Over the past month, I’ve worn, tested, and practically lived in nearly every DeFeet product on the market. Whether I was riding, running, or writing at my desk in a pair of work boots, I’ve been wearing DeFeet. And as a longtime “DeFeet enthusiast,” it doesn’t surprise me to say that it’s been a comfortable month.
For the sake of not filling your day with 15 product reviews, I’ll focus on my favorite pieces within the line—the Cyclismo Five-inch socks, DuraGlove ET gloves, DuraGlove Wool gloves, WoolEator High Top socks, and the Slipstream Four-inch shoe covers.
Aesthetically, DeFeet can almost do no wrong. If you find that your taste level is more on par with say, Sock Guys’ busy designs and the market’s tendency towards Rasta-chili-pepper-bike-advocacy themes, then you might not appreciate what’s at play here. However, if you tend to gravitate towards clean lines and bold simplicity (pretty sure I made that up), you’ll love the lineup. Personally, I found myself gravitating towards all things fluoro, and given how strikingly brilliant the color palette is, I had more than a few options.
The packaging is no nonsense, and requires a quick snip and a tug to liberate the gear from the cardboard and get riding. None of the socks follow the contemporary trend in dedicated right-left design, and washing instructions are standard fare. Out of the package, the socks are conforming and quite malleable to all parts of the foot and ankle. The gloves, however, are a bit rigid and flat, and the seams take some time to loosen up and adapt to your fingers.
Given that winter is in full swing here in the mountains, it’s become painfully obvious that, without layering, the DeFeet line is best kept for spring and high-intensity racing. Starting with the DuraGloves, though, it’s worth noting that these have been my go-to-layer for two consecutive winters. In the past, I’d wear a powerful liner underneath them for temperatures ranging from 25-45 degrees Fahrenheit. With the accompaniment of the DuraGlove Wool gloves, however, I remained suitably warm down to a little below 30.
In terms of wind-protection, the slight Cordura additive to the gloves’ fabric composition assists in blocking some wind on descents, but it’s worth noting that describing these gloves as either “windproof” or “waterproof” would be a liberal assertion at best. In other words, I advise you to pick your liner wisely if your winter consists of five months below 40. But, as a final layer, you’ll find that the wicking properties of these gloves eliminate the cold clamminess that many of us associate with winter riding. Typically, we have a tendency to over do it when layering. For example, the last ride that I had with the DuraGloves was on a four mile, categorized climb at 23 degrees. My hands started off pretty cold, numb almost, but after three switchbacks at a solid exertion level, I was rather toasty. With another glove system, my hands would most likely have remained wet which, in turn, would make the descent rather cold, and frankly, pretty dangerous—don’t ever compromise your lever feel. And on that note, these gloves provide what I consider to be my favorite level of grip and feel at the bars and levers.
As for the sock line, I found myself gravitating towards the Cyclismo. And while the WoolEator High Tops proved themselves quite effective for snow-covered trail running, I found them to be almost too warm when paired with a shoe cover. Counter to this, the Cyclismos performed almost like a base layer for the foot, consistently wicking away the moisture that’s derivative of shoe covers. As a result, I remained dry, which, in the dead of winter, is just as important as remaining warm. The feel across the mid- and forefoot was exceptional, and thankfully, DeFeet had the common sense to build its seam structure inside out. By this, I mean that the seams aren’t placed on the skin, which thoroughly reduces abrasion and discomfort in the volume department.
Now, given the low temperatures that I was using the Slipstreams in, I wasn’t exactly sold. Was I freezing and shivering? No, but I wasn’t exactly warm, either. Yes, the Slipstreams are relatively water-resistant, but if you live in a place where winter equates to roads that never seem to get dry, this poses itself to be problematic. If nothing else, the fluoro color will get out of shape pretty quickly. Luckily, though, these are machine washable. Outside of this, I was left a little puzzled on the cut-your-own cleat and heel opening. True, there are guides, and yes, this design accommodates every cleat system, but it still felt a little risky. My recommendation is to use a knife for the cutting, not scissors.
After seeing these covers routinely used, year after year, by Boonen and the Omega Pharma squad in the Spring Classics, I was eager to try them. However, they’re just not suited for my climate. I would recommend them for anyone riding in temperatures over 45 degrees. If your winter conditions are freezing and wet, these probably aren’t for you.
For some measurements, I wear a 43.5 shoe and have pretty small hands—around seven-inches. I wore a size Small in the gloves and a Medium in the covers and socks. In terms of the gloves’ fit, there’s a break-in-period of around a week of daily usage.
At first, they seem a bulky at the finger webbing, but this goes away with time. The socks fit perfectly, and there’s not much else to say about that. In terms of the covers, they’re a bit clumsy at the toe box, and the heel cut guide didn’t align with the heel padding on my Northwave Extreme Techs. As a result, I never bothered cutting an opening, which equates to filthy bottoms if you need to walk at any point of your ride.
The shoe covers aren’t very well suited for extreme weather conditions, and the entry-and-exit could stand to be a bit easier. However, these would be perfect for California winters and late spring rides here in the mountains. As for the gloves, it would be nice if they were a little more wind-resistant, but with the aforementioned layering system, they’re more than suitable.
If you’re accustomed to a bit of layering to get the job done, the DeFeet line is ideal. It won’t perform any miracles, but these pieces are low-cost, no-nonsense, and duty-driven. Perhaps this is why DeFeet has stood on Classics’ podiums more than any other apparel brand, especially more than any other American-made manufacturer. And aesthetically speaking, it never hurts to channel the late Vini Fantini, now appropriately known as Team Yellow Fluo. Fluoro por vida.
Photo Credit: Ian Matteson