Cold, wet weather often means cold, wet feet on a bike – unless you happen to cycle in expensive winter bike boots or impractical rubber wellies. Ordinary cycling shoes and everyday street shoes will soon soak through to your socks, leaving you squelching around at work.
As well as rain falling from above, your feet get sprayed by water from the front wheel. It takes a very long front mudguard, such as the SKS Longboard or a mudguard with a very long mudflap, to prevent this. When you're wearing normal trousers or over-trousers, pedalling exposes your ankles to both rain and wheel-spray as the bending of your knees makes trousers ride up. Even if they're long enough, rain will run down waterproof trousers into your shoes.
As the name says, overshoes go over your shoes to make them weatherproof. They're seldom completely waterproof as the sole is cut out, but they make an enormous difference. Most are close fitting and are designed to go over cycling shoes with cleats. Those intended for street shoes will say so in the description, although you may find that larger cycling overshoes fit okay over your street shoes; try them in store. If you're buying cycling overshoes, be sure to get ones made from neoprene or PU-coated polyester or some other weatherproof fabric. Lightweight Lycra overshoes are for aerodynamics, not protection.
Overshoes hook over the toe of the shoe and fasten at the back with either Velcro or a zip. Underneath, those for bike shoes tend to stretch all the way over the ball of the foot with a cutout for the cleat. Those for street shoes tend to have an extra strap under the arch; if you want to use this type over casual bike shoes, check the strap doesn't interfere with the cleat.
A reflective heel is a feature that any overshoe should have. The up-down motion when pedalling immediately says 'cyclist' to road users behind you at night. Look for some reinforcement at the toe and heel, as overshoes become worn and tatty quite quickly when you walk in them. Overshoes can cause cosmetic wear to your bike's cranks, if the extra foot width results in rubbing.
Here are five good pairs of overshoes, most of which fit street shoes as well as bike shoes.
dhb Neoprene Nylon Overshoe
Neoprene is the thick, stretchy material that wetsuits are made from. Here the Neoprene is 3mm thick; dhb also make a thicker 'Extreme' version. Even 3mm offers excellent insulation, however, and it's wind and waterproof as well. Seams are taped, while the toe and heel are reinforced with kevlar to prevent premature wear. It fastens at the back with a YKK zip, and there are reflective details there for night-time visibility. It's designed for bike shoes so the fit is characteristically snug. Size availability is good, from a Euro 37 shoe up to a 48 (XS-XL), and the price is modest.
Cyclescheme Price: £14.22
Endura Luminite II Overshoe
This overshoe is designed specifically for commuting, as you might guess from the all-over reflectivity. It will comfortably fit over a normal street shoe as well as a slim-soled cycling shoe, as the sole area is left open. It hooks over minimally at toe and heel, where it's reinforced with abrasion-resistant aramid, and is held in place with an under-arch Velcro strap that won't interfere with a cleat. The main material is wind and waterproof PU-coated polyester, with enough stretch in it for a non-flappy fit. Sizes: S-XXL.
Cyclescheme Price: £18.48
SealSkinz Lightweight Overshoe
SealSkinz are well-known for their waterproof socks, which are a useful last line of defence even with overshoes – especially ones like this that are water resistant rather than waterproof. It's open at the sole, with a Velcro strap under arch, so will fit either cleated cycling shoes or normal street shoes. A loop at the heel makes it easier to pull on than most overshoes. It zips up at the back, where there's a reflective stripe. The cuff has silicone grippers and a Velcro strap, so you shouldn't get too much water running in the top. Sizes: S-XL
Cyclescheme Price: £21.33
Altura Night Vision City Overshoe
The Night Vision City is another overshoe made with commuters in mind: it's covered with reflective detailing. The sole is largely open, with an under-arch Velcro strap, so it will accommodate street shoes as well as cycling shoes. As there's a reasonable amount of stretch in the waterproof material, it doesn't matter if the shoes have a smooth upper or big ratchet straps. It fastens at the back with Velcro, which provides more fitting adjustability than a zip, and the toe and under-sole are reinforced. Sizes: S-XL.
Cyclescheme Price: £28.42
BBB ArcticDuty Overshoe
Your commute doesn't need to be in Greenland for you to get the benefit from these heavy duty overshoes; many cyclists suffer from cold extremities in milder conditions. Here the Neoprene is 4.2-4.5mm thick and the seams are glued and tape, so it does a great job at keeping out the cold and damp. Heel, toe, and the under-arch strap that makes them suitable for a wide range of footwear are reinforced with rubber. That can squeak on the crank if your foot sits too close. The overshoe is fastened at the back with a chunky YKK zip and at the top with a Velcro strap. There's rear-facing reflectivity. Sizes: S-XXL
Cyclescheme Price: £35.51
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