Sugoi Zap Shoe Covers Review
Shoe covers, booties, foot warmers – call ’em what you want, they’re essential kit for cold or wet weather riding. Pretty much every cycling clothing manufacturer makes them and they all do the same thing: keep out wind and water and provide some insulation for warmth. So why review yet another pair?
I was given a pair of Sugoi Zap shoe covers as a Christmas gift. So this review is a little different from many others in that the product wasn’t provided by the manufacturer specifically for review. Rather, it’s more of a consumer report by an actual customer.
So in the interest of any good consumer report, I’ll fully disclose that the Zap shoe covers I received were defective. The material at the bottom that holds the zipper in place on the right one was ripped and the zipper was not connected together and could not be zipped. I sent an email with pics to Sugoi customer service and they replaced the covers no questions asked. Kudos to Pat at Sugoi. Merci et chapeau!
What makes the Zap shoe covers worth reviewing is the Zap reflective technology. Whereas other manufacturers add strips or pieces of reflective material to clothing for added visibility at night or in low light situations, the Zap bootie is constructed with material that itself is reflective. Sugoi’s unique Pixel fabric has thousands micro-glass beads embedded in the fabric that reflect light. Kind of like a superhero that has two personalities, so do the Zap booties (NOTE: I’m using the terms “shoe covers” and “booties” interchangeably, but you should know that Sugoi makes both a shoe cover and bootie that are two different products – this is a review of their shoe cover). By day, they look like pretty much any other shoe cover – except instead of the ubiquitous basic black they are a silver gray color. But by night under streetlights or illuminated by car headlights, the micro-glass beads reflect in all directions with an almost eerie, alien-like glow (take a look at the Zap product video below).
The Zap shoe cover comes in four sizes (S, M, L, and XL). I wear size 42 (US size 9) Fi’zi:k R3s and according to Sugoi’s sizing chart I can wear either a small or medium. My friend got me medium. The material is a stretch laminate so they hug your shoes fairly snugly – much like an aero time trial shoe cover, although the fit on mine isn’t “saran wrap tight” (probably because a medium doesn’t have to stretch as much to fit over my shoe, so I’m guessing a small would fit tighter). The zipper is offset, which – according to Sugoi – eliminates pressure and irritation on the Achilles tendon (although, to be honest, I’ve never had a problem with booties that have a back zipper and the side zipper takes a little getting used to just because it’s different). Regardless, it makes for a comfortable and tight seal above the ankle and below the calf. A nice touch is the flap that the zipper tucks up under so it can’t flop around when zipped up. The Zap is an open bottom design with a single elastic strap to hold the cover across the sole of the shoe.
By day, the Zap shoe covers look like pretty much every other shoe cover except that they’re not black
What the Zap shoe covers aren’t is insulated (compared, for example, to my Pearl Izumi PRO Softshell WxB shoe covers with Primaloft). Along with the open bottom design, that means they aren’t true cold weather (as in freezing or frigid temps) booties. Everyone’s tolerance for cold is different, but since my ethnic heritage is tropical I lean more to the wimpy end of the scale compared to my more hardy Nordic riding partners. I used the Zap in temps down to just below 40ºF (4ºC) and that’s probably pretty much my limit for them (not that I do a whole lot of riding below 40ºF anyway) – your mileage may vary. I would say that the Zaps didn’t do as much to help keep my feet warm (insulate) but because they are wind proof, they did well protecting against wind chill (however, if the soles of your shoes have vents, you’ll probably need to tape them closed with the Zap’s open bottom).
I haven’t ridden the Zaps in the rain (mostly because I don’t ride in the rain unless I happen to get caught out in the rain – yes, I’m a wimp!) I did, however, test the Zaps in my kitchen sink. I turned water on and it just ran right off and beaded up without soaking through to the inside. I’m not sure how they would hold up in a Noah’s Ark-like deluge, but the material seems pretty waterproof so they should keep your feet pretty dry in all but the fiercest downpours (again, the open bottom design means that the bottom of your shoes will get wet – and this is a common a point of entry for water into your feet).
NIGGLES: A few. First, I’m not completely enamored with the open bottom design. With no material to hook under the heel of the shoe, it’s possible for the cover to creep up in the back (see the pic below). Not a deal breaker, but a little annoying. Second, the elastic piece on bottom of the shoe cover just clears the back of my cleat (and my cleats are pushed back as far as the mounting holes allow). It’s not really an issue since I use Speedplays, but I’m not sure if it could affect engagement with Look cleats/pedals. (Since size small Zap shoe covers could fit my shoes, it would be interesting to see if these first two niggles are an inherent design issue or just a quirk of sizing, i.e., the mediums fitting more towards the “loose” end of snug while smalls might be more “tight.”) My last niggle with the Zap shoe covers is that the entire bootie isn’t made with the Zap material. The back is a black stretch Lycra that doesn’t reflect (but the Sugoi logo on the back is reflective). I’m not convinced Sugoi had to use Lycra for fitting purposes as the Zap material is fairly stretchy (maybe about half as stretchy as Lycra and their sizing is very similar to other manufacturers who make booties without Lycra), so I’m guessing this could have been as much a marketing as functional design decision.
FINAL VERDICT: At $75 USD retail, the Sugoi Zap shoe covers are a little pricier than other similar shoe covers from other manufacturers. My guess is that they are as good as any other shoe covers that are water/windproof but not insulated for truly cold weather – i.e., frigid winter – riding (I would rate them as comparable functionally to my wife’s Pearl Izumi PRO Barrier WxB shoe covers.) But they are in a league of their own for helping to be seen at night or even low light conditions (the only other shoe cover made out of 360-degree reflective material is the Castelli Reflex, which retails for $100 USD). As someone who lives and rides in a dense, urban environment and often rides after work until after sunset, that alone makes the Zap shoe covers a winner in my book. Certainly, if you commute at night or in the early morning hours before sunrise, they make perfect sense. But the Zap shoe covers aren’t strictly a commuter product. The fit is Europro and the function is on par with the kind of race booties used in the pro peloton. You’ll find me using them on those “Belgian spring” days when the air is damp and cold and the sky is gray and gloomy (regardless of what season it actually is).
You’ll find the full line Sugoi Zap products HERE.
• Check prices on the Sugoi Zap shoe covers at Amazon.com.
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Pez contributor Chuck Peña is a former weekend warrior racer who now just rides for fun, but every once in a while manages to prove Fausto Coppi’s adage true: Age and treachery will overcome youth and skill. He lives in Arlington, VA with his wife, Karen (who works for Revolution Cycles), his daughter, Marin (an aspiring junior golfer who can beat him, but not all the time … yet), and their dogs, Cooper and Roxy. You can follow him on Twitter @gofastchuck