The combination of a fleece-lined shoe with a Gore-Tex membrane and cord closure system, coupled with a high-viz colourway, all point to a very capable winter riding shoe.
The common downside to winter shoes is the weight or bulk, something that isn’t at all noticeable in the Artic boot. In use, it was warm, comfortable and also dry in most conditions, until it’s raining hard enough that water works down from your legs into the shoes through the neoprene ankle cuff, which, unfortunately, is an unpreventable issue.
The ‘Panda’ membrane thermal lining is a fleece of sorts, and initial concerns of the fleece allowing the foot to squirm around in the shoe were unfounded and, when worn with good winter socks, the boots did a great job at keeping my feet warm on cold winter rides.
Northwave’s Speed Lace closure system, which uses a clasp to tighten the laces, is effective, firm and didn’t create any tight spots or rubbing during the cold and wet riding that the shoes have had so far. It pulls in quickly and easily, and releases quickly – useful for post-ride cold hand syndrome.
One flaw, however, is what to do with the very long piece of lacing, as there is no place to tuck it other than wrapping it around the ankle. This was fine during testing on all but one occasion, when it worked loose and entered the large chainring and quickly stopped any pedaling. It does mean you have to be super-sure to tuck it away and on the whole that’s ok, but it’d be nice to have some sort of dedicated pouch area or velcro to take care of that problem.
In addition there are two Velcro closures. They’re effective and, unusually, line up when you close them, thanks to a stretchy neoprene-style area of fabric at the top of the tongue, which allows for a degree of flex and movement in closure, and, if you have odd shape feet, slightly boosts the chance of the shoes fitting.
The heel area has a solid and secure shape, which prevents any heel lift, and no rubbing or chafing was experienced, even after the shoes got wet during a particularly wet commute. The footbed itself proved comfortable and the toe box was great for my hobbit-width feet. It’d be sensible to try these on with good socks as winter boots often need to be a size up, and work optimally when there is room for air to stay warm and toes to wiggle to improve circulation.
In terms of visuals, they are pretty loud, but rightfully so. These shoes are visible and as the name suggests, aimed at commuting (there is also a version with a mtb-style sole). We used our test shoes for this, but they are also quite at home on long training rides as the sole is fairly stiff. The sole has a carbon-reinforced nylon construction and that results in good amount of stiffness for general riding, while retaining a degree of comfort.
As far as I’m concerned, these winter boots are definitely a better option than the faff and bulk overshoes – they’re warmer and offer more protection from winter weather. If it’s cold and wet, I’d take the Northwaves. If it was milder, still raining and a longer ride (two hours plus), I’d take the Northwaves. If it was just a quick fast boot around the lanes to get out, then overshoes would be ok, but the Northwaves are just so comfortable and still good.
As an all-round winter boot for commuting and training purposes, these are a very good option. It’s sometimes hard to get excited by practical, functional kit, but in this instance the Northwave Artic shoes offer impressive performance in foul conditions, as long as they fit you well and you keep the Speed Lace tucked in well. Lace issue aside, the boots aren’t bulky or heavy and, as winter boots go, outperform others I’ve used.