Editor’s Note: In the merge with Gravel Grinder News we knew there was a wealth of reviewed tires, bicycles, and components that might be a good resource on the new site here. With that in mind here is a condensed version of a review that originally appeared on Gravel Grinder News. Any updates on these reviewed products will appear at the end of the article. Thanks and Enjoy
45NRTH Fasterkatt Boots: Reviewed- by Guitar Ted
So now that I have ridden in rain, snow, mud, wind, and sub-freezing temperatures, it is time for a final say on these new bootie/shoe replacement boots for transitional season riding.
Performance Notes: The Fasterkatt boots were described as being made from materials that “won’t stretch”, and I was cautioned that the fit would not change over time as I wore them. That is true, but the boots have “broken in” to a degree, and if anything, they feel more comfortable than ever. I haven’t noticed any issues with the construction or with the function of these boots other than a minor cosmetic cracking of the reflective stripe on the heel. Besides this, the boots are looking fine, albeit dirty and in need of cleaning!
The rides I’ve been on have featured all the elements of Fall and early Winter riding. On a couple of rainy rides and one snowy ride, I noted that the Fasterkatts did not leak or let my feet get cold at all. This was impressive, as my old set up of my Summer time mtb shoes and bootie covers would always allow some moisture, cold air, and resulting cold feet to enter in and make my rides miserable.
As I mentioned in a previous post, the Fasterkatts are also easily gotten off which I appreciated after a long, cold ride when I was tired and just wanted to get out of my gear as quickly as possible. While this may seem trivial, it really is an important thing to note, especially if you are going to be commuting to a job in these. You won’t have to allow for a time of wrestling with booties before you punch in! Plus, you only have to store a pair of boots, and not two pairs of items.
But I didn’t think the wet rides or convenience was enough to expect from these boots. They are claimed to be waterproof, so I figured, bring it on! I designed a loop testing route that would have me traversing some wet, muddy terrain and then halfway through it, there is a lake. I thought I would stand in the water long enough to shoot a self-timed image, and then finish off the loop. If the Fasterkatts could keep my feet warm and dry through that, I figured that they would likely do well in almost any wet, cold situation.
The boots did not leak one bit, and my feet stayed dry the entire ride which was done on a windy day in the upper 30’sF. Very impressive! But what about walk-ability? How would a cyclo cross run up feel in these? I took the time to do some run ups on a dike and up a few steep embankments to find out The Fastrkatts maybe do not have the most aggressive tread on the sole I have ever used, but they hold their own there and seemed to shed dirt and mud well. They also do not hinder your movements much. A little- yes- due to the high upper around your ankles, but I felt that was actually a good thing from a support standpoint. Walking several blocks in these boots was not a big deal either. I felt they were average for a cycling shoe in that regard. While the Fasterkatt has a glass fiber impregnated lug system for slippery conditions, I was not able to test that feature at this time, but if that works, it would be another added bonus here.(Editor’s Note: After getting that opportunity after this review posted, I can report that while the technology is impressive, it is not effective on ice.)
Final Verdict: The Fasterkatt boots seem to have solved the transitional season footwear dilemma for riders that struggle with shoe covers and cold, wet feet on Fall and Springtime rides or in climates where it is wet and cold all Winter. My feeling is that these boots are a highly technical offering with a price tag that, while steep, reflects the level of performance of the Fasterkatt boots…….so far. Of course, one would expect that high level of function to last through several months of solid use, when the Fasterkatts are needed, and should be a long term solution for commuters and gravel road riders. I cannot speak to that long term aspect now, but as far as the initial impressions that I have gotten here, I see no reason not to expect that the Fasterkatt boots will do any rider a good turn for a reasonable amount of time. I really can not see why I would want to ever wear booties over shoes again after trying these Fasterkatts.
If the long term use holds up to my expectations, I see a death blow to boot/shoe covers for many cyclists. The Fasterkatt is a brilliant alternative to the compromises that cyclists have had to deal with for years. It is one of those products that you cannot believe weren’t commonplace beforehand. From the viewpoint of a first effort, the Fasterkatt boots are a knockout, and if 45NRTH finds a way to make these more affordable in the future, I think it is about the only major improvement they could make here beyond some minor tweaks.
45NRTH sent over the Fasterkatt boots to Gravel Grinder News at no charge for test/review. We are not being bribed, nor paid for this review, and we strive to give our honest thoughts and opinions throughout.
Post Ride Refreshments: With over a year of “transitional season” use now on these boots, here are some thoughts on the performance of the Fasterkatt boots.
- Be Careful!– Many early reports from riders with the original run of Fasterkatts told of broken zippers and broken zipper pulls. 45NRTH has said they have rectified this issue on their second year offering of these boots. If you still are running the first year Fasterkatts, as I am, you’ve probably figured out by now that you need to be careful putting these on and zipping them up. I extend my foot downward as I pull the zipper, making the zipper as “flat” as I can while closing the uppers. Also- It is a wise thing to stash the inner lacing on either side of the zipper, and not directly underneath it.
- These Are Not Winter Boots: Many folks were dismayed at the lack of room to use really thick socks or heavy wool socks underneath the Fasterkatt. To be fair to 45NRTH- that was never the intention for these. If layering is where you need to go, the Wolvhammer would be the boot to get. Or another manufacturer’s product. The Fasterkatt is best understood as a regular cycling shoe with a built in bootie cover. While that is not a good actual description of this product, it does accurately indicate the range of weather conditions this is intended for. I have found that I cannot comfortably go below the recommended 25°F temperature range 45NRTH has set for these for very long.
- Tough Design: I have found that the construction of the Fasterkatt has been very durable and I find no defects after this long term period. ( Again- Some had the zipper issues- but I have not), Of course, there are scuffs and some wear on the sole, but nothing alarming or out of the ordinary. With 45NRTH having made some improvements to these last year, future buyers should find the durability and performance to be enhanced somewhat over what I have found and the zipper issues should be rectified.
- Lacing Design Is Effective But Poor: At the level of price that 45NRTH commands for these, I am still a bit befuddled as to why the laces on the inner boot look so cheap and are so fiddly to stow away before you zip up the outers. While the laces do the job, I have seen things on other boots, (Louis Garneau, to be specific), that look to be a better solution and better thought out.
- Unprotected, Center Placed Zipper: In the same vein as the laces, it seems really odd that 45NRTH chose to center mount the zipper and leave it mostly exposed to the elements. A flap over to the side, with a side zip, or even just a weather cover over the zipper seems to be a better way to do the design. (See the Wolvhammer as an example.) I also will say that as of now, I have had zero issues with the zipper leaking or being damaged.
Okay, so far so good- mostly- besides some nits which have not adversely affected my enjoyment of these boots. I know I have hammered out this point already, but these are soooo much better than separate cycling shoes and bootie covers that I don’t see myself ever using the old way of doing it again.