I’ve made it quite clear that the only thing I dislike more than cycling in cold weather, below freezing, is indoor workouts on the trainer. I don’t like being cold and I’m so finicky about getting my clothing “just right”, there always exists the possibility that I’m under-dressed. In my experience, being over-dressed is actually worse than underdressed because too much sweat on the base layer takes the heat right out of me, so if we stop – even for a few minutes – I end up colder than if I’d erred on the lighter side. This razor-thin edge does not apply for the feet though, at least for me.
First, I’ll say this, when it comes to the great debate: Toe Covers or Foot Covers; I have and use both. For me, there is no debate about owning one or the other. I need toe covers for milder cycling (35-65 degrees F) and foot covers for anything below that. Equally important, if not more so, are wool socks – I have three pair and each cost more than $20… I don’t recommend skimping on the socks. If cost is an issue, then there’s no doubt that full foot covers are a better purchase than toe covers because the foot covers are more versatile – if you’re riding in cooler temps (but not freezing), simply using a lighter base sock will keep me from overheating. On the other hand, a good pair of toe covers only cost between $15 and $20 depending on where they’re purchased (online). Foot covers, on the other hand, can range from $30 – $70:
I’ve found there are a few things to consider here, depending on how technical you want to get. First, like all things cycling, the more money you spend, the more comfortable you’ll be. It sucks, but it’s almost always true (going by retail price, not the price you pay – picking up items on sale toward the end of the season is an excellent way to save a lot of money). I only ride uncomfortably when I try to go cheap, to make something work in a manner that it wasn’t intended (ie. wearing knee warmers over my leg warmers instead of shilling for a pair of tights). With the feet, owning toe covers, full foot covers, cycling socks and wool socks, I’ve got options. Too many options can freeze many people in indecision but I have a simple, set pattern of taking care of my dogs:
55-65 degrees F (11.5-18 C) = Cycling Socks and Toe Covers
40-55 degrees F (4.5-11.5 C) = Wool Socks and Toe Covers
35-45 degrees F (1 – 7 C) = Cycling Socks and Foot Covers
<35 degrees F (<1 C) = Wool Socks and Foot Covers
If I follow this, I’m good. This isn’t a set pattern that will work for anyone – some people have feet that run cold, others may have circulation issues. You’ll have to experiment to find your optimal level of comfort but that should be a good starting point at least.
You may be wondering, “Why all of this fuss over keeping the feet warm?” Well, I’m a fairly disciplined cyclist. Once I get out the door and warmed up, I want as many miles as I can get in the time I’ve got to devote to a ride. I’ll almost always opt for miles if I’ve got the time. If my feet or legs are cold though, I’ll cut a ride short without even putting up a mental fight. I figure if I’m one of those hardcore dopes and I struggle with it, then it’s probably an issue for others, thus this post.
One mistake I did make early on was setting the bar too low when it came to how cold I would ride. My old cutoff was 55 degrees so I missed out on quite a bit of outdoor time, bound to the trainer.