Completing the Tuscobia Winter Ultras on snowshoes—their shortest option, 35 miles—taught me a good lesson: throw away my shoe covers, start over. I chose Pearl Izumi’s Elite Barrier Shoe Covers.
Ostensibly for bikes, the cover works perfectly for a snowshoer planning distance and/or deep-snow treks. Completely embracing the shoe, it isn’t a boot that completely seals the shoe; that creates problems of moisture build-up. Instead, the bottoms are open at the ball and heel.
Fleece curtains the interior, aiding comfort and providing even more warmth, a critical factor when on trails for long periods. Temperatures may fall precipitously when out for long distances as fronts sweep in; one needs advanced preparation.
Neoprene, synthetic rubber acting like a spongy plastic polymer, has long been used for protective endurance activities like scuba diving. Waterproof, the material protects yet “gives” so shoes squeeze into the Elite’s foothold. I used a hairdryer to warm the material, somewhat aiding its stretchiness.
The form is anatomically correct with panels aiding a firm fit. The cover fits over the ankle above a trail shoe. For my purposes, I will wear gaiters on most distances or in deep snow. If doing laps on a groomed course or a trail where snowmobiles have packed the snow the added gaiters may not be needed. However . . .
Such a beautiful day at the Tuscobia Winter Ultras for the shortest of their three options, 35 miles (also 75- and 150-mile). Why, I won’t need my gaiters, the snow isn’t that deep, spirits hap-hap-happy until we ride out to the start. Surprise! The snow is deeper there.
In a ready-to-go world, that didn’t register so well, so the start sounds and off go cross-country skiers, snowbikers, and runners of whom two wore snowshoes. As a self-supported race those on foot carried supplies, clothing, and liquids with backpacks pushing feet, or snowshoes, further into the snow. A timely trail station consisting of a fire and hot food became a life-saver at the 25-mile marker teaching one the meaning of distant aid. The elite have it better in the respect they cover distances quicker, therefore requiring less provisions. It appears I packed enough to last post-apocalypse.
Late in the afternoon, snow arrives. Though light, it drifted down steadily thru the night providing kick-snow that found its way through running shoe covers that protected the toe, base and sides . . . but not the tops. At the finish, socks were frozen to my feet, shoes were frozen to my socks. As I sat thawing like hamburger at the finish line’s CCC, the name of coolest bistro in Wisconsin, drooling soup while sipping the closest beverage I could find—Dr. Pepper—a thought occurred to me: upgrade those shoe covers.
Kevlar surrounds the Pearl Izumi Elite Barrier bottoms so durability and foot protection are stellar though I don’t wear the footwear used for snowshoeing for any other purpose. I now have shoes firmly planted in my Pearl Izumis and don’t plan to take them out.
The panels open fully in the back, up the ankle, so a complete airing out and drying occurs. Strong velcro-like overlaps close the door on loose snow seeking admission to feet.
Where the top of the foot and the lower leg meet, the cover bends in a way so the material doesn’t fold or pinch together when moving or twisting the foot in an upward motion.
If the opportunity presents itself, test your shoe when selecting the size. If not, then opt for a larger size. The options aren’t in shoe sizes but small, medium, large, X-large and 2X-large. For a size 13 or above some work may be required to get a closing fit on the back tabs for a standard running shoe.
The extensive Pearl Izumi Elite Series—jackets, shorts, tights, shoes, bib tights, gloves to name a few—demonstrate the importance of this line to the company. They take great care with all of their products, but certainly the Elite offerings are special. As a snowshoe cover, the Elite Barrier quickly establishes itself as a top competitor for “Best of Class.”
The only change I would make now? Selecting the option of their white Elite Barriers—so striking—would be my choice. Both colors list at $70.00 though a careful search may yield pleasant savings.
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