Winter Mountain Biking Shoes: How to choose the right ones

If you have signed up to the MTB-Threads newsletter, you may have downloaded your free ebook. This book tells you all about mountain biking in winter. How to set your bike up and how to choose the correct clothing. However, it dosen’t tell you about choosing the right winter mountain biking shoes.

If you are tough enough to ride in the winter, your gear needs to be up to the job. A good pair of winter mountain biking shoes should be tough, water resistant and they should keep your feet safe and warm.

What to look for in Winter Mountain Biking Shoes

Protection from the elements

The primary job of a pair of winter mountain biking shoes it to keep your feet warm and dry all day long. Therefore, they HAVE to be waterproof. The best winter mountain biking shoes have a waterproof  membrane like Gore-Tex. They should also prevent water from seeping in over the top of your shoe. Good mountain biking shoes should also be insulated enough without them being too bulky. 


Winter mountain bike shoes should provide plenty of grip. I don’t mean just for when you have your feet on the pedals. You will be thankful for proper grip when you are pushing your bike up (or down) the trail. This is especially important if you are a cross-country racer, as there are times when you need to jump off and run with your bike. There are even winter mountain bike shoes with removable studs to give you extra grip in the mud.


You will find that winter mountain bike shoes are quite different to normal mountain bike or road shoes, due to the nature of the conditions we ride in. Therefore, expect to find winter mountain bike shoes with rugged designs and tough materials. Tough synthetic mountain bike shoes will still be in one piece once you get to the bottom of the trail, and hopefully your feet will be too.


You will notice that there are a number of different ways to fasten winter mountain bike shoes. There are also additional features such as sprat guards and waterproof coatings. A good feature to look out for is “easy to clean uppers”, this is pretty useful when you have just finished a particularly dirty ride.

Below is the MTB-Threads list of the best clipless winter mountain bike shoes. However, if you prefer to ride flats, check out the link below. It isn’t all about Five Ten Freeriders!

Northwave Raptor GTX

winter mountain biking shoes

The Northwave Raptor GTX ticks lots of boxes when it comes to winter mountain biking shoes. They have the Gore-Tex membrane to keep the water from soaking through and they also have a flexible neoprene cuff. This fits snugly around your ankle to stop water seeping in over the top. The only disadvantage of this, is that it is a bit tricky to get them on and off.

The Raptor GTX uses the “BioMap Aero Overlap” system. This construction follows the contours of your feet in order to to ensure a snug fit and to help with aerodynamics. As a mountain biker, you may not be too bothered how well your shoes slice through the air, but if you do lots of cross country or use your bike for commuting, this will make a difference.

The snug fit means that your foot has great support and there is no movement when you are pedalling. If you like to wear thick socks, you may struggle to squeeze your feet in. However, the Raptor GTX has fleece insulation, so you shouldn’t need to add a thick layer of sock.

Adjustment of fit comes from the SLW2 dial. This gives you the ability to fine tune the fit for optimum comfort and support. To release the dial, just press the button.

The Raptor GTX has a carbon reinforced sole, that makes them very stiff. Coupled with the snug fit, the stiffness gives you very good power transfer to the pedals. They are made to be reasonably comfortable to walk in, but if you do lots of bike hikes, you may want something with a more forgiving and grippy sole. 


  • The water- and windproof Gore-Tex® Pique membrane keeps your feet perfectly insulated
  • and warm even at -3C. Extra thermal coating strategically placed on the toe
  • Ultra-snug fitting upper with BioMap Aero Overlap
  • construction reduces aerodynamic drag
  • TPU reinforcements ensure 360 degree protection along the entire upper
  • SLW2 dial: the only one with step-by-step and full release in a single button
  • Integrated heel system ensures efficient heel retention
  • Special GTX footbed works in synergy with the
  • membrane
  • 360 reflective inserts


  • Lightweight
  • Great performance on the pedals
  • Comfortable


  • Not easy to get on and off


The Northwave Raptor GTX winter mountain biking shoes are ideal for riders that are looking for a lightweight shoe. They offer great protection from the elements without having a negative effect on riding performance.

Gaerne Winter Gore-Tex SPD Boots

Gaerne Winter Gore-Tex MTB SPD Boots winter mountain biking shoes

The Gaerne Winter Gore Tex SPD boots are not just for winter mountain biking, they are also suitable for roadies. Their design hasn’t changed much over the years, but it hasn’t really needed to as they have always been a great option for winter riding.

They have the all important Gore-Tex lined upper and the sole is made from a combination of fibreglass and nylon. This makes them strong and light.

Thermal protection is extended up to the ankles, but some customers have complained that it would be better if the ankle extension if it was higher. But, it does have a removable lined inner sole that has been coupled with aluminium for extra insulation from the cold.

The Gaerne SPD boots have been made to be easy to walk in when you are off the bike. The soles are grippy on most types of terrain. They have studs on the sides and heels that give you good grip in dry, wet and even icy conditions. Additionally, these shoes come with removable studs that can be used when the terrain is particularly slippery.


  • Made in Italy
  • Microfibre upper with reflective inserts
  • Laces with internal cable locking and external triple Velcro straps
  • Removable, anatomic and lined inner sole
  • Gaerne MTB 3Density sole
  • THSR-IceGrip studs
  • Thermal protection
  • Nylon and fibreglass sole
  • Special heel cup
  • Removable front studs
  • Rubber sleeve


  • Well made
  • Comfortable
  • Great grip off the bike


  • Expensive, but worth it


The Gaerne Winter Gore-Tex SPD boots are very well made and keep the elements away from your feet on cold and wet days. If you like to wear thick socks, you may want to get the size above what you would normally have to make sure they fit nicer.

If you carry your bike during bike hikes, these are the winter mountain biking shoes for you.

Specialized Defroster

specialized defroster winter mountain bike shoes

The Specialized Defroster is a winter mountain bike boot that is designed to be nice and toasty on the coldest of days. To do this Specialized have given the Defroster a thinsulate inner, a seam sealed internal boot and a neoprene collar. The collar is high and is there to keep water from going in over the top of your boot. The outer grey material is reflective to increase your visibility in low light conditions.

This winter mountain bike shoe has a solid feel to it. With other shoes of this type, it is necessary to go up a size to fit thick socks in to them. But, the Defrosters are made slightly wider to accommodate your socks. They are also fine if you are not wearing your thick ones, as the ankle collar stops your foot sliding around.

The boa system works very easily and is made to be easily adjusted when wearing your winter gloves. The materials the Defroster is made from make it breathable. This is great, as even in the coldest of days your feet can sweat when putting the effort in. This moisture can make your feet cold, but you don’t have to worry about that with these shoes.

Some customers have stated that they find the collar to be quite stiff. This is fine until you have to walk a long way.

The Specialized Defroster is waterproof, but not as waterproof as other shoes of this type. This is due to the boa system letting in water from the top. When it comes to splashing around in puddles, the water stays out, but not when there is a heavy downpour.


ConstructionThinsulate 400-gram insulation for warmth, with waterproof, seam-sealed internal bootie construction and reflective heat-loss barrier in the sole.
Sealed canopy and neoprene collar keep heat in and water out.
Durable sheet rubber heel and toe protection.
FasteningSingle Boa dial for on-the-fly micro-adjustment.
ReflectivityFully reflective to increase your visibility to motorists in low-light conditions.
OutsoleNylon composite sole with wet traction SlipNot rubber tread: Stiffness Index 6.0.
SoleBody Geometry sole construction and footbeds are ergonomically designed an scientifically tested to boot power, increase efficiency, and reduce chance of injury by optimizing hip, knee, and foot alignment.
Cleat CompatibilityTwo-bolt cleat pattern fits all major mountain pedals.
WeightApproximate weight: 533g (1/2 pair, size 42)


  • Warm
  • Windproof
  • Lots of grip
  • reflective


  • Not as waterproof as they could be
  • The stiff collar may irritate on long walks


The Specialized Defrosters are great winter mountain biking shoes if you ride in the cold, but not in the wet. Therefore, I think the majority of winter mountain bikers may want to look elsewhere.

Northwave Outcross Plus GTX

The Outcross is a trail shoe and is more traditional shaped to the other ones, as they don’t have the high collar. But they may appeal to more riders than the big boot type.

They have a nice flat sole and have plenty of room to slip in an inner sole if you wish to get super comfy. The ratchet system is very easy to use and feels like a quality feature that will last a long time. This doesn’t open up like a boa system, so you may find it a bit of a squeeze to get your foot in, but once it is in, you will be nice and comfortable after you have tightened it up with a couple of clicks.

The external material of the Outcross is robust and is Gore-Tex. Therefore, it is water and windproof while being breathable. Power transfer to the pedals is great and they provide lost of support.

The soles are made from Michelin rubber, which is tough and super grippy. They allow you to clamber over rocks with ease and without the worry of slippage. This makes them great for carrying your bike to the best trails.

One of the outstanding characteristics that has been mentioned by long term customers, is the durability of the Northwave Outcross. Customers have all been impressed with how long they have lasted. After hundreds of miles of riding and walking, the toe box gets scuffed up a bit, but the grip on the sole seems to stand up to the test of time.


VentilationWater and windproof Gore-Tex® Pique membrane
ProtectionCoated with a protective water-repellent film, the ultra-comfortable upper also has strategically placed reinforcements for enhanced impact resistance
MidsoleExplorer sole with a calibrated stiffness midsole combines optimal power transfer in the pedal area with an ideally flexible medial zone so it also feels great when walking
HeelIntegrated heel system ensures efficient heel retention
StrapsSLW2 dial, the only one with step-by-step and full release in a single button plus 2 asymmetrical straps
Notes28% more abrasion resistant than TPU, the Michelin rubber tread provides excellent grip on all surfaces


  • Robust
  • Comfortable to walk in
  • Excellent grip


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If you are looking for a pair of traditional shaped winter mountain biking shoes, the Northwave Outcross Plus GTX are among the best ones you can buy. Comfortable and hardwearing, they will last you a very long time. 

Which of these Winter Mountain Biking Shoes Appeal to You?

Personally, I like the Northwave Outcross. I think that they are a more versatile shoe and can be worn at other times, rather than just when it is super cold outside.

Which of these winter mountain biking shoes are you going to buy? Please let me know your thoughts and questions in comments section below.

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