- Specialized Defroster shoes
Winter boots are a distinctly niche item of MTB kit. While there are at least 104 different types of glove, jersey and helmet on the market, it’s only very recently that the number of options for winter boots has climbed above about three. So when Specialized announced its very own weather-defeating footwear we were keen to get our hands on a pair. And when they arrived we saw sense and put our feet in them instead.
The Defroster shoes are billed as “waterproof and insulated”. For winter shoes they’re quite sleek-looking, being more along the lines of Northwave’s offerings than the slightly clumpy rival products from, say, Shimano or Lake. They’re light, too. The key visible differences between the Defrosters and Specialized’s other shoes are the very obvious neoprene collar on top, the fairly obvious full tongue under the Velcro straps and the slightly less obvious absence of any water-admitting meshy bits on the uppers.
A nylon sole unit is reasonably lugged and there are optional studs if you need more off-bike grip – it’s the same sole unit as Specialized’s BG Comp shoes. The upper is waterproof synthetic leather, and all the joins are seam-sealed on the inside. There’s a thin layer of insulation inside, concentrated towards the ever-vulnerable toe area. In the bottom of the shoe is the footbed, which has Specialized’s usual foot-and-knee-friendly Body Geometry contours but als features a fleece lining and a reflective metallic layer to trap heat.
The test shoes were the same size as the Specialized race shoes that we know (and love), but significantly more roomy inside, permitting the use of thicker socks. This proved to be a very sensible plan – for all the Defroster’s warmth-enhancing features, they’re not as warm as you might expect. Get down towards freezing and you’ll be wanting an extra layer inside. That said, thin thermal undersocks, a pair of ski socks and a pair of Defrosters will see you right for pretty much anything you’re likely to encounter in the UK, we think.
When it comes to waterproofing, the Defrosters score big. If you like your river crossings, these are your shoes. If you stand in a stream up to your knees then clearly they’ll fill up, but if you keep moving the water doesn’t get a chance to work its way past the neoprene and waves over the toes get nowhere. Having dry feet makes a huge difference to warmth regardless of how many socks you’re wearing. Indeed, we can see ourselves using these well into spring with a bit of sock tuning.
The double-Velcro strap fastening isn’t a patch on the ratchets that we’re used to on Specialized’s race shoes, but dropping the ratchets helps keep the price to a vaguely sensible level. The extra work (and lower sales figures) of winter boots are always going to make them spendier than feature-equivalent summer shoes, but what price dry feet?
Ups and downs
Positives: Surprisingly versatile, convincingly waterproof, light for what they are, BG gubbinses
Negatives: Serious cold-weather enthusiasts will want something warmer, not as secure a fit as other Specialized shoes
Despite the name, the real selling point of these shoes is waterproofing rather than warmth. The built-in insulation is effective up to a point, but you’ll want to supplement it with warm socks. Fortunately there’s room inside for them. The upside is that it doesn’t have to be below zero to avoid boiling your feet, making them more versatile than some winter boots.