Ah, winter.... The mist in the trees, the snow on the ground, the red and angry (or, alternately, blue and numb) toes. The last bit, of course, sucks. It's hard to dress up the romance of frostbite. By the time January rolls around, I dread those moments when I peel off my soggy shoes and see what horrors the sharp end of mother nature has dealt my digits.
Sure, you can wear wool socks. They're great. But they're not enough. You need a proper winter shoe if you're going to be slogging through ice and slush for hours. While there are quite a few options for people who ride clip less pedals, proper winterized flat shoes are still relatively thin on the ground. That's why we picked up these new-ish (they debuted at Frostbike 2016) Five Ten Freerider EPS shoes.
Five Ten Freerider EPS Details
• PrimaLoft insulation from the instep forward, including the tongue
• Single piece leather on forefoot reduces potential for leaky seams
• Fully-gusseted tongue prevents water and mud intake
• Additional foam insulation in the sock liner
• Insulated, heat-reflective footboard
• Stealth S1 rubber outsole
• MSRP: $140 USD (low-top)/$150 USD (high-top)
The "EPS" end of the handle stands for Elements Primaloft System
. What you're looking at here is essentially a more insulated version of the Freerider Elements model that's already been kicking around a couple seasons now. The original Elements model featured a waterproofing treatment and less mesh than its summertime sibling. This new shoe increases the warmth potential considerably with an injection of PrimaLoft insulation and some smart details on the shoe construction. PrimaLoft is said to mimic the insulating benefits of goose down, but with a superior warmth-to-weight ratio. What's more, the Five Ten uses PrimaLoft Gold, which is treated with a waterproofing agent. Finally, PrimaLoft Gold is supposed to dry more quickly than other synthetic insulators, which should reduce post-ride funk. The Freerider EPS is available in both high-top ($150 USD) and low-top ($140 USD) versions, as well in three different colors--Utility Ivy (shown here), Core (black) and Midnight (close your eyes and envision the electric-blue, leather suit that Eddy Murphy wore in Raw
The past few months have been full of rain, slush and snow--not so awesome for riding, but perfect for testing these shoes. So, yay....I guess. After more than my fair share of post-holing through the snow and splashing through puddles, it's clear that Five Ten has made strides in improving their Elements model. To wit, my feet stayed considerably drier on average. Was I just imagining that? Nope. There were days when I rode with a Freerider EPS on one foot and a different model on the other. In addition to feeling foolish, I found the Freerider EPS' gusseted tongue and its relative scarcity of seams absolutely helped keep water out of the shoe. Whether the additional warmth comes courtesy of the heat-reflective footboard or the dose of PrimaLoft in the tongue and front of the shoe, I can't say, but the end result was better cold-weather performance.
Note that I said "better" and not "awesome". The shoes aren't achieving that superlative for truly icy conditions. Not yet.
For starters, if you're all about staying warm and dry (presumably that's why you're still reading this), you should opt for the mid-top shoe. You'll lose a degree of mobility, but you'll also have less water seeping in around your ankles. If you plow through deep enough puddles in these low-top versions, you will
get water funneling down around the sock liner and when that happens, the temperature around your toes starts to go south.
Similarly, while the PrimaLoft is undoubtedly keeping some warmth in, you're probably still going to come home with a few numb toes when the mercury is hovering just below the freezing mark. The shoe is winterized, yes, but it's not winter-proof
. Perhaps no shoe ever attains that lofty appellation, but it's a distinction worth noting if you are considering wearing these shoes during that long-dreamed of hut-to-hut journey in the snow. Or maybe you never had that deam. Maybe I'm the only one. Moving on then....
Speaking of snow, the S1 Stealth soles offer absolutely fantastic grip and wear resistance on flat pedals, but when it comes to hike-a-biking over hills covered in the fluffy white stuff? Not so much...at least not when the shoe's tread is composed of a few little dots. Five Ten's S1 rubber compounds is awesome when walking over roots and rocks or mating with traction pins, but the shoe needs considerably more tread if it's to maintain a grip in snow and ice. Pinkbike's Take:
|So is the Freerider EPS worth buying? Absolutely. At this point, it's the best wintertime, flat-pedal shoe that I own. If your idea of winter is "rain" and the occasional snow day, it ticks off all the necessary boxes. If you are looking for a shoe that will keep your feet warm in consistently-freezing conditions, however, the Freerider EPS does show some limitations. It comes down to this: with the Freerider EPS, Five Ten has made an excellent flat-pedal shoe that stays warm in cold weather rather than a snow boot that you can ride in. There's a difference. Which type of footwear would prove the better choice for you simply boils down to how much time you spend riding in sub-freezing temperatures. - Vernon Felton|