the feel of these winter shoes from a pair of good summer-weight kicks if you weren't looking down.
Aside from the moderately increased volume – just barely enough for heavier winter socks – the fit is everything you look for in any good cycling shoe with an evenly snug hold around the middle and back of your foot, a reasonably roomy toe box, and a surprisingly good heel hold, which is often elusive in this category. The fibre-reinforced nylon sole is rigid enough for general purpose trail riding too.
The Boa cable and reel system is easy to use and provides a pleasantly even fit across the top of the foot
The supplemental neoprene ankle cuff and main cover are also very flexible and hardly noticeable when pedalling. Specialized wisely leaves the Boa dial exposed for easy on-the-fly adjustments – even while you're wearing heavy winter gloves.
And speaking of winter, the Defroster Trails have proven to be plenty warm. One test session in particular brought these up to a trail network just off of Colorado's Peak to Peak highway for a group fat bike ride… when it was just -5°C (23°F) outside… with fresh, powdery snow. Oh, and did we mention it was at night?
Thinsulate insulation, a waterproof liner, and a tight-fitting neoprene ankle cuff work together to keep your feet warm and dry
The Defroster Trail's built-in Thinsulate insulation and waterproof liner kept our feet unquestionably toasty and dry over nearly three hours of riding interspersed with a few short breaks to regroup. Despite plenty of cold and powdery high-altitude snow flying off of the front tyre – not to mention a fair bit of postholing and a couple of chilly stream crossings – the neoprene cuffs also maintained a tight and comfortable seal.
Breathability is a definitely concern, however, and for that reason we wouldn't recommend riding in the Defroster Trail at temperatures much above 4°C (40°F). And while the fairly minimal tread blocks do a great job of shedding snow and ice, they unfortunately don't do a great job of providing traction on those surfaces when you're on foot.
The outsole sheds snow and ice well but is notably lacking in grip when you're on foot
Finally, the Defroster Trails are quite heavy – our pair of size 43 shoes weighs 1,060g. In fairness, that's actually lighter than many other true winter cycling shoes and a more than reasonable sacrifice for this kind of protection. Bring it on, winter – we're ready for you!
For more information, visit www.specialized.com.