Lake's MXZ304 Winter Boots might just be the ultimate winter cycling footwear for UK conditions. When the weather gets properly cold, wet and miserable, there are very few winter shoes that will really look after your feet. Lake's MXZ304s are among that number.
Thanks to some uncharacteristically early snow in Cambridge I can confirm that the Lake MXZ304s keep your feet warm and comfortable even when you have to tramp through snow to get back on board after an unplanned dismount. (Falling off is part of the fun of snow riding, right? That's what I tell myself anyway.)
The MXZ304s are so effective because they have plenty of insulation, including a metallised insole to reflect heat back into your foot. They're also inherently really roomy, thanks to a thick, stiff tongue and an overall design that's much more like a walking or snowboard boot than a regular cycling shoe.
For winter shoes, roomy is what you want, for two reasons. The obvious one is that you're going to be wearing thicker socks than in summer, so you need space for their extra bulk. You also want it to be as hard as possible to compress your feet and cut off the circulation, and that's where the sheer robustness of the MXZ304s comes in. Yes, you can try to reef down the Boa dial in a misguided effort to make them feel like conventional cycling shoes, but it's obvious Lake doesn't want you to, because it quickly gets really hard to add much tension over the front of the foot. So don't do that; instead, understand that these are not beefed-up racing slippers, they're boots that you can ride in and that will keep your feet cosy if you use them right.
On the bike, there's surprisingly little interference with pedalling, especially once they're broken in; they Just Work, laughing at the cold and wet while your feet, which were probably expecting the usual case of winter chill, are going 'blimey, it's cosy in here!'.
I love having warm feet, but I can imagine that around 5°C some people will find the MXZ304s too warm.
> Suffering cold feet? Find out how to keep your feet warm cycling through the winter
I don't think your feet can ever be too dry, though. Many winter shoes use some sort of waterproof membrane to keep out the wet. The MXZ304s rely instead on waterproof Pittards leather and because they don't have a membrane liner there's effectively a Plimsoll Line just above the toes where water can, in theory, seep in.
In practice, though, it just doesn't. The flap over the Boa wires keeps out splashes and even heavy rain. Water can get in if you stand in it for long enough, so don't do that (and that's true of even some membrane-lined boots I've tried).
I'm not sure quite why it is, but of the several pairs of winter cycling shoes I own, the ones with SPD soles are more effective at keeping my feet comfortable. Possible reasons include the roomier toe boxes you often find in mountain bike shoes, and the thicker sole necessary to incorporate a pocket for a two-bolt cleat.
It's telling that all Lake's wintriest shoes have SPD soles, and the other specialist in this sector, 45NRTH, doesn't bother with three-bolt shoes at all.
To test their walkability I wore the MXZ304s to ride from my house to the park four miles away where my partner Caroline and I walk our dogs. I locked up my bike and tramped through the mud while the dogs zoomed around like idiots, oblivious of the fact that their four-paw drive gave them a massive traction advantage over us bipeds. (Caroline and I have both sustained broken bones in dog-walking accidents; it's all a bit Spinal Tap meets Best In Show.) The MXZ304s' Vibram soles provided excellent grip on Magog Down's trails, which are often slippery because of a combination of fallen leaves and the chalky soils of the downlands.
Construction and details
The MXZ304s are built on a beefy sole, Vibram's Mountain V with knobs aplenty, provision for SPD cleats and the ability to take toe studs for grip in serious mud. There's a tiny bit of give for walking but it's plenty stiff for pedalling. Not quite race-shoe resistance, but actually not far off.
As I said, the upper is made from water-resistant Pittards leather which does a sterling job of keeping out the wet.
To keep out the chill there are various layers of insulation: what Lake calls an Outlast temperature regulating liner, Thinsulate lining in the toe box, and a Thermosol composite insole.
The MXZ304s are closed by a Boa dial on the tongue in a configuration that's very similar to some snowboard boots. I found I had to pull the Boa wires out all the way to get the MX304s on easily; you want to give yourself as much slack as possible to pull them on and they could do with a pull-tab on the tongue as well as the one on the back. You'll then want to pull the wires through so all the slack is at the top so the Boa dial can reel it in. Grippy rubber on the dial makes it easy to turn with gloves on.
Over the top of your foot there's a big flap with Velcro round the edge, and to keep everything snug there's a Velcro strap that clips in on the outer side of the boot.
If you want to boost the MXZ304's water resistance there's a loop for a gaiter at the front of the boot.
I'm usually a 44 in Lake shoes, but importer Moore Large had me draw round my feet, and from that recommended a size 45 Wide, which turned out to be spot on, with enough room for winter socks. I found I could use my thickest Bridgedale Merino boot socks and still have plenty of room to wiggle my toes.
For seriously damp conditions I switched to SealSkinz socks to keep out the wet. I also tried layering up medium-weight wool socks with Gore-Tex socks, but that left my feet feeling just a bit constricted: too many layers.
If you're determined to go out in properly crummy conditions, you've a fairly narrow range of options, and though the Lakes certainly aren't cheap, they're on a par with their few rivals.
The double-layer 45NRTH Wölvhammers are more waterproof than these Lakes and dry quicker thanks to the removable inner, but don't have as grippy a sole or the ability to add studs. They were £275 when we reviewed them early last year, and Mike noted they were a tenner more than the Lakes, but you can't currently buy them in the UK, however much their $325 would convert to.
If you want to ride in even worse conditions, then Lake has the £382.99 MXZ 400, rated down to -20°C with more insulation and a waterproof membrane, and 45NRTH goes for broke with the Wølfgar boots rated for temperatures as low as -30°C (the lowest temperature ever recorded in the UK is -27.2°C), for $495.00.
If you want something sportier, check out the Northwave Extreme XC GTX Winter Boots, available with road and off-road soles and rated down to -15°C, for £274.99.
And if you're not planning to venture out in deep sub-zero conditions, then Lake has the MX146 and CX146 for you, both rated for -4°C and costing £219.99.
Who should buy the Lake MXZ304 boots?
If you want to carry on riding on and off road through the very worst the winter throws at you, these are the boots for you. They're warm, dry and comfortable on and off the bike.
Very warm, very comfortable winter footwear that'll keep you riding however bad the weather gets
If you're thinking of buying this product using a cashback deal why not use the road.cc Top Cashback page and get some top cashback while helping to support your favourite independent cycling website
Make and model: Lake MXZ304 Winter Boot Black
Tell us what the product is for
Lake says, well, surprisingly little actually.
So, these are boots for riding in cold and wet weather, boasting an SPD-compatible Vibram sole, water-repellent leather upper and lots of insulation between your foot and the elements. Here's what importer Moore Large has to say:
"In 1997 Lake invented the first true winter specific cycling shoe with the MXZ300. The unique boot shape allows for us to trap warm air, which is the best insulator for any type of footwear. The MXZ304 continues to be the best of the best as the top winter specific cycling shoe of choice.
"Heavy duty Mountain V outsole by Vibram. This is all built on Lake's legendary Nylon midsole that is extremely comfortable and stiff. For traction control, we use durable and grippy Vibram rubber tread for sure footing and stability.
"Pittard's WR100 Water Resistant Leather upper with Helcor Abrasion & Water Resistant Leather Protection panels makes for a durable, extremely comfortable & long lasting boot. 100% lined with Outlast temperature regulating material helps to maintain a constant foot temperature. 200gram Thinsulate Insulation from toe to heel. Thermosal Winter Insole is a 5-layer insulating package of wicking felt, aluminium & non-crushable trapped air bubbles.
"New Mid Power M4 Cartridge Tongue mounted BOA dial excels in ice, dirt & other challenging environments & is designed to be easily adjusted with gloves on. Click-Fit quick release, the system makes for an easier entry & exit. Leather Over Flap with adjustable strap."
That "Top winter specific cycling shoe" bit isn't quite true any more as there's now an even burlier model in the Lake range, the MXZ 400, for those who have £416 to spend on winter boots.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Winter Last – With a much wider & taller toebox than our traditional lasts, the Winter last allows the foot to maintain proper circulation even when thicker socks are worn. Our winter last is the standard for winter cycling footwear.
Fitting Tip: For use with winter weight socks we recommend ordering 1-1.5 size up from your normal cycling shoes.
Outsole – Heavy duty Mountain V outsole by Vibram
Upper – Pittards WR100 leather | Outlast temperature regulating liner | 3M Thinsulate lining in toe box | Thermosol composite insulation insole
Closure – Tongue Mounted Push/Pull Mid-Power BOA closure system with larger dial for easy adjustment while wearing winter gloves.
Temperature – Comfortable down to 7°F and up to 45°F ( -14°C to 7°C )
Rate the product for quality of construction:
Tank-like construction reminiscent of serious hiking or snowsports boots.
Rate the product for performance:
Rate the product for durability:
Built to last (sorry, not sorry).
Rate the product for fit:
Roomy, but very comfortable.
No score here because this doesn't need scoring, just mentioning: Lake shoes in general come up small. I'm a 43 in most shoes, but a 44 in regular Lakes. In these I'm a 45 Wide. Try before you buy if at all possible and if mail-ordering be prepared to do some swapping, or buy a couple of pairs and send one back.
Rate the product for weight:
Over 750g each isn't exactly light, but it's not unreasonable for the insulation here, the build quality and sheer robustness on offer.
Rate the product for comfort:
Warm feet for the freaking win!
Rate the product for value:
Not cheap, but comparable with rivals. The price is justified by the function and durability.
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
Pittards says the water-resistance of its WR100 leather is permanent, so the only care it needs is to wash off the mud.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Extremely well. They're warm, grippy and comfortable.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Having warm feet while riding and walking in snow!
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
If I had to gripe it'd be about the sheer bulk, but you don't get this level of insulation without it.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
The £280 tag on the MXZ304s is high, but it's comparable with others in class. Okay, the latest version of Shimano's MW7s will set you back £220, but a pair of Northwave Extreme XC GTXs is £274.99. 45NRTH Wolvhammers were £275 when we reviewed them, but given the price increases of everything since then would probably be about £320 now if you could buy them in the UK, which you currently can't. A top-rated pair of winter hiking boots like Scarpa's Manta Tech GTX is also £300, for an outside category comparison.
Did you enjoy using the product? Very much.
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your overall score
Only two things stop the MXZ 304s from scoring a full 5/5: the lack of a waterproof membrane to raise the Plimsoll Line above the ankle, and the price. Otherwise, they're brilliant.
Age: 56 Height: 5ft 11in Weight: 100kg
I usually ride: Scapin Style My best bike is:
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, touring, club rides, general fitness riding, mtb,
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