45Nrth is best-known for their sub-zero cycling boots, studded fat bike tires, and technical apparel made for riding in the deep mid-winter in their home state of Minnesota and wherever winter hits hardest. They aim to get you outside and as comfortable as possible in the most frigid of temperatures.
Being based in the Pacific Northwest, where more often than not we're able to ride year-round without bundling up the same way that people do on the eastern side of the continent, I mistakenly thought that their line-up didn't include anything that would be appropriate for milder winter rides.
Ragnarök Reflective Details
• Side-mounted BOA IP1 reel and lacing system
• Adjustable ankle diameter
• Wind and water-resistant
• Works with 2-bolt mountain compatible cleats
• Anti-slip microglass rubber sole
• Suggested temp: 25ºF+ / -3ºC
• Size: 36–50 (no size 49), full sizes only
• MSRP: $235 USD
45Nrth's Ragnarök shoes, however, are designed specifically for cool and wet conditions. For parts of the world that get a "real" snowy winter, they're a spring or fall option. For the PNW, they're an all-winter option, as torrential rain and temperatures hovering around freezing are common. Offered in 14 sizes, 45Nrth has designed them to be worn down to 25ºF+ / -3ºC. They have an adjustable velcroed neoprene ankle, a BOA closure and work with 2-bolt mountain compatible cleats.
The sole is made of a rubber compound with microscopic glass fibers in it to help with traction on slippery surfaces such as ice, wet wood, wet linoleum, and wet metal. In addition, instead of offering a completely waterproof shoe, 45Nrth uses an ultra-thin sheet of microporous material behind a textile shell. This is designed to help with moisture regulation so that the waterproof, breathable membrane stops liquid from the outside, but releases vapor from the inside.
The 45Nrth Ragnarök Reflective shoe that I tested is $235 USD, while the non-reflective version comes in at $195 USD. Performance
I've been using the 45Nrth for the last four months, and they've been my go-to in cooler and wet temperatures when the the waterproof apparel comes out. They fit true to size and feel like a mountain bike shoe, despite their commuter-like appearances. I usually wear a size 39 or women's size 8 shoe, and that is what fits me in the Ragnarök. They're on the tighter side so I mostly wore them with thinner merino socks and didn't pull out my extra-thick winter socks, but I think the fact that they were secure on my feet made them feel more like a regular mountain bike shoe and not like a boot. I was able to forget entirely what shoes I was wearing on my feet on a couple of rides, which I take as a positive indication that they were comfortable and doing their job.
I preferred wearing the Ragnarök shoes with pants, since it looks like you're wearing ankle socks when you combine shorts with the velcro neoprene cuff, but the functionality is good no matter what you choose to wear on your legs - that cuff does help keep the water from coming in over the top. And you know what they say, "function over fashion."
When the time came to walk over slippery patches of ice or greasy green wooden trail features (did I mention we live in a rainforest?), the Ragnaröks had good traction. I'm not going to say that it was better than a regular mountain bike shoe on slippery log features. though, because I try to keep a wide berth from those when they're wet. On dirt, I would say they have superior traction to my usual mountain bike shoes. The sole is more pointed than your typical mountain bike shoe, more like an XC sole than an all-mountain shoe or a flat pedal shoe, which means it digs into the ground better, while not being as stiff and difficult to walk in as a cross-country shoe.
I did think that the 25ºF+ / -3ºC rating on these was overly optimistic - my feet started getting cold once temperatures dropped below 40ºF / 4.4ºC. That being said, I have notoriously bad circulation in my feet, and it's possible going up a size and wearing thicker socks could have helped. Remember, these aren't insulated shoes designed for Arctic excursions. The difference was that my feet were dry when I came inside and stayed a lot more comfortable since they weren't wet and clammy during the ride. The shoe does breathe really well. Usually, my feet get sweaty in shoes, but not in the Ragnaröks. Durability
I had my initial concerns about the Boa closure on the Ragnaröks, but I haven't had any issues with them, despite some muddy rides. The slippery outside material helps keep them in good working order since it makes it easy to get the bulk of the mud and grime off the shoes with a rag before you head inside. After a couple dozen rides, the 45Nrth shoes are holding up very well with barely any scratches and no seam failures. The velcro ankle strap is still grippy without any frayed stitching, and the loop for pulling them on to your feet is still secure despite wrenching on it to get my feet in with thicker socks. The sole of the shoe has also remained intact, although I will admit that I did not do an extensive amount of hike-a-biking in them. How Do They Compare?
Secure, comfortable fit+
Waterproof and breathable membrane keeps feet dry+
Not as warm as 25ºF+ / -3ºC rating implied-
Looks like a commuter shoe-
Reflective version is $40 USD more than the black version