CapoForma Wind Bootie
When it comes to cold weather, your greatest weapon is the right wardrobe. There's no bad weather, only insufficient clothing, the old saw goes. And feet can be tricky. If they never get warm, circulation closes down and frostbite can eventually ensue. If they get too warm, they will get soaked with sweat, and then start to freeze.
With winter booties, there are basically three options; windproof/not breathable, windproof/breathable, and neoprene. The first are those rubberized covers that are often pulled out for time trials. The second are a wide range of covers with various windproof/breathable membranes. The third come in various designs and thicknesses.
For most of our winter riding, we prefer the windproof/breathable option. With just about all of these, the membrane is also waterproof, but the seams aren't sealed and water can just about always leak in from the top cuff, so they don't do great in cold rains. Windproof/not breathable generally has the effect of soaking your foot in sweat early and then it's just a matter of time before your feet get cold. A short ride of an hour or so with moderately hard or hard riding, your feet can usually deal. A long ride, they usually get cold. Neoprene also seems to soak our feet in sweat; the only time this is preferable is when it's raining out.
The material in our preferred option almost never wears out and rarely rips. The weaknesses are the seams, the sole, and the zippers. We've had a number of booties over the years that ran a center seam from the toe up the front to the top of the cuff. We've had this seam blow both at the toe, presumably from stretching the cover over our shoes, and at the ankle, where flexing during the pedal stroke ultimately wore it out. We've also destroyed soles by walking on the booties, but several years ago, bootie manufacturers figured out that having a cutout for the heel increases the life of the bootie. And we've had zippers blow out, too.
Capoforma's Windtex booties do the basic form a bit different than others. They use a stretchy Windtex material, called Topazio. They've also eliminated the traditional center seam, which necessitates the use of two side panels. The panels serve a second purpose for Capo; they can sublimate the panels for customers (cycling teams mostly) wanting custom-look booties. The sections are joined via flat-lock stitching. When you turn the booties inside out, you can see the side panels continue past the stitching on the inside, which allows for another unique feature of the booties, a short zipper and generous Velcro to seal the bootie top around your lower leg. There's decent reflective piping on either side of each zipper.
We really like the zipper and Velcro sealing. We have scars from bootie zippers rubbing off skin; this design will eliminate this possibility from happening again. It also limits the amount of cold that can seep in from the top. At the bottom, the rubberized neoprene material stretches just enough to help keep the bootie snug around your shoe.
We wear 44.5 shoes. This puts us in between the Large (43/4) and the Extra Large (45/6) sizes. Capo recommended the Large. They were pretty tight when we started pulling them on. Getting the bottoms over the Speedplay cleats was a bit of a delicate task. But they seemed to just barely fit. The material is very stretchy, so we figure there is still a bit of stretch left. Pulling up the zipper was easy. Sealing with the Velcro a cinch.
Now that we've ridden these for a few months on rides as cold as 15º Fahrenheit (over three hours, but it did warm to about 20), we have plenty of experience to back up our initial impression. The lack of a center seam is much more comfortable. We don't feel the seam against our sock and limiting the stretch over the shoe. There's no wind leaking through the stitches. The stretch also does a great job of keeping the booties snug against the sides of the shoes, which also keeps wind from leaking in or body heat from leaking out. Initially, we though that the neoprene sole material was good for its insulating properties. But when we checked out the fit, we can see that the sole isn't sealed well around the shoe, but the lack of stretch keeps everything tight.
The booties proved to be warm and comfortable in all conditions. Occasionally the zipper on the left bootie would slip over the course of a ride. This seems to be a result of us not pulling the zipper all the way to the end of its travel; by not going all the way up, the Velcro cuff could push it down. But even with the zipper partially open, we didn't notice our left foot getting noticeably colder. People have told us the reflective piping can be seen from pretty far away.
Our only concern about the booties is durability. Not that we've experienced any problem thusfar. It's just that looking at the bottom of the zippers, there seems to be precious little stopping the zipper from coming totally undone. We have no idea whether or not this is a problem that will present itself down the road; we're only a little concerned. The cleat could possibly rip the bottoms somewheres down the line as well. Don't forsee the seams blowing out.
We think this sort of bootie should last three to five seasons of our regular winter riding. No particular reason other than that's the kind of use we got out of our first few pair. People in warmer locales probably can go much longer. We wear them occasionally in October and November, probably 5 rides a week December, January, and February, and then start using them less in March, but they're still used well into April.
The prospects of these booties being sufficiently durable seem pretty good. And since they've proven themselves warm and comfy, easy to get on, are thin and light, and look good from above, we're excited to have these Capoforma Windtex booties in our wardrobe.