Winter boots means different things to different people – depending on where you live and the prevailing weather conditions. If you’re lucky enough to get ‘proper’ winters, there’s a good chance you spend a chunk of your winter on skis playing in powder and generally making those of us for whom winter means sloppy grit and mud feel thoroughly jealous. I am one of those riders for whom winter means wet rides – either wet spraying up from the ground, wet falling from the sky, or both at the same time. Sometimes that wet is also very cold – though rarely cold enough to turn into that fun white stuff.
Key for me then in any winter boot is waterproofing. And on this front the Scott Heaters do very well indeed. To get the most out of them, you really want to wear them with waterproof trousers, as the neoprene uppers are not as effective at keeping the water out as the lower part of the boot – and there’s always going to be a hole where your legs go in. The rest of the shoe is however properly waterproof. I’ve paddled into a shallow ford (to remove a log before riding across, obviously), and ridden in truly foul conditions without the boots being overwhelmed. So while I’m not overly keen on the zip – I worry for the longevity of it – I can appreciate that it is waterproof and it does work.
If you’re not going to wear waterproof trousers, I can recommend teaming up the boots with waterproof socks – this keeps the inevitable neoprene dampness from seeping through your socks. You’ll also want to wear long socks, as damp neoprene against bare skin can be a bit rubby. All in all though, the waterproofing is excellent.
The secondary requirement for winter boots is warmth. In this regard they perform well just because your feet stay dry. However, they’re not particularly insulated – so you need to be generating a bit of warmth and if you’re going to be out in sub zero temperatures for hours on end you will probably want to think carefully about your choice of socks. On me the size 41 boots – the size I’d usually go for in a cycling shoe – were a nice slim fit that allowed either one pair of thickish socks or two thin ones. In know Nick Craig finds them toasty warm compared to his usual racing disco slippers, but I’m firmly in the ‘if my feet are cold I’m going to moan’ camp, so for a big snowy fat bike outing I’d probably opt for a boot with more insulation.
For a lot of my UK winter riding however, these are great. They’re light enough to double up for gravel or road bike use without feeling like you can’t feel the bike, they’re very waterproof, and if you team them up with waterproof trousers you can really keep the wet out. The lack of insulation means I’ll probably get away with wearing them right through spring, put them away briefly for summer, then dig them back out again come autumn – though at the point I have to ditch waterproof trousers I’ll probably reach for waterproof socks as well to help keep the water at bay once the tops are exposed.
The fit for me was just right, so the speed laces weren’t needed to do much more than compress the tongue enough to get the zips done up. You do need to take a bit of care over zipping up – if you don’t get them pulled right up you might find them creeping down a centimetre or so, which will compromise the waterproofing. I also find you need to zip them up first and then do up the cuffs or the zips won’t go. Minor niggles, but again they make me worry a little about the stress the zips are under and how long they might last in the longer term – but as yet, not issues.
The soles are stiff enough for pedalling, but not so much that they’re a pain to walk in. They’ve got chunky grips on the bottom which are in fact pretty grippy. Defeated by wet algae-covered Yorkshire stone setts, sure, but then what isn’t? Roadworks and school runs mean I’ve actually ended up walking a fair way in these, and my feet have been fine. Given that I have a right pair of sensitive little flippers that blister and hurt at the most minor of lumps and bumps, this is really saying something.
Overall: Dry feet keeps my feet warmer for longer, and makes for happier pedalling. If you’re prepared to team them up with waterproof trousers, these really deliver.