Anyone who has spent much time in the UK will know that it rains — a lot. During just about every ride, at any time of the year, an unexpected deluge is a distinct possibility. While this isn’t too much of an issue in the summer months, it can make winter rides a nightmare.
Great rain jackets and gloves are relatively easy to come by, but wet feet have long been an issue I haven’t been able to crack — one of my least favorite moments during any wet, cold ride is the water finally permeating my overshoes and knowing that I won’t have warm feet again until I get home. While I’ve tried numerous solutions to this problem, from off the shelf overshoes to putting sandwich bags over my feet, nothing has been a foolproof solution.
I’ve considered buying a pair of winter specific shoes before, and even had the chance to test a few pairs, but I’ve found that for a UK based rider most winter cycling boots come up short. The trouble is, they’re designed for far colder temperatures than we get here — climates where snow is a much bigger problem than moisture management. The net result is a shoe that is too warm, and not good enough at keeping the water out.
So, when I heard that 45NRTH had released a winter shoe that was specifically designed for ‘transition’ climates (read wet and near freezing), I had to give it a try.
First impressions of the Fasterkatts were good — they seemed excellently constructed, easy to take on and off, and well thought out. The shoes have an inner and an outer layer — the inner resembles a regular mountain bike shoe with less ventilation, while the outer is an integrated, rubberized, overshoe. The cleat pocket in the sole is sealed, so no moisture or dirt can seep in — a great idea as I’ve found this to be a weak spot on other shoes. However, I didn’t buy them to look at — it was their performance in the wet I was interested in.
Two days after arriving back in the UK from North Carolina, I had an opportunity to thoroughly put the Fasterkatts to the test: a five-hour ride in torrential rain. It was a catastrophe — my feet were soaked within an hour. I spent the next four hours sloshing around with what felt like a liter of water in each shoe. I had made a rookie error: the boots were waterproof, but the rain had soaked through my leg warmers and wicked into my shoes and socks — the shoes, being waterproof, didn’t drain.
Since then, I’ve started wearing waterproof tights and trousers on any rainy ride; this solved the problem immediately and I haven’t had wet feet in the hundreds of miles I’ve ridden since. The Faterkatts also do a great job of temperature regulation. I haven’t had a chance to try them below their suggested temperature range yet (-3°C – 7°C), but I’ve found that they’re comfortable from around 10°C. While they themselves don’t have a huge amount of built in insulation, varying the thickness of my socks lets me tailor them to the weather — much better than the ‘boil-in-the-bag’ sensation common with warmer winter shoes. (N.B. I have narrow feet, some might find that they don’t have room for winter weight socks as the shoes are constructed on a narrow ‘performance’ last).
I’ve had my feet in the ‘Katts for up to 100 miles at a time and have found them to be very comfortable — there’s slight flex in the sole, but nothing too noticeable, and the cord lace closure system does a great job at gripping my foot. If I had one minor issue in terms of fit, it’s that I can’t get the neoprene collar at the top of the shoe tight enough (although I have fairly thin ankles; most might find that this isn’t a problem). The shoes take a two-bolt MTB cleat; something I prefer during winter, even on the road, as that design affords better grip at traffic lights / café stops — plus, lets face it, there’s not much need for the performance gains of a road cleat on a long training ride.
After a few weeks wearing the Fasterkatts, I think I’ve solved my winter footwear dialema. 45NRTH billed them as being the product that would kill the overshoe and for me they’ve achieved that goal. I don’t know why I’d ever go back. I can see that other shoes would be a better bet in much colder climates, but for the British winter these hit the mark. Highly recommended.
N.B I am in no way affiliated with 45NRTH — I purchased the Fasterkatts myself, if I thought they were rubbish I’d tell you!