Even if you relish the thought of spending a crisp, winter days on the bike, once your feet start to feel the chill a pleasant ride can become a miserable one. Frozen feet are absolutely no fun and thawing out at home can be a painful and lengthy process.
To help you to avoid the dreaded frostbite nipping at your toes, we've collected some of our best tips for keeping your feet warm on the coldest of winter bike rides.
Keep your core toasty
If you let your core temperature drop, your body's natural reaction is to divert warming blood flow away from extremities like hands and feet so it can concentrate on the important stuff like the vital organs that keep you alive, for example.
When blood flow to hands and feet is restricted, that's when they start to feel really cold.
Start your ride warm. Try some warm-up exercises, or even just some arm circles, to get the circulation going. Have a hot drink, put shoes and gloves on the radiator while you get ready and do as much as you can indoors so you can start pedaling the moment you lock the door behind you.
Sock it up
Layering socks is a great strategy because you're effectively sandwiching a layer of warm air between the fabric. However, be careful not to overdo it and cut off your circulation - make sure you can comfortably wiggle your toes to check before you go out.
Avoid cotton socks as they tend to hold onto moisture for longer. Even in the winter, feet sweat so look for merino wool which is exceptional at wicking moisture away and staying warm even if it does get wet.
Long socks work particularly well because you can close the gap between your shoe and your tights, sealing the cold air out.
Insulate your feet
Depending on your budget, we have several solutions you can try which will help your feet to stay warm and dry.
If you're on a budget, or just don't see yourself riding in inclement weather often enough to spend much money, it is possible to keep your feet insulated by wrapping them in tinfoil. Just make sure it's relatively strong or you'll be picking silver shards out of your shoes for weeks.
In wet weather, many thrifty cyclists swear by plastic bags or clingfilm. This is fairly effective at keeping the rain out, but be aware you're also trapping moisture inside and damp feet can get cold pretty quickly.
Overshoes are a relatively inexpensive way to winterize cycling shoes you already own, offering protection from cold chills and rain and keeping your shoes nice and clean.
For extra insulation, check your shoes for air vents and use duck tape to seal them. If you can lift the inner-sole out, you'll be able to access any air vents in the sole.
Winter cycling shoes
Winter-specific cycling shoes are often more bulky and feature added insulation and waterproofing. It's common for designs to feature a higher cuff to help to prevent water getting in and so that you can pull your tights over the top to seal out the chill.
If you live in a temperate country like the UK where extreme weather is rare, you might find it difficult to justify the expense of winter-specific cycling shoes. However, if you think you'll be riding through winter for years to come, they're worth the investment. After all, if you only wear them for a few days every year they'll probably last a lot longer than the shoes you wear for the rest of the time.
Just remember what we said about your circulation - make sure you account for bigger socks which might mean you buy winter shoes a size larger than usual.
Wet feet become cold feet before you know it. Even on dry days in the winter, it's common to encounter standing water on roads or trails and your feet are directly in the splash zone. Prevent too much splash from entering your shoes (or soaking your back for that matter with a pair of mudguards. It's also a good idea to pull tights or leg warmers over your socks or overshoes to seal heat in and water out.
On the coldest of days, try slipping a pair of chemical hand warmers into your shoes. They're widely available from chemists and supermarkets and could help you to stay out and enjoy your ride that bit longer.