Inclement Weather Shoe Covers


Otherwise known as booties in the cycling world. These are insulated shoe covers based on booties by many companies, but mainly based off/from/by the most recently hyped Vulpine Adaptive. Their design (both Vulpine’s and those built here on the Brother DB2-B791-015) is simple, with a few details here and there to keep you spinning smooth round circles in the cold.

The system can essentially be broken down into three main parts: Think of this in terms of building something from the ground up, starting with the sole, the upper, and then the hardware. What they need to accomplish is two things, they need to keep your feet warm, and they need not get caught in your gears, cranks, pedals, chain, chainstay, etc. or rub on these too much either.

The sole was designed with flexibility and stiffness in mind (also durability, although for sake of cyclical argument, it goes without saying that any part of these booties are made with durability in mind [for that matter, really anything built on the Brother DB2-B791-015, or any of it’s kin, is always built to be durable – even the lightweight and simple stuff]). The flexibility is important because they need to be easily pulled over a pair of boots, if it were too stiff and unforgiving in it’s construction or choice of materials these would be very difficult things to get your boot into. Also, this flexibility allows room for error in construction, and/or an ensured closer fit, because the bootie – or sole – can almost be stretched over your boot, and then when it relaxes it will naturally want to follow the path of least resistance when it contracts – keeping the booties well adjusted to your boot and decreasing the possibility of loose fabric that could catch somewhere while pedaling. However, the sole needs to have some stiffness too, as it will help create consistent negotiation between the boot and the pedal. Bear in mind that these booties are made to go over a cycling boot/shoe which has a small cleat to pedal interface. This interface works much like a X-Country ski and boot binding, where the toe is pointed down and then in, under a small lip, from which point you push your heal down and the back of the cleat engages with another spring loaded lip on the back. Once it is securely clipped in you have to twist your heel in or out to release the cleat. This twisting, and toeing in, is what calls for a stiff aspect to the sole. By having a stiff atmosphere around/beneath/between the boot-bootie-pedal you can twist your boot without the bootie flopping around between causing an awkward dis-engagement, or other snagging. The other reason for some stiffness is that the booties sole is less likely to be caught on something because it can hold it’s shape better. When clipping in and out you tend to drag the boot around the pedal area, if the materials are too pliable this will probably cause some hang-ups, which could also lead to tearing of the materials, due to unnecessary tugging and pulling.

With all that said, the sole is built like this: it has a bottom component made of 5/64″ leather that is roughly under the ball of your foot (or around the area which will be cut out for the cleat), and then again under the heel, to protect the Neoprene while walking around between mounting on and off the bicycle. The leather adds stiffness where it is needed but allows the Neoprene to be flexible in the other areas. On top of those two layers (the Neoprene with leather additive), a sheet of vinyl coated nylon (about 500 – 1000 denier) was also placed, it is undetermined yet as to how much the nylon constricts the flexibility, but it surely adds stiffness. In the past Cordura has shown to stretch a little after use, so this may be to our benefit as it will give where it needs to and not where it is less susceptible to elongations of the fiber. This top layer of vinyl coated nylon is mainly used to protect the Neoprene from wearing out as the lugs of the sole of the actual boots bear their weight into them while walking around (thankfully, these boots are made for cycling, so this should not be a huge issue, although typically booties wear out on their bottoms very quickly regardless of their cycling duties). The extra layer of nylon probably adds some weather resistance and creates a little extra help in the booties insulating ability, but that is only a side effect – it is mainly being used here to protect the Neoprene.

Next are the uppers. The uppers are a little more straightforward – if sans the hardware. The main issues here are to build a layer that has maximum thermal capacity and ability to block outside temperature and weather. With wetness being an undeniable issue when related to the cold – Neoprene is a sure answer due to it’s water repellent nature. However there are many other reasons that Neoprene has won this spot on the bootie totem pole: it’s thermal capacity (especially when considering it as a ratio, it has a relatively low density or mass, for how well it can retain temperature and block temperature), it’s flexibility, and it’s sewability. Unfortunately the one area that Neoprene falls short is it’s resistance to abrasion. While it is simple to add a protective layer (there may actually be Cordura backed Neoprene produced, but it has not been found yet) the only reason this step was avoided is because it’s a moral issue of what is more important, saving your crankset – or saving your booties. Believe it or not, you can wear a crankset down beyond the finish, while this may not be your everyday situation, cranks that have undergone considerable material loss do end up in bike shop scrap bins more often than not. So, Neoprene’s low ability to withstand abrasion will be addressed later on, but for now it is a wonder of a material: highly insulative, highly water resistant, flexible enough to stretch over shoes and boots, and easy enough to work with. So far we have our Neoprene outer, then for the middle layer which will provide more heat storing capacity there is fleece. The fleece used this time around is a non major-label name brand from SeattleFabrics, it went under the moniker Tech Fleece 200, which is basically the same as Polartec 200 but slightly less expensive. The 200 weight is nearer to a lightweight or the bottom end of a middle weight Fleece, this is good because the pile does not add too much thickness, but at the same time provides plenty of insulation. Lastly, the inner most layer of the bootie upper is a lightweight nylon with minimal water repellent coating. Figuring the kind of tugging on and off that the booties would be subjected to when being pulled over their corresponding boots, the nylon will mainly help protect the Fleece from snagging, tearing, and general abrading (while adding some – at this point almost unnecessary – wind resistance). When you lay the materials on their side, it would end up as a lightweight nylon base, with a Fleece middle layer, and then Neoprene outer (or upper).

With the upper system in place there were some side notes made and ideas taken into account in the final laps of construction. The uppers needed to be flexible also, so that they could easily accept the boots, the Neoprene of course was not an issue, but the Fleece and Nylon posed another problem that may interrupt the Neoprenes flexibility (both physically and theoretically). There is “stretch” fleece made with some percentage of spandex or lycra built into it, but this was avoided for the sake of it being too stretchy which can make a small task a huge one when sewing – there is something about materials that continuously stretch that sewing machines generally do not agree with. Luckily the Fleece used here and most other basic Fleece’s do have some give to them, so it is not like building with denim by any means. With the Nylon, adding stretch was not an option, so instead – when cutting the pattern some adjustments were made so that the individual panels would fit with room to expand and contract. The whole of the inner nylon panels are essentially cut with a larger circumference, but then sewn into place with the existing pattern, this gives you excess material that can move and fit into place where it is needed. With all of this sewn into place, all that was left was integrating the additional hardware.

The hardware consists of a couple Velcro tabs and also Zippers. For access to the bootie, YKK Marine grade coil Zippers were chosen. These are the type that you would normally see on a dry bag, or any other high quality aquatic equipment, they have a vinyl coating on their exterior face which creates a very tight seal when zipped that keeps most if not all moisture out. At the top of the bootie (above the ankle), and at the base of the bootie across the back of the heel, are two Velcro tabs. The top tab which spans from the inside of the upper heel to the outside is used to prevent the Zipper from creeping down while pedaling, it also allows the rider to lash the top down a bit tighter ensuring a close fit that will keep the elements out. The bottom tab is to pull the inside area of the heel’s material taught to keep it clear and away from any excess rubbing, or at least reduce this occurance to a tolerable state. Both of these tabs have a bit of added reflective tape sewn into their facing to keep you illuminated either at night, or more likely during those early morning training rides. The Zippers have a generous pull tab for any adjusting on the fly with large gloves or mitts on.

All of these features and ideas are subject to change in the next incarnation, but for now they make a pretty well completed bootie that is surely a warm place to keep your feet moving in an infinite cycle.

6 Comments so far

  1. vs.vs.vs February 8th, 2008 1:25 pm

    nice pics. especially the one of the creature lying on its side with the cleat hole cavern:

  2. vs.vs.vs February 8th, 2008 1:36 pm
  3. […] The next generation of inclement weather shoe covers have been completed. This time around the process was both simplified and made more complicated (strangely enough), however this was to their benefit, as the features should now be more efficient, and the fit is better adapted. While the first generation of bootie has been a mostly successful venture, there were a few things that were done differently here. Rather than go through all the motions again, the latest developments will be highlighted only. If there are any questions regarding these issues, please refer to the initial posting at Inclement Weather Shoe Covers. […]

  4. Frau fiber April 14th, 2008 5:06 pm

    you are a man after my own hart. Your garments are beautiful, and your love of the industrial sewing machine is inspiring. I wish every home in america had an industrial sewing machine in it.

    keep up the great work!

  5. […] at Delta, service with a smile at Rivera’s, “messenger” bags, walking bags, cycling booties, Brother DB2-B791-015 instruction manuals & parts books, etc., etc. Of course the list goes on […]

  6. […] and in pattern. Unlike, the 2.0 version, the 3.0 version takes on the pattern like that of the first version: the two opposing sides of the booty are identical. In the second verison of the inclement weather […]