You may be tough enough to hit the trail in the middle of winter, but is your kit? The Hub’s winter MTB (Mountain Bike) shoes buying guide is your first stop for choosing the right shoes or boots to tackle the off-road off-season.
In terms of kit, winter mountain bike shoes are the rough-necks of cycling apparel. These lean, mean, water-repellent machines are equipped with hardy materials and fortifications to keep your feet safe, warm, and dry, whether on the toughest XC forest paths, singletrack, downhill, or just tearing up the countryside on a Sunday.
When ice and mud mix, it creates an abrasive and corrosive combination, so your everyday summer shoes could be left in shreds come the end of a tough day in the dirt.
So, if you plan to mix it up in the mud this winter, it’s important to kit yourself out with a pair of winter MTB boots, not just for the sake of your feet but also to preserve your fair-weather footwear.
Winter MTB shoes and boots enlist a range of tech and materials to ensure they’re tough enough for the trials and tribulations of off-road riding.
The major difference between MTB and road winter footwear is the powerful grip of mountain bike boots, compared to the sheer soles of racing-optimised road soles.
Obviously, mountain biking as a discipline requires more frequent contact between foot and ground, whether you’re riding XC or just dropping your heel on a tight corner.
The different terrain means less emphasis on light-weight materials and aerodynamics than racing road shoes, so expect to see gruffer, more rugged designs and more durable materials. Saving a few grams by going for less robust materials isn’t exactly going to slash your split in the mud, but robust synthetics will ensure your shoe is still intact by the end of the ride – probably worth it then!
Winter MTB boots and shoes share some similarities with their road-going winter cousins, with many models sporting the high collar and insulated insides to fend of the worst of the weather.
A range of fastening mechanisms are also used across models and price levels, while spray guards and waterproof coatings are common among modern models.
Other elements to look out for are easy-to-clean uppers, which will come in handy after a rough ride that leaves you caked in dirt.
And if you’re likely to be scaling tough gradients on your ride, some winter mountain bike shoes come with removable studs to give you traction in the mud.
In this buying guide, we’re looking at clipless mountain bike shoes and boots, so you’ll need to ensure your current pedals are compatible with a two-bolt cleat – or consider switching using our clipless MTB buying guide. Of course, clipless MTB boot grips will still work on traditional platform pedals, but the cleat cut-out on the sole will mean you won’t have complete contact with the pedal.
Now we know what we’re looking for, let’s check out the top winter MTB boots out there…
Mavic Crossmax Elite CM MTB Shoes
If mountain bike winter boots were to stand around tensing their biceps, the Mavic Crossmax Elite CM MTB boot would surely put all others to shame.
Lean yet muscular, these winter boots catch the eye with a flame red toe and aggressive design that conceals their entry point price. Although similar in style to their road-going cousin, the red-on-black mountain bike alternative makes quite the impact.
Made for damp, muddy conditions, the Mavic Crossmax Elite Cm MTB Shoes grip even slippery ground thanks to an aggressively designed outsole, which is aided by a pronounced contagrip tread.
A dual density inner sole also features, designed with OrthoLite foam and arch support, providing stability and instilling confidence even on the barmiest of bends.
This also means efficient power transfer to pedal, while Mavic has managed to ration to the weightiness despite their rugged design.
Removable studs can provide extra grip when the conditions require, keep you upright when the ground below develops a mind of its own.
It’s in the wet and mud where these boots are at home; Clima Mavic construction on the front of the shoe ensures feet stay dry in puddles or rain. Ankle gussets provide extra protection too, stopping mud from finding its way into your shoes while an easy-to-clean upper prevents moisture absorption to keep you dry and comfortable.
The Mavic ergo dial stops mid-ride slippage in the shoe, and provides quick release with a large rubber grip around the dial so they can be operated even through thick gloves.
Shimano MW5 Dryshield MTB SPD Boots
Another boot at the low end of the price curve, the Shimano MW5 Dryshield MTB SPD Boots have a cleaner and less aggressive aesthetic.
The best value products are those that do the basics well, and this is where the Shimano MW5 have found a niche.
Out goes the futuristic polymers, with a hardy rubber sole providing a no-nonsense solution to the durability question.
An insole with fleece liner adds insulation and heat retention, along with a Dryshield® membrane. This is supported by a neoprene ankle collar and splash cover for the laces to keep the wet at bay.
A speed lacing system allows fast and easy adjustment while an adaptable cup insole with fleece liner adds some extra protection.
At 445g, the Shimano MW5 Dryshield MTB boots are surprisingly light despite their brutish charm, allowing you to dance like a butterfly around the corners and sting like a bee on the straights.
Shimano MW7 Gore-Tex MTB SPD Winter Boots
At first glance, the Shimano MW7 Gore-Tex MTB SPD Winter Boots appear similar to the brand’s MW5 shoes, but don’t be fooled – these are a completely different animal.
Ankle high in features and tech, winter mountain bike riding will be a foot-stomping success with these rugged and dynamic warriors.
The main difference, as indicated by the name, is the addition of Gore-Tex materials in the liner, providing waterproof insulated comfort.
Meanwhile, a torsional midsole – which Shimano has unfortunately named “Torbal” – allows natural rider motion during downhill descents, and protects those knees from overly stiff shoe position.
The MW7s come with all the features of the MW5s listed above, but the higher-grade insulative materials and advanced midsole tech gives these shoes an edge that is reflected in the higher price.
Northwave X-Arctic GTX Winter Shoes
Northwave’s mid-priced winter mountain bike boots promise high-end grip and comfort for a reasonably affordable cost.
Looks wise, the X-Arctic GTX aren’t going to feature in any letters home, but don’t be fooled by their lack of panache.
The list of features and in-built tech would crack a memory stick, all packed into a neat and unassuming package.
One of the features Northwave are shouting about is the high-grip Michelin rubber soles. The grips seem counterintuitively flat for off-road work, but promise to provide unrivalled traction on the slipperiest of surfaces.
The soles also profess to be 28% more abrasive resistant than thermoplastic polyurethane, which is used in tough protective casings for its strength.
Water and wind proof, the X-Cross GTX shoes use a Gore-Tex® Pique membrane which protects against temperatures as low as -3°C while a high Neoprene collar keeps out the H2O.
Robustness and weather resistance is only part of the deal, however, with an explorer sole providing a calibrated stiffness midsole for optimal power transfer. Meanwhile a flexible medial zone minimises any impedance to walking or running.
The SL2 super-fast lacing system, meanwhile, is combined with a double strap fastening system for stability, along with an integrated heel cup system.
Sidi Diablo Gore Tex MTB SPD Winter Boots
We’re in amongst the big boys now, with the Sidi Diablo Gore Tex MTB SPD Winter Boots approaching the top end of the winter MTB boot scale.
What strikes you first about these boots is the gnarly appearance, again harking back to Sidi’s motorcycle origin story. These foot-hugging hulks are surprisingly light weight, however, and more comfortable than they look.
The three-strap Velcro closure may be a little primitive compared to the speed-lacing systems of competitors, but at least you know you can operate them with gloves and that they’re unlikely to develop a technical glitch, like, ever.
What puts the Sidi Diablo above its competitors, however, is its waterproofing abilities, using a membrane made up of over 9 billion microscopic pores 20,000 times smaller than a water drop but 700 times bigger than a molecule of moisture vapor.
The system has achieved the ultimate goal for winter cycling shoes – keeping out water while letting the foot breathe and air to circulate.
The popular Sidi heel cup also features, ensuring there’s no slippage as you pedal.
They’re beefy shoes that will suit aggressive riders who like to spend long hours in the rough and tumble of winter sludge.
Gaerne Winter Gore-Tex MTB SPD Boots
These top end shoes from Italian maker Gaerne have put the grip coefficient at the top of their priority list for these winter MTB boots, with studs on both the sides and heels featuring THSR-IceGrip tech. This material provides greater grip and abrasion resistance in dry, wet and icy soil conditions, while the soles also have room for removable front studs to help you dig in to loose or wet terrains.
Again, the clue was in the name, with Gore-Tex technology featuring in the uppers, providing a save-haven for your feet against the elements.
A nylon and fibreglass sole makes these strong and lightweight, aiding your performance, and a reinforced heel cup also features for added security.
A combined lave and internal cable locking system keeps your feet in place while external triple Velcro straps keep the splash cover firmly in place.
You would expect top-end winter mountain bike boots to be all-rounders, but these boots are masters of all trades.
Northwave Extreme XC GTX Winter Boots
At the top of the range is Northwave’s GTX winter selection, which promises the world and largely delivers in terms of heat retention, water repelling tech, and high-performance components.
There are four options in the GTX range, each with their own special set of skills for the winter MTB rider.
Each GTX option sports the same X-Frame technology as Northwave’s top-end Extreme Road Race shoes, hugging tightly to your foot while avoiding any uncomfortable pinching.
They also all come with a next-gen carbon reinforced sole with a stiffness index of at least 8.0, putting them in the same class as some quality road racing shoes in terms of power transfer.
Gaerne’s preferred SLW2 dial is also present in each, providing step-by-step adjustment and full release in a single button.
The Extreme XC – the apex predator of the range – has, quite obviously, been modded in favour of cross-country riders. It stands out among the other GTX options with a range-leading 12.0 stiffness index, achieved through a triple-density Speedlight 3D Carbon sole and carbon insert in the pedal contact area.
That puts the Extreme XC in the same class as Northwave’s premium road shoe range, helping you carve into those curves, transferring all the power you can remorselessly slam into those pedals.
It also promises to keep your feet warm at punitive temperatures, purporting to be usable in -15C.
Northwave Raptor Arctic GTX Winter Shoes
If you’re looking for something a little more flamboyant, then the Raptor Arctic GTX may be more up your trail. Available in pupil-contracting luminous yellow or orange, you’ll stand-out even in the darkest evenings with your feet making incandescent Catherine Wheels in the murk.
Their Jaws Carbon Reinforced sole ranks a decent 8.0 on the stiffness scale, and while their recommended temperature operating scale only reaches -10C, that’s still way ahead of most of the competition.
Northwave Raptor GTX Winter Shoes
If the flamboyancy of the Arctic GTX was a step too far for you then check out the Raptor GTX. Available in a futuristic camouflage design, this iteration of the GTX will certainly make a statement on the trail.
Also available in the same fluorescent yellow of the Raptor Arctic, these come with an elastic Gore-Tex Rattler® membrane keeping your feet warm in temperatures as low as -3C.
And despite its lower price, the Raptors still feature the Jaws Carbon Reinforced stiff sole as the Arctic.
Northwave Raptor TH MTB
Another option, and the cheapest of the range, is the Northwave Raptor TH; the TH standing for Thinsulate instead of Gore-Tex which is denoted by the GTX initials.
While these iterations are not recommended for sub-zero temperatures, they’re still capable of keeping you warm at zero Celsius and come with extra thermal coating covering the toe.
Again, many of the features of the Raptor and GTX models remain, such as the super stiff soles, SLW2 dial, BioMap Aero Overlap construction, and the striking and professional styling.
They are also the only pair in the range without an ankle collar, so if you are all about ankle freedom, then these could be the ones for you.
Five Ten Freerider EPS High MTB Shoes
The Freerider Stealth S1 rubber outsole, heavy insulation, and heat-retentive materials, mean this shoe will keep you pedalling in the coldest conditions.
PrimaLoft insulation from the instep forward, including the tongue, adds to the shoe’s cosiness, while the one-piece leather forefoot means there are fewer seams and therefore fewer ways for water to enter your shoe.
The water-resistant properties are supported by a fully gusseted tongue while additional foam insulation in the sock liner and a heat-reflective footboard keeps the heat locked in.
Performance-wise, the shoe provides excellent ankle support, a stiff sole, but at 525g each, they are on the heavier side of the shoe-scales. This may not worry you too much if you’re an Enduro or Downhill rider, but worth knowing before buying.
What the Freerider EPS High MTB boots do possess above all, however, is style, and they have it in abundance. They’re also among the cheapest winter MTB shoes for serious cyclists, which is good news for those saving for Christmas.
Available in Auburn (brown), Core Black (black), and Midnight (dark blue), and made to Five Ten’s high construction standards, these boots will ensure your feet are standout performers this winter.