Specialized have firmly been held in high regard both on the road and on the trails. From the Stumpjumper to Peter Sagan, from full suspension to aero time trial bikes, their reputation precedes them. I’ve always been a fan; my road shoes have always been Specialized, I’ve shot team bikes for Bora and they know how to make good bike stuff! When the chance came to hang up my worn, hole riddled off roads shoes and test some warm, winter proof Defrosters I jumped at the chance… no more wet, cold feet you say?
Specialized Defroster shoes on test
The Specialized Defroster shoes arrived just as the weather began to change for the muddier. It probably important to say that my current shoes had got to the point where they were super comfortable but let in any water I came up against. I’d got to the point where I was using dog poop bags as inners to keep the H2O at bay (don’t knock it till you try it).
My local trails aren’t the lush, long, gravel tracks we all drool over on Insta, they’re muddy with the occasional hard pack sections. You’re pretty much guaranteed sludge at some point, so an ideal testing ground for the Defroster shoes. We’ve also had a dusting of snow and cold snaps this winter which gave me chance to test the boots thoroughly. I’ve now been wearing the boots over a 5 month period in pretty much all conditions.
Construction and features
The Specialized Defroster Trail MTB shoes features a seam-sealed bootie construction, Thinsulate® insulation, and a neoprene collar to help keep your feet warm and dry even in the worst conditions. This 400 gram Thinsulate® insulation is teamed with a reflective heat-loss barrier in the sole. All of these features combined are designed to keep heat in and water out.
A grippy SlipNot™ tread on the nylon composite sole provides stability and traction in slippery conditions. The soles are firm and provide rigidity (Stiffness Index 6/13). Specialized’s in house Body Geometry sole construction and footbeds are ergonomically designed and scientifically tested to boost power and increase efficiency, according to the brand, as well as to reduce chance of injury by optimising alignment through the hip, knee, and foot.
A single BOA dial comes in handy for fit adjustment on each foot (complete with the BOA Lifetime Guarantee), and the neoprene cuff is secured with a wide strip of Velcro. The fit of the shoes is roomy, so you can easily add thicker winter socks if you like, without feeling like you should have sized up.
The main material of the boots is fully reflective, which is doubly effective when you consider that this enhances visibility of a moving part when riding. At the heel and toe, sheet rubber provides extra durability. The two-bolt cleat pattern fits all major mountain pedals.
On the trails
I’ve tested these boots riding my Brother Mehteh, using standard two-bolt Shimano SPD cleats and pedals.
I’ve been thinking about how I’d want to read a review if I was considering getting a pair of new boots and there would be a few practical questions I’d want to know about, so here goes:
How do they feel on your feet?
They don’t feel like a normal shoe, but more like a walking boot. I opted for the same size as my Specialized road shoes, UK9.5 (EU44), and these feel perfect, especially as I’m able to team with a thicker merino sock. They don’t feel clumpy or oversized: in fact, apart from the higher ankle they feel like a solid cycling shoe. They wrap nicely around the foot and ankle, with no movement or hot spots.
How do they tighten/ fix?
I like a BOA dial, they’re simple to use. There’s a technique to securing the boots: fix the tongue flat, make sure the ankle strap is in place, dial up the BOA, Velcro down the over flap on the laces and strap up the Velcro on the ankle. After 5 months, the Velcro is still just as sticky, the dials are working just as well. One thing I will mention is that my left boot BOA dial rotates anticlockwise to tighten and the right boot rotates clockwise, a small thing but it does frustrate me (my road shoes both tighten clockwise) and probably something you could change.
How are they built?
Like the proverbial brick sh*t house! They are super tough. The added rubber on the heel and toe are brilliant (it feels like rock climbing shoe rubber). The sole is stiff enough to transfer power without feeling like a super stiff carbon road shoe, and tough enough to kick through ice and mud if needed. The Velcro attaches with no fuss and holds.
One feature I love is the BOA quick release tag. Once you’ve finished your ride, pull release the BOA dial and then pull the tag and the boots are loosened, great for cold hands and quick boot removal. It’s also awesome to come in from a muddy ride, hose down the bike and hose down the Defrosters whilst they’re on my feet, and walk away with dry feet and dry boots ready to go again!
5 months in, and apart from looking dirtier the boots haven’t degraded at all.
How do they look?
So here’s where I think the Defrosters fall down. They’re not the most visually dynamic looking boots around. The reflective surface works really well in low light conditions, but I haven’t spent that much time in them at night, off the trails. They’re not a boot I would wear without long leggings either, they would look strange, but there again they’re a winter boot, so who’s wearing shorts in winter?!
I think function over style is the aim here, but in all honesty within 30 seconds on a winter ride I really don’t care, as long as my feet are dry and toasty.
Are they really that weatherproof?
Yep! I was determined to find their weakness. I stood in puddles, rode through steams, trudged through snow, crunched through ice and I couldn’t break them. I’ve actually got to the point where I just don’t worry about my feet anymore, knowing that the Specialized Defrosters have (literally) got them covered.
Would I recommend them to a mate?
For sure! If you ride in winter at all, the joys of having warm and dry feet means you can stay out for longer and still hit your muddy local trails.
The Specialized Defroster MTB shoe verdict
Robust, rugged, waterproof and warm; what more could you want from a winter cycling shoe? These Specialized Defroster boots have really impressed on test, and I’ve been unable to find their breaking point in terms of waterproof and cold resistance. I’m a rider who enjoys all conditions, I try to get out as much as possible and more often than not, especially with shoes just suffer through the weather. These Defrosters are a game changer!
Just like most winter boots, this level of protection does come at a bit of a hefty cost, but given how little these have worn over the last 5 months of wear, I’d like to think that the £220/$250/€205 investment should last a few tough winter seasons at least.
If I’ve jinxed the nicer weather I apologise, but if I’m honest I’m not bothered if Springs here to stay or not, I have some Defrosters ready to go, rain or shine!!
Specialized Defroster Trail MTB Shoes£220 $250 €205
Last modified: 10th March 2021
I’ve had these shoes for the last couple of years, and they are the bees knees for temperatures just above and below freezing. I’ve also had them out in a downpour when I didn’t have on long pants, and the only way water got in was via my socks. Proper pants would have solved that issue. Regarding the ACW/CW BOA dials, I think most cycling shoes are going that way. It makes more sense if you think of turning the dial toward the toes to tighten. I still mess it up from time to time, but both my Shimano and… Read more »