The situation arose where I had the opportunity to get my hands (er…feet) on, or into, whichever way you chose to take it, the new S-Works road shoes. The styling alone was nicely improved, add to that the promise of extra stiffness combined with lower weight and improved aerodynamics and all of a sudden you’re staring at the sales invoice deciding which method of payment you want to use.
I made a few calls and they weren’t available, plus the Red ones I really wanted were not coming in to SA. Right, even more reason to go shopping. I pulled a few strings and about a week later they were on my desk.
The superficial look and feel of these is quality, smooth seams, supple materials and a UD carbon dual tone sole. The heel cup is ribbed for your pleasure, um..I mean security, and holds your foot firm in place. They have newly designed insoles but I was pleasantly surprised to find that my old BG ++ inserts match the shape perfectly and slip right in. The sizing is narrower in the toes, and feels more of a snug fit. The new tongue system is genius, its micro thin and tucks away perfectly to the side. it also cannot slip or move around. It’s cut deeper too so none of that break in pain on the front of my ankle I had with previous versions. The ratchets are faster, meaning more cable pull per click but still incremental enough for micro adjustments on the go. Getting them on and off though is faster with the new dials. The lack of mesh panels will keep them looking newer for longer and the air venting in the uppers works well to keep the digits cool enough on the warmest of days.
The ride: I will admit that out of the box these hurt me. I have used Specialized S-Works shoes for three years and never struggled with set like I did with these. I couldn’t get my cleat position right and ended up hurting my knees in the first week, the Grey Keo cleats I usually use didn’t seem to float, and I was too locked in. In desperation I fitted the 9 degree red cleats for some salvation for my knees. I also slid the cleat further back to relive some pressure from below. The micro thin soles felt like I had to dial off 1-2mm of saddle height too. They are snug, and this is the first pair of Spez shoes that feel better and better the tighter you go on the wires. They hold your foot further back and in the right zone. I am still getting some pain on the outside of my foot as the uppers stretch to suit my foot shape, but only on the one side. I’ve had them for three weeks and done up to 200km in one ride and only then did I have pain after 180km… I’m sure that will change over time as they wear in.
The extra attention these require is worth it for the added performance (they say I’ll save a heap of time) but in reality I’m really happy with the way they look and the extra level of comfort they afford (or eventually will entirely) They also grab a lot of attention in the start pen and out on race day, so if getting noticed is what you want then the drool factor on these is sky high. The minimalist sole rubber had me a bit worried about walking around in these, but with cleats fitted they manage to keep the sole clear of scuffing so far. I look forward to many more speedy miles in my new carbon slippers.