First Impressions: 45NRTH Ragnarök Shoes

Originally making a name for themselves with extreme-weather gear, Minnesota-based 45NRTH’s lineup now includes items for use in milder conditions. One of the recent additions is the company’s Ragnarök shoe for clipless pedal use. Available in reflective ($235 MSRP) and black ($195 MSRP) colorways, the Ragnarök is designed to keep you riding in comfort during fall/spring and mild winter weather.

To help keep moisture out, the Ragnarök utilizes a rubberized shell and waterproof, breathable membrane. An anti-slip microglass rubber outsole provides traction off the bike, and the shoe’s low-cut neoprene cuff provides additional protection from the elements. The fiberglass-injected midsole is compatible with standard two-bolt (aka, SPD) cleats, and threaded inserts enable the use of (optional) toe spikes. Available in whole sizes from 36 to 48 (and 50), my pair of size-45 sample shoes weighed 950 grams (sans cleats). With standard weight cycling socks, I would describe the Ragnaröks’ fit as comfortable for my average-width (but relatively low-volume) feet.

Designed for cool and wet conditions, 45NRTH recommends the Ragnaröks for temperatures down to 25ºF (-3ºC). While everyone’s personal thermostat varies, I found the Ragnaröks most comfortable at temperatures not lower than 30ºF (-3ºC). Switching to a slightly thicker wool sock provided additional warmth, but there’s only so much one can do to offset the heat sink effect of clipless pedals and cleats in sub-freezing temps (which is one of the reasons why I prefer flat pedals for winter riding). In milder weather (45-50ºF), ventilation was adequate (with thin cycling socks), but above 55ºF I found myself opting for shoes with more ventilation.

In wet weather, the Ragnaröks definitely kept my feed drier than traditional cycling shoes with overshoes. Road spray and light rain easily rolled off the reflective uppers, and I was unable to detect any water ingress through the cleat opening. In heavy, sustained rain, however, the neoprene cuffs became saturated, and moisture would eventually find its way into shoes’ textile liners. To be fair, though, if I’m riding in those conditions for more than a couple of hours, I expect that rain or snow will make its way past my outerwear, gloves, and headwear.

While you won’t mistake the Ragnaröks’ stiffness for that of a carbon-soled road or XC racing shoe, the shoes’ fiberglass-injected midsoles proved rigid enough for commuting and normal recreational riding. I tested the Ragnaröks with LOOK X-Track and Time ATAC clipless MTB shoes, and didn’t have any difficulty clipping in or out. Note that 45NRTH recommends using shoe shields with Crank Brothers or Time cleats to prevent wear/tear on the midsole. Traction off the bike was good, but the Ragnaröks wouldn’t be my first choice for extended hike-a-bikes due to their limited flexibility. That said, walkability was noticeably better than what you’d find with carbon-soled shoes, and the anti-slip rubber outsole did seem to grip better on slippery surfaces such as ice and wet floors.

If your current clipless shoes don’t cut it in damp or cool weather, 45NRTH’s Ragnarök will certainly keep your feet warmer and drier. The Ragnaröks are more convenient than shoes and overshoes, and less bulky than many winter riding boots. Lastly, you may not be able to tell from the photos, but the reflective uppers really pop when illuminated by automobile headlights or streetlights, providing additional visibility during dawn and dusk riding.

Disclosure: 45NRTH provided review samples for this article, but offered no other form of compensation in exchange for editorial coverage.