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.
Want to check out the best winter road bike shoes?
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…
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-deep in features and tech, winter mountain bike riding will be a foot-stomping success with these rugged and dynamic warriors.
The main difference since their former incarnation is the addition of Gore-Tex materials in the liner, providing waterproof and insulated comfort.
A Boa L6 dial also offers quick and precise micro-adjustment.
They also look way better, with a more modern cut, stylish panelling, and have a futuristic feel to them. We especially like the Gore-Tex branding near the toe and that Michelin logo on the sole.
Speaking of which, Shimano have partnered with Michelin to provide dual density rubber for the outsole, providing considerable traction on muddy or icy trails, with unmatched slip resistance , alongside the stability provided by Shimano’s TORBAL torsion midsole.
The mid-priced Shimano XM9 SPD Boots have a hiking boot aesthetic that could easily find their way into your casual wear.
The boots feature that futuristic Gore-Tex tech, ensuring your feet are simultaneously warm and well ventilated.
The outsole, meanwhile, is made from Vibram; an Italian-made rubber which is commonly found on pro-standard climbing boots. Their grip should be more than equal to the toughest of trails.
They’re a little heavy at 1070g per pair, but what you get in return is rugged protection and a serious boot for taking on tough rides.
When the wind is shooting through the trees and the freezing mud and rain burns your wrists and cheeks, the idea of boots armed with fleece uppers with aluminium foil undersides sounds like a dream.
Fizik’s X5 Artica Winter Shoes come with a very attractive price considering the prestigious brand and combination of technologies.
A breathable membrane combats clamminess while bulky rubber soles ensure grip when schlepping up those banks to set up the GoPro.
An internal lacing system means you can get in and out easily, while carbon reinforced soles give you sublime power transfer.
We’re in amongst the big boys now, with the Sidi Frost Gore Tex MTB Boots approaching the top end of the winter MTB boot scale.
What strikes you first about these boots is the gnarly appearance, harking back to Sidi’s motorcycle origin story. These foot-hugging hulks are comparatively light at 880g and more comfortable than they look.
The Velcro straps are supported by Techno-3 Push speed-lacing system, which you should be able to operate with gloves.
What puts the Sidi Frost 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 vapour.
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.
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’s Extreme GTX Winter boots promise to keep your feet at operating temperature in seriously cold conditions.
Stuffed with features and innovation, the GTX models feature water-repelling tech, a combination of Gore-Tex Koala and Gore-Tex Rattler fabrics, and BioMap Aero Overlap construction for an improved aero profile.
The Extreme XCM 2 are the apex predator of the range and stand 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.
It’s a remarkable stiffness count, putting them in the same class as some elite road racing shoes in terms of power transfer.
The SLW2 dial is also a favourite on the trails while an integrated heel system ensures superb heel retention, so you can put the power down in confidence.
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.
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.
They may not look like your traditional bulky winter boot, but these Freerider Elements MTB Shoes from Five Ten are just as capable of crushing it on the trails in the bitter hibernal season.
Five Ten are hugely popular among mountain bikers, particularly for their Stealth S1 rubber outsole, which provides incredible grip for a flat pedal shoe.
Meanwhile, thick insulation, and heat-retentive materials, mean this shoe will keep you pedalling in the coldest conditions.
PUR foam insulation works to keep the cold out and wick-away sweat, adding to the shoe’s comfort.
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 a stiff sole, but at 826g per pair, they are slightly 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.
What the Freerider Elements 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 looking at a long upgrade wish-list.
Available in black and grey, and made to Five Ten’s high standard of construction, these boots will ensure your feet are standout performers this winter.