10 ways to keep your feet warm while mountain biking

After months of riding my mountain bike and having tons of fun, the cold season comes and it becomes harder and harder to ride. My hands start to get cold, my feet start to get cold and the descents which were the fun part of my rides are becoming insupportable because of the cold.

What should I do? Should I stop riding my mountain bike and wait for the weather to become warmer?

No way I am a spartan, I can do this!

And yes I can, no problem with that but there is a smart way of doing it and there is a dumb way to do it. In this article, I will teach you what you need to know so you will do it the smart way. So keep reading!

Mountain biking in the snow

1. Wear Thermal Socks

When I was in my first year of mountain biking I wore normal thick socks, in some weather conditions they worked great but sometimes my feet were sweating and after a while, it felt really cold.

So I decided to try thermal socks or heat holders as some call them and I was blown away by how efficient they are, they are designed to keep your body’s health from dissipating in the environment but they let your feet breathe so you don’t sweat. This was a game-changer for me!

You can find thermal socks that are water-resistant so your feet will be dry in any condition, these are the best choice but require a bigger budget.

Regarding socks, there is one more thing that is very important, the length of the socks. Longer socks will keep a larger portion of your feet warm, as you know for cold-weather riding it is important to dress in layers. So longer socks will give you an extra layer on your shin area.

2. Wear Mtb Shoes Designed for the Cold Season

Winter MTB shoes are designed to hold your feet dry and warm on the roughest of weather conditions, they are made using weatherproof materials that isolate your feet so you don’t get wet and are designed to be wind repealing, which is very important when riding in cold weather.

The biggest problem with winter MTB shoes is their price because they are made from windproof and waterproof materials.

If you use them in combination with good thermal socks you will be able to ride in almost any weather condition without having cold feet.

TIP: You can wrap your feet in tin foil (I used wrapping foil used for wrapping sandwiches) and then take your shoe over it. At first, I said it was stupid but after I tried it my mind was changed and I ended up thanking my friend who recommended it.

3. Overshoes or Booties

Overshoes are a good choice for those who want to use their MTB shoes during the cold season because they are windproof and waterproof. You can use them on any MTB shoes and they work fine with clipless or flat pedals.

The best part about overshoes is that they are cheap and they work fine.

Another big advantage is that you don’t need to have a different pair of MTB shoes for the cold and warm seasons and if you ride in very cold weather they can work fine as another layer over your winter shoes, it’s not growing to be a big improvement but it will still help.

You don’t need to buy thin and thick coating overshoes, just buy the thick ones even if the weather is not so cold you won’t feel too hot by wearing the thick coating overshoes, I know this from my friend who bought more than five different pairs by now.

I don’t use overshoes because I bought winter MTB shoes so I made a bigger investment but my friend uses them for years and he is extremely satisfied. If you want to save some bucks, overshoes are the best way.

4. Wear Thermal Tights Under Your Mtb Pants

Thermal tights are great for the first layer on your feet if you ride in the cold season, they will hold your body temperature from dissipating and will allow sweat to evaporate so you remain dry.

The more expensive thermal tights have an antibacterial layer so you don’t get rashes when you wear them for longer periods of time, they are incredible for longer rides when you ride more than 5 hours.

Keeping the upper portions of your feet warm is crucial because your body will pump blood to keep them warm and will neglect the extremities because the upper portion of your feet is bigger and will be prioritized.

If you don’t wear thermal tights your feet will get cold no matter how expensive your mountain biking pants are.

MTB riders in the cold

5. Wear Weatherproof Pants with Wind Protection

One of the biggest reasons you feel cold when riding your MTB is the friction with the wind so having clothing that is wind-repelling is a big plus, you will thank yourself for getting windproof pants when you pick up speed on long descents.

When it is raining and your feet get wet you will feel the cold more than three times harder, so having impermeable pants will keep your feet dry and this will help you to stay warm.

When I started mountain biking I didn’t have the proper pants and I used some pants I had at home after the first descent my feet were numbed and I got sick, one week I was in bed.

But even if it was the hard way I learned my lesson and I got proper mountain biking pants and now I can ride in cold weather without feeling that my feet are ice cold.

6. Keep Your Core Warm

In regards to keeping it warm, your body will prioritize your torso over the extremities because all your vital organs are found here, so keeping your core warm becomes a vital part of keeping your feet warm.

You need to have 2 or 3 layers of clothing depending on how cold is outside to properly keep your core warm.

The first layer which is in contact with your skin needs to be a thermal blouse, this layer will keep your body heat from dissipating out and will let sweat evaporate, like thermal tights the more expensive ones come with an antibacterial layer that will allow you to enjoy longer rides.

The second layer will be a T-shirt or a thin blouse, the only purpose of this layer is to keep your body warm. If it is not so cold outside you can skip this layer.

The third layer is one of the most important ones, you need to get here a wind repealing and waterproof jacket that will keep you dry. This will be one of the most expensive pieces of clothing for you so don’t be cheap here is one of the most important ones.

When you ride your bike because of the speed you will feel like you ride against the wind and because of the friction from the wind and your body you will get colder, so one of the most efficient ways to remain warm while biking is wearing wind repealing equipment.

Between cyclists, there is a saying: You always ride against the wind!

7. Correct Saddle Height

This is only for complete beginners. You may be wondering what has the saddle height to do with keeping your feet warm but if you don’t have the saddle at the right height you restrict blood circulation to the extremities of your feet and this will make you feel cold.

If your feet get numbed in warm weather this will highly affect how you will feel the cold when riding your MTB in the winter.

You know you have the correct saddle height when your foot is fully extended when you are sitting down on the saddle and your hill is on the pedal (with the pedal in the lowest position), practically your foot is perpendicular to the ground.

8. Use Insoles and Inserts

If you have the right shoes and socks and you feel that your feet are still cold then you can use chemical warmers, they are like hand wormers but you stick them under the soles of your feet.

You need to remove the isolates with which your shoes come and install the new ones and keep in mind that this will be good for a single-use, if you plan to ride multiple days you need to buy one for each day of riding.

These are popular and are often used by winter sports enthusiasts like snowboarders and skiers because those sports demand that they are exposed to the harshest of weather conditions.

Don’t use them after your feet get cold because they will feel too hot, use them from the beginning of your ride so you don’t get to the point when you feel your feet freezing cold, by then it is too late.

By the way, I use chemical warmers when I ride in snowy conditions, when it is just cold I never needed them.

9. Keep Your Feet Moving All the Time

When you are out in the cold one of the most important things you can do is keep moving because this helps to get blood pumped faster and it will keep you warmer.

Oftentimes I see mountain bikers planning rides in the cold season like they are in the warm season and thy results in them needing to take long breaks because the ride is too long.

During these breaks they will get cold and if your immune system is not one of the best ones you will get sick and won’t be able to ride for one or more weeks.

One solution will be to plan shorter routes that don’t demand breaks or if you still what to take breaks keep moving your extremities like your feet.

This was one of my biggest mistakes when I started to ride my MTB during the cold season, but now I only plan rides that I can complete without the need to stop to rest.

If my friends go on longer rides, I don’t go with them and oftentimes they get sick, but I still ride my bike. Some people never learn, don’t be one of them!

10. Make Your Rides Shorter and Harder

I know that we ride our mountain bikes in the cold season because we love riding them and we want to ride longer, not shorter rides, the point is to ride more not less. Right?

Yes, that is true but when we ride in the cold weather at a lower intensity it is harder for our body to maintain temperature and when you exert yourself the heart pumps blood harder to all the muscles so you will have more warm blood pumped in your extremities.

The shorter ride is correlated with making your rides more intense and this will make you endure cold weather better.

Final Words

By now you know everything you need to know to be able to ride your mountain bike in the cold season so the only thing that you need to do is get the proper gear and have fun riding.

Keep in mind that all the advice I gave you in this article was learned the hard way. So don’t be like me learn the smart way, not the hard way.

I know that buying all the equipment needed to ride in cold weather can be expensive, but believe me, it is worth it. If your feet get cold you won’t enjoy your ride and you put your health at risk.

If you get sick you would spend some of that money on drugs so it’s better to buy the equipment, and if you still think it is not worth the investment it is better to not ride in cold weather and wait for the warm season.

I started mountain biking many years ago to improve my overall health state. After my first ride, I fell in love with the sport. Now I spend dozens of hours a week researching and training to compete in local XC and Enduro events.