Assos Lycra Booties
We'll start by dishing some dirt here: Why do pros wear Lycra booties? It ain't for aerodynamics in summer road races, and only occasionally are they worn for warmth other months of the year. The truth is this: The reason for the proliferation of Lycra booties is due to the increasing number of teams that have an official shoe sponsor. Not everyone can fit the official shoe, and some are just too in love with their favorite cycling kicks to give up on them.
In the domestic peloton, a certain Health Net rider has been wearing some pretty unique-looking Diadoras. They look exactly like LUST shoes, just with some Diadora logos on them. The team and sponsor must have approved. Likewise, in the international peloton, a few riders who were sponsored by Sidi had some Velcro-strap shoes that were sporting Sidi logos. These riders, Nathan O'Neill and David Zabriskie, are the exception, and the Z was recently asked to switch back to CSC's Sidis. When he dropped out of the 2007 Tour de France, he made it clear that the last minute shoe change gave him knee and ankle aches he couldn't overcome. Most riders obscure the truth with a pair of Lycra booties. We have no idea what Andreas Klöden was wearing under his Adidas booties when he was on T-Mobile, but we're pretty sure it wasn't Adidas.
If you don't have to hide shoes to avoid conflicts with a shoe sponsor, you're probably interested in booties for their aero benefits. We spent some time searching the web to find data on this, but have yet to come across any. The consensus we found is they probably make shoes more aero, but not by much. If they offer any aero benefit at all, they will make you faster, and the faster you go, the more the difference will matter. Just remember that the placebo effect is real.
For the rest of us, Lycra booties can also function as spats. They keep the shoes from getting disgustingly dirty on wet, or even damp days. It's easier to wash booties than it is shoes, though some dirt does make it through -- it just doesn't clump or get ground into the upper.
If we're going to try Lycra booties, might as well start at the top. Assos has a minimal bootie that stretches over everything and doesn't have a zipper. They do have the iconic Assos logo on one side of each bootie. If you're going to spend on such flash, make sure to wear the logo on the outside of the foot.
When stretching on the booties for the first time, it's hard to believe they'll actually fit without busting a seam. They do, at least over size 45 shoes. One reason they work is that they are cover less leg than many booties with zippers. As a result, the top cuff doesn't have to be as narrow. Some sock will show over the top of the bootie. These booties appear to be designed for lots of use, as there's reinforcing material, which seems to be some kind of latex tape underneath every stitched area.
We stretched them on in training in anticipation of a few time trials. Other than making sure the shoes were properly adjusted before pulling them over, there was little to them. Because shoe adjustments would be somewhere between hard and impossible once they're on, we took to riding several minutes before donning.
If nothing else, our feet looked fast in the booties. We tested them on days with the double-whammy of high heat and high humidity and didn't notice our feet getting uncomfortably warm, or even warmer than going without. They come off pretty easy, even when tired and a bit uncoordinated from long time trial efforts.
We can't see how these hurt in any situation. Even if you're skeptical, they only add 14g per bootie to rotating weight, which is pretty minimal. The weight holds for all sizes, as there's only one size of bootie.
If you think you have an edge, you have an edge. Feeling fast is a great confidence booster and makes for faster riding.