Winter cycling can be a challenge at times, and when it comes to choosing footwear, riders will fall in to one of two camps. There are those who prefer the best cycling overshoes, and then there are those who wear purpose-made options from the best winter cycling shoes segment, like the Fizik Artica R5 Winter Cycling Boots pictured here.
The best cycling shoes usually incorporate sufficient ventilation to keep your feet cool, and aren’t designed to insulate. Overshoes can provide weather protection and insulation, but can take a little time to put on, and are prone to damage. You may also be using your favourite road shoes all winter, which will wear them out more quickly, so why not give your best a rest, and invest in some winter boots instead?
As ever, there are many factors to consider to decide what’s right for you, so read on to find out if Fizik’s Artica R5 boots might just be the missing link in your winter wardrobe or read our review on the Fizik Artica X5 Winter Cycling Boot if your prefer to have mountain biking/gravel riding cleat compatibility.
Design and aesthetics
With its uniformly smooth exterior, the Artica R5 shares its general aesthetic with wellington boots, and for footwear designed to keep water and road filth at bay, that’s a good place to start. The shoe’s outer comprises a one-piece, waterproof microfibre layer, with limited stretch, which rises to ankle level, where it’s topped by a neoprene collar. It’s fastened by a long, central waterproof zip and a large Velcro strap that’s faced with more waterproof fabric.
The lower portion of the shoe is further protected by a thin, impermeable, scuff-proof material with a fine file pattern texture. It’s very flexible, and welded on to the waterproof outers to provide additional durability. A large reflective patch above the heel extends around each side of the ankle for increased visibility from more angles.
Beneath the weatherproof outer shell is essentially a softly padded and well insulated shoe, which is attached to the outer layer around the edge of the sole, and below the ankle’s Velcro collar. Otherwise, the inner shoe is free to conform to your foot and move independently of the outer.
Key to the Artica R5’s comfort, this internal shoe is formed of Microtex, which is a two-layered knitted fabric that surrounds the foot. Its inner Tactel-micro fabric surface wicks moisture away through its breathable membrane, helping to keep feet dry and insulated, thanks to its knitted structure. Around this sock-like inner is a supportive microfibre shell, with six extended straps, all linked together by the Internal Speed Lacing system. A full-length integrated neoprene tongue with reinforced grip tab completes the uppers.
Fizik’s Winter Edition Cycling Insole has an aluminium foil-covered base to reflect heat back in, with a thin microfibre pad covering the cleat area, preventing the cleat’s metal fixings from creating a cold spot. On top is a thin, brushed fleece covering providing a little more warmth.
The carbon composite sole has a standard three-bolt fixing, useful cleat fitting markings, and generously sized, hard rubber, heel and toe walking bumpers
I have feet that are a little wide. They’re not hobbit feet, or especially unusual, but they’re also not slim. I’ve always found Fizik road shoes in my normal size 45 to be uncomfortably narrow after a short time on the bike, and going up in size isn’t a good solution. By contrast, the Artica R5 (and X5) in size 45 are extremely comfortable, and I’ve ridden around 100 hours in both, with no complaints whatsoever.
I think the independently compliant nature of the inner shoe, combined with the Speed Lacing System’s ability to tighten the shoe evenly across the foot is responsible for how much happier my feet are in these Fiziks.
Putting them on is rapid and fool proof. With the zip undone, and Speed Lacing System loose, separate the outer shoe at the ankle and pull the tongue’s tab forward. Slide your foot in, and while pulling on the Speed Lacing System’s pull tab, slide the locking fastener down towards your foot, until tight enough. This clever fastener is intuitively simple – gripping its larger sides lets it slide to tighten, and gripping the narrow sides allows it to slide to release. Otherwise it remains locked.
Here is my only small niggle with the Fiziks. When tight, you’re left with over 20cm of the looped lace to accommodate within the shoe’s outer. There’s no recommended way of stowing it, but the best method I’ve found is to fold the lace once, spreading it across as much of the shoe as possible, and ensuring that the two solid elements – the fastener and the pull – sit flat above a part of your foot which won’t be compressed by the outer while pedalling. Get it wrong, and the pull can create a small pressure point on the bony top of your foot. A few moments figuring out what to do is well worth it.
Then, simply zip them up, fasten the Velcro strap, and go ride.
Everyone will have their own threshold when it comes to how easily they feel the cold, and how it affects them. An advantage of a winter boot is that they’re usually more spacious, as they’re intended to be used with thicker socks. Wearing thicker socks in summer shoes can make them overly tight, which will actually limit circulation and make your feet colder.
I usually alter the thickness of my socks to counter the ambient temperature or expected wind chill, and even the thickest merino ones fit into the Artica R5s with ease, while thinner ones don’t leave me rattling around either.
I’ve yet to experience conditions when my feet weren’t comfortably warm in the Fiziks. Even sub-zero days with temperatures of -5 celcius weren’t a problem. I’ve ridden in prolonged heavy rain, hail, sleet and some snow, and nothing has ever penetrated them. As with any winter boots, the weak point is the ankle opening, because when your tights get wet, water will naturally migrate downwards, inside your boots.
The neoprene ankle cuff of the Artica R5 is very snug, so there’s no opening for spray to enter, and crucially, even if water does run inside, your feet remain toasty warm. I have some old Pearl Izumi Amfib tights, which incorporate an extended outer waterproof layer, which acts like a gaiter over the boot’s top, and prevents any water ingress. Sadly, their design seems to have changed, but they solve the ankle issue.
Unsurprisingly, the Fiziks don’t have any ventilation as such, because it would permit the cold and wet to enter. They’re as breathable as can be expected, and I personally don’t find that they create excessive dampness because of it, but other riders will undoubtedly have different experiences.
There’s a reasonable amount of give in the ankle cuff, which maintains a natural pedalling feel, and for most riders, shouldn’t feel tight where it closes around the ankle. Its low bulk doesn’t cause any rubbing on cranks either. The carbon composite sole has ample stiffness for the Artica’s intended use. Extended periods of climbing out of the saddle, or full gas sprints don’t highlight any excessive flex. Sure, the sole doesn’t boast pro-level stiffness, but you don’t feel the pedal pushing into your foot either. It has an ideal balance of endurance-friendly comfort and satisfying performance, consistent with winter riding. You’ll also really feel the benefit when putting your race shoes back on, too.
Walking in road shoes is never elegant, but the heel and toe bumpers of the Artica R5 make it a safer, more composed affair than in some shoes. They aren’t replaceable, but are pretty generous, and very durable, too.
I’ve been a fan of winter boots for years, and regularly ride many competing models, but the Fizik Artica R5 has become an instant favourite. They’re so fast to put on and take off, extremely comfortable to ride in, and impressively resistant to wintry weather that I’m happy to work with their little Speed Lace stowage quirk, as in all other areas, I’ve found them to be excellent.
Tech specs: Fizik Artica R5 Winter Cycling Boot
- Price: £194.99 / $229.99 / €200
- Colours: Black
- Construction: Waterproof and breathable membrane and Microtex reinforced shell upper, carbon Composite outsole
- Retention: Internal Speed Lacing system, external waterproof zip
- Weight: 883g (pair, size 45)
- Sizing: 36–48 with most available in half sizes