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  1. #1
    _CJ
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    Heated insoles/socks?

    Maybe part of getting older, but my feet aren't as tolerant of cold weather as they used to be. Have good windproof/waterproof insulated socks that have worked well for years, but they just aren't getting it done like they used to and/or I'm just not wanting to put up with the pain of frozen toes anymore. I'm good for about an hour right now in ~20 degree temps, but if not for the toes, I could go much longer.

    Anyone using heated insoles or socks with good luck? Suggestions on brands or styles?

    And for what it's worth, I ride clipless, and I'm not really interested in going to flats with big old snow boots if I can help it.


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  2. #2
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    First of all, I find my lake boots are good down to about freezing, even then my feet can become cold soaked and toes can go numb. Ensure your boots are at least one full US size bigger, if not a bit more, for heavy merino socks. Also, the achilles heel of any clipless pedal shoe in the cold is the thin sole and short distance from your foot to the metal cleat, which connects to a metal pedal, which makes an excellent heat sink where all the insulation in the world elsewhere won't help. Your foot doesn't flex and pump blood while ridind like it does while running. Having the shoe big enough so you can put an additional insole in there without jamming your feet can be extremely helpful, as far as reducing heat transmission. If you are riding in freezing or near freezing temps, I recommend good shoe covers, like giro storms. Also, spray your feet with anti perspirant to reduce sweating.

    I have hotronics S4 insole heaters. They are the real deal. I had some cheaper heated insoles before where the battery was in the insole. They sucked and didn't work for beans. The S4s work and significantly boost my ability to ride in cold temps, all last year and well below zero F at times. They last for hours and have a good range of settings. I would recommend to use with shoe covers due to the heaters only heating from below.

    And that said, except for a short race at -20, I'd go flats and snowboots for extended riding in the negatives, mostly because I don't like to rely on one thing with no backup.
    "It's only when you stand over it, you know, when you physically stand over the bike, that then you say 'hey, I don't have much stand over height', you know"-T. Ellsworth

    You're turning black metallic.

  3. #3
    _CJ
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jayem View Post
    the achilles heel of any clipless pedal shoe in the cold is the thin sole and short distance from your foot to the metal cleat, which connects to a metal pedal, which makes an excellent heat sink where all the insulation in the world elsewhere won't help.
    Funny you mention that....I came to the same conclusion last year, and rather than buying insulated insoles, I put a few layers of tinfoil under the insole, and that made a big difference.

    It's really the cold soak from extended downhills in canyons that does me in. If forgot all about it yesterday during one of my first cold weather rides of the year, and after climbing for about an hour in ~30 degree temps with no issue, I went down a canyon that felt like a total ice box. Wouldn't be surprised if it was 15 degrees in there. By the time I got to the bottom my toes were on fire (burning from cold if that makes sense), and I headed for home via the most direct route possible from there.

    Back in the early 90's my roommates and I would go out for hours in freezing temps, then stand on the heater grates in the house when we got back, screaming in pain, laughing at each other, and watching our toes swell. Maybe that stuff is catching up with me in my old age, but it was worth it.

    I've played around with all the shoe covers and whatnot over the years, and none of them ever really got it done. That's why I'm wanting to try out an actual heat source.

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  4. #4
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    Normally ride my winter shoes with specialized shoe covers but have had good results with these inexpensive foot warmers for the really cold days. You can buy a whole bag for $5
    Those hottronics S4 look nice...


    Stay Warm | Ocean State Job Lot

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by newking View Post
    Normally ride my winter shoes with specialized shoe covers but have had good results with these inexpensive foot warmers for the really cold days. You can buy a whole bag for $5
    Those hottronics S4 look nice...

    Stay Warm | Ocean State Job Lot
    I can't use those heater packs on my toes, they take a little while to become active, but they usually last about 3hrs and I can't turn them down to prevent sweat and crazy baking of feet, not to mention, sometimes they are simply not warm enough, stopping and inserting them in real cold didn't seem to help, only make my feet colder by exposing them briefly. I suppose they are ok for moderately cold temps, but it's not like when I use them (same adhesive model) on my handlebars where I can easily get rid of them or choose to use them. I have poor circulation where more insulation just acts as a heat sink, as it becomes colder than my fingers or toes and my body refuses to send warm blood to these. My palms can be sweating and yet I can't feel my fingers because they are ice cold. I've found how to deal with this in the cold, but I've developed specific methods that work for me and bought gear that supports it.

    Another tip, if you are starting from home, throw the boots in the oven on warm for a few min befor starting, or if not, wear the boots from home while driving if it's a shorter drive (may sweat during a longer drive), so you can bring them up to your body temp before starting your ride.

    45north wolfhammers and Lake 303s are decent cold weather boots, should work good with covers and heaters. Going to wolfgars or lake 400s is for more extreme, like frequent negatives. I think getting the right size is the most important part (considerations mentioned above). Anything less than the cold weather boots will be a lost cause IME.
    "It's only when you stand over it, you know, when you physically stand over the bike, that then you say 'hey, I don't have much stand over height', you know"-T. Ellsworth

    You're turning black metallic.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by _CJ View Post
    Funny you mention that....I came to the same conclusion last year, and rather than buying insulated insoles, I put a few layers of tinfoil under the insole, and that made a big difference.

    It's really the cold soak from extended downhills in canyons that does me in. If forgot all about it yesterday during one of my first cold weather rides of the year, and after climbing for about an hour in ~30 degree temps with no issue, I went down a canyon that felt like a total ice box. Wouldn't be surprised if it was 15 degrees in there. By the time I got to the bottom my toes were on fire (burning from cold if that makes sense), and I headed for home via the most direct route possible from there.

    Back in the early 90's my roommates and I would go out for hours in freezing temps, then stand on the heater grates in the house when we got back, screaming in pain, laughing at each other, and watching our toes swell. Maybe that stuff is catching up with me in my old age, but it was worth it.

    I've played around with all the shoe covers and whatnot over the years, and none of them ever really got it done. That's why I'm wanting to try out an actual heat source.

    .
    Most of the time, keeping my core "warm" doesn't have jack to do with my extremeties staying warm (see my comments about blood circulation above). On the other hand, when you descend for a while in the cold your core temp can drop like a rock fast. When it's cold (20s or colder) AND my ride will have an extended downhill, I'll carry a puffy insulted jacket to throw on for the descend (or something appropriate for the temp). Also throw on the balaclava and pop out the chemical toe heaters for my handlebars, turn on my boot heaters. Basically I redouble my cold weather efforts for extended descents, don't underestimate them. Otherwise, when just riding flats, up hills, and short downs., you'd be amazed how little you can wear in the cold and be comfortable. It almost always takes my body about 20 minutes for my core to get up to temp while riding in the cold, so I have to dress for how my core temp will be.
    "It's only when you stand over it, you know, when you physically stand over the bike, that then you say 'hey, I don't have much stand over height', you know"-T. Ellsworth

    You're turning black metallic.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jayem View Post
    ... Ensure your boots are at least one full US size bigger, if not a bit more, for heavy merino socks. ..
    It's important for there to be room in the shoes for insulation and to not constrict circulation. Heavy socks are warmest if not crushed down by tight shoes.
    Do the math.

  8. #8
    The White Jeff W
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    After several winters of frozen feet Ive come to the conclusion that my feet dont generate enough heat to stay warm, no matter what boots or socks I wear. My friends are good with their regular bike shoes & a wool sock. Mine are blocks of ice in winter boots.

    I decided that the only solution was an artificial heat source. I had some success with chemical toe warmers but wanted a more permanent and consistent solution. Got a pair of the Thermacell heated insoles on ebay and it's the best $65 bucks Ive spent in a long time. Ive done 2 rides in mid 30's that would've left me borderline frostbitten before but now can ride without any discomfort at all. Only warning Id give is that they're pretty thick so make sure you have a boot with plenty of volume. I got a pair of Columbia Bugaboot III a full size larger than I usually wear. They're not super bulky but have good volume inside. They also grip great on my flat pedals.

    The batteries and charger port are contained inside the heel of the insole and also comes with a wireless remote to regulate the amount of heat.
    No moss...

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by jeffw-13 View Post
    After several winters of frozen feet Ive come to the conclusion that my feet dont generate enough heat to stay warm...
    Right! They generate virtually none. All the heat for your hands and feet comes from from blood flow, kinda like hot water heating. The blood is returned a lot cooler than it went in, so if your body feels it needs cut heat loss, it reduces circulation to the extremities, hence the adage, "If your feet are cold, put on a hat." (since there is a lot of heat loss via the head). Of course different people's bodies react to this in different degrees. The takeaway is to wear roomy shoes and gloves so as to maximize insulation and minimize restriction of blood flow...and to keep reasonably warm overall.
    Do the math.

  10. #10
    The White Jeff W
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lone Rager View Post
    Right! They generate virtually none. All the heat for your hands and feet comes from from blood flow, kinda like hot water heating. The blood is returned a lot cooler than it went in, so if your body feels it needs cut heat loss, it reduces circulation to the extremities, hence the adage, "If your feet are cold, put on a hat." (since there is a lot of heat loss via the head). Of course different people's bodies react to this in different degrees. The takeaway is to wear roomy shoes and gloves so as to maximize insulation and minimize restriction of blood flow...and to keep reasonably warm overall.
    Thing is I go out on a cold day and it takes a little while to warm up. I can tell when my core releases the blood flow to my extremeties because my hands get warm. My feet, however, never do. Nothing I've tried makes any difference except an artificial heat source. I'm warm everywhere else, just my feet. I've come to the conclusion thst I have shitty circulation in my feet, probably from all those years wearing tight hockey skates as a player and coach.

    If I wear roomy winter boots and Smart Wool socks on 45* day my feet freeze. 45nrth Wolvhammer boots did nothing for me. I've read all the stuff & tried all the things. Nothing works except something warm in my boots.
    No moss...

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by jeffw-13 View Post
    Thing is I go out on a cold day and it takes a little while to warm up. I can tell when my core releases the blood flow to my extremeties because my hands get warm. My feet, however, never do. Nothing I've tried makes any difference except an artificial heat source. I'm warm everywhere else, just my feet. I've come to the conclusion thst I have shitty circulation in my feet, probably from all those years wearing tight hockey skates as a player and coach.

    If I wear roomy winter boots and Smart Wool socks on 45* day my feet freeze. 45nrth Wolvhammer boots did nothing for me. I've read all the stuff & tried all the things. Nothing works except something warm in my boots.
    Same here. The thermacells were a waste of money for me. The S4s are the real deal. I start them on "2" before my toes get cold on cold days.
    "It's only when you stand over it, you know, when you physically stand over the bike, that then you say 'hey, I don't have much stand over height', you know"-T. Ellsworth

    You're turning black metallic.

  12. #12
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    Toe warmers. Once a year I buy a box off the internet. The adhesive ones shaped like a bullet. I stick them on the top of my foot/toes, placed on an angle. Under the toes and they feel funny and don't seem to get enough 02 to work correctly. You need shoes with a large enough toe box to let them fit and breath.

    An oversized shoe with a thick wool sock helps.

    Interestingly I find the sole/last of the shoe to be critical in whether my feet get cold. A sole/last that puts no pressure points on my foot works best. I've had heavy duty insulated biking shoes that did not keep my feet warm because of the uneven pressure created by a poor sole/last.

    Uneven pressure on your sole can impede circulation to the toes in unusual ways - a lot of it through pressure on nerves.

    The shoes I find best for relieving pressure points on my soles are Specialized. While their winter shoe has little insulation, it is waterproof, has a roomy toe box, and fits my sole very well. It is also not very heavy and actually feels like a real mtb shoe, not a heavy boot. Despite it having a lot less insulation that other boots I've had (including the heavy duty Lakes) they keep me the most warm.


    Like Jeff above, I've got a similar issue. Just yesterday, doing some carpentry outside in about 25 degree weather. My hand clamped down and froze up. Put them in my pocket and "broke the clamp". Was able to hold nails and snowy wet wood in my hands, no gloves, and work without issue. The feet can and will do the same thing, but its much more difficult to "break" them once cold. Its not unusual for me to, mid ride, stop and build a little fire, take off my shoes and thaw my feet. They'll get super hot and are then are good to go for at least another hour or so.

    XC skiing - can do that in old leather boots down to about 15 below, all day, and the feet stay warm.

    I work in a hospital all day, so its warm, but wear wool socks as my feet are always cold at work.

    The whole thing is frustrating and crazy.

  13. #13
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    Consider buying a cheap pair of shoes that are two sizes larger than what you normally wear, then layering wool socks as necessary. After years of using toe warmers, and experiencing the overheating/sweat problems cited above, this is the route I took to stay warm on extremely cold days. I ride clipless as well. Good luck.

  14. #14
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    Today's ride was the first into the -Fs of the season for me. Maybe around -5F/-20C, possibly colder in some holes.

    So normally I'm about a 44 euro size or so. I got my wolfhammers in 48 though, which easily allows me to stick in the 2nd (heated) insole. While that size shoe seems gigantic for my foot size, with the 2nd insole, big merino socks, it's "just right". I'm thinking that the size of the boot is just as important as anything else, but the reduction of heat transfer caused by the 2nd insole seems pretty dramatic too. I'm using these without boot-covers where last year, I needed the boot covers to survive, even with the S4 heaters. I used the heaters of course, but my god, so nice to get back to the car after 3hrs with nice warm toes. Not that i had big problems with this last year, I had it pretty well sorted out, but I can ride the pedals I want and not worry about the conditions so much. Riding in the snow is so nice when you don't have to fight the conditions.
    "It's only when you stand over it, you know, when you physically stand over the bike, that then you say 'hey, I don't have much stand over height', you know"-T. Ellsworth

    You're turning black metallic.

  15. #15
    The White Jeff W
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    Just to follow up - I spent 4 hrs outside today building trail. Temp was 25* with an inch or two of snow on the ground. Had my thermocell insoles inside Columbia Bugaboot boots with a thin Smartwool sock. I set the insoles on high and my feet were comfortable for about 3.5 hours until the batteries died, then I felt the cold come on pretty quick. So far Im happy with the results, but I havent ridden in sub zero weather yet.
    No moss...

  16. #16
    alh
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jayem View Post
    First of all, I find my lake boots are good down to about freezing, even then my feet can become cold soaked and toes can go numb. Ensure your boots are at least one full US size bigger, if not a bit more, for heavy merino socks. Also, the achilles heel of any clipless pedal shoe in the cold is the thin sole and short distance from your foot to the metal cleat, which connects to a metal pedal, which makes an excellent heat sink where all the insulation in the world elsewhere won't help. Your foot doesn't flex and pump blood while ridind like it does while running. Having the shoe big enough so you can put an additional insole in there without jamming your feet can be extremely helpful, as far as reducing heat transmission. If you are riding in freezing or near freezing temps, I recommend good shoe covers, like giro storms. Also, spray your feet with anti perspirant to reduce sweating.

    I have hotronics S4 insole heaters. They are the real deal. I had some cheaper heated insoles before where the battery was in the insole. They sucked and didn't work for beans. The S4s work and significantly boost my ability to ride in cold temps, all last year and well below zero F at times. They last for hours and have a good range of settings. I would recommend to use with shoe covers due to the heaters only heating from below.

    And that said, except for a short race at -20, I'd go flats and snowboots for extended riding in the negatives, mostly because I don't like to rely on one thing with no backup.
    Another vote for Hotronics here. My Wolvhammers haven't come in yet (expect them today in fact) so for this weekend's ride I used my normal MTB shoe (shimano) with a Gore boot cover and Hotronics. Was 29F when I started and stopped about 1.5 hrs later. Feet were toasty warm throughout at the number 2 setting.

  17. #17
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    I just started using Hotronic's FootWarmers S4 in my Northwave Arctic . Rode 4 hour this weekend in 14 Deg F with warm feet.


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