Cold feet suck. Wet and cold feet suck even more so. And although, where I live, it does not get truly COLD in the Minnesota sense of the word, and wetness is only an occasional thing, not the norm, it still gets cold and wet enough to require attention to the tootsies or a good ride will be ruined.
I actually struggle with this more than most folks as I have a medical condition that tends to make my fingers and toes more susceptible to cold than the norm. So I can have numb and frozen feet even when others are pretty warm. The typical Fall/Winter night ride is always a struggle for my little piggies…I got gloves, I got jackets. I got layers of fleecy things to wear, and that helps, keeping my core warm, but how do we wrap our feet in layers of fleece? Perhaps SPD lambs wool slippers? Not.
Now I do not require a truly hardcore winter shoe. This is not about racing the Arrowhead 135 or even a nasty commute on the Fat Bike in sleet and slush. I just need it for the dozen or so rides over the winter, typically at night, when I need to be ok for 2 hours of so in the 50s to the 40s…maybe the mid-to high 30s. Maybe.
So as an answer to this, two pieces of gear showed up at about the same time, and both seek to provide warmer and drier feet, but in different ways. One is a shoe designed for cold and wet conditions and one is a shoe cover designed more for muddy and wet conditions. So let’s take a look at each, one at a time.
From the website –
- Body Geometry sole construction and footbed: ergonomically designed and scientifically tested to boost power, increase efficiency, and reduce chance of injury by optimizing hip, knee, and foot alignment.
- Thinsulate® 400 gram insulation for warmth, with waterproof, seam-sealed internal bootie construction and reflective heat-loss barrier in the sole.
- Sealed canopy and neoprene collar keep heat in and water out.
- Nylon composite sole with rubber tread for wet weather traction: Stiffness Index 6.0.
- Single Boa® S4 dial for on-the-fly micro-adjustment, backed by the Boa® Lifetime Guarantee.
- High visibility reflective accents for low-light riding.
- Wide fit to accommodate winter weight socks—no need to size up.
- Durable sheet rubber heel and toe protection.
- Two-bolt cleat pattern fits all major MTB pedals.
- Approximate weight: 480g (1/2 pair, size 42)
- MSRP $200.00
I have been using a pair of the original Defroster shoes from some time ago and I really enjoy having them around as they make for a super pair of shoes for the ‘shoulder’ seasons in So Cal and deal with muddy, wet trails just fine. But if temps get toward the mid-low 40s, then I can feel the cold creeping in and that is that. In time I would feel cold migrate up through the sole and also through the toe cap. Reading other reviews on these older models seemed to confirm my findings…not a contender for a Montana rider’s winter shoe.
So I was interested in seeing what the latest version was like as the new Defroster Trail shoe sure looked ready for battling dropping temps and wet rides. Taking the Defroster Trails out of the box, they are pretty impressive, what with the molded lowers, rubber protection, and significant upper ‘bootie’ to them. The sole is deeply lugged and the rubber seems soft, testified to by the cat-like quiet when wearing them around on a tile floor.
The fit is generous and I chose a size 45 just like in a ‘normal’ MTB shoe from Specialized and I found that, when wearing a mid-weight wool sock like these, I had a good amount of toe wiggle room, but a snug fit across the arch and in the heel cup. Very nice. Too tight a fit and you reduce circulation to the foot. Helping with this fit is the Boa lacing system. Boa is just about as good as it gets and makes for a fast entry and exit as well as a micro adjustable fit. Well done.
Getting the upper cuffs wrapped around your ankles takes a bit of fiddling, but I found a good balance of protection vs. comfort without too much trouble. There is a bit of a Herman Munster feel to them as there is less flex at that ankle juncture than you would have with a regular shoe…to be expected…so pedaling in them feels odd at first then you get used to it and I never thought about it again during the ride. I never had to do any extended hike-a-bike in them but walking around in the dirt is not bad at all, even with the high cuff. What you can do is lessen the tightness of the cuff’s velcro wrap if you have an extended push session.
It would take a biblical level storm to get water in there and I could stand in puddles up to the point of the cuff segment and care not. As far as warmth goes, they are one or two notches up from the original Defroster shoes. I never got cold in them, and that was in conditions where I would have in the older ones. There were times I could feel my toes begin to feel cool, but they recovered as I rode and that would not have happened before. I never felt the cold coming up through the foot bed like I might have before and that is good. While wearing some good tights, the right upper layers, and good gloves, I would not be riding in anything that these Defroster Trail shoes would not handle.
Now that said, I never got them into something below the upper thirties, if that. So I cannot say how they would do as the mercury continued to fall. And since it is early February and the temps were 85° on my patio yesterday, I need to get this out before the rest of the country follows suit. Further, and as a wild card, how warm anyone is in cold riding conditions varies a great deal depending on their genetic build and such. It’s kind of like testing saddles in that regard…your butt is not my butt, etc.
One thing I did notice on a ride where the temps started cold and warmed up more than I expected, was a tendency to let my feet get a bit damp from perspiration, which could be death for the piglets if that moisture cannot escape. That was the only time it happened, but it is something to note. I also had more trouble getting into my SPDs than the norm, likely due to the taller lugs on the sole.
The Boa lacing, the’ just right’ internal fit, the cuff system, the sealed up lowers…it’s a nice package. For $200.00, they might seem extravagant but cold feet are miserable to deal with and that cost over a few seasons of use would be only a distant memory.
Ok…let’s say that you have a closet full of normal MTB shoes and you are now getting into a wet, mucky, and colder riding season. You might face this with wool socks and plastic baggies pulled over your feet inside your shoe. And that is almost OK, but not really all that great. You are not certain you want to go full monty and pop for a winter boot like the Defroster Trails, but you sure would like to do better than warm socks and your kids lunch sandwich baggies.
Voila. Ask any roadie that rides in 3 to 4 seasons and they will have AT LEAST toe covers for their shoes and most likely total shoe covers as well. They work great. But applying that to an MTB environment is a bit tricker. The typical roadie shoe cover would get shredded if it was used off-road, especially for any off-bike use, and of course the cleats are way different.
But the MT 500 Overshoe IIs are not your normal overshoe.
From the website:
- Rugged Protection
- Tough nylon faced neoprene upper
- Rear zip with snapdown puller and Velcro® heel tab to ensure snug fit
- Moulded rubber toe cap with ridged underside to help when climbing steep and/or muddy slopes
- Neoprene meets behind the zip to improve water tightness
- Welded centre seam for smooth finish and improved water protection
- Hard wearing aramid sole and stitching using aramid thread
- Reflective logo and rear zip panels
- Suitable for MTB cleats only
- Say goodbye to muddy shoes!
- RRP $49.99
Getting into the MT 500 Overshoe IIs takes a bit of wiggling. I wore them over a typical MTB SPD shoe and found the LG sized overboot to fit well on the size 45 shoe. It is just a bit of an inch-worm technique in getting them over the shoe and in the proper place relating to the cleat opening. Once there, they never moved. Getting the zipper zipped took a bit of technique too, until I found that a good bit of dorsiflexion let me get that done with little effort.
I went out in the MT 500 Overshoe IIs on a particularly muddy, nasty day when we were testing some bike mounted mud guards. Even though water and muddy-ness cascaded over the MT 500 Overshoe IIs, I never had anything get to my feet. They do add warmth as well although their limits are a bit lower than something like a proper winter shoe as you still have the typical MTB shoe sole (non-insulated) to conduct cold into your feet. They are a darn sight better than ziplock baggies and woolies though. Of course, standing in puddles will not be so great as they are hardly waterproof like a boot would be. You get the idea.
And although Endura went to a good bit of trouble adding a rubber fore-front to the MT 500 Overshoe IIs, if you were to spend a great deal of time hiking, especially in rocky areas, I am sure you would eventually wear into the boot material in the mid-sole area behind the cleat. The material in the ‘sole’ of the overshoe is not just the typical neoprene like the top is, and the “Kevlar” marking shows this. It does feel pretty rugged to the touch, but it is still just a fabric after all. They came through my testing unscathed but in extended use…harder to say. For commutes that might be nasty, these would be great. Races or endurance rides in slop? Yes. And for the light weight and semi-low cost of fifty bucks, they add a lot of versatility to your riding kit. If you wore one set out a season, assuming a lot of off bike use, pushing, etc, then that still is not a bad deal as it lets you keep your pricy and well fitting racing shoes as the main part of the bargain and if you stayed on the bike rather than subjecting them to extended hikes, then they should last until they just ugly out or you crash in them, etc. Since they are neoprene, I bet glues designed to repair wet suits would patch any small rips or tears, at least in the top section.
These are a nice option and should serve well for the intended use, with the caveat that they are not going to love regular hike a bikes where you are in the rocks a great deal.
Note: The vendors provided these samples at no charge to Twenty Nine Inches for test and review. We are not being paid, nor bribed for these reviews and we will strive to give our honest thoughts and opinions throughout.