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  1. #1
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    Neoprene vs Softshell Booties - Insulating Difference?

    My winter road shoe system will consist of my existing road shoes with the straps loosened and a thicker wool sock worn. I've tested the fit of this and it does not compress my toes making them colder.

    I'll also use toasty feet insoles.

    Given that I'll have some more insulation in the shoe in the form of a thicker sock, will neoprene booties be significantly warmer than softshell-type booties? I think of having a thicker/warmer sock as more functional insulation than the thickness of a shell layer (based on background experience as an alpine climber).

    I'm not concerned about water resistance of the neoprene vs softshell.

    The motivation here is that my prior experience with noeprene booties is that my shoes are wet afterwards due to the complete lack of vapor permeability. I recognize that softhshell covers are not going to be perfect in this regard, but seem like they should be a step in the right direction.

    Please don't bother respond if you're only going to say (a) winter shoes/boots are the only decent solution, or (b) you've only used one style (either noeprene or softshell), and you're convinced you know which is better without being able to do a meaningful comparison.

  2. #2
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    Well I have both systems and really didnt care for the neoprene ones. It seemed that my feet sweated more when wearing them and the difference in warmth really wasnt worth it. I believe having something to keep the wind from you feet will help tons.

  3. #3
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    Unless it's too hot my feet don't sweat when I wear my booties. My current booties, and I've had both styles, are a neoprene with a fleece liner. That might be what you term a winter bootie. I live in Wisconsin were there's no point to riding unless I'm wearing a winter bootie. I can vary the socks underneath for better comfort.

    One thing you might look into is neoprene socks. I bought my newest pair at Gander Mountain over in the hip-wader section. Those with a thin pair of wool or polypro socks are decent later in the spring or early in the fall.

  4. #4
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    Comparing the two, a big factor for me would be to determine if the "soft shell" type had a wind-proof layer or not, since that can make a significant difference in how warm they can keep your feet. Mine are not windproof, so I wear them in cooler conditions, and neoprene when temps drop below 35 or so.
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  5. #5
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    I can only use the neoprene booties on short rides (<20mi.) or my feet end up wet from sweating. My softshell castelli booties are pretty awesome for the longer rides, and if it's cold enough out, my feet don't overheat at all. I've decided it's worth riding with wet feet that are somewhat cold than dry but soon to be wet feet that are overheating. I just started carrying extra socks for the return trip home.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by jared_j View Post
    My winter road shoe system will consist of my existing road shoes with the straps loosened and a thicker wool sock worn. I've tested the fit of this and it does not compress my toes making them colder.

    I'll also use toasty feet insoles.

    Given that I'll have some more insulation in the shoe in the form of a thicker sock, will neoprene booties be significantly warmer than softshell-type booties? I think of having a thicker/warmer sock as more functional insulation than the thickness of a shell layer (based on background experience as an alpine climber).

    I'm not concerned about water resistance of the neoprene vs softshell.

    The motivation here is that my prior experience with noeprene booties is that my shoes are wet afterwards due to the complete lack of vapor permeability. I recognize that softhshell covers are not going to be perfect in this regard, but seem like they should be a step in the right direction.

    Please don't bother respond if you're only going to say (a) winter shoes/boots are the only decent solution, or (b) you've only used one style (either noeprene or softshell), and you're convinced you know which is better without being able to do a meaningful comparison.
    For Winter riding I wear the following (Below the knees):

    1) 3.5mm neoprene knee-high rafting/kayaking socks
    1.5) Med. weight merino wool socks (If I feel the need for an extra layer)
    2) Shimano MTB shoes
    3) Kraft 3mm neoprene over-booties

    That combo keeps my lower half toasty warm down to at least 10*F, bike speed of 12MPH with a headwind of 3 to 5MPH.


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  7. #7
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    REALLY depends on the individual. I wear light, wind resistant booties well below freezing w/o problems. Above freezing, I wear Calientoes. But I know guys who wear electrically heated insoles when it gets below 50F.

  8. #8
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    I wear neoprene toe warmers over softshell type booties when it gets cold. The toe warmers keep the tootsies warm without making my feet sweat like Nixon. It's gotta be really cold for me to wear my neoprene booties cause my foots sweat a lot, yes I said foots. I really like the modularity of the system.

  9. #9
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    These are the ones I am pretty happy with....super tight fitting (probably cuz I wear size 13! Ha). If it really gets stupid cold, I can always fit a "hot hands" pack on the top of the shoe under the bootie and it does very good.


  10. #10
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    The biggest difference between neoprene and softshell is thickness.

    I've only seen soft as thick as 2.5mm whereas neoprene can be as thick as 7+mm. And warmth is equally proportional to the thickness of its' thermal layer.

    The second biggest difference is that neoprene doesn't breathe. And that's what you want when it comes to keeping warm in seriously cold weather. It's called a vapor barrier.

    Having minimal layers yet achieving maximum warmth is the summary of the Vapor barrier system.


    A big benefit with wearing neoprene socks Or any neoprene garment) when you're humping in the mountains (Or riding to work, school, etc) is that neoprene doesn't breathe so your mountaineering boots (Or riding shoes) don't collect moisture.

    In the city you can dry out your shoes in a 70+*F indoor environment. In the mountains on a multi-day trip, trying to keep moisture out of your boots or boot liners are impossible without a vapor barrier. And the warmest environment in the mountains is a snowcave and the temp only rises to 40*F.

    Beyond an overnighter: moisture in boots/liners+sub 30* temps+multi-day trip=misery and hypothermia danger.
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  11. #11
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    After experimenting with neoprene booties, "waterproof" shoe covers, and racing-style lycra covers, along with various sock types, my toes are happiest in dry cold with thin-ish wool socks and lycra covers. In wet cold, I stay inside.
    * posted by Creakybot 2013 all rights reserved.
    * not actually waterproof.

  12. #12
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    Thanks, all. Sounds like the solution is to experiment due to the diversity of views.

    My main goal was to avoid the hassle of wetter shoes associated with neoprene booties. A way of achieving that may be neoprene socks. I'm not super excited with having to dry shoes regularly.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by scottzj View Post
    These are the ones I am pretty happy with....super tight fitting (probably cuz I wear size 13! Ha). If it really gets stupid cold, I can always fit a "hot hands" pack on the top of the shoe under the bootie and it does very good.

    What model PI are those?

  14. #14
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    Andrew........they are the Pearl Izumi Barrier Lite version. I listed a couple places below that has them.>>>

    Amazon.com: Pearl iZUMi Barrier Lite Cycling Shoe Cover: Clothing

    Pearl Izumi Barrier Lite Shoe Cover Shoe Covers - Outside Outfitters

    Shoe Covers

  15. #15
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    You guys must be from the tropics! I'm good just as long as I keep my core warm. I just wear shorts and feel comfortable in freezing temps. I get funny looks from other riders. My wife give me funny looks when she sees me walking in the snow barefoot. I love the cold! My Jamaican buddy wears longjohns when the temp dips below 60.

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by Milk-Bone View Post
    You guys must be from the tropics! I'm good just as long as I keep my core warm. I just wear shorts and feel comfortable in freezing temps. I get funny looks from other riders. My wife give me funny looks when she sees me walking in the snow barefoot. I love the cold! My Jamaican buddy wears longjohns when the temp dips below 60.
    You must be really slow.

  17. #17
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    I've tried just about everything over the course of last winter.

    These are the only things that have kept my little piggies fairly warm in the frigid New England winter months. But like all the other, wind does creep in through the cleat holes, so cut a couple pieces off an old nylon wind breaker, and throw them under the insoles.

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  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by vetboy View Post
    You must be really slow.
    Or really fast! I generate my own heat.

    Warm blooded boy from the North East!

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