If you want to ride right through the winter, but don’t want wet, freezing feet, then you are going to need a pair of overshoes.
Why do I need overshoes?
As the name suggests, these are covers that are designed to be worn over your cycling shoes, closing off the various holes, vents and openings, insulating your feed from the cold and preventing wind and water from getting in.
While most cyclists will think of them as a staple of their winter wardrobe, lightweight versions can also be worn during the spring and autumn, while time triallers will also wear aero overshoes to lessen the amount of drag.
Which overshoes are right for you?
The type of overshoes you need will largely be determined by the conditions you intend to use them in, and the type of bike you ride (or more specifically, the type of cycling shoes you use). While the principle behind all overshoes is the same, wearing a thick neoprene winter pair in warm weather will result in overheating, while a lightweight aero pair won’t offer enough protection in freezing conditions.
You may well find that a selection of overshoes is necessary to suit the weather conditions and different types of riding you may enjoy.
Below are the main types of overshoes, their different characteristics and some key points to consider.
Winter overshoes: These are the most common type of overshoes and the type first purchased by most riders. The vast majority are made of thick (typically 3mm) neoprene – the same material as wetsuits are made of – which is water- and wind-proof and offers excellent protection against the elements. For riding through the cold and wet of winter, on-road and off-road, these are an absolute essential addition to your wardrobe.
It is worth noting however, that while neoprene will offer excellent insulation and protection, it is not very breathable, so wearing winter overshoes in warmer conditions is likely to result in an excess buildup of heat and moisture. Which is where the next category comes in…
Lightweight overshoes: Lighter weight overshoes are ideal for changeable days or the transition seasons of spring and autumn, when you might require some protection against wind chill and rain but don’t quite need the ‘Full Monty’ of a neoprene overshoe. These are typically constructed from a stretchy fabric such as Lycra with good breathability.
They may feature an additional surface coating such as silicone or polyurethane to (PU) make them wind- or waterproof (overshoes with this coating typically have a shiny surface appearance). Another advantage of using lightweight overshoes even in warmer weather is a practical one – they will keep your expensive cycling shoes clean and protected from muck and water, prolonging their looks and their life.
Road vs. MTB overshoes: Whether you choose thick neoprene or lightweight Lycra overshoes, you will need to ensure that they are designed for the type of cycling shoe you have. The main difference is in terms of the different cleats and studs/tread patterns used on the soles of road and MTB shoes.
Road shoes will typically have a smooth sole as it is not envisaged that riders do much walking in them, so overshoes typically cover a large area of the sole, with cutouts for the heel pad and cleat. However MTB (and commuter) shoes are often designed with walking in mind and feature hiking boot-style tread patterns as well as (optional) metal toe studs.
This means that overshoes for MTB footwear must have large open cutouts on the sole to expose the treads and studs. Overshoes of this type are often secured below via a strap that goes under the arch – consider an overshoe design with a Velcro closure for this strap, as it will make it easier to get the overshoes on and off.
Toe covers: As the name suggests, these are a minimalist type of overshoe that just cover the ‘box’ of the toes, with a cutout on the underside that enables them to be secured around the cleat. They are generally a roadie-only option for changeable conditions, with the ability to be stashed in a jersey pocket when not required. They are not suitable for use with MTB shoes with toe studs.
Aero overshoes: While most riders will use overshoes for cold conditions, time triallers will opt for a lightweight pair to cover the various straps, buckles and fasteners on their shoes and so present cleaner lines to the wind to lessen drag and improve speed. Overshoes are worn as part of an overall aero outfit including a skin suit and aero helmet.
Finally, when choosing your pair of overshoes you will need to pick a size that fits, which is pretty easy as you just pick to match your shoe size! You do not need to ‘size up’, as a size 8 overshoe is designed to cover a size 8 shoe, for example. Where overshoe sizes are given in terms of S/M/L rather than UK or European shoe size, use your common sense to match to your measurements – the inherent stretch in overshoe materials such as neoprene or Lycra means that they should fit a range of shoe sizes.
Check out the video below to see how to fit overshoes on your shoes without the hassle of squeezing them on: