I have terrible circulation in my hands and feet. Not sure what it is, but keeping my hands warm in temperatures below 60 degrees is a great challenge. By 50 degrees I’m wearing two pairs of gloves, and by 40 I’m in lobster claws. Anything below 35 has me needing chemical warmers to stay comfortable in the cold weather. Then you get to the feet and its nearly impossible. Sometimes chemical warmers don’t even keep me warm in 30 degree weather! It’s a constant battle, and one that long winters (like what we just had) don’t play kindly with. This year I bit the bullet and stopped fooling around with shoe covers and got a winter boot. A proper, waterproof, boot. I’d read a lot about different boots and a common theme was that they don’t solve all your problems. You still have to be smart and use appropriate sock techniques, but they do help. That was all I needed, any help I can get, I take. Eventually, I ended up with the Specialized Defroster. Looking at my local dealers it seemed there were only a handful of options, and it was actually the price and cuff height of the Specialized Defroster that put my money on it. The only other boot with a high cuff was something by Northwave and the price seemed prohibitive.
Putting the Defroster on, I realized they had more room than a standard shoe of the same size, which I greatly appreciated since I would likely be running wool socks all winter. BOA type cinch systems are genius in my opinion, and the fact that more companies have not started using them is baffling to me (or perhaps a copyright issue). So they fit well, had room, and covered my entire ankle. Good so far.
Out on the trail they were far less cumbersome than the word “boot” would imply. Feeling just like a regular shoe, they performed quite well even while lacking a carbon sole and other fancy features you become accustomed to with higher end shoes. The tread on the bottom is nothing special but does its job well in snow, mud and ice.
The cuff is a great feature but I will warn you, does not stay cinched to your ankle. It tightens with velcro and after hours of moving your ankle around with pedal strokes, a gap does form, allowing deep snow to crust around the top of the cuff if you hike through it. Very few times did this ever become a problem, and if I knew I were going to be in deep powder for hours, I would probably use some sort of gator for extra protection to keep the snow out.
The BOA system on the boot is fantastic. It disperses the load evenly across the top of your foot and its very comfortable. Perhaps the best feature of the shoe is that you can change how tight it is without taking off the waterproof cover flap. The dial pokes through a nicely made hole allowing access at all times. A very nice feature.
The shoe is absolutely bombproof. Probably more so than any shoe I have owned. I rode it thousands of miles this winter and it looks new. Compare that to a pair of shoe covers which will look ragged after a month of usage. I rode in deep mud, deep snow, ice, rain, and negative temperatures, and the boot was not fazed. On a few occasions I actually submerged the boot in water accidentally (up to the lower part of the cuff) crossing streams etc, and to my absolute joy, they kept water out!
But were they warm, you might ask? Yes. They are definitely warmer than a normal shoe and shoe cover. Did my feet still get cold? Yes. Like I mentioned earlier, these are not a boot you can simply put on your foot with your summer socks and be set. My feet are incredibly sensitive to the cold and many of my rides were in the single digits this year. I’m not sure there is a solution available for my feet in those conditions. You still have to wear the right sock so your feet don’t sweat, have room to “breath” and maybe add the assistance of a chemical warmer to jump start the heat process. So no, my feet were not perpetually warm in these boots.
One example I will give though is telling of this boots strong points. I did a 4 hour mountain ride in about 23 degree temps. With wool socks and chemical warmers I was set. I broke through some ice around hour 2.5 and stepped in water but thankfully, the boot saved me and I didn’t get wet. Comfort in those temps for 4 hours is sort of a miracle in my opinion.
If you’re looking for a weather resistant shoe (even if it’s just rainy commuting) you can’t go wrong with the Defrosters. They are fantastic quality and comfortable fit.