6 layer vapour barrier footwear system
It took me quite a few years to learn why my toes were always cold when cycling with winter boots: I had to use platform pedals when wearing winter boots. The resulting push-down-only pedal stroke and flexible boot sole cut blood circulation at the balls of my feet.
I concluded that a stiff-soled cycling shoe with clipless pedals was the best way to keep my toes warm. Thanks to many tips I read about and some of my own ideas, I now ride with a 6-layer vapour barrier footwear system that keeps my toes warm on very cold days.
Layer 1: A very thin nylon or polypro sock (for comfort).
Layer 2: A very thin plastic bag — a fruit or veggie bag. This provides a vapor barrier to keep warm moist perspiration next to my feet, and keep layers 3 to 6 dry. Yes, the thin polypro sock does gets wet. See warmlite.com/vapor-barrier or do a website search on “vapor barrier clothing” to learn how vapor barriers work.
Layer 3: A thick insulating sock.
Layer 4: An over-sized cycling shoe to accommodate layers 1 to 3. My shoe is two EU sizes larger than my summer cycling shoe. I replaced the stock insole with a foil-topped felt one. Note that insulated winter cycling shoes can be purchased from many bike shops.
Layer 5: A thick cycling bootie for more insulation and wind protection.
Layer 6: Size XL shoe covers that slip over the bootie. They don’t have a sole, so they don’t further hinder the cleat from clipping into the pedal.
At milder winter temperatures, I’ll shed a layer or two.