Pedaling your mountain bike on a cold wintry day is one of the ways to be happy when it’d be easier to be grumpy. It’s a great way to get your body generating heat and warming you up. But nothing gets in the way of all that than having cold, damp feet. In this post, I’ll list down 8 actionable tips for keeping your feet dry mountain biking.
Related: Types of Bicycles
Accept Your Feet Will Rarely Be Completely Dry
Looking for cycling shoes/boots, socks, or anything else that’ll keep your feet completely warm and dry just isn’t smart.
As long as you’re riding wet trails and occasionally splashing puddles, chances are some of the water will get in. That means your feet will get damp some of the time. It’s more realistic to shoot for wet, warm feet.
8 Ways to Keep Your Feet Warm Mountain Biking
Let’s dive right in.
1. Buy Good Cycling Shoes for Winter Riding
When riding your mountain bike on a day dominated by sub-zero/freezing temperatures, nothing feels nicer than warmth in your feet. That’s why you need to invest in a pair of the best winter shoes for mountain biking.
The best of the finest winter cycling shoes for MTB are almost always pricey. Even worse, they’re winter-specific shoes. That means these shoes can bake your feet if worn for summer riding.
But if you’re willing to look beyond a high price tag and the shoes being somewhat limited, there’s a boatload of great options out there.
Read a few real-world reviews before buying, though. Make sure to pick up shoes that actually keep cold feet warm even on the harshest days in the mountains.
2.Wear Waterproof MTB Socks
Waterproof socks such as knee-high sealskins are an effective way to keep your feet warm and dry. Knee-high waterproof sealskins are tall enough and water has a hard time getting in. Especially if you wear these waterproof socks under tights.
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But what if it’s raining or you’re riding through lake-like puddles in extreme weather conditions? You’ll have buckets of cold water sloshing back and forth. And you’ll have to just grin and bear it.
3. Use Winter-specific Insoles
If you like, you can buy an all-weather cycling shoe that comes with two kinds of insoles. These shoes come with thinner, perforated, breathable summer insoles. The other sole type these shoes offer is designed for winter riding and is super thick and warm.
With such a shoe, just put in the winter insoles when the cool season comes around. And use the thinner, perforated insoles when it’s sunny and dry outside.
But you don’t have to buy this kind of biking shoe if you don’t want to for some reason. You could always grab a pair of proper winter mountain biking insoles at your local drug store. I’ve bought quite a few decent winter cycling insoles. And they sure help.
4. Keep Off Wet Spots If You Can
Well, this probably sounds a little dumb as a keep your feet warm strategy. I mean, you want your feet to stay warm and dry no matter where you’re riding, right?
Still, it might be possible to avoid the muddiest and wettest areas. You probably can avoid fording rivers when it’s nasty wet outside. You could also stay away from tall, wet grass and stick to the beaten path. Maybe you could even avoid creek crossings, huh?
Here’s the thing. The less you ride through mud, dew-soaked grass, and other kinds of lush greenery, the less wet your feet get.
But I get it. It’s sometimes difficult or impossible to avoid creek crossings and mud and whatnot. So, let nothing stand in the way of your having fun outdoors.
5. Keep Your Body Warm
Sometimes the easiest way to keep your feet warm (not necessarily dry) is to keep your entire body warm. Some of the time, a cyclist gets cold feet because their core body temperature is too low. Naturally, exposure to cold weather causes your body’s core temperature to dip.
Fortunately, there’s something you can do to get your core body temp to a comfortable place. Here are three ways to warm up your body and feet by extension.
5 Ways to Warm Up Your Body and Feet Mountain Biking
Here they are:
1. Drink Hot Coffee on Wintry MTB Rides
One way I increase my body’s temperature is by drinking hot coffee while out riding in harsh weather conditions. And this is where my Zojirushi Stainless Steel Travel Mug comes in.
I carry this mug in one of my smaller bike bags, usually a saddle pack. It keeps my coffee hot for hours, and gulping it down seems to boost my core temperature like nothing else.
What’s more, this travel mug hasn’t spilled its contents once. And it’s not like I haven’t dropped it once or twice.
2. Wear an Insulated Cycling Vest
Wearing an insulated cycling vest is another effective way to warm your body up when mountain biking in the winter. One of the best cycling vests on the market today is the DHB Aeron Polartec Alpha Gilet cycling vest (for UK cyclists).
This thermal cycling vest breathes really well while keeping your body warm. Other features that make this cycling vest a great choice are its being relatively windproof and water repellent properties.
One little gripe I have is you can’t carry it in your cycling jersey’s pocket. But you could always toss it in your winter riding bike bag, right?
A big problem I have with this product is you’ll have to drop over $100 on it. But if spending $100 more means riding in increased comfort, that sure makes sense.
3. Throw on a Cycling Jacket
You need to grab a good winter cycling jacket if you don’t one.
The best winter biking jackets are designed to offer tons of breathability. They allow wind to pass through to counteract the heat from your pedaling.
At the same time, a good biking jacket allows your sweat to evaporate. You need a cycling jacket with decent windproof and water resistance abilities while keeping you warm.
The Arsuxeo Waterproof and Windproof Softshell MTB Cycling Jacket is a decent choice. And it’s affordable. This one keeps you warm and offers a great fit. Plus it offers pockets for carrying small items such as keys or even your phone. But I think there are better ways to carry a phone while mountain biking.
4. Use Biking Gloves
I don’t always wear my cycling gloves. But gloves are a must-wear item when it comes to cold weather mountain biking.
On every other day, the gloves help me have a better grip on my bike’s handlebars. Grippy gloves place lots of bike control in my hands. And control is extremely important when floating my fattie over packed snow.
Also, since my gloves are well-padded, they protect my hands in crashes (when they happen, which isn’t often).
But on the coolest winter days, my gloves keep my hands warm. And warm hands give me a feeling of greater body warmth.
5. Wear an Insulated Cap and Pants Instead of Shorts
You may also wear an insulated cap underneath your helmet. If your winter riding certified helmet won’t keep you warm enough, throw in a cap. Problem solved. And instead of riding in your cycling shorts, ride in pants that go down all the way.
All these strategies should keep your body warm enough, and some of the warmed blood will end up in your fingers feet, and toes.
6. Wear Shoe Covers
I have to admit I rarely wear shoe covers. Even the best cycling shoe covers are made to prevent wind from penetrating the vented parts. Wind blowing through the shoes’ vents isn’t what causes feet to get cold in mountain biking. Unless you mostly ride through tree-less areas where the wind hits your shoes with little resistance.
Do you ride in windy conditions and there’s not much vegetation to break the wind? You can use shoe covers to prevent cold windy air from reaching your toes and feet.
Don’t want to use shoe covers? There’s a super-effective alternative for keeping cold wind out of your MTB shoes when riding in exposed locations. The trick is to duct-taping your shoes’ air vents.
7. Use MTB Hiking Boots
Most mountain bike hiking boots tend to have super thick soles. Plus, hiking boots are pretty bulky. While these boots may keep your feet dry throughout the ride, they’re not quite like real biking shoes.
Choose boots with a great reputation for keeping feet warm and dry in winter. And make sure the outsole is made out of grippy rubber. Otherwise, you’ll end up hating riding your mountain bike in cold-weather MTB boots.
But you can also use regular hiking boots. My husband wears Teva Arrowood boots, and he loves them. He won’t ride in anything else when it’s wet outside and he needs to get on his bike and unwind.
These boots are super comfy, and the soles are flexible and offer enough traction. These features make for comfortable and safe mountain biking.
But this isn’t the kind of shoe you want on your feet when you want to feel your soles on your MTB pedals. When riding a trail center downhill, this kind of boot probably wouldn’t be the best option.
And when gliding down wet, muddy singletrack trails at breakneck speed while taking air, you might want to wear something else. My hubby uses his Teva Arrowood hiking boots when going on long cross-country rides on his MTB.
Any Good Boots for Fording Streams?
If you’re into bikepacking, odds are you encounter streams some of the time. And you need boots that’ll let you ford such streams.
Have you ever wondered if you could use a kayaking boot for wading across streams while mountain biking? While researching around for this post, I learned you can use the kind of boots kayakers use. A neoprene dive boot paired up with an anti-slip sole should work pretty well when it comes to fording streams.
When choosing such a boot, make sure to learn how flexible/stiff and durable the boot is. Mountain bikers that wear these boots say to tune your pedal pins accordingly and you’ll use them without issues.
Off-road Sport Crocs are also somewhat popular among bikepacking MTBers. These crocs come in handy when fording rivers. But these crocs won’t keep your feet warm.
8. Stay Indoors or Ride in the Summer
Obviously, the best way to keep your feet warm and dry mountain biking is to bike in the summer ha. Another way to not end up with numb feet is to stay indoors and not ride at all.
But I’m sure you’re not a couch potato, plus you’d rather ride every time and season. Even when it’s snowy outdoors. So, implement some or all of the keep-your-feet-warm-while-mountain-biking tips above.
How to Warm Your Feet Mountain Biking: Final Word
There are quite a few ways to keep your body and feet warm while riding through a cold way. Wearing winter-specific mountain biking shoes and waterproof socks is probably the most effective to warm up your feet.
Wearing overshoes, an insulated vest, an insulated cap, and a water-resistant and breathable cycling jacket are also great ideas.
You also want to wear gloves when biking through cold, wet weather conditions. And if you can avoid wet, muddy areas, puddles, and riding in the rain, do it.
Look at all these strategies and pick what seems reasonable for your cold-weather biking situation.