Winter cycling: how do I find the right shoes for flat pedals?

If you do a web search, cycling enthusiasts will praise the virtues of cycling shoes. They keep your feet in place on the pedals, the stiff soles give you more support and put less strain on your muscles.

But what if you’re riding a Santander Cycle and it’s not practical to have cycling shoes (not to mention frequent stops at lights and crossings)? What if you just don’t have the money for cycling shoes? But you still want to have relatively warm and dry feet when you arrive at your destination.

This is the case for Emily, one of our readers.

She asks:

I’ve been commuter cycling in London for several years. I don’t want to use clip on shoes (my route has lots of traffic lights) so I’ve been searching for supportive cycling shoes for women. Trainers tend to be too wide/bulky and don’t fit waterproof covers, pumps are really unsupportive and so no good for long commutes –  do you know of any affordable cycling shoes that don’t clip on, and are waterproof /would fit waterproof covers?

This would make my cycle ride much better in the winter!

You do have a few options – the first is getting yourself a pair of mountain biking shoes. Five Tens are popular as they have very good grip which is perfect for flat pedals.

However, Five Tens aren’t known for being waterproof, and apparently take ages to dry out (the old newspaper stuffing trick is rather essential). Keep an eye on your budget as a pair of these beauties will set you back around £100.

They can also be rather wide which could be more problematic when it comes to buying overshoes, but we’ll talk a bit more about that later.

If your focus is on good grips, trail running shoes and hiking boots are a decent shout.

Clarks have a range of Gore-Tex shoes and these have a lot of grip and are often narrower than Five Tens (price range of around £70).

Waterproof shoes for cyclists

Karrimor walking shoes have a firmer sole and better grips too. They’re the cheapest of the lot – you can get a pair for as little as £20.

What about overshoes?

Endura has recently launched the first ever overshoe for flat pedals. The MT500 Plus slips over normal shoes and zips up at the back with Velcro tabs to keep it in place. It fits with your normal shoe so that it doesn’t lose any grip.

It has a neoprene upper with a rubber sole which leaves most of the sole exposed and gives the shoes that bit of extra grip. The setback with the Endura shoes is the cost – they sell on Endura for £44.99 but you can get them on Wiggle for £42.74.

Source: endurasport.com

Eager does overshoes with a velcro fastening for £9.12 a pair too. They’re hand-made by a company in Wales.

Just be aware that using regular overshoes on flat pedals may cause them to tear as they won’t have such a close fit.

If you need more warmth, layer over the shoes, not under the shoes.

For extra protection against the wet weather, Sealskinz offer up waterproof cycling socks. They’re not cheap though. This pair of ankle-length socks will set you back £34.

Source: sealskinz.com

Getting the right fit

It might be worth going up a few sizes for your overshoes so that they fit over your normal shoes.

This is a time when heading to the bike shop beats shopping online. Try on a few different pairs wearing the socks you’d normally wear to cycle so that you can get the best fit. Try the trainers with the overshoes if you can.

It’ll be better to try them on in the evening or afternoon – your feet will have expanded during the day so you’ll get the best fit.

Everybody has their own tactic when it comes to keeping their feet dry in the wetter months, so don’t rush when it comes to finding the right pair of shoes and/or overshoes for you.

Good luck on your search, Emily!

How do your feet survive winter cycling? Let us know in the comments below.

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18 Responses to Winter cycling: how do I find the right shoes for flat pedals?

  1. Sam 05/01/2018 at 10:03 am #

    A plastic bag works too!

  2. Marc 05/01/2018 at 10:13 am #

    As ever, Decathlon has the answer! I’ve used these two models of shoes for toe clip cycling and can thoroughly recommend them.

    https://www.decathlon.co.uk/100-road-cycling-shoes-id_8199403.html

    https://www.decathlon.co.uk/100-mountain-bike-shoes-black-id_8386858.html

  3. Simon 05/01/2018 at 10:24 am #

    First step is to fit good mudguards to cut down on water splashing over your shoes, which will most likely get your feet wetter than the rain itself. Especially when riding through the inevitable puddles!

  4. peter mccloskey 05/01/2018 at 10:25 am #

    WET SUIT ZIP UP BOOTEES WORK WELL.

  5. Simon 05/01/2018 at 10:38 am #

    I like just jumping on any of my bikes so have always used flats. Decathlon do a basic walking shoe the Quecha Arpenaz 50 for a tenner which have served me well and I got the Aldo overshoe over them as well.

    • John W 05/01/2018 at 8:01 pm #

      I too have a pair of Quecha ‘Arpenaz 50’, but find that they occasionally lose their grip on the pedals.

      I also bought a pair of Lidl’s cheap ‘Ian’ cycling trainers a couple of years ago (and which do not appear to have been available ever since); they grip better, but their uppers wear out after a couple of years.

      • MJ Ray 10/01/2018 at 2:03 pm #

        What pedals, though? You need ones with large rubber grips, ideally, although MTB studded ones are OK but they wear the shoe soles too quick for me. The hard plastic toothy ones given away free with some bikes aren’t good

  6. Dave 05/01/2018 at 1:41 pm #

    Gore-tex trainers are great – I have a pair of Nikes that have lasted me several years which I primarily use for cycling. However, be aware that waterproof trainers or socks alone do NOT guarantee dry feet! Unless paired with waterproof trousers that over-hang the hole where your ankle is, water will run down your legs and soak into the trainers/socks. At a greater rate than you can possibly imagine. And if it keeps water out, it will also keep water in, so within 20 minutes of medium rain you’ll end up with water sloshing around and prune-like toes that look like they’ve been in the bath.

    Socks are slightly better as if you use lycra leggings, you can pull those over the socks which will slow down the rate of water transfer (but it will still happen and your feet will still get wet in heavy rain). This is why you mostly find waterproof trainers in the running section, not the cycling one!

    For me, wet feet are a summer thing (when I’m wearing shorts regardless of the amount of rain) rather than winter (when I don’t mind wearing trousers that also keep my feet dry). In summer, I find it’s better just to wear lightweight quick-drying trainers rather than bother with anything waterproof.

    It’s also worth noting that Aldi’s cycling sale usually includes waterproof socks at bargain prices, so do keep an eye out for that if you’re in the market for some but not in a rush. I got some a couple of years ago for around the £10 mark (I think).

  7. Dave 05/01/2018 at 7:01 pm #

    Check out Shimano’s flat sole MTB boots and shoes designed for use with flat pedals.

  8. Michael 05/01/2018 at 7:55 pm #

    The only answer to dry feet on a bike is either give up and go two pairs of shoes route, one wet one dry. Or wellies, don’t dismiss the good old wellington boot. Not the height of fashion but you will arrive at your destination with warm dry feet, plus those big puddles every time you have to stop at a junction don’t matter. People may scoff but wellies are cheap, waterproof and more versatile than you think.

  9. Mike 06/01/2018 at 5:03 am #

    I prefer a pair of warm, lined, boots for cycling. They’ll work well for flat pedals and yet they’re not cycling-specific, so they’ll keep your feet quite warm and comfortable off the bike, too.

  10. Amelia 08/01/2018 at 1:56 pm #

    I used to swear by Seal Skinz waterproof socks and would recommend them to all my cyclist friends but just recently I bought a pair of ladies Karrimor waterproof trekking trainers with eVent technology – they aren’t pretty but they have worked amazingly at keeping my feet dry and warm on the wettest of days – they are cheaper than a pair of Seal Skinz which is a real bonus!

  11. SwanseaJames 08/01/2018 at 8:47 pm #

    Vaude bike gaiters. Available in short or long length. These gaiters fit over most shoes. I find them quite roomy. Waterproof & washable. I tend to leave them dry and dirt can be brushed off.

    Most, if not all shimano SPD shoes can be used as flat shoes. Leave the bottom plate in place. The benefit of stiff sole shoes designed for cycling.

  12. Giles 08/01/2018 at 9:07 pm #

    I find that “safety” shoes are good for cycling in and very cheap good value versions are available. Unlike “aproach” shoes or boots intended for walking, they are seldom proclaimed to be waterproof, but have a far more robust construction than trainers. The nail protection under the foot supports them very well when pedaling but at variance with most “cycling” shoes is not so stiff as to affect walking comfortably.

    As mentioned above, Wellies work best if you really, really, want dry feet. Good mudguards essential, of course.

  13. MJ Ray 10/01/2018 at 2:10 pm #

    “pumps are really unsupportive and so no good for long commutes” – I disagree, usually cycling in pumps (actually sightly posher but basically pumps). What’s important is that your pedals are supportive, with a large enough platform for most of your foot.

    Cyclists using tiny clip system pedals need stiffness to emulate a large platform and avoid hot foot. Us flatties don’t. Canvas pumps are more water-resistant than you might think, although not waterproof, as the canvas threads swell slightly when wet and slow how quickly water can get through, plus they fit into overshoes fairly easily.

  14. Ian 10/01/2018 at 11:08 pm #

    I live in Glasgow where it rains all the time. All my trainers are Goretex, there’s no point buying anything else.
    When it’s raining I wear a pair of Altura wateroof trousers that are long enough to stop water running in the top of my shoes.
    Finally, you can get a pair of Altura Night Vision City overshoes for as little as £15 if you Google them. They’re pretty thin and light, so they fit easily in a bag but may not be that hardwearing.

  15. Jane 12/01/2018 at 5:44 pm #

    I have Clark’s goretex shoes, they are perfect and keep my feet warm and dry, no matter how bad the weather is

  16. Karen 15/01/2018 at 5:03 pm #

    I cycle year round in Cumbria and use North Face Goretex Women’s Hedgehogs and I don’t wear overshoes. I do wear Endura waterproof trousers if the rain is particularly heavy – but the rain never seeps in through the shoes. They’re great for all types of use so I don’t need to buy a separate pair of cycling shoes. I wear them all day every day. They last me between 12 – 18 months a pair of very heavy use. I never have wet socks (apart from when riding through flood water!). The only problem is the laces snap every 6 months.

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