As the weather gets bone chillingly cold, it becomes increasingly difficult to motivate yourself to ride outside. Cold weather or rain are magnified when riding at any speed due to wind chill and spray from your wheels. It only takes one ride with wet or frozen toes to persuade you to ride an indoor trainer or find alternate ways to exercise for the rest of the season. If you are stubborn and a glutton for pain, you’ve likely tried the various standard tricks to make winter riding more pleasant. Layering up, wool socks, shoe booties and even plastic bags are common techniques that work with various degrees of success. However one of the best solutions to avoid frozen or wet feet is to use dedicated winter cycling shoes. In this review we are going to review the FLR Defender winter cycling shoes. 

The FLR Defender shoes are an affordable way to prevent frozen or wet  toes during cold or wet weather riding. The multi-layer design provides the warmth and comfort needed to keep you cozy despite the weather.

The FLR Defender shoes incorporate multiple layers of insulation and waterproofing to ensure you remain warm and toasty despite the weather. Priced at only $139, the Defender shoes are surprisingly affordable and make it easy to justify owning a dedicated winter cycling shoe. FLR Defenders feature a multi-layer design: fleece shoe liner with fuzzy faux fur insole, 400g Eco Star insulation layer, seam-sealed DryS-Tex membrane and lastly, Cordura upper with synthetic leather on the exterior. The Defenders have a Nylon lace closure with a velcro exterior cover to protect everything.

CategoryWinter Cycling Shoes (Road)
RatingDesign:   A-
ClosuresB+
Comfort:  A-
Value:  A
Weight (in g) 754 (Eur 44)
Retail Price$139.00
Likes + Affordable price justifies a second pair of shoes
+ Insulation and waterproofing
+ Road and mountain bike outsole options
Dislikes– Lace system isn’t as secure as dials
– Lack of color options
– Bulky
Where to Buy (US)FLR

UNBOXING

The Defender shoes come in a standard shoe box with FLR logo on the top and front in a metallic finish. In this review we tested the EUR 44 size shoes with the road outsole (standard 3-bolt compatibility).

Inside the packaging you’ll find:

  • Defender Shoes
  • 2x Look Memory Eyelet screws

The shoes do not come with any instructions, just a simple tag with a little information about FLR.

DESIGN

While most cycling shoes focus on flashy colors, cramming as many ventilation holes as possible, and lightness, the winter cycling shoe has a unique set of requirements. With winter cycling shoes, warmth and water proofing are the most important requirements. To accomplish this, winter cycling shoes are typically constructed with multiple layers of insulation and weather protection. The FLR Defender shoes are no different – between the faux fur foot bed, insulation layer and Cordura exterior provides weather protection and warmth. The shoes can be optioned with the nylon R250 road outsoles or the equivalent mountain M250 outsoles. 

FLR Defender - Outsoles
Road R250 Nylon Outsoles

Visually, the FLR Defender shoes are similar to other winter cycling shoes. The exterior is composed of multiple synthetic leather panels and a large velcro cover. The leather panels protect the toes and heels against wear-and tear. Thin reflective stripes break up the otherwise black exterior with a contrasting black strip for a little visual impact. An additional reflective element is included on the rear of the shoe along the ankle cuff with brand name printed on the heel. In our opinion, FLR Defender shoe design may be a little too restrained as they lack the lack the style of other brands such as Shimano or Lake winter shoes.

CLOSURES

The FLR Defender uses a dual closure design to ensure optimal weather protection. On the exterior of the shoes is a prominent velcro cover which provides weather protection. The velcro cover has been redesigned for winter 2019 for improved usability and extends from the bottom of the shoe upto the ankles. Underneath the cover there is an easy to use nylon lace closure which provides most of the actual tension. This design is similar to snowboarding or skiing shoes and ensures the laces remain protected from the elements.

FLR Defender - Lace and Velcro
Nylon lace closure under Velcro covers and Reflective elements all around

Although the nylon lace closures are easy to use, we would prefer a dial or ratcheting closure. With the lace system, we felt like we weren’t able to comfortably tension it down enough. Combined with the fuzzy footbed, our feet would slide around a bit inside the shoe unless we really pulled on the laces hard. Also, as with any lace system the excess lace portion needs to be tucked in underneath the velcro cover. To improve the waterproofing, FLR has included a neoprene ankle cuff to ensure the weather stays out of your shoes. Note, you should still wear waterproof pants that extend below the ankle cuff to ensure wet socks don’t ruin your ride.

COMFORT

As with other FLR shoes, the Defenders are surprisingly comfortable. There are no internal ridges or interfaces in the shoe to cause any chafing or pressure points. Despite having wider feet (we sized up half a size to a 10.5 US for a wider toe box), the Defenders fit well and are comfortable even on longer rides. Although the closure system could be improved, it is easy to adjust the laces and outer velcro cover for a good fit. The shoes also provide a good balance between breathability and warmth. On our cold 40F morning rides, the Defender shoes ensured our feet stayed warm and cozy even with cold wind chills on fast descends. We wore these upto 55F weather, and wouldn’t recommend going much beyond that unless your internal temperature is very cold.

FLR Defender Shoes - Fleece interior
Fleece interior

Aside from the closure tension, our only complaint is that the tongue on the shoes is too wide and tends to bunch up. As you pull the lace closures tight, it ends up putting a fold in the tongue and causing a little pressure point unless you adjust it. The tongue is well padded so we found it easy to adjust to correct for this. One thing to note is that these shoes are quite heavy at 754g due to their multi-layer design. This was noticeable when riding, especially compared to the lightweight FLR F-XX or FLR F-11 shoes, and resulted in a less direct pedal feel.

THE VERDICT

Overall the FLR Defender shoes are an affordable way to prevent frozen toes during cold or wet weather riding. The multi-layer design provides the warmth and comfort needed to keep you cozy despite the weather. Compared to flimsy toe covers or cumbersome bootie covers, the FLR Defenders are a compelling reason to buy a dedicated cold weather shoe. Although the closure system could be improved, the feeling of toasty feet during a fast descent with wind chill is an easy selling point.

Disclaimer: The product for this review was provided by FLR. The views expressed on this website are solely those of the authors and are here to help people make an informed choice before a purchase. The authors or the blog itself does not get any monetary compensation from the product manufacturer or third-party websites/vendor links that are posted here.

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