Review: Lake MXZ303 winter boots

By Eric McKeegan. Photos by Adam Newman

Lake boots spent a long time at the top of the heap for winter footwear, but some problems with the previous MXZ302 model and a withdraw from the U.S. market sent customers looking elsewhere.

Lake is now under new ownership and is back in the U.S., distributed by Stage Race. I’ve been lucky enough to be riding the new $280 MXZ303 boots, and am happy to report these are set to return Lake to the top spot for winter cycling.

Everyone knows toes get cold first, so the Thinsulate insulation in the toe box makes sense. The outer is Pittards leather, well known for its durability, breathability, and water resistance, although regular leather treatments are needed to keep it looking good and working well. I was pretty suspicious of the Outlast liner, the claims of trapping and releasing heat to regulate temperature sounded like hogwash to me. I was proven wrong though, with these boots working from single digit temps up into the 40s, depending on sock choice. Thanks NASA!

The cuff is now secured with a side release buckle with an adjustable strap, allowing for a snug fit to keep out the elements. The old cuff was always loose fitting, and the small Velcro closure quickly lost its holding power. The other problem area for the 302 model was the plastic heel cup. It was forever catching on cable stops and linkages, popping stitches and generally being an annoyance. The fix? It is gone, and I don’t miss it a bit.

High end cycling shoes have almost universally adopted the BOA dial closure system, and on high end racing shoes that are designed to be snug and supportive, the system has its merits. In cold weather, footwear needs to fit loosely enough to insure full circulation; the BOA makes it all too easy to get things too snug, resulting in cold feet. Standard laces and a cord lock would be both less expensive and better suited to this application.

Sizing seems to be a little smaller than the 302s. I’d recommend at buying at least a full size up, and I hope the wide widths become available again, I miss the toe wiggle room in my wide-model 302s.

The Vibram sole is grippy, sheds mud well, and allows for easy walking. In fact, other than wanting some arch support, these are some of the more comfortable shoes I own, and I usually don’t bother to remove them when I arrive at work. Normally I’d replace the insole to get that arch support, but the proprietary insulated insoles aren’t something I’m going to give up.

My typical off road ride in the woods is going to involve some walking or standing around. This quickly turns metal cleats into heat sinks, and my feet get cold in the MXZ303s, even with the fancy insoles. I’m temped to order a pair of Jazronaut insoles from the 45North Wolvhammer boots we reviewed recently, which claim to have even more space tech to keep feet insulated from cold cleats.

Overall I’m very happy with the improved MXZ303. I wasn’t a fan of the bright yellow graphics, but it seems that as taking care of itself as they are slowly peeling off. These may be the most versatile winter boots on the market, not as warm as the Wolvhammers, but won’t overheat you on those spring days when it is 38 and wet.