GripGrab Explorer gravel overshoes review – tough oversocks for tough weather

Are GripGrab’s reinforced waterproof oversocks tough enough for life off-road? Guy Kesteven has been putting them to the test over winter

Grip Grab Explorer
(Image: © GuyKesTV)

BikePerfect Verdict

Waterproof, impressively breathable and comfortable down to freezing with a snug universal fit on gravel/XC MTB shoes and useful reinforcement for rough use. Wash carefully and avoid pointy plants though.

Pros

  • +

    Decent weatherproofing

  • +

    Hood breathability

  • +

    Universal pull on fit

  • +

    No zips or straps to go wrong

  • +

    Rubber reinforcing works well

Cons

  • -

    Knitted fabric pulls threads easily

  • -

    Snug fit can squeeze circulation

  • -

    Cold below zero or when properly soaked

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GripGrab’s Explorer might be some of the best overshoes available if you want above zero degree weather proofing comfort with extra protection for scuffing around off-road. They’re not heavily insulated though and barbed plants can pull threads easily.

Design

The Explorers are a development of GripGrab’s Flandrien road overshoes (€73.95 in four colors). They are based on a similar stretchy knitted sock which has a waterproof membrane sandwiched into the fabric. The Explorers are reinforced with TPU toe caps and a grip panel under the sole between the cut outs for the cleats and forward tread and the heel tread. The holes are also reinforced to stop fraying and the lower part of the sock also gets an extra toughening coating to protect the soft knitted fabric. The Explorers come in four different sizes, all of which stretch to mid calf but are only available in black at the moment. 

Grip Grab Explorer underside

Cut outs in the bottom of the Explorers let the tread pop through for walking (Image credit: GuyKesTV)

Performance

The whole concept of the Flandriens and the Explorers is to mimic the old skool roadie trick of pulling socks over your shoes for extra insulation. That means some wrestling to get them up over your shoe and then re-arranging to make sure the tread pokes through properly and the toe cap is in place. As you’ll get the best top seal if you wear your tights over the oversocks, that means pulling your tights up your legs first so they work best with zipped legs. The fact there are no zips to break/get sticky or Velcro to get dirty and come undone is a big bonus though. They’ll pull over every gravel/XC MTB shoe (basically anything with separate tread ‘pontoons’ rather than continuous tread) I tried, they’ve got a pleasingly low profile aesthetic and you can even tighten Boa dials through them if you need to.

The fabric works really well too. It shrugs water off the surface initially thanks to a DWR (durable water repellent) coating, but even when that gets overwhelmed your feet will stay dry inside. They’re snug enough not to flood immediately from underneath if you step in a puddle too, although taking some time to seal the cleat slots or other perforations in your shoes will definitely help protect from water coming from below. 

Impressive breathability means sweat is managed really well even on long climbs on warmer days, so your feet don’t get sodden from the inside like they do with neoprene overshoes. And while they’re OK up to double digit degrees they roll up pocketably small if the weather really improves.

Because they keep your shoe and inside sock dry and warm, they also provide more ‘system insulation’ than a waterproof sock inside a wet shoe. They are noticeably colder when wet though as the water in them obviously means faster heat loss. On dry, cold days they stay comfortable well into the frost zone though. I’d definitely recommend going for the larger of the sizes if you’re between choices though as the snug fit can squeeze circulation if you go too small.

In terms of durability, the toe bumper and midsole grip definitely help protect the knitted fabric when you’re kicking around on foot or clattering around on trails where rocks are flying off the front wheel. That means they work well for XC MTB as well as gravel. We’ve had no issues with stretching or worn/torn holes in the fabric after several months of winter use. They clean up pretty well when hand washed, although you need to be careful when drying them, as from experience laminate knits like this don’t like excess heat. The top of the Explorers are getting tufty from torn threads caused by bushes and other snagging incidents on the trail though so they’re not the best choice if you ride narrow, wood/scrubland singletrack.

Grip Grab Explorer toe

Reinforced toes help the Explorers fend off rocks but the knitted fabric is vulnerable to snag/thorn damage (Image credit: GuyKesTV)

Verdict

GripGrab’s Explorers are really easy to pull over most gravel/XC shoes and provide useful wind/water protection right down to freezing point without getting too sweaty if things warm up. The extra protection helps them survive off-road life and they provide a better overall ‘system’ than waterproof socks too. They’re also about twice the price though and you’ll need to avoid pointy plants and be careful with your washing and drying to make them last.

Tech specs: GripGrab Explorer

  • Price: $89.95 / £79.95 / €89.95
  • Sizes: S (36-38) M (39-41) L (42-44) XL (45-47)
  • Options: Black only
  • Weight: 180g
  • Available from: gripgrab.com
Guy Kesteven
Technical-Editor-at-Large

Guy has been working on Bike Perfect since we launched in 2019. Hatched in Yorkshire he's been hardened by riding round it in all weathers since he was a kid. He spent a few years working in bike shops and warehouses before starting writing and testing for bike mags in 1996. Since then he’s written several million words about several thousand test bikes and a ridiculous amount of riding gear. To make sure he rarely sleeps and to fund his custom tandem habit, he’s also penned a handful of bike-related books and talks to a GoPro for YouTube, too.

Current rides: Cervelo ZFS-5, Forbidden Druid V2, Specialized Chisel, custom Nicolai enduro tandem, Landescape/Swallow custom gravel tandem

Height: 180cm

Weight: 69kg