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Home » Cycling » Cycling in the Cold: Toe Covers or Foot Covers? More Useless Information than You May Ever Need to Consider About Keeping the Dogs Warm.

Cycling in the Cold: Toe Covers or Foot Covers? More Useless Information than You May Ever Need to Consider About Keeping the Dogs Warm.

December 2015
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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:

PearlIzumiToeCoverGoogleSearch

CyclingFootCoverGoogleSearch

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.

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12 Comments

  1. bonnev659 says:

    funny i haven’t used toe or feet covers yet. i used wool socks and aluminum foil trick in the past. then again once salt is on the roads I be on the trainer

  2. I’ve got a pair of the Castelli toe covers, they do a good job when it’s milder but they aren’t very robust and I’ve already worn out the underside of one from a bit of off-the-bike walking and putting my foot down. I prefer full shoe covers and have three or four different pairs for varying temperatures and conditions!

    • bgddyjim says:

      I’ve got the Pearl Izumi’s and they’re great for everything from the 60’s down to the upper 40’s. Same thing, they’re pretty thin but they block the breeze from getting into my shoe vents. I’ve got a pair of Bontrager’s and they work quite well.

      Castelli sure makes some nice stuff though.

  3. bribikes says:

    I just have full covers right now, thanks for the info on the toe covers!

    I am excited about this winter, I actually have started buying some cycling specific stuff,I think it will make a huge difference from my “stuff-as-many-layers-as-possible-under-rain-clothes” method from last year 😉

    • bgddyjim says:

      It absolutely will. Get a vest, or what they call a Gilet in Europe. Windproof front, mesh back (and by mesh, I mean you can see through it). It blocks the wind in the front and lets moisture out the back. The vest is the single most important piece of cycling kit I own. 😉

      Happy shopping Bri.

      • bribikes says:

        Cool, thanks! I think that will be very helpful, my core overheats really fast. Last year I just spent money on the crucial stuff-at that point I didn’t want to invest to much money on a plan that might not work-this year I am having fun buying some nice stuff, I know I am in it for the long run 😉

  4. bonnev659 says:

    a pro tip, if you have extra money in the spring, you can get some items at a nice discount. i got my polarmax base layer discounted and a few other items that I am using now.

  5. zoeforman says:

    Toe thingys are great in Autumn & Spring showers and if a little chilly without bulk Fill overshoes for rest of UK winter

    • bgddyjim says:

      I don’t know how you guys do it over there… I’d take snow, ice and an excellent excuse for three months over the year over a cold, driving rain any day of the week and twice on Sunday. 😉

      • zoeforman says:

        We have to accept that there will be plenty of turbo days but if dry & sunny we get out and ride when we can with lots of layers ! Ice & fog I won’t ride in.

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