Specialized S-Works MTB Shoes

The not-so-minor details


Specialized S-Works MTB shoe








Exceptionally well made. Boa laces are brilliant! Stiff, yet quite easy to walk in.


No half sizes.

Take a look around the ranks of the elite National Series cross country field and you’ll see S-Works shoes on an inordinate number of feet. It’s not without reason – these are fantastic shoes, and not just for racing either. We’ve been running these shoes for almost six months now, and in that time they’ve established themselves as our go-to shoe for all kinds of riding.

While there is a tougher EVO version of the S-Works MTB shoe, we’ve been surprised by the versatility of the the standard S-Works shoes – they’re more than just a race item.

The first things you notice about the S-Works shoes is their weight (not much of it, at 340g/shoe) and the fact they use a Boa lacing system for the two upper closures, rather than traditional buckles or straps.

Lightweight is paramount in race shoe, but only if it’s achieved without sacrificing stiffness, and the S-Works shoes delivers here too; the FACT full carbon sole is rock solid.

The Boa laces are brilliant! They’re low-profile, don’t gum up with mud and have very fine adjustment to get the ideal fit.

The Boa laces really are cool; they use a nylon cable, tightened or loosened simply by turning the dials. You can make very fine adjustments to the fit, so it’s easy to get an even fit across the whole shoe, and the dials are low-profile so you’re unlikely to smash them off on a rock as can happen with some larger buckles. If you do happen to damage a dial, they’re replaced easily, and the torn key to remove them is supplied too. The dials seem impervious to mud as well, so you’ll never have that frustrating situation of battling to undo a mud-filled buckle again. We did manage (somehow) to put a nasty crimp in the cable of one lace, which means it doesn’t loosen off entirely smoothly, but it’s a minor issue.

With a rubberised mid-sole it’s not such a drama if you slip a pedal. While the tread blocks on our shoes are starting to show a bit of wear, they are replaceable if need should arise.

We’ve used these shoes for a lot more tramping about the bush than they’re really designed for, and consequently the tread blocks are starting to show a fair bit of wear. Fortunately the tread blocks are all individually replaceable. The carbon sole is scuffed up, but it’s purely aesthetic, and we’ve recently noticed a tiny amount of separation between the upper and the carbon sole. It’s only a millimetre gap at the moment, but we’ll keep an eye on it. Still, given how we’ve trashed these shoes, using them for all-mountain riding on seriously rocky trails, well outside their intended purpose, we’re very impressed with the durability. The materials and construction quality are clearly top notch and worthy of the S-Works tag.

For a full-carbon soled race shoe, these guys are quite forgiving of sloppy pedal entry. If you do happen to miss the cleat when engaging, the tread blocks in the middle of the sole mean you’re not likely to have your foot slip right off the pedal.

We do wish these shoes came in half sizes too, as our foot sits just in between the 42 and 43 Euro sizes. They’re a tiny, tiny bit large, but because the Boa system is so good and secure, it has never been an issue.

While these are an expensive shoe, the pricing is in line with high-end offerings from other brands, and we struggle to think how these shoes can be improved upon. We’ll report back in another six months to tell you if the durability is a good as we expect.


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