Lake MXZ303 Winter Boots

Lake MXZ303 Winter Boots

I had resolved to ride straight through the winter, mostly because I had spent so much time off the bike, injured, at the end of the summer and into the fall. A mild weather start helped stoke my motivation, and so, by the time the Polar Vortex returned to my New England home, I was feeling fit and ready, just a few small issues to address, one of which was footwear.

I like cold weather riding, and because I run hot, I seldom feel any core coldness at all, even in sub-freezing temps. Hands and feet are another matter, and I find that most of the products that pretend to keep your extremities comfortable when the mercury drops below 30F aren’t very good. In terms of footwear, I usually wear my regular road shoes with toe covers down to about 40F. I have some GoreTex riding boots that appear at that point, and they’re ok, but below 25F I am battling toe-numbing cold.

??????????Enter the Lake MXZ303. A few weeks back, we had our coldest temperatures of the season to date, so the perfect opportunity to test these boots. Ride time temps looked like this for Monday through Friday: 23F, 14F, 12F, -3F and a balmy 27F on Friday. It snowed on the Wednesday, and the roads were wet and salty on Friday, so there was some opportunity to gauge water-proofness as well.

I’ll cut to the chase. On all but the coldest day, I didn’t feel a single tingle, not a hint of numbness. Even at -3F, with snot frozen at the flare of my nostrils, I felt only the vaguest discomfort, nothing to trouble over. These are, full-stop, the warmest cycling shoes I have ever worn.

I was concerned, when they first arrived at my house, that they would be too big and bulky. I said to a friend, “I’m a little concerned they won’t be the most agile.” And he said, “What are you trying to do at the kinds of temperatures those things were built for that requires agility?” It was a fair point.

And the truth is, the MXZ303s don’t feel overly big, once they’re on. It’s not like tap-dancing in rain boots. They don’t even look overly bulky, whether you tuck your tights into them, or drape pants over the tops. There is an impressive amount of insulation packed into the body of each boot, and the boa closures really mold them to your foot. The ankle portion is secured with a buckle, so you can adjust how tight they are at the top. I prefer them a little loose, higher up, so they can move with my foot more, and honestly, they were comfortable right out of the box. They never rubbed at the top like other riding boots I’ve owned.

I had a little trouble gauging cleat position (they are SPD compatible) when I first set them up and ended up adjusting them forward a little after my first ride. Because of the heartiness of the sole, they don’t clip in quite as easily as most of my shoes, but this is not a showstopper, certainly, given what you get in return.

I normally wear a 43, but got these in a 44 to allow for bulky and/or multiple socks. I find they hold heat best when there’s a bit of wiggle room in the toe box. They are much easier to get off at the end of a ride than you would expect, too. I appreciate that as I stand at the bottom of the basement stairs, snow and salt dripping of the soles. It saves me standing in the puddle of slush that is part and parcel of wet winter.

For those who plan to ride right through a serious, northern winter, the Lake MXZ303 is a real solution for cold feet. I am just waiting for someone to step up and make its equivalent in the form of a glove.

The Lake MXZ303 retails for $299.95. This pair was provided to me gratis, for test/review purposes.

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8 comments

  1. Tom in Albany

    I have some old Lakes that didn’t quite do the job. But I run cold so, there may be a difference. For my hands, I went to EMS and bought their expedition mittens. Hardly nimble and challenging to shift with. But, I don’t lose my fingers, which can turn white as I sit at my desk when the cold wind blows against my office window in January/February. Like your friend said, what are you going to be doing at that time of year? The mittens have never been a problem in grabbing a handful of brake when I need to.

  2. Ron

    As an upstate NYer, I am happy to now live 1000 kms to the south. I feel for any roadie who has to wear these. I also feel for any roadie who has to ride indoors. That is pure torture. I did an hour on a spin bike for a fundraiser this past fall and it was the longest hour of my life.

    As much as I miss four seasons and snow sports and the joys of fall leaves, I’m happy to live in a place where *cold* weather cycling is 35*F. Then again, this winter we’ve actually had truly cold weather.

  3. Mike

    I had the Lake 302s back in the day, while they were definitely warm, they were too big and bulky for my tastes. I now use the Northwave winter boots (both road and mtb versions) in the winter and love them. Much lighter and still mostly get the job done. I just wish I’d gotten the Arctic version of the mtb boot, as I tend to ride in lower temps on the mtb than I do on the road.

    4 seasons on the road pair and they are still going strong.

  4. Rod

    I commute by bike every day in the crisp Canadian winter. I don’t have a problem with my feet as much as with my hands, but I do own several pairs of winter boots.

    I considered these but they were a bit pricier than “similar” boots (quotation marks because who know really until using). I eventually got some Diadora shoes because that’s what my LBS carries. Good enough until you go to below -10 C, then the Wolvhammers come out (so, all of January so far). Those are behemoths, much heavier, but very much worth it when it’s that cold (below -25 this week, but now rising a bit).

    Thanks for the review!

  5. Stephen Barner

    I’m with Robot on these Lakes, though I would really like to try the 45NRTHS. I doubt I’ll ever see a pair in my size, though. Everyone is different, so it is impossible to give definative advice about how warm a particular shoe is going to be. Like Robot, it’s going to be my feet and hands that get cold before my core. I am on my second pair of Lakes, having worn out the first, and mine are the generation before Robot’s. My commute is 18 miles each way, and on a cold day, like 10 degrees F and below, my feet will be getting cold by the time I make it all the way up the mountain and home. I’ve taken to using chemical hand warmers on the real cold days. They are cheaper than the foot version and seem to have more material inside. Get them in bulk packs from your local building supply store. I put them on top of my toes, rather than below, and wrap a piece of blue painter’s tape around to hold them in place over wool socks. The key was learning that you can stop the chemical action by putting them in a sealed plastic sandwich bag when not riding. I’ve had them last a week. Two other tricks are to let them sit out a few minutes to start the oxidation reaction that produces heat, because once they are inside the shoe, the oxygen supply is reduced. Also, on a really cold ride, use aluminum foil instead of tape, just let them heat up before wrapping your toes in foil.

    I’ve had Northwave and Sidi winter cycling shoes, but they’ve been more suitable as shoe cover replacements when the temp is a ways above freezing than for the really cold stuff. I work with a guy who can ride without even shoe covers down to 32F, so I’m sure your mileage will vary. Get your boots at least a size larger than what you regularly wear and add a second pair of socks without becoming snug. Loose fit is the magic formula for warm dogs. Two full sizes over will not likely prove to be a mistake.

    For the coldest weather, I wear some Gordini winter gloves that are quite warm. When it’s above 22 or so, I’ll wear Pearl Izumi lobster mits. I’ve gone down to -10F but when it gets that cold, I’ll usually look for an excuse to drive. I’m in northern Vermont, so I look for those excuses more often this time of year.

  6. STS

    Has anyone with some experience with the MXZ 303 also ridden their predecessor, the MXZ 302? I’m asking because I only know those and they are not warm enough for me. Furthermore the BOA lacing on the MXZ 302 was not very well conceived. It caused some serious pain at the ankle at least to my feet.
    So I recently bought the 45NRTH Wölvhammer but have not yet prepared them since it always takes me some time in the workshop to compensate for a leg length difference and fore foot varus.
    I’m curious to find out whether anyone can comparatively rate those three shoes for the insulation they offer.

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