Italian Mudders

Northwave X-Arctic GTX winter shoes: Reviewed

Words Pete Roggeman
Photos Dave Smith
Date Jan 29, 2018

Winter shoes are not getting their share of credit. The more I wear them, the more I realize that calling them 'winter shoes' is selling them short. Since waterproofness is more important than warmth around here, and the wet season is about 8 months long, maybe this type should be your primary shoes - the ones you wear the most. Only in our warmest weather would the insulated Northwave X-Arctic GTW shoes be too warm for my feet, and it's not usually warm and wet here at the same time. If this sounds like a false epiphany, it probably is - there are some riders in these parts that already know that their waterproof shoes are worth every penny.

Northwave have been making quality riding shoes for a long time, so it was no surprise that the X-Arctics look well-made and feel very sturdy in the hand. A synthetic leather upper with mesh cutouts looks sharp, and it's only the neoprene cuff that gives away their winter shoe pedigree. The uppers and insole are lined for warmth, and a gore-tex membrane keeps water out, while helping usher away sweat vapour. A speed lacing system snugs up the forefoot, making it as well-cradled as the heel, which is held in rather well, but which also contributes to a bit of extra effort required to pull them over your foot.

That neoprene cuff interfaces smoothly with a double hook-and-loop strap system which covers the laces and pulls everything together into a tidy package. Reflective accents abound - these will be seen at night on the streets.


Since the silver accents are all reflective, I can live with them, but otherwise am happy with the X-Arctic's subdued looks.


Those mesh cutouts do not affect waterproofness. They do inspire better vapour management - these are comfortable shoes for temperature management.

The X-Arctic GTX has a sole shod with Michelin rubber which provides great grip and a lug pattern that isn't aggressive but does bite well and hike comfortably. The midsole is stiffer for better pedal performance, but the sole is more flexible as you move forward, for walking comfort.

They are rated to -3ºC according to Northwave, but I'd gladly wear them in temperatures at least five degrees colder. The fit runs a bit small, so if you plan to wear thick socks, order a size up (they're not offered in half-sizes).


Pull them on, yank on the speed lace, tuck it in, fasten the two straps, and you're set. The heel cups are snug and the rest of the shoe conforms nicely to the foot. What I did feel was lacking in the X-Arctic GTX shoe is arch support. As usual, with a shoe investment like this, aftermarket insoles like those offered by SQ labs or others are a worthy investment that will greatly enhance arch support, comfort, resistance to fatigue, and a feeling of precision when you're wearing the shoe. You would lose out on the Gore-tex footbed, though, so you'd have to weigh that option slightly.


The outsole is slightly stiffer than the Shimano MW5s I just reviewed - not so much that it makes hiking uncomfortable, nor will they replicate the stiffness of your summer XC shoes, but they're plenty firm for pedaling. The cleat recesses offer a decent amount of fore and aft adjustment, and I had no problems with cleat interface on Shimano XT and XTR trail pedals - they are easy to clip in and unclip.


The mesh cutouts on the side of the shoe may make them look like water can sneak in, but it's a deception. I stood in water, crossed ankle deep streams, and rode on some extremely wet days in the X-Arctics, and my feet did get wet, but only on days when the water was coming in from the top. The neoprene cuff was up to the task of keeping the water out once when I chose a foothold poorly and stepped in a hole, but otherwise, it will let water in eventually. However, below the neoprene, they're impervious. And, since they breathe well and aren't bulky, I really can imagine using them in the fall and the spring on days when I expect to get wet feet.


Scoffing at stream crossings in 3 degrees C and pissing rain.

Unless you're riding in truly cold weather (lower than -8 C), the Northwave X-Arctic GTX will make a fine choice. Even better if you need stalwart waterproofness and will be able to appreciate the extra breathability of the gore-tex membrane, which will keep your feet more comfortable in warmer temperatures. At 315 CAD / 220 USD, they're sneaking into the upper echelons of shoe pricing, but if you value your riding comfort in bad conditions, these will certainly help you stay out there longer with drier, warmer feet.

Find out more about the Northwave X-Arctic GTX here. They are available in sizes 36 - 47. Northwave have gone consumer direct in North America, and their selection of shoes available is listed here. It doesn't include the X-Arctic GTX (now known as X-Cross) but if you hunt around a bit with online stores, you should be able to find one that'll ship them to NorAm.


Lots of reflective accents. Great if you're a commuter or pedal to or from the trails in the dark.


The toeboxes have enough bumper to protect, but do not feel bulky at all.


Nice profile.

Trending on NSMB


+1 Mammal
Shoreboy  - Jan. 29, 2018, 8:14 a.m.

Could have used some of these on the commute in this morning.  Any locations/dealers of Northwave shoes in the Lower Mainland that anyone knows of?


+1 Merwinn
Pete Roggeman  - Jan. 29, 2018, 11:28 a.m.

Yep, it's been terrible out lately. I just did what I assume you also did and tried the dealer finder, but it's not useful at all. A distributor search revealed that Lambert no longer distributes Northwave in Canada (nor the US) and the Northwave site lists the distributor for Canada and the US as the Northwave head office. So you could send an email to: info@northwave.it. 

I have sent an inquiry to their PR rep in the US to ask the same question and will update my reply here when I get a response.


Shoreboy  - Jan. 29, 2018, 12:34 p.m.

Thanks for doing that. The chances of me buying a $300 + shoe without trying it on are pretty slim.


Pete Roggeman  - Jan. 29, 2018, 3:08 p.m.

Of course, and I agree. I'm sure someone in the LM carries them - Northwave have always had a half decent presence around here. My first Northwaves were my second ever mtb shoes, and I bought them in 1998. They lasted me 5-6 years of heavy duty use. Come to think of it, no shoe has come close to lasting that long for me.


+1 Pete Roggeman
Neil Winkelmann  - Jan. 29, 2018, 1:20 p.m.

No kidding, eh? I was so wet that I jumped in the harbour to dry off!


Neil Winkelmann  - Jan. 29, 2018, 4:35 p.m.

Northshore Roadbikes off Pemberton St in North Van stocks Northwave.


Mammal  - Jan. 29, 2018, 11:22 a.m.

I know that river crossing, it usually requires very light and careful treading to avoid wet-foot.

You got to test the hike-ability in the very next section of trail...


Pete Roggeman  - Jan. 29, 2018, 11:30 a.m.

Sharp eye, and correct on both counts. I stepped in way too deep right after that photo was taken, and on the ensuing hike, with lots of pressure on my toes, I realized that only a small bit of water made it in, and only on one side. I was impressed. They hiked up that steep section very comfortably. I can't decide between them and the MW5s - both amazing waterproof shoes, both comfortable to wear for long hours (while riding and afterward), both exactly what I like in a shoe for pedal feel. The Shimanos are slightly less expensive, but neither are cheap. Both are shoes I'd use for 7-8 months of the year here (and likely will).


Neil Winkelmann  - Jan. 29, 2018, 4:34 p.m.

Removed and added as reply above....


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