If you suffer from soggy toes on your mountain bike rides and are looking for a waterproof shoe solution, then you’ve come to the right place.
Getting wet feet when you’re out cycling is never a pleasant experience. Sure, those dramatic shots of riders blasting through huge puddles with water shooting everywhere…look great. But the reality is that, for the rest of the ride, they’ll have an icy layer of water around their feet and an audible squelch every time they press down on the pedals.
For road bike riders there are a staggering number of options to choose from in order to keep their feet dry and toasty. They’ve got lots of waterproof shoes to pick their favorite color from, a myriad of different waterproof overshoes in assorted lengths, colors, and styles, and enough waterproof socks to clad the feet of the entire Tour de France pack.
Mountain bikers though have much slimmer pickings to go through. And, that’s a little strange, isn’t it? Surely MTBers are likely to encounter more water on their rides than road bikers? Puddles on the trails, rivers across the trails, hosing down muddy bikes after the trails. Water, water, everywhere and every drop of it on (and in) our shoes.
But manufacturers have never really taken up the baton on this and started to develop many waterproof mtb shoes for flat pedals. Odd.
That being said, there are some options available to keep the toes of us MTBers dry on our rides. Some of these are actual waterproof mtb shoes and some are a little more creative. Let’s dive in (no pun intended, obviously) and see what’s on offer.
Below, I’ve got a table showing a quick summary of my recommended solutions for keeping your feet dry and I’ll then go into detail on each.
The best waterproof mtb shoes (and other methods of keeping your feet dry)
We’re going to go through a number of different solutions to making sure your toes stay dry on the mountain bike. These are:
- Honest-to-goodness Actual Waterproof MTB shoes
- Waterproof socks with regular MTB shoes
- Waterproof trail shoes
- Waterproof winter MTB boots
- Waterproof MTB shoe covers
Let’s take a look at the details of each.
Honest-to-goodness Actual Waterproof MTB shoes
There aren’t many waterproof MTB shoes suitable for flat pedal riding so, when you track down a pair, it’s worth taking a closer look at them. Key feature to look out for is a waterproof upper / or lining – that’s the first line of defense against water ingress. Goretex does a great job here, but there are also plenty of other waterproof barrier fabrics that can be used. Even leather, when properly treated, is waterproof (though can be more expensive).
Next up, look for a ‘gusseted tongue’. Sounds strange. What this actually is is a tongue that’s stitched in to the shoe upper. It’s purpose is to keep water out when it comes up over the top of the shoe. Because as waterproof as your upper fabric might be, having a ‘detached’ tongue, would mean that the water could creep straight inside.
An often-overlooked feature, but one that’s worth checking for is lace holes. Or the absence of lace holes, to be precise. Like our gusseted tongues, punched eyelet lace holes (as you get on standard running sneakers) are just an invitation to puddle water. Instead, laces that thread through on the outside of the shoe mean that water can’t get inside. Technically these are referred to as ‘webbed’, ‘D ring’ and ‘hooked’.
Oh, and flat pedals need grippy soles for traction. Shoes that slip off pedals inevitably result in bashed and bloody shins and words that your mom would be ashamed that you even knew.
Waterproof socks with regular MTB shoes
Ok, so this might be seen as cheating, but I like to think of it as more of a work-around or ‘creative solution to the problem of not enough manufacturers producing waterproof mtb shoes’.
I’ve been testing out waterproof cycling socks recently. Wow! They’re comfy. They’re warm. And, they’re waterproof! From our point of view one of the best things about waterproof cycling socks is that you can team them up with your standard mtb shoes and there’s no need to buy replacement or wet weather shoes. Just use standard bike socks with your shoes in the dry season and swap them out for waterproof socks for wet conditions.
Waterproof trail shoes
Whilst there might not be too many waterproof MTB shoes on the market right now, there are plenty of waterproof trail shoes.
These are a lightweight hiking boot and they come in a range of different calf heights – I prefer a low height for riding, but it depends on your preference (and the depth of puddles). They have most all the features that we’re looking for in MTB shoes for wet conditions – waterproof upper fabric, gusseted tongue, hooked or webbed lacing – and they’re comfy to wear for tough trail conditions. They also have good grip on rough or slippery surfaces.
It’s a different approach to waterproof mtb shoes and it can open up a new seam of possible options.
Waterproof winter MTB boots
These are very much at the tough-and-rugged end of the mtb shoe scale but they’re perfect for when you’re riding is not only wet but also freezing, snowy and wintery. Winter mtb boots tend to be more expensive but there’s good reasons for that. These are boots that go much higher up the calf for greater ankle protection and warmth. They also often come with a thermal lining (the best ones have a lining that you can remove for easy drying out between rides).
These are ideal shoe options for fat bike or MTB adventures in the kind of winter snow when folk look at you like you’re mad for considering a ‘nice little bike ride out in the fresh mountain air’.
Lace up your winter MTB boots, hop on the bike, and show them the fun that they’re missing out on. (But, you know, be sensible and don’t end up as a snow-covered icicle somewhere out in the middle of nowhere).
Waterproof MTB shoe covers
The problem with standard mtb shoes in wet conditions is that they’ve got a mahoosive hole in the top where water can pour in. Sure, it’s tough to do away with this (your foot has to get in somehow), but it’s frankly a bit of a design flaw.
Enter waterproof MTB shoe covers.
These are a waterproof cover that you fit over your shoe – that bit’s kinda obvious, I know. There are two major benefits to them though. Firstly, they give a snug fit around your calf at the top. This is useful because it helps keep water from running straight down your leg and into your shoe. The other benefit is that they’ll fit over standard treaded MTB shoes (i.e. your regular dry-weather cycling shoes) and so you don’t need to buy wet-weather shoes as well as dry-weather shoes.