It's boot season. Which one is right for you?
It's really that simple. Our most common question this time of the year is about footwear. Once the mercury nose dives below freezing, what does it really take to keep those toes warm? The answer is a tough one, because everyone is different. Some people have more issues with their feet than their hands, or vice versa, while others run hot, riding along without gloves even when its 20 degrees.
45NRTH has been making the go-to winter boot for a few years now, and their line-up has expanded to include a big line of gloves, hats, balaclavas, and now bibtights and a jacket. They are one of the few apparel brands that test and design around winter riding specifically, and they've been born out of fat biking. Few know it so well, and few do as great of a job with their products.
Focusing on feet here, their two most popular boots are the Japanther and the Wolvhammer. The Japanther replaced the Fasterkatt just over a year ago as the spring/fall boot. It's rated for temperatures 25 to 45 degrees. It skips much of the heavier-duty insulation, but that helps to keep it lighter and more nimble. It's not uncommon to see these boots in action in normal mountain bike or cyclocross races in cold or wet conditions. For riders who don't have issues with cold feet, you may even be able to get away with the Japanther in colder weather, even below 20 degrees, by making sure you size appropriately to allow for a thicker wool sock and/or a toe warmer.
We do typically call the Wolvhammer the safest bet. The Wolvhammer has been the tried and true Northern Michigan boot for years now, proving itself on the Short's Brewing Fat Bike Series circuit in some of the toughest conditions possible. -20 degrees with wind chill, blizzards, and even a few races where riders were forced to foot, the Wolvhammer is rated down to 0 degrees Farenheit. But just as important, it's still a comfortable thing to pedal in, no small feet when balancing insulation, weight and warmth, as well as some well-placed flexibility in the upper to allow for a smooth pedaling motion.
Is it below zero and you still want to go out? Well, 45NRTH makes the Wolfgar. It's rated to -25 degrees Farenheit, and it's insulated and shaped to survive anything you can encounter. This isn't a boot that's light and nimble for racing or training, but it will keep your feet warm well beyond normal riding conditions. For winter bike packing or touring, it's the only way to go.