45NRTH introduced its newly redesigned Wölvhammer Winter cycling boot for 2016 late last Fall and the changes they made were a huge improvement on previous models. Anyone who had a pair of these older models knew the problems with them such as sticky zippers and difficulty getting them on and off due to their double layer boot design. Gone are all of those problems with this new single layer boot construction. The outside of the boot now has a full grain leather and Ballistic Nylon Cordura shell for warmth and durability giving it the look and styling of a traditional mountaineering boot.
With this new gusseted tongue, getting into them is easy. It's just like putting on a traditional Winter boot. This is especially handy when wearing thicker wool socks for colder temperatures.
The deep lug pattern Vibram sole provides plenty of traction for those times when you have to hike-a-bike or put a foot down to keep yourself upright. This new model is two-bolt SPD compatible only but comes with a cleat plug giving it the versatility to be used with flat pedals too.
Where I found these boots really excelled for warmth was in the late Fall and early Winter when temperatures were in the twenties and thirties. I was able to wear a thin wool sock and be warm and comfortable for hours out on my fatbike. The wicking properties of the wool socks and the lining of the Wölvhammers kept my feet dry even when I became a little overheated.
My toes tend to get cold easily so when temperatures dipped into the teens and below I would use chemical toe warmers and thicker wool socks to extend the length of my rides. The larger toe box on the new Wölvhammers still left me with plenty of wiggle room to keep blood circulating properly, even when wearing the thicker socks and toe warmers.
For really cold temperatures I would pair them with the 45NRTH Bergraven Gaiters to add an extra layer of insulation over the boot and keep the snow out for those first tracks and bushwhacking rides in deeper snow.
During the Winter I will clip in (using Crank Brothers Eggbeater 3's) about 75% of the time. The times I don't and use flat pinned pedals are during icy conditions, doing a little bushwhacking or on rare occasions like downhill (Fat Bike Gravity Fest). The Vibram sole of the Wölvhammers really works well with flats providing plenty of grip on the pins of the pedals.
Wölvhammers keep my feet dry during wet conditions or creek crossings where shoe covers with MTB shoes don't. Because they are breathable and keep moisture out, I plan on using them through the Spring thaw on some of my cold weather gravel rides on the fatbike.
The real test for the Wölvhammers came back in mid January when temperatures got really cold here in the Twin Cities. Some friends and I decided to go out early one Sunday morning for a creek/bushwhacking ride through the Minnesota River Bottoms. At ride start the temperature was -14° F and after 2-3/4 hours it had warmed up to -6° F. I had used chemical toe warmers and thick wool socks for this ride and by keeping my core temperature up with constant movement the Wölvhammers kept my feet warm but my toes were beginning to get a little cold near the end.
In conclusion, 45NRTH Wölvhammer boots are an excellent choice for both clipless and flat pedals in the Winter. Their comfort rating is 0° F to 25° F and in these conditions they work quite well at keeping feet warm and dry. Everyone is different so sock choice and chemical warmers will definitely help those who's feet get cold easily. These boots are very comfortable and don't seem bulky like other non-cycling specific boots. The new design is a huge improvement over the older models and has become much more user friendly. For those that race ultras or ride many miles in extreme temperatures the Wölvhammer may not keep your feet warm during these extended periods of a sub-zero climate. For this reason 45NRTH spent several years developing the ultimate extreme cold weather boot, the Wølfgar with its comfort rating of -25° F to 10° F. But for most of us recreational and enthusiast riders, the Wölvhammer does a fine job.
45NRTH Wölvhammer boots are now available in Mens extra wide 38–50 (no size 49), full sizes only at Penn Cycle and other fine bike shops for $325.
Disclosure: 45NRTH provided the review samples for this article, but offered no other form of compensation for this review.