Winter boot designed for foul UK weather and cold temperatures
Apr 26 2018
Very warm courtesy of that heat reflective footbed
Weatherproof – nearly waterproof
Anti slip micro glass filament sole
Odd diagonal zip leaves boot not 'fully' sealed
Can get too warm
You want a super warm winter boot for gravel, adventure or commuting duties that is almost waterproof
45NRTH Japanther is a good-looking three season boot which is solidly made, comfortable and very warm. They are not fully waterproof but they do keep you dry in all but the worst monsoon conditions and, even then, your feet stay warm.
45NRTH claim the boot is designed for transitional days in North America. I read that as it’s designed for cool rides where you expect to be soaked and then frozen as the wind bites but not subjected to super low minus temps - pretty much what a UK cyclist experiences from Nov through to March or longer. It’s operating temperature range is stated as +7°C to -3°C.
The Japanther's have protective abrasion resistant bumpers around the forefoot which is made of a durable rubberized textile and a stretchy polyurethane mudguard wrapped around the inner boot with an overlapping adjustable ankle cuff to get the perfect fit. The insole is made of a special waffled foam material with a felted wool top coating and an aluminium core to reflect your body heat back. The sole is made of natural rubber with key contact points made from rubber blocks specially injected with micro-glass filaments to help reduce slipping on the winter ice.
45NRTH don’t claim the boot is waterproof and suggest that if you are concerned about being fully waterproof covering the ankle area with a waterproof trouser or tights will give an even better performance. Mostly I have been using winter Roubaix tights or softshell trousers this winter and have found that this combination has provided me with almost all the waterproofing and warmth I need.
Getting into the Japanther takes a bit of time but thanks to the clever internal booties cord-lock lace system you can haul on the cord and then lock it in place to secure the inner boot and tuck the velcro end tab away inside the ankle closure. This cord lock system allows you to adjust your foot comfort before you faff around with the overlapping velcro flaps and zip closures. And faff you will, as the velcro on those straps is hellishly aggressive and likes to stick to your socks and clothing. There is certainly no chance of an ankle strap coming undone but they can be a pain to get undone quickly, especially in gloves.
45NRTH provide a measuring guide and advice on their website which is handy and pretty accurate, although as I like to wear thick merino socks in the winter I went up a Euro size giving me the option of a lot of space in the toe box with normal winter socks and still a decent amount of toe wiggle room with my fat socks in place.
45NRTH demand that you to run a shim underneath the cleat to protect the sole from wear when using Crank Brothers, Time and Look pedals, but I've used both pedals and boots for a long time found it to be largely unnecessary - though not doing so will invalidate your warranty.
Even though the Japanther has the lowest level of insulation in the 45NRTH range, it provides plenty of warmth due to the moisture control membrane and that clever insole. As soon as you get the pedals turning you can feel any last vestiges of cold feet syndrome disappearing, they really are that warm, especially when coupled with decent merino socks. After an hour or so at -3°, my feet were still perfectly comfortable - so that’s perfect for my winter commute. If you really suffer from super cold feet it might be worth investigating in a pair of 45NRTH Jaztronaut insoles which feature 2mm of the same aerogel insulation that Nasa use to insulate spacesuits.
The shoe utilizes a fibreglass injected nylon midsole which feels plenty stiff enough for me jumping on the pedals uphill, comfortable enough to walk around at cake stops and unplanned climbs up the muddy slopes that winter off-road riding offers. There are stud holes at the front of the boot but they are not provided in the box so if you do want to use some, make sure you match the threads up. (Some leftover Shimano ones fitted fine for reference.)
The sole is worth mentioning as not only is it a proper rubber, grippy sole in most soft conditions but it features specific lugs impregnated with micro-glass filaments, a trick borrowed from much colder climates with lots of ice on the ground and frozen lakes to play on. They don’t make it impossible to slip on the ice, that would be magic, but they do definitely help you stand and walk in icy conditions without ridiculous cartoon arm and leg waving. It’s a clever system and resembles lots of tiny fibres sticking out the bottom of the rubber sole just doing enough to help you move forward without slipping.
These are not light boots by any means, but at 640g per side, that's only 100g more than my summer shoes with overshoes which cannot cope with a thick winter sock, are not as warm or as waterproof. Make no mistake just because 45NRTH is relatively unknown in the UK does not mean they cannot produce a well made and well styled bad weather boot.
45NRTH is careful to these aren't waterproof, but they have a fully sealed footbed allowing you to stand smugly in puddles with dry warm feet, though there is a gap in the rubber mudguard where it zips up at the side of your ankle and water can get in through this gap if you ride through a lot of standing water. I have to say that even after riding for an hour in the most torrential rain I’ve ever experienced, my feet, although damp, were still warm. Another plus is that they have never taken more than an overnight or a day by the radiator at work to be warm, dry and toasty for the evening ride home.
The Japanther is a very good winter shoe. It’s not waterproof and doesn’t claim to be but it is perhaps almost all the boot you need for winter commuting and gravel riding. They're good looking (compared to some) and super warm and can be upgraded with even warmer insoles should you feel the need. The downsides are the price and the availability. The £240 price tag puts them at the top end of offroad winter boots so they face tough competition from boots such as Shimano's MW7 Goretex at £180, the Lake CX145 £195 and Northwave Extreme at £200, all of which can be found with discounts at the moment - as can the Japanthers if you hunt around.
3-Season foul weather commuting, gravel, adventure and general riding boot for the regular cyclist looking for warm dry feet in all but deep water crossing and prolonged deluges. I think it hits the nail firmly on the head for Autumn to Spring in the UK
Product construction extra:
After 3 months of regular use the boot looks in really good condition. It may now be stained brown/black but all the contact points are in good condition.
Product durability extra:
Tough, solid build holding up well to everything I have put they through.
Product weight extra:
1280g sounds a lot compared to summer shoes so I was surprised to find that my NW shoes with a neoprene BBB booties on top only weighed 200g less for a much less winterproof setup. The summer shoes are snug with no fat sock space and the overshoes do not keep them as warm as the sole is not shielded from water ingress and cold drafts. So 200g seems a sensible weight penalty for 360 protection from cold and almost waterproof construction.
Product comfort extra:
Some initial comfort issues as the inner boot softened a little to my foot shape. no issues on the footbed or toe box which are comfortable and spacious.
Product value extra:
These are expensive boots but now at the end of the season, there are deals available online in many sizes.
Very good overall performance
Internal speed cord lace system and that insole.
Seriously agressive velcro - which is a good a thing for doing the boots up but it snags on yoru socks and your winter bibs and can damage the roubaix material if you're unlucky. If you're packing them in a big bag of kit - make sure the velcro is done up and unable to destroy your clothes.
Good pair of winter boots which proved perfect for my varied commute and stayed warm regardless of the rain and snow