Winter riding in many areas goes hand-in-hand with cold, wet conditions – but that doesn’t stop riders from getting out when the trail conditions allow. Many footwear manufacturers are taking their shot at addressing the riders’ need in these types of areas for a shoe that delivers the performance of their go-to trail shoes with the additional weather protection that lets them get out in less-than-ideal conditions. Fi’zi:k aims to do just that with the Terra Artica X2, a full-featured waterproof, breathable, and insulated winter MTB shoe.
Fi’zi:k claim 438g for a size 42-1/2 pair on their website, I believe this to be a typo and intended to be a per shoe statistic – my size 44 samples weighed in at 509g per shoe (without cleats). While certainly not a featherweight, the shoe achieves a good balance and doesn’t feel heavy on the foot. When you consider the weight of a standard MTB shoe plus a neoprene overshoe, in many cases the Terra Artica X2 can weigh less. Suffice it to say the weight was not noticed and very friendly to all-day wear without fatigue.
From the bottom up, the shoe is designed for winter riding conditions. The X2 outsole features a Vibram tread, EVA midsole, and a nylon shank for medium stiffness and power transfer. The sole is more akin to an enduro or trail shoe, and not at all like an XC or CX shoe’s lugged sole. Mud clearance was not great, and the clay-heavy sludge I find myself riding through defiantly stuck around.
That said, a quick kick on the pedals cleared the cleats (I used Crank Brothers standard cleats for the test period, with the plastic shim/shield underneath) and I rarely had trouble finding the cleat to clip in. Scrambling up a muddy hillside to scope out a line or feature was a bit of a challenge, but these circumstances would have challenged any sole tread configuration. The shoes interfaced with my Crank Brothers Mallet E pedals great and provided ample support for all-day rides with great pedal feel, which is often a compromise with other bulky insulated winter shoes.
One thing I did notice while trying to get up some steep features is that edge of the structured part of the upper, where it meets the neoprene cuff meets the rest of the upper there is a distinct edge there that would dig in slightly, but only when on steep terrain requiring extreme positioning to get up.
The neoprene cuff hits the “Goldilocks” mark for me in terms of tightness to the ankle, it has just enough room to not feel it when pedaling but to be sure – I had to sit down to get this shoe on every time. With a looser cuff, I am sure that mud, water, or debris would find its way in (which never happened to me during the testing period) and the difficulty getting the shoe on really comes from the heel cup, which is super effective at holding the heel in place without giving any discomfort or hot spots.
The shoe is challenging to get on, but once it’s on it feels great and isn’t going anywhere, even with only one BOA dial.
In addition to light insulation, the shoe is lined with eVent, providing a cozy waterproof breathable layer to keep riders’ feet warm. I tested the shoes in temperatures ranging from the high 20’s Fahrenheit to the high 40’s Fahrenheit (which is as warm as it’s gotten in my area since receiving the test pair). The Terra Artica X2s have the “Goldilocks” amount of insulation for high-intensity activity like cycling – enough to keep your feet comfortable even in sub-freezing temperatures, but not so much that it’s stifling or adds bulk to the shoe. The eVent liner and the fleece insulation act together to not only provide warmth but regulate temperature as it changes through a ride. As a sufferer of sweaty feet, I was quite pleased with the breathability of the shoe and often pair them with my go-to winter sock the DeFeet Woolie Boolie. The shoes remained comfortable and fit well even with thinner socks generally reserved for milder weather. The provided insoles are basic and provide some cushioning, I used some aftermarket insoles with a bit more arch support for my medium arch feet and was happy to note that there is plenty of room for custom or 3rd party insoles without having to change size.
The upper’s ripstop fabric seems quite durable, surviving the test period without a mark (even under the mud), and is a layered woven textile that conforms to the footwell upon tightening the single BOA L6 dial. The upper construction limits exposed seams and is smooth, preventing mud and debris from sticking to hard-to-clean places. With the L6 Dial, the pull-to-release feature is really nice for those times when you don’t need the shoe to be tight and want to give your feet a break without removing the shoe, but again – to get the shoes off it’s a sit-down operation for me.
The Terra Artica X2 is a great shoe if winter riding means wet or muddy conditions for you. Out here in the Pacific Northwest, these shoes are a welcome option and have become my go-to for the time being. They are hands down the best cycling shoe for adverse conditions I have ever ridden in and I prefer them over any option I have tried before. When riding conditions are tough, discomfort in footwear can ruin a ride, and discourage me from venturing out onto the trail – but with the Fi’zi:k Terra Artica X2 I am quite happy to get out on the bike, even when the ground is snow-covered or wet and muddy. They are low profile and ride like a normal trail shoe, but give you that extra bit of comfort when riding in winter conditions. MSRP on the Terra Artica X2 is $299.99 USD and they are available at Fi’zi:k dealers or fizik.com