Best overshoes for cycling 2020: how to keep your feet warm and dry through winter

In this cycling overshoes buying guide, we collected only the best items you can buy today, from trusted manufacturers. No one likes cold, wet feet when cycling during the winter months in the cold, rainy days. Overshoes might look clunky but they offer an essential line of defence against cold, wet weather for cyclists.

The clue is in the name. Overshoes are designed to be worn over the top of your cycling shoes, with holes on the bottom for your cleats to pop out of, so you can still clip into your pedals. Whether you’re a professional cyclist putting in the hard winter yards or a commuter riding to work by bike, overshoes are a sound investment and will pay dividends in terms of your comfort.

In this buying guide we’re looking at fully-fledged overshoes, but other options include toe covers, designed for cool mornings (typically in spring and autumn) when you don’t need the all-in protection of overshoes, and oversocks, made from a breathable knitted material – again for those rides when you want a little protection from the wind, but overshoes are, well, overkill.

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What are the best overshoes?

Shimano is best known as a groupset manufacturer – take a look at the gears and brakes on your bike and there’s a good chance they will bear the Shimano logo – but the Japanese firm also makes some rather good bike clothing, including the S-Phyre Insulated Shoe Covers.

Shimano’s flagship overshoes are made from a stretchy neoprene, providing a snug fit around your cycling shoes and ankles, with an additional coating to stop water penetrating the fabric – unlike most neoprene overshoes. The material also keeps things toasty.

These are superb overshoes, albeit one of the pricier options out there, but we’ve got a whole range of options for you to choose from, from the likes of Sportful, Castelli, Gore and more. 

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Buying overshoes: what to look for

Overshoes are typically made from either a lightweight, windproof fabric or neoprene. The former provides low-bulk protection with improved breathability over neoprene, sometimes with the addition of a waterproof membrane or silicone/polyurethane coating to add rain/splash protection. Some overshoes will also add a fleece lining, making them better suited to winter riding, but neoprene is the go-to option for the grimmest months of the year. 

Neoprene isn’t necessarily designed to be waterproof in a deluge but, just like a wetsuit, will retain plenty of warmth when soaked through and is also windproof, making it a popular choice. Your feet should stay toasty, as long as you’re generating body warmth. On the flip side, neoprene lacks breathability, so is best avoided in mild conditions – you’ll find your feet getting damp through sweat, rather than rain.

Despite the claims of manufacturers, no overshoes will be completely waterproof – in persistent heavy rain, water will eventually find its way in through the cuff, cleat holes or zip, if there is one. The key, then, is finding a set of overshoes that will put up the best fight against inclement weather.

Depending on the construction, some overshoes will feature a zip on the rear to make them easier to pull on and off, while others will rely on the natural stretch of the fabric. A waterproof zip will provide a little extra protection for what is otherwise an area vulnerable to water ingress.     

Overshoes can come in for a fair amount of wear and tear, whether that’s repeatedly pulling them on before a ride, scuffing a foot on the kerb while waiting at a set of lights, or sliding across the cafe floor. The best overshoes will have double-stitched seams, particularly on the bottom of the shoe around the cleat holes, where you should also look out for a tougher, more durable fabric.

That’s the essentials dealt with. Otherwise, if you commute to work by bike, reflective detailing will improve your visibility in low-light conditions – in fact, it’s useful throughout winter, full stop. Research also suggests moving body parts – i.e. your feet while cycling – are more likely to attract a driver’s attention.

The final thing to consider is sizing. Overshoes rely on a snug fit to provide an effective seal around your feet – too loose and water will run into them quicker than you can say ‘soggy feet’; too tight and you won’t be able to pull them on in the first place. It can be a tricky balance to strike, finding a set of overshoes that wrap around your feet but don’t require a pre-ride wrestling match. Some combinations will work better than others, depending on the fabric of the overshoe and the design of your footwear (particularly the retention system).

The best overshoes, in order

Shimano only launched these S-Phyre Insulated Shoe Covers last winter but they quickly became a firm favourite thanks to the excellent protection offered against cold, wet weather. Yes, these are a premium option, but they outperform other overshoes at this level.

The overshoes are primarily made from a neoprene fabric that performs just as you’d hope. It does an excellent job at keeping water out – crucially, the exterior has been treated to stop rain soaking in, unlike most neoprene overshoes, so water beads up on the surface and simply runs off – while keeping your feet toasty deep down into single-figure temperatures.

The material is super-stretchy, so while there are no zips here, the overshoes are relatively simple to pull on. On that note, however, it’s important to fully take the overshoes off after each ride, rather than folding them down onto your cycling shoes, otherwise the fabric is liable to stretching.

The limited seams Shimano’s overshoes do have are sealed to stop water seeping in, while the bottom is made from a tough, reinforced fabric that’s shown little sign of wear and tear in testing. Our main gripe here is the lack of reflectivity, with just a thin stripe on the rear. These are performance-focused overshoes, but a little extra reflective detailing wouldn’t go amiss.  

Castelli is the clothing sponsor of Team Sky, providing kit to the likes of Chris Froome and Geraint Thomas, and these overshoes are the result of a request from the British squad for deep-winter protection.

As a result, Castelli has increased the thickness of the neoprene material to 4mm – many neoprene overshoes opt for 3mm, although the GripGrabs we’ve featured also utilise a beefier construction. On top of that, the overshoes extend significantly past the ankle and onto the calf, providing more protection than most, and the rear zip is water resistant and finished with a neoprene cover to stop it rubbing against your leg.

There’s also a generous amount of reflectivity, with large Castelli print on the outside and an oversized panel on the Achilles. The toe area is protected by a tougher rubber material but we’d like to see this used on the underside, too.

Like our winning Shimano overshoes, GripGrab’s design utilises a zipperless construction, relying on the stretch of the fabric to provide a close fit around the shoe, ankle and calf.

 The 4mm-thick neoprene provides ample warmth for winter riding and GripGrab has put plenty of thought into the details, with an elasticated velcro band running across the underside of the overshoe, once again to keep the fit close. That said, the large cleat holes do leave shoe vents exposed.

Otherwise, the sole stitching has a rubber coating to improve durability, plus the version we’ve chosen here goes to town with high-vis and reflective detail. What’s more, there’s a tab on each heel to mount a compatible light – ideal for winter.

Deep-winter protection is all well and good, but if your riding rarely sees you venturing out in conditions close to zero, a lightweight overshoe may be a better bet. Enter Sportful’s SpeedSkin Silicone Booties.

This updated version is made from a silicone-coated lycra fabric, designed, according to Sportful, for use in temperatures roughly between 10 and 20 degrees, although breathability will begin to suffer towards the top of that range. 

The windproof fabric does a sterling job at keeping the breeze out, plus it’s going to take some time for water to penetrate. Of course, rain can creep in through the cleat holes and cuffs of any overshoes, but these are cut particularly high above the ankle to limit ingress. Other neat touches include the waterproof zip and reflective logos, although these are still a fairly stealthy option.

Gore knows a thing or two about creating cycling gear to keep out the elements and these C5 Windstopper Thermo Overshoes are a relatively lightweight option for both cold and dry or damp rides.

The overshoes are primarily made from a windproof fabric with a brushed fleece lining, good down to around five degrees. The material is also water repellent so they’ll brush off showers or road spray, but Gore offers more weatherproof options for truly freezing or wet rides.

If the Spatz Pro Overshoes look like skintight welly boots for cyclists, that’s because they pretty much are. Based in the Yorkshire Dales, the team behind Spatz know a thing or two about wet weather and these take the concept of overshoes to the extreme, extending to just below the knee to offer unparalleled protection.

The neoprene overshoes have a hydrophobic outer coating to shed water, while all seams are heat-welded and sealed. The toe area is reinforced but we’d like to see a bit more protection around the heel. In all likelihood, the Spatz Pro Overshoes will be overkill for most cyclists, but if you’re a dedicated roadie who wants to ride hard whatever the weather, put these on your winter wishlist.

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