A good pair of overshoes can help keep your feet toasty and allow you to carry on riding in the worst of the winter weather
What are cycling overshoes?
Winter overshoes are generally made from either thick neoprene or lighter, windproof, fleece-backed fabric. They’re designed to keep the cold, the wet, or both out – with holes at the bottom to allow your cleats to connect with the pedals.
In cold, dry weather the traditional neoprene overshoe is an excellent insulator but gets waterlogged in persistent, heavy rain. However, if the overshoe itself doesn’t leak, water will eventually find its way in through the openings at the top and bottom.
Lighter, Windstopper-type technical fabric is designed to be windproof, water resistant and breathable. As with neoprene, you only have a limited time before the water gets in, so it may be better to accept this and go for the lighter overshoe which will dry quickly.
The underside of an overshoe is prone to wear: look for a tough, seam-free base with reinforcements’ at heel and toe.
Some brands say that hi-vis is most effective when used on moving parts, like the feet. Whether you agree with hi-vis or not, we would say reflective elements on winter overshoes are essential, particularly at the rear.
Why wear overshoes when cycling?
Keeping feet warm and dry in winter is difficult for cyclists. Wind chill is the enemy for the extremities but add spray from the front wheel and unless your feet are appropriately insulated it won’t be long before you can’t feel them any more.
Cycling overshoes reviewed
Ale Neoprene Shoe Cover £60
Made from 3mm neoprene, these overshoes extend a good distance up the ankle comfortably covering the sock/tight overlap.
They’re made from a simple pattern of two halves, with the central seam on top of the foot taped for water and windproofing. There’s a zip up the back. A non-abrasive fabric is used to reinforce the underside of the toe and just behind the heel. On the inside of the heel is a small strip of silicone gripper to hold it to the shoe – a thoughtful and clever detail.
The Ales fit well since they’re open underneath between cleat and heel, with a Velcro strap to adjust tightness across the top of the foot. This means both cleat-forward and cleat-back positions don’t affect its position but it also means there’s limited coverage against water ingress from below and the Velcro strap is likely to wear out.
The thick neoprene is perfect for cold, dry days but gets waterlogged on the wet ones – as neoprene inevitably does. However, muck and filth from the lanes do not penetrate and they keep out showers.
A good deep-winter overshoe but it’s a shame there are no reflectives.
Lusso Windtex Stealth overshoes £30
British firm Lusso has gone for fleecy-backed Windtex fabric for its winter bootie and it’s a sensible choice. Although it’s not as thick as neoprene, Windtex is obviously windproof, as the name suggests. The manufacturers of Windtex also guarantee it waterproof. It’s also much lighter and more elastic than neoprene so has several advantages over the heavier, more traditional overshoe material.
Since Windtex is stretchy you can get away with a smaller size and a closer fit – the medium size for 44 shoes was perfect with no pulling of the rear towards the cleat cut-out, which is slightly elongated to accommodate different cleat positions. There are good reflectives up the zip at the back and on the sides.
As for durability, the Windtex upper, with its taped central seam, is sewn to a tough but flexible plastic base, which crucially has no seams to wear out.
Lusso says its overboots are good from 0-14°C and although we’re not yet in the depths of winter, the Stealths have been great in sub-5°C rides.
Lusso has created a good-looking, simple and well functioning design with the Stealth Overboot and at £30 it represents super value for money.
Sportful WS Bootie Reflex overshoes £46
The ‘WS’ stands for Windstopper, the fabric from Gore that is windproof with a water-repellent treatment. Like the Windtex the Lussos are made from, Windstopper is lightweight, elastic and fleece backed.
Sportful stitches the Windstopper uppers to a stretchy, reinforced neoprene base that extends part way up the sides and the back.
We found that although the Reflexes were made from more panels than most overshoes via a more sophisticated construction, the rear of the overshoe tended to pull forward over the heel of the shoe, meaning that you tread on the rear of the overshoe when walking, which raises questions about the Reflexes’ durability (obviously depending how much walking around you do). This happened to our XL test pair despite using them with a size 44 shoe: the XL is designed for size 44-45. If the cleat cut-out was slightly longer to accommodate a wider range of cleat positions that might solve the problem.
Obviously all overshoes can’t fit all shoes and all cleat positions so it could have been that we were simply unlucky. Otherwise, the Sportfuls are warm, good looking, well made and have intelligently placed reflectives.
Gore Windstopper Universal Thermo overshoes £59.99
The front of the Universal Thermo is made from a thick version of Gore’s Windstopper fabric. This is very windproof, having a three-layer structure with a built-in membrane. It’s water repellent although will wet out in a downpour.
The rear of the upper is made of thinner Windstopper fabric. There are quite a few seams which, although not taped, they are flatlocked with wide zigzag stitching, which keeps them watertight enough.
The fit is close enough to prevent draughts and also helps keep out water, without being uncomfortable – particularly as the Windstopper fabric is very stretchy and flexible.
The undersides of the Universal Thermos are a bit fragile. There’s a reinforced toe section but the middle of the underfoot is a continuation of the upper fabric. There are taped seams around the cleat cut-out and these are likely to look distinctly tatty after a couple of seasons’ use.
Gore displaces the zippers to the outer side of the leg so they don’t rub as you pedal.
There’s a reflective strip built into the rear of the overshoe and reflective lettering on the outer edge for better visibility.
GripGrab RaceThermo Hi-Vis overshoes £45.95
Not only are the GripGrabs bright yellow, there is reflective printing on the sides and an even more reflective rear tape tab. What they don’t have, unlike most overshoes, is zips. Since overshoe zips are prone to failure and needing to be waterproof or backed to keep out water, the GripGrabs should be that much more durable and efficient.
Made of 4mm neoprene, the GripGrabs benefit from the brand’s Intelliseal, which won an award at this year’s Eurobike show. There’s a stretchy cuff, to allow you to get the overshoes on. Because this is quite deep, it helps keep water from trickling down your leg. There’s a Velcro tab under the instep to hold the two sides of the overshoe together. It’s easier to put on shoe first, overshoe second.
The base is made with rubber-coated stitching to increase durability and facilitating a tighter fit around the sole, helping to keep out water. There’s a reinforced fabric area at the toe to help reduce wear.
Durability is good, but with the thick neoprene construction we got some scuffing on the cranks.
What to look for in cycling overshoes
We’ve had the pleasure of fully reviewing quite a few pairs of overshoes – there’s more full overshoe reviews here, and some top picks below…
Bontrager RXL Windshell overshoes
Review score: 9/10
Constructed from Profila Wind fabric, these overshoes are lightweight, windproof and water resistant. Not only that, a tight aero fit means that though they’re a little tricky to get on and off, they can double up as aero aids for summer time trials too.
Endura Road II overshoes
Review score: 10/10
Created using 90 per cent wetsuit-worthy Neoprene and 10 per cent Nylon, these are hardwearing overshoes which provide protection from the elements. Kevlar stitching keeps them robust and there’s a crank rub protection point.
SealSkinz Waterproof Cycle Over Sock
Review score: 9/10
If you don’t want to pull on a thick and heavy layer, then this option from SealSkins is a nice compromise. Created from a totally waterproof and windproof fabric, they’ll keep the water out but are lightweight and therefore breathable so that the risk of overheating is thrown out the window.
Sportful Roubaix Thermal Booties
Review score: 10/10
A solid winter companion, these fleece lined overshoes feature a softshell front for windproofing, with Neoprene side panels which provide protection from the rain and extra stretch. They’ve got reflective piping and graphics, with a tab to help you pull them on, too.
If, like us, you do the majority of your riding under the constant threat of rain, a fair threat of snow and likely freezing temperatures then a set of all-round cycling overshoes that will keep out the elements and keep you riding is essential.