Painfully cold toes are a common problem for winter cyclists. Your feet don’t flex like they do when walking, and blood gets diverted from them to keep your body’s core warm. Windchill is much worse on a bike too, especially when your feet get damp.
The most important barrier is the one that prevents your feet being sprayed with water from winter roads in the first place. Fit full-length, frame-fitting mudguards. Aside from the SKS Longboard, most are a little short. You can extend them with a longer mudflap, such as the SKS Mudguard Spoiler or the RAW Mudflap – or a home-made alternative using plastic from, for example, an ice-cream tub.
Warm, waterproof footwear is as effective as you’d expect, but you may need to buy a size bigger so that you can get it on over thicker socks and still be able to wiggle your toes. If air and blood can’t circulate easily, your feet will get colder. Boots are the best solution if you won’t be using overshoes, as most street shoes and cycling shoes aren’t especially weatherproof. Expect to spend well over £100 on cycling-specific boots; Lake are among the warmest, but most brands’ will cope fine with UK conditions.
Alternatively, use your normal shoes with overshoes; they’re available to fit street shoes or bike shoes. Most use wetsuit-like neoprene material for insulation. Walker’s gaiters also work to keep your socks dry. Whatever footwear you use, ensure it’s dry before you put it on again. Scrunched up newspaper inside helps draw out moisture from shoes and boots.
Waterproof socks are your last line of defence. You can buy specially made ones with a waterproof membrane sandwiched between the outer and inner layers; Sealskinz are the best-known example. Or you can make your own. They won’t be breathable, but they’ll still keep your feet cosier. Put on a thin pair of socks. Then step each foot into a plastic bag, such as a sandwich bag. Then put on another pair of socks over the top. Then put your shoes on. This technique also works if you want to make your socks more windchill-resistant rather than waterproof. Instead of plastic bags, used clingfilm or silver baking foil for the middle layer.
For occasional cold days, chemical warmers such as HotHand Toe Warmers can be slipped inside your shoes. Don’t forget that your body won’t need to divert warm blood away from your feet if the rest of you is already warm enough. Keep your head and torso cosy and your feet will stay warmer too.
If you do get caught in the rain and/or cold without the right kit. Surpisngly plastic bags can to the rescue! To keep your feet warmer, step each foot into a plastic bag before putting the shoe on. Cling-filming your socked feet also works Check out our other cost effective Bike Hacks to keep you in the saddle all year round.
Are you ready to improve your commute?
You don’t need to look like a racer for the journey to work. Normal clothing is fine – as long as your bike is properly equipped.
It’s colder, darker, and wetter, but cycling to work can still be the highlight of your day if you have the right equipment and attitude.
Spread the cycling message by logging your journeys and encouraging colleagues and friends to ride. There are prizes – and prestige – to be won.