Bottom line: these are great winter cycling shoes for sub-freezing winter conditions. They're not great for super wet/all-weather commuting.
I've been holding off on buying SPD winter boots/shoes for years. And every year I have at least one ride that is ruined or cut short because my toes have frozen. So this year I decided to drop some coin on real winter riding shoes.
The MXZ301s are the 2007 model. They retailed for about $250. I got them last summer on close-out for $175 from Spoke-n-Sport. This year's comparable model is the CXZ302, which retails for $270.
The Lake Winter Cycling Shoes seem to be the standard, and for good reason. They're warm. My coldest ride was a few weeks ago when it was about 4 F with a good wind. I was riding for about 30 minutes and my toes were fine. I wear these boots with two pair of "liner" wool socks. Liner socks are the ultra thin ones. These boots kick booty in serious cold. I've never had such happy feet in those conditions.
In extreme wet and not-as-cold conditions these boots are not as great. They have neoprene cuffs that basically absorb water. You must run flaps on your full fenders to keep the water from kicking up on the cuffs of these boots. Otherwise, the water will soak in and then drip into the boot.
Over the last couple days, where gobs of snow has melted, I am riding and tromping through deep slush and puddles over a layer of ice. These are just sucky conditions, and these boots don't keep out the water, and I'm being mindful of not tromping through the deep stuff. For the cost of these boots, I would expect them to keep my feet dry in this muck.
One thing that has always bugged me about these boots are the lacing mechanisms. They don't work any better than normal laces, but they introduce a level of fussiness and point of failure that renders the boots unwearable if the laces or the mechanism breaks. After a couple weeks, one of my knobs popped off. It's held in place with a tiny screw that requires a special tiny pin spanner, which is not included with the boots. So after reassembling the little mechanism, I tightened the screw down with the point of my knife. It failed a couple more times. I finally put some blue loctite on the screw and that's held it for the last month. Cheesy.
These laces are like dental floss. And they will break. The good news is that Lake is very quick about getting new laces to customers. Mr. Blaine had one break on him and they over-nighted laces to him. That's great, but I think they should include an extra set of laces when you buy the boots, so you don't have to potentially miss a ride or two waiting for the Lake proprietary laces to arrive. I also think they should include the impossibly small pin spanner tool to open the knob too. Actually, I think they should just use traditional laces and forget all this fussy over-engineered knob lacing system.
In the end, if I were buying again, I think I'd get the Lake MX265 Cycling boots.
They are billed as 3-season, but I'm thinking if you bought big you could put some beefy wool socks on, and lather them up with some Proofide and be ok. They won't solve the crazy muck wet scenario, but they retail for about $100 cheaper. And they look relatively normal. Which I like. The MXZ301's have a Jetson vibe going.