You have likely heard it before and you will hear it again from me now – a good pair of winter cycling shoes goes a long way. Not that some over-booties or foot-warmers won’t work, or even regular winter boots and warm socks along with flat pedals. But for me, living in an area where winter last 7 months, it’s worth having a pair of good boots. When it comes to cycling boots 45NRTH developed a boot that will protect you from the wind, rain, snow and cold. While you may be fine with your standard snow boot, the options of wearing a cycling specific boot that is designed for extreme cold and soggy conditions is available and recommended.

I have had the pleasure of using the 45NRTH Wolvhammer boots for the past 3 winter seasons. The original version for two years, and the updated version for this winter season. In that time I have biked in countless negative (fahrenheit) degree days, through whiteout conditions, mud and slush, over extended periods of time and simple day rides. They have been my feet keepers. I have been pleased with the original version, and I am also very happy with how the new design has performed.

45NRTH Wolvhammer
Old vs. New

First, I want to discuss the fit. I am typically a men’s size 11.5. The sizing for the 45NRTH Wolvhammer boots is a little different which I explain further below. My first pair of Wolvhammers were a 47. After using updated sizing chart on their website, a 48 was recommended. I went with a 47 in the new design and was happy I did so. It still has plenty of room to layer socks, but I don’t feel like they are too big. I was, however, on the verge of a 47 anyways, so I felt comfortable going with the smaller size.

In their size calculations they already account for large socks and extra room. This is important because when your foot gets tight in any area blood flow is restricted, which inhibits warmth. That has happened to many of us, and that is the number one reason why you should go with a larger boot size for winter cycling. When in doubt, head to a 45NRTH local retailer to try them on.

45NRTH Wolvhammer Let’s take a look at the differences between the original version of the Wolvhammers and the new ones. For starters, the boot got a complete style overhaul. The old boot came with a double closure system which had a zipper and a cord lace, with a thick cordura Velcro cover. While I liked the security of the original boot it was a huge pain in the butt to get them on and off. The boot now opens up graciously with a large waterproof tongue and chord system.

45NRTH Wolvhammer
the wide boot opening.
Insulation was also a big upgrade. 45NRTH used 200g Primaloft which is an insulation that gives you warmth without the bulk or weight. It also breaths well and absorbs less moisture. One area cycling shoes tend to lose heat is at or around the cleat. All 45NRTH boots have their aerogel insole. This is essentially a glorified insole for cold weather. Along with Primaloft, the insulated insole will ensure you stay warm down to 0F.

45NRTH Wolvhammer
The exterior part of the boot is also revamped. The cord lock is now exposed to the elements which has not been an issue as far as keeping the foot warm or dry. The exterior body is a full leather and ballistic nylon shell with a beefy rubber toe that repels water and snow very well. The base of the shoe also got a update in the tread pattern, but 45NRTH continued with the well-regarded Vibram sole material.

45NRTH Wolvhammer The boot is slightly shorter than the original version, going up to around mid calf. It is also much easier to take on and off and weighs in lighter and less bulky than the original Wolvhammer. It has less moving parts which means less things that can fail, overall most of the changes are well-received and make for a better winter cycling shoe.

Over the course of the winter months I have put these boots through a good test. At first glance I was a bit surprised with the look and feel of the boots. I initially felt like they were a downgrade to the original version, but that first impression did not last very long. After trying them on for the first time I was extremely happy with the ease of throwing the boot on and taking it off. No more dealing with that annoying zipper and over bootie.  While my foot was in the boot, I noticed more room on the top of my foot as well as in the toe box – another benefit when talking about helping blood flow.
45NRTH Wolvhammer
Aaron Johnson Photo During Fat BIke Worlds

When I ride with these boots I typically wear a thin liner sock and a thick wool sock. On cold day rides (below zero F), I’ll add some toe warmers. Even with some extremely thick wool socks I never had the issue of cut off circulation, even when I cinched down the cord straps as tight as they would go.

For day rides, the moisture build up was very minimal and they would dry very fast after I took them off. For longer rides, such as racing the Fat Pursuit this year, it was clear that no boot can wick every bit of moisture away. When I took off my boot after I finished the race there was a significant buildup of moisture. I did not realize this until the boot was off as my feet remained warm the whole time. In attempt to avoid this situation in the future, I am going to focus some time on developing a good vapor barrier system, where the moisture stays within a barrier inside your shoe, and not in the shoe insulation itself.

45NRTH Wolvhammer
Another stand out feature is the hike-ability of these boots, and I can say the same for the old version too. Between the flex of the sole, and deep and appropriately spaced tread pattern, I have had plenty of comfortable miles hiking my bike in soft snow. Even when i’m done riding I don’t mind keeping them on while I clean up my bike.

If you are one that is looking for an extremely stiff boot, you are not too far off, but it does have some flex. While the Wolvhammers may not be as stiff as some shoes, they certainly do a good job of transferring power while maintaining good hike-ability. With the updated tread pattern 45NRTH decided to remove the front two metal studs, which I never actually used anyways and likely resulted in some heat loss. The SPD cleat fits very well and does not interfere when walking, and if you don’t use clipless pedals, keep the bolted in cleat cover in place, as they don’t sell a non clipless version like they did in the past.
45NRTH Wolvhammer
Old on top, new on the bottom.

The Wolvhammer boots have held up through plenty of abuse, but snow tends to be a bit easier on shoes than dirt and rocks. The boot shows no significant wear other than the cord marks and a heal bend. If you are looking for an extremely comfortable and warm all-winter cycling boot, the Wolvhammer should be on your list. 45NRTH Wolvhammer

5 Comments

  1. Loved these for east coast wet and sloppy winter. I found these comfortable at freezing or below where my old fasterkatts would leave my freezing. Thin sock around freezing, thick sock above 20, liner and thick sock under 20. I think the vapor barrier idea is something I’d like to check out as well for colder temps as I did have wet feet on a few longer rides, which caused some coldness in the toe box and bottom of my feet.

  2. Great article Neil. I’m looking at purchasing a pair and want to hear more about the vapor barrier idea for longer/colder rides. Is it as simple as the plastic bag trick or something more advanced?
    Thanks.
    -Mat from MN

    • Neil Beltchenko
      Neil Beltchenko

      Not going to lie Mat, I don’t feel conformable sharing my vapor barrier knowledge, as I have not tested it enough. But yes, I am currently using plastic bags from the grocery store. Best, Neil

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