Ten years and 20,000 miles later ...
February 14, 2013 - see Bob's original FootWarmer Review
In the winter of 2002-2003, I performed my original 2,200 mile cycling test of Hotronic FootWarmers. Since then I have been cycling mostly during the pre-dawn hours for aerobic exercise about 2,000 miles each winter from November through March, or on average 25 miles/day four days a week. During that period of time, in our area, temperatures in the morning average 26 degrees Fahrenheit with one month’s average lows down to 20 degrees and one or two days of the year down to 5 degrees.
Below I have outlined my overall product impression, tips to ensure long product life, and a message for cyclists that ride in temperatures below 20 degrees F.
Overall product impression -
The Hotronic FootWarmer is the only product I will use to keep my toes warm during winter cycling in cold weather.
- Comfort – I do not feel the heating element or electronic wire under my insole when cycling. My toes stay comfortably warm, the battery pack stays affixed to my bootie or boot, and the selection of temperature heating options allows me to fine tune heat output when needed. I keep the battery setting on level two 95 percent of the time. Only when temperatures drop below 20 degrees do I occasionally use the level three setting.
- Quality – During aerobic exercise when my feet perspire, the Footwarmer product continues to perform. Under the same conditions, chemical toe warmers absorb the perspiration, get hard like a rock, and fail to produce heat.
- Durability – I have not been able to break this product no matter how fast or hard I ride or how much perspiration I produce during exercise. Excellent product.
Tips to ensure long product life -
Over time I learned a few tricks to extend the life of the FootWarmer product.
- Heating elements – The heating elements are made of very high quality material and mine have lasted longer than the warranty period. I had to replace one set in the 11 years of use. I caused the need for replacement. Since I ride for aerobic exercise my feet tend to perspire. For the first few years I never took the insoles out of my shoes to air dry after a bicycle ride. As a result, my perspiration lingered in the insoles of my shoes and caused the electrical connection to the FootWarmer heating element to corrode in year 3 of use. Lesson learned – after using the FootWarmer always remove the insoles from the shoes or boots and let them air out upside down until dry. Issue solved.
- Electric cords – The electrical cords and connectors are well made and will last a very long time provided you take the time to pull the connectors out of the batteries by the connector and not the connector and cord. I have never had a problem with the electrical cords or plugs.
- Battery – I ride through the winter in all conditions – snow, sleet, ice, salted roads, etc. An inexpensive battery cover made out of a plastic snack bag keeps the electrical battery connection clean and dry and will prevent corrosion (see initial review for a picture of the battery cover and how to make them in seconds).
For the Ice bikers –
Since my initial review in 2003, more new products have been introduced by other manufacturers that have allowed me to comfortably cycle in temperatures down to 5 degrees F. These items include high end insulated cycling boots with vibram soles, handmade icebike mittens, and carbide studded bicycle tires.
The FootWarmer battery attaches firmly and securely to the most widely distributed high end insulated winter cycling boot on the market and the FootWarmer keeps my toes nice and warm with imperceptible heat. I use only a thin wool sock so there is a nice air pocket between my foot and the boot and I seal the upper part of the winter boot so warm air doesn’t escape.
Friends that I’ve ridden with in 25 degree temperatures with the same insulated boots and without the Hotronic FootWarmer have had to take an indoor break mid-ride to change their chemical toe warmers because they became rock hard and ineffective in producing heat.
As a side note/safety tip – I have learned through experience to always use top of the line carbide studded tires when bicycling in temperatures below freezing so that you do not fall on ice. A pair of these tires will last 2,200 miles on clear pavement and is less expensive than one trip to the hospital emergency room.
Final thoughts –
I enjoy riding outdoors regularly when temperatures dip below 45 degrees F and Hotronic FootWarmers are my go to toe warmers whether I am wearing cycling booties or cycling insulated boots.