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Warm winter shoes/boots for riding on flat pedals

Full Trucker

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Feb 26, 2003
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So I'm looking for good boots to wear while riding the fat bike, specifically for riding on flat pedals. I've done a bunch of reading of a bunch of posts/articles/blogs around the internets and had a recommendation or two by friends... and I've decided I am probably going to go with the Columbia Fairbanks Wide. My preference is going to be for a flat sole, waterproof, and "some amount" of insulation. I think the 200g Thinsulate + room for thicker socks should work for me. The couple times I've been out I've just used my Merrell summer hiking boots, and while they're comfy for racing a 1970 VW Beetle through the desert and even warm enough for snowshoeing, the all leather + Goretex + zero insulation + summer fit i.e. not enough room for anything other than thin socks and muh feets == not warm enough for riding. Plus, the heel on them drives me nuts on the flat pedals.

I do have a pair of older Northwave Celcius GTX (non-Artic) shoes that I've been riding my normal bike(s) in, and they generally work pretty great clipped-in for dry (or really packed snow) trails when it's just cold out. Note: there are times I wished I had gotten the Artic version, but at least I got them large enough to get thicker and/or doubled-up socks into them so they're not too bad. But for proper snow riding on the fat bike, I've decided on flats as the likelihood of stepping off into snow is much more higher. I'll likely find some secondhand gaiters for the deeper snow as well.

So... what do you all wear and recommend? Who all rides in the dang snow around here? @Jm_ @Jozz @StiHacka @johnbryanpeters @slyfink @canadmos @rideit @Westy and who else?

Some ideas I've seen or come across:
  • This thread on MTBR had a bunch of good recommendations, but many of them are normal winter boots and have a heel to them. If you do read that thread you'll note that a very similar post as this is in there and hopefully @Jm_ doesn't give me shit about it.
  • I know that @6thElement and his missus have the Merrell Thermo Vortex 8" Waterproof Snow Boot and really like them. These would probably be my first choice, they look like the tick all the boxes. But, they don't seem to be available anywhere in 6" or 8" versions so it's a non starter. They might have been superseded by some other model, maybe the Snowdrift or the Adventure? Both of those have flat(ish) soles but the tread is much more aggressive which seems not great for use on flat pedals. Might work for someone though...
  • My Financée's sister just picked up a pair of Columbia Hyper-Boreals and she loves them... she says they're the best winter boot she's own. She lives in Crested Butte, and they get a fair amount of snow and it gets pretty cold. Maybe not MN or AK cold, but cold. At any rate, she also wore them fat biking with us and said they performed really well, better than expected even. She is an avid rider, who often runs flats on her mountain bike but has also done a ton of long distance gravel riding on clipless pedals and knows her way around a bike. So, I trust her judgement these would be good boots. Personally, I just like the look of the Fairbanks mo'bettah plus those come in a wide which makes sense in my head for putting thicker socks into. Also, my arches are flat as **** so wide shoes feel better on my feet.
  • Seems like the Keen Summit County boot is pretty popular based on some articles and blogs I read, and has been replaced with the Revel IV High Polar Boot. The sole looks mostly flat, but I still think I'll give the Fairbanks Wide a go over these.
  • Icebug looks to have some interesting options. Particularly the Forester since it has a flat sole but who knows if those are durable. They are proud of those things, though. More options for people who don't care about a flat sole.
  • I have no idea about these things but maybe NEOS overshoes would be a good option?
  • This thing from Salomon looks interesting. Similar concern about durability, is this more of a fashion shoe? How warm is it?
  • Of course, there are all the dedicated winter boots like 45NRTH, Bontrager, etc. but generally those are for clipping in, no?
 

Jozz

Joe Dalton
Apr 18, 2002
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Riding clips 100% of the time so can't help you. For reference, 45nrth Wolvhammer.
 
For starters, I ride flats.

In milder weather, down to maybe 15° F or so, I have been wearing Neos over fleece lined moccasins, adjusting socks to control insulation.

Recently I have been experimenting with a pair of Bogs snow boots, have found them somewhat colder and if you go down in the snow they tend to collect it, resulting in wet feet.

For -30° F sort of riding, I used to use the fancy-assed 45NRTH boots, giant PITA to don, but worked very well along with heavy wool socks over a base sock or two.
 

6thElement

Schrodinger's Immigrant
Jul 29, 2008
7,476
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Squeeze into a ladies size 10 and you can have a nice faux fur trim:

 

canadmos

Cake Tease
May 29, 2011
12,612
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Canaderp
I've been using some Keen winter hiking boots for fat biking. Had them kicking around and didn't want to buy anything new, so just used them. They've been good so far, if a little warm. I have OneUp flat pedals on the bike with lots of pins, so traction hasn't even been an issue. Not sure which model I have, but they look similar to ones you've mentioned, though a little shorter.

The only thing that sucks, when it sucks, is that they aren't too tall, so if I fall or step into knee deep snow, I usually get some in my boot. Now, not using shitty pants with broken drawstrings on the bottom of the pants would help with that too, but oh well.

But yeah good socks are key.

Some friends use regular clip in shoes with these neoprene or insulated toe/shoe cover things. They say it works, but wow it just looks like a pain in the ass to put those things on.
 

slyfink

Turbo Monkey
Sep 16, 2008
6,937
2,614
Ottawa, Canada
I have those Columbia Fairbanks' and they work well enough. I've ridden them comfortably down to -20°C. I use(d) them mostly for winter commuting (back when that was a thing). I would recommend them.

But I have a few buddies with these and they really like them:
1612822863291.png


The sole is nice and flat, and they seem to work well in all temperature ranges. Not sure about availability in the US though.

But because I already had winter riding boots (Specialized Defrosters) that were good down to about -12°C. I decided all they needed was an extra little nudge for warmth, and got heated socks. It's ridiculous how awesome those things are. They're pricey, but you can use them for most all other winter pursuits, so I figure they'll be worth it in the end.
 

jonKranked

Press Button, Receive Stupid
Nov 10, 2005
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so i will start this off by saying i'm decidedly in the clipless camp, even for winter riding, but with the added disclaimer that i ride in snow far less frequently than others here. in my experience winter riding boots for clipless have come a long way, and are good enough that, like summer riding, it comes down to personal preference.

for winter riding, i have lake mxz303s. there's better stuff out there now (i got mine in 2012, they are still going strong), but for where i live and the conditions i ride in they are good (it rarely gets below 10F here, but i've used them down to -5F). i did add an insulated insole to them - this is something i'd recommend regardless of pedal style (assuming whatever boot you select doesn't already include one). i got a 2 pack of aerogel inserts from amazon for about $20 (these ones, they are $15 now - https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01MFA1KFW/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_search_asin_title?ie=UTF8&psc=1 ) and have been very please with them. i have them in my winter boots and my season shoes (lake mxz145). i like the texture that's on them, i feel like it helps keep sensation in my feet a little better - but that's obviously a very subjective statement.

another thing i'd suggest regardless of pedal style, don't overtighten them (laces or boa) like you would for warm weather clipless. you need some air to improve insulation, and too tight can also restrict insulation (which leads to colder feet).

if you ride clipless like me, i've honestly found that xtr pedals are better than other shimano models (note: i have xtr m970s and xt trail M8020 currently) i've tried when it comes to mud/snow clearing. i've also had great luck with crank bros (yea, i know) pedals for winter use (i should note i still use them for DH). i do also carry a torch style butane light when riding in cold temps just in case i need to melt ice buildup - but that can occur elsewhere besides a pedal cleat.
 

Jm_

Turbo Monkey
Jan 14, 2002
11,971
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Thin silk sock, Rab vapor barrier, wiggies lamilite sock, little pocket I sewed in the toe for a toe-warmer if necessary. Usually gaiters. Today was -34F, so I also had dogwood designs insulated over-boots instead of gaiters.

I want my toes warm and happy.

You don't need wolfgars though if you are on flats.
 

Jozz

Joe Dalton
Apr 18, 2002
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SYADASTIALERT

Technically, they are clip-less pedals, and not clips

[\OVER]

But I too ride Wolvhammers, and absolutely love them down to about -5.
-5 is about right. Mine are going on 7 years now and I feel they are not as warm as they used to be.
 

Jm_

Turbo Monkey
Jan 14, 2002
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I call them my not-warmhammers. They work down to about the upper 20s for me, no lower than that, then my feet become ice-blocks. If I'm doing a race, I'll cramp foot-heaters in there and realize that I need to finish in about 4 hours or less, but the generation I have is terrible. Non-boa lacy thing that has no tab on the shoe for the velcro tab. The wolfgars also work in the higher temps and the lower temps, so their range overlaps IME, although the wolfgar is bulky. I wish I hadn't gotten the non-warmhammers.
 

Montana rider

Monkey
Mar 14, 2005
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if you want to add a touch of warmth to something you already own I put these bad larrys into my xc boots (merino wool superfeet)

1613442515141.png


ETA: they do eat up some interior volume (i.e thick)
 

Full Trucker

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Feb 26, 2003
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So I went with the Columbia Fairbanks, got them 1/2 size larger and in the WIDE version. I am pretty damn happy with them, TBH. Here I am field testing them with stock insoles and only a single layer of thicker but not really that thick wool sock, ambient temp was in the low 20s...



After a couple-three hours of this sorta nonsense, my toes were only starting to get a little bit cold. I have plenty more room in them for another pair of similar weight socks, or maybe a super thin pair of ski socks and then a really thick pair of wool socks. I don't know, but I have room to work with and the 200g of Thinsulate + extra room meant pretty happy feet. Oh, and the flat soles on the crappy plastic pedals I have made a huge difference over the heavy lugs and heel of my hiking boots. I just ordered OneUp composite pedals with proper pins, and I'm sure that'll have even better feel when pedaling.

But one thing is universally true: if you get snow inside your boot, you're gonna have cold(er) and wet(ter) feet. The Fairbanks have kind of an odd shaped upper cuff, and it's a design that can kinda let snow in because the laces don't go all the way to the top. There's a guy on MTBR that did a nice mod where he added eyelets so he could tighten the laces up all the way, and he says that worked a treat. I'll probably do something similar, though I'm thinking I'll take them to my local cobbler and have him install speed eyelets. You know, throw some business to a small local guy. Plus, speed eyelets. But even with that mod done, I still don't want to take chances so I have a pair of vintage gaiters on the way from eBay...



Fat biking is hilarious to me, I feel like I'm riding a clown bike. So... I figured I might as well go all in on the look.

subscribed...

if you want to add a touch of warmth to something you already own I put these bad larrys into my xc boots (merino wool superfeet)

View attachment 156584

ETA: they do eat up some interior volume (i.e thick)
I've read on other forums and some blogs that a wool insole is the jam for a little bit of extra warmth. I am considering experimenting with just adding another (thin-ish) insole underneath the existing one in this boot, giving a little more insulation from the ground. Might not be needed, though.





Photo by @6thElement
 

Jm_

Turbo Monkey
Jan 14, 2002
11,971
3,911
AK
subscribed...

if you want to add a touch of warmth to something you already own I put these bad larrys into my xc boots (merino wool superfeet)

View attachment 156584

ETA: they do eat up some interior volume (i.e thick)
There's a lot you can try with insoles. Cut some neoprene to the shape of the sole, the local moto shop sells lamb-skin (with wool) insoles, felt, 45nrth does aerogel ones, etc. IMO, the real key is increasing the distance from heat-conduction pathways. With clipless, building up the sole helps for sure. The front of the boot, where your toes are, is often skimpy on insulation and exposed to mega wind. For my cold escapades in the last few weeks, I had some over-boots on at times, they are giant insulated ones like pogies. They seem to help a lot, but a few times I still needed some foot-warmers in the pocket I sewed into my socks to "kickstart" things.
 

Jm_

Turbo Monkey
Jan 14, 2002
11,971
3,911
AK
So I went with the Columbia Fairbanks, got them 1/2 size larger and in the WIDE version. I am pretty damn happy with them, TBH. Here I am field testing them with stock insoles and only a single layer of thicker but not really that thick wool sock, ambient temp was in the low 20s...



After a couple-three hours of this sorta nonsense, my toes were only starting to get a little bit cold. I have plenty more room in them for another pair of similar weight socks, or maybe a super thin pair of ski socks and then a really thick pair of wool socks. I don't know, but I have room to work with and the 200g of Thinsulate + extra room meant pretty happy feet. Oh, and the flat soles on the crappy plastic pedals I have made a huge difference over the heavy lugs and heel of my hiking boots. I just ordered OneUp composite pedals with proper pins, and I'm sure that'll have even better feel when pedaling.

But one thing is universally true: if you get snow inside your boot, you're gonna have cold(er) and wet(ter) feet. The Fairbanks have kind of an odd shaped upper cuff, and it's a design that can kinda let snow in because the laces don't go all the way to the top. There's a guy on MTBR that did a nice mod where he added eyelets so he could tighten the laces up all the way, and he says that worked a treat. I'll probably do something similar, though I'm thinking I'll take them to my local cobbler and have him install speed eyelets. You know, throw some business to a small local guy. Plus, speed eyelets. But even with that mod done, I still don't want to take chances so I have a pair of vintage gaiters on the way from eBay...



Fat biking is hilarious to me, I feel like I'm riding a clown bike. So... I figured I might as well go all in on the look.


I've read on other forums and some blogs that a wool insole is the jam for a little bit of extra warmth. I am considering experimenting with just adding another (thin-ish) insole underneath the existing one in this boot, giving a little more insulation from the ground. Might not be needed, though.





Photo by @6thElement
Yeah, if you are going into those kind of conditions or anything where if you step off the trail, you are in snow deeper than your ankle, wear gaiters. I like the 1000 denier OR gator extreme ones or whatever they are called. They are super tall and that's super helpful. I have some lightweight ones I use when paired with pants that have some sort of snow-gaiter, but those don't work too well on those types of boots. Even when I wear XC ski pants, I'm still usually wearing gaiters for stepping off the trail.
 

Jm_

Turbo Monkey
Jan 14, 2002
11,971
3,911
AK
Here's the other thing, I find my body parts can go through "cycles", where they get colder, then warmer, then colder, then warmer. There's a lot too it, like how much you are moving said parts, hiking, going up hills, eating calories, etc., but it doesn't always seem to be completely predicated on this. Stopping and fixing stuff is key to riding longer and having it being enjoyable. Put some warmers in your boots...before they get cold. Always bring backups. Figure out what temp range you start to need them in.
 

Jm_

Turbo Monkey
Jan 14, 2002
11,971
3,911
AK
Here's the new hotness that flat riders are using, Norwegian mushing boots or something:

1613492939076.png
 

Jm_

Turbo Monkey
Jan 14, 2002
11,971
3,911
AK
Just need to quote this, because its true.
I'd rather look like a clown and be warm and happy, able to ride at my leisure. Yesterday took a good break from the training and just did tight twisty tech stuff, tons of fun.

But sometimes I feel like an astronaut with a space suit putting on my layers and how each part has to interlock and tuck into it's respective other part. Also when it's cold and said suit goes on, I need to get outside as fast as possible to avoid getting heat stroke.
 

canadmos

Cake Tease
May 29, 2011
12,612
9,195
Canaderp
I'd rather look like a clown and be warm and happy, able to ride at my leisure. Yesterday took a good break from the training and just did tight twisty tech stuff, tons of fun.

But sometimes I feel like an astronaut with a space suit putting on my layers and how each part has to interlock and tuck into it's respective other part. Also when it's cold and said suit goes on, I need to get outside as fast as possible to avoid getting heat stroke.
Ok, but it still confirms what @Full Trucker said about it being a clown bike.

And I say that as someone who not only owns a fat bike, but uses it too. :D

The clown bike feeling becomes extra apparent after riding a bike with 5inch wide tires and 4psi for a few months, and then switching back to a regular mountain bike. Takes a few minutes to realize that the bike you're on doesn't steer like a drunk donkey and the "skinny" tires are almost alarming to look down at. :D
 
Ok, but it still confirms what @Full Trucker said about it being a clown bike.

And I say that as someone who not only owns a fat bike, but uses it too. :D

The clown bike feeling becomes extra apparent after riding a bike with 5inch wide tires and 4psi for a few months, and then switching back to a regular mountain bike. Takes a few minutes to realize that the bike you're on doesn't steer like a drunk donkey and the "skinny" tires are almost alarming to look down at. :D
The five inch wide tires will also crawl over some terrain that would be incredibly difficult to traverse with the "skinny" tires. It ain't a matter of better or worse, it's that different bicycle designs have different strengths and weaknesses.
 

Jm_

Turbo Monkey
Jan 14, 2002
11,971
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AK
Takes a few minutes to realize that the bike you're on doesn't steer like a drunk donkey and the "skinny" tires are almost alarming to look down at. :D
Yeah, for reals, in those first few minutes one might injure themselves.
 

Full Trucker

Frikkin newb!!!
Feb 26, 2003
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Couple of links I found to Norwegian Musher's Boots, for future reference:

For the Canukistani among us:
 

canadmos

Cake Tease
May 29, 2011
12,612
9,195
Canaderp
Just to be clear, I did not mean the phrase "clown bike" derogatorily. I commonly refer to my favorite skis ever as "clown shoes" FWIW.
In either case, a clown bike can be plenty of fun to ride.


:p

As much as I hate on fat bikes, given the right conditions and trails, they are a big hoot to ride.
 

Westy

the teste
Nov 22, 2002
42,100
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Sleazattle
The five inch wide tires will also crawl over some terrain that would be incredibly difficult to traverse with the "skinny" tires. It ain't a matter of better or worse, it's that different bicycle designs have different strengths and weaknesses.
I am waiting for jonkranked to chime in with his "expertise"