The biggest challenge to riding in the winter is keeping your extremities warm. We looked at some options for your hands last week, now let’s talk about protecting those toes.

It Starts With Socks

It’s the first thing you put on your foot. When you’re riding in cold weather, you need to choose a quality sock. Merino wool is your best bet. It’s warm and quite good at wicking moisture. You can layer thinner wool socks (some riders use a silk sock under the wool) or go for the thick pair. It depends what’s comfortable for you.

I have pairs of Swiftwick and Smartwool socks that I’m quite fond of, but there are a lot of companies making Merino wool socks. Check out Sock Guy for some particularly fun designs (yes, that is a Sriracha sock).

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Shoe Covers

If you’re riding clipless, your shoes likely have a fair amount of ventilation. In the summertime, airflow is your best friend, but that’s not the case in winter. A pair of shoe covers will not only stop the wind, but also keep your feet dry. Most shoe manufacturers make their own covers, but Showers Pass and Gore Bike make some excellent options too.

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Shoe covers made specifically for cycling shoes have an opening on the bottom for the cleat. If you’re not riding clipless there are other “overshoe” options as well (check out the Showers Pass Club Shoe Cover).

Sole Inserts and Chemical Warmers

Heat is often lost through the bottom of your feet. Unless you have winter specific cycling shoes (those do exist), there won’t be much insulation. A set of insoles can help quite a bit.

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There are also chemical warmers that are shaped like insoles to fit right in your shoes. You know the drill with these. Most brands you just open the packaging and contact with air will trigger a chemical reaction. They heat up and stay warm for about 8 hours. They’re not reusable, but they can be quite nice for long rides on the coldest days.

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The DIY Approach

Don’t want to invest in expensive products for the few times you do ride in the winter? Try the ol’ plastic bags on the feet. I learned this trick from a former bike messenger. Just slip a plastic bag over your sock, before you put it in the shoe. It will block the wind, and keep you relatively dry. For added warmth, slip another sock over the plastic. Bread bags are particularly effective, but any plastic bag works.

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Keep Your Core Warm Too

If your core gets cold, your body is going to work harder to keep your vital organs warm. This pulls heat from your extremities and the cold creeps into your feet and hands that much faster. An extra layer up top, insulated bib shorts, or a warm hat under your helmet can help ensure your feet will be warm too.

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