A top of the line, super light, super stiff road shoe from specialized with a unique "twist" on comfort.
A shoe exactly like this with some tri specific features. (which is supposedly coming late in 2012 as the new TriVent and we hope to be reviewing it soon)
One of the better cycling shoes we have worn, great attention to detail, and a superior retention system.
Specialized has put a lot of work into the design of the S-Works Road shoe, so we were excited to get to check them out. You are probably thinking, "why would you want a road shoe when there are so many tri specific options available?" Well, that was our thought as well, but with so many positive comments out there on the shoe and sponsored athletes such as Jordan Rapp choosing this model over the tri specific model from Specialized, we were anxious to put them to the test.
The first thing you notice when you take the shoes out of the box is how nice they look. Yeah, this really isn't going to make you faster, but you can just tell that they are a quality product. While you are admiring the beauty of the shoe, you will also notice the barely there weight of this road shoe. The shoe has a claimed weight of 235g, which is ridiculously light for a shoe. Our Shaq size (46) is a little heavier, but nonetheless a very light shoe.
So, they are light and look cool, but they have quite a few other important features that are specific to Specialized.
First, and we feel most importantly, is the BOA SM-1 closure system. Once you have tried the BOA system, it will be nearly impossible to go back to other types of systems such as velcro, ratcheting straps, etc. There is simply not another system that is currently available that gives you the comfort and adjustability of the BOA system. The BOA works by simply turning each dial to tighten or loosen the fit, as you can see in the image below.
The BOA system is a set of dials attached to thin cables that run like "laces" throughout the length of the shoe. This system does an excellent job of distributing the tension across the entire foot allowing you to get a glove-like fit, as the shoe conforms to the foot.
The nice thing about the BOA dials is that it allows you unlimited adjustability, even on the fly as you are riding. If you have ever left T1 and had that uncomfortable feeling of "Man, I wish that strap was a little tighter, etc", it is much easier to reach down and turn the dial while riding than to fiddle with straps. The BOA is also designed to distribute the tension evenly with hopes of preventing hot spots or unwanted pressure. The S-Works shoe has 2 dials. The top for the ankle and heel and the mid dial for the forefoot in arch, which provides for a very snug fit.
Here is a great video that shows more detail on the BOA SM-1 system.
Another nice feature of the BOA system is the ability to order replacement parts if something were to go awry. The shoes come with a tool to remove the dial in case the cable gets tangled. We did experience this on one pair of the shoes, but it is an easy fix.
Next, is the FACT ( Functional Advanced Composite Technology) carbon technology that is used for the soles of the shoes. By layering the fibers of the carbon, Specialized is able to produce a very light (less rotational weight is always good) and very stiff (one of the stiffest we have tested) shoe with an extremely thin sole.
The S-Works shoe has a 3 bolt cleat pattern that supports Shimano SPD-SL, Look, Time, and Speedplay. It also features a replaceable heel tread.
The upper of the shoe is what Specialized calls Micromatrix, basically a synthetic leather that is water resistant and very comfortable. The material stays soft and supple and is also very easy to clean.
One area the S-Works Road shoe isn't lacking is in the ventilation department. Pretty much every available square inch of the upper has a vented mesh insert. The vents proved to be quite functional as we have had these shoes out on many 100+ days in our testing with no discomfort at all. The plethora of vents makes this an excellent choice for hot weather riding, and of course, a tad chilly for winter weather.
The interior of the S-Works shoe is plenty comfortable to go without socks as you would expect to do in a race situation. The inside of the shoe has minimal seams and a very soft liner making this shoe very comfortable.
Combine that with the fit you can achieve with the BOA system and we think it's a winning combination.
Next is the BG (Body Geometry) Fit features which are also specific to Specialized. They have put a lot of time and research into this aspect of the shoe. Simply put, they have added a wedge that they feel helps you have a more natural and efficient pedal stroke by giving you better knee and ankle alignment. You can see this in the graphic below.
Here is a video that does a great job of explaining their thoughts on the BG fit of this shoe. We can say that this wedge is noticeable when you go from riding another brand of shoe and it does take a bit of riding to get used to the feel.
After putting many miles on this shoe, we do have to offer a warning on the BG technology. We feel for experienced cyclists that have an established pedaling style/stroke, these shoes should be eased into to prevent a chance at injury. They DO alter your pedal stroke so there is a chance the change could put pressure or strain in new places. We aren't saying these changes are bad, just simply that the shoes should be gradually integrated into your weekly mileage until you are completely comfortable with the new style.
One of our reviewers experienced a little bit of irritation on the inside ankle near the tongue of the shoe. Not sure if this was due to the BG technology and the change in position, steeper angle of being on a tri bike, or just being a new shoe (maybe he just has "kankles"). You can see this in the image below.
TriBomb Bottom Line
So, back to the issue of wearing these Road shoes during triathlons. We don't see any issue at all for longer distance races. Sure they will be a little more difficult to get into as they are missing a heel loop and some other little features. But, we think the few extra seconds it takes to get into these shoes are well worth the added comfort and other benefits you get from the shoe. And hopefully, the 2012 TriVent will combine all the goodness of the Road shoe with triathlon specific features, which could possibly be the perfect shoe.