Quick Guide to Overshoes
No matter what type of cycling you do, we all have to get the miles in at this time of year and shamefully I broke one of my golden rules – in over 25 years of cycling, I have created quite a few – yesterday whilst doing just that; I went out in Autumn without a pair of overshoes on.
The weather has been relatively balmy here in the UK this Autumn and I was lulled into a false sense of security. Of course I had forgotten that the roads are covered in a fine layer of crap at this time of year, and both bike and I returned from said ride looking pretty grubby – think Paris-Roubaix grubby and you’ll get the picture.
Some things, such as your bike, are going to get dirty – until someone invents the ‘overbike’ that is – but there is no excuse to have to spend Monday morning cleaning your shoes, as the overshoe already exists. Complete waste of bloody time and time is our most precious commodity.
Many riders are knocking about in expensive, carbon soled cycling shoes, even in winter, so it makes sense to protect them. A pair of overshoes will set you back under £30, while a decent pair of shoes can be well over £200. It is not just from road crud and inclement weather that you are protecting your shoes from either; trust me, in the event of a crash, you’ll be pleased that your precious kicks were covered by overshoes.
Make sure you buy the right overshoe sole configuration to match your needs. If you are buying a pair for use off-road, such as on warm-up laps prior to a cyclocross race, you will need to to have the full sole of your shoe poking out from below the overshoe; if purely for road use, you want to have just the cleat visible to get the maximum carbon sole protection.
Anyway, the key to good overshoe use is to have a number of different types for different conditions:
Milder, Dry Weather of Spring and Autumn
There’s a couple of options here. Over socks are basically just that; a sock you put over your shoe. Rubbish in the wet and lasting about as long as a chocolate teapot if used regularly, they are not great but some cyclists consider them to be ‘cool’. Personally I am not a fan and will never buy a pair again, but don’t let me put you off; go ahead and waste your money.
Thin, aero lycra overshoes are slightly better and are great at keeping your shoes clean when it’s dirty outside. However, they offer little insulation so make sure it’s not chilly when you choose to don them. Often they are known as shoe covers and you can usually get them in the name of the shoe you are about to cover up if that sort of thing is important to you…
Inner socks designed to be extra warm and even sometimes waterproof are OK for mountain biking and for cyclocross, where you have pretty tough shoes with built in protection, but they do not protect your expensive road shoes from either crap or crash, so are best kept off-road. They can be successfully combined with proper overshoes for really cold or wet days and do work well. I have both owned and reviewed in the past, but haven’t had cause to buy any for years now though and probably never will again.
Neoprene overshoes are best for cooler days and depending on which you go for do offer some half-decent rain protection. They can be used on milder days but you will get sweaty tootsies. Endura offer a good range in my experience – the company is based in Scotland so should know a thing or two about weather – but you can find almost the exact same offerings, probably made in the same factory, from many of your favourite clothing, shoe, helmet, bike and probably even bike computer manufacturer nowadays.
After an extensive grouptest – which as mentioned previously has lasted over 25 years – I recommend that you go for ones which are ‘one piece’ with no zip or velcro fastening. They are harder to get on initially (and off afterwards, especially when completely knackered) but by gripping your shoes and ankles tighter, offer better all-round weather protection. If possible avoid ones with flappy, velcro fastenings and even zips if you can, as these just fall off or break, and then your overshoes just end-up looking shabby. No one likes a shabby cyclist.
Wet Weather Overshoes
Serious rain requires serious waterproofing and some overshoes seem to handle this better than others. A lot of companies offer them but not all are truly waterproof. Many neoprene overshoes will leak but once your feet get wet, they act as any wetsuit would, using the water as an insulating layer to keep your feet nice and warm. For real waterproofing the new brand, Velotoze, seem to score highly from what I have heard, though this is all second hand opinion at present, as I am very much a fair weather cyclist nowadays. Craft, Assos, etc all offer similar alternatives.
Winter overshoes are serious overshoes that offer some really serious protection for the coldest of conditions. They often have thick rubber soles and serious neoprene protection. I used to have some of these for riding up North, but living in the tropical South-east of England now, I can’t really say that I have needed them lately. If you ride in snowy, icy conditions these do make sense though and those rubber soles are great for protecting your shoes when stopping at the cafe and can usually be cut to make way for any cleat type.
Build up a collection of different overshoes. It will save you money on expensive shoes in the long run and make off-season cycling much more comfortable and enjoyable. Buy carefully though. It is possible to buy completely useless overshoes – I have a pair – so beware of crap. In my opinion, overshoes must have stretchy material to be effective, so avoid any that do not stretch. They should be as tight as possible around your ankle to prevent water ingress. Avoid zips if possible, and tassels and velcro straps, as they always break sooner or later. Buy one piece neoprene and you can’t go far wrong; though note, any overshoe is better than none.
Overshoes are good. There’s loads of choice. Buy some.
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