Racing in cold conditions is a difficult balance between keeping warm, whilst not overheating to such an extent that your performance is compromised. This challenge is further complicated by our individuality when it comes keeping warm so what works for one person, may not work for someone else. During short XC races most of us can tough it out and put up with wet and cold feet but in longer endurance events this is simply not an option. I took advantage of below freezing temperatures and a wet muddy final descent at the recent Strathpuffer 24 Hour to put what some describe the ‘Daddy’ of winter feet warmers; the Pro Ventura overshoes to the test.
[caption id="attachment_10823" align="aligncenter" width="651"] Thick neoprene provides plenty of insulation[/caption]
The overshoes are pretty understated in black with some subtle silver ‘Pro Ventura’ logos on the outside panels. The colour helps them blend in with black shoes/tights and also means trotting them through deep mud doesn’t age them too badly. A few strips of reflective trim offers additional visibility if you want these to double up for winter commuting. A mix of 2.5 and 3mm neoprene provides a substantial level of resilience and insulation while a bumper of rubber around the toe, sides and heel offers additional protection. The manufacturers don’t claim these to be fully waterproof but a PU coating helps keep the worst of the elements out.
Settling into the race rhythm…
Inside, a heavy fleece lining makes these feel cosy, sealed seams keep out the draughts and leaks plus a zip liner aims to keep the elements out of a potential weak spot, although this also makes them fiddly to close the zip once your feet are inside. Actually getting your feet into these overshoes is the biggest problem with the Pro Venturas despite their claims of using ‘High stretch’ material. First time out it took some serious grunt to get feet in and zips up, but having removed for a complete kit change later in the race, my cold hands were completely incapable of closing the zips and I had to be helped into them. Maybe I should have realised that with only medium to XXXL sizes available I should go big on the sizing but once inside the size XL Ventura felt spot on for my size 43 feet.
[caption id="attachment_10824" align="aligncenter" width="627"] Although snug when fitted, getting these overshoes on is a challenge![/caption]
Underneath I was sporting S-works race shoes with aggressive studs at the front to bite into the snow and frozen ground if I was forced off the bike. Thankfully, the Strathpuffer course was 100% rideable so I kept my feet out of the snow but had I needed to run, the sole of the overshoes is open so your shoe’s own tread is exposed for grip. But this does means the underside of your shoes are open to the elements, with cold and water potentially reaching your feet via the cleat drillings depending on how well your shoes are sealed. To be fair this is an impossible compromise to overcome and the open sole makes these versatile for use with a wide range of shoes. The overshoes are anchored around the sole by a 40mm wide Velcro strap but a few laps into the race the Velcro was already clogged with mud and flapping loose in the wet conditions. Yet thanks to the tight fit, the overshoes stayed in position with no riding up or toes poking through, which is a problem I’ve experienced with other types.
[caption id="attachment_10822" align="aligncenter" width="632"] An open sole leaves your own shoe's tread free to provide grip[/caption]
The last lap…
Let’s cut to the chase, how successful were the Ventura overshoes at keeping my feet chill and moisture free and by the last lap of the Strathpuffer had I lost any toes as a result of frostbite? The result: cosy dry feet and a full quota of phalanges.
In summary the Pro Ventura overshoes perform to expectation and beyond. Based on previous experience I expected them to handle the Strathpuffer conditions well, but I was surprised that they kept out the elements for such a long period of time. Rated for temperatures from -15 to +5 degrees Celsius they were ideal for a January weekend in the Scottish Highlands but in milder conditions, for shorter high intensity races or for tougher competitors than I, these are likely to be overkill. If it is really cold, or you really feel the cold; these really are the ‘Daddy’ of overshoes.
Weight: Approx. 462g
Price: RRP £44.99
Tester: Craig Bowles
Team: Bike Motion Racing
Test race: Strathpuffer 2015
More info: www.madison.co.uk/products/cycling/clothing-eyewear/overshoes/