More options than ever are available to the widening variety of mountain bikers, gone are the days of just the polar opposites of downhill and cross country apparel.
With more riders seeking a balance of the best out of all genres in a high performance package, it is no wonder Specialized and many other brands are producing gear that hits that sweet spot, with a ‘trail’ oriented shoe.
Specialized’s S-Works shoes are spotted on the fit feet of so many elite cross country and marathon riders, and not just because they are sponsored, because they are some of the best. Specialized are in our mind one of the leaders of the footwear and apparel game. Their Body Geometry gear is highly regarded, a Flow favourite, and above all, super comfortable and durable.
We tested the premium level S-Works shoe earlier this year, and loved them. New for next season and replacing the S-Works EVO shoe is the S-Works Trail, subtle in colour in styling and only 60 grams heavier than the S-Works race shoe.
With added toe protection, a high ankle guard and a softer rubberised sole, these shoes are built with a few key things in mind. Protection, durability and walking ability.
We’ve worn these shoes on dozens of rides and love them to bits, but one thing perplexes us. Why would Specialized use their stiffest carbon sole in shoes that are supposed to be good for walking in? The shoes fit great, but pushing our bikes up the trails or walking about makes our heels slip and rub the back of the heel cup, and after a few hours it begins to hurt. Plus, a slightly softer sole may detract from pedal efficiency slightly, but what can be gained in ‘feel’ is what we seek in a trail oriented shoe. Combining a trail style pedal with more support (like a Shimano Trail, or Crank Bros Candy) allows your to feel less isolated and use your feet to steer the bike a little bit more. We would have loved the Trail shoe to have a slightly less stiff sole.
The dual BOA dials are a serious highlight, with the snug tension so easily adjusted whilst riding, and fitting and removal of the shoe is quick and easy. The ankle protection was neither here nor there for us in particular, but we know many riders who bang ankles on the seat and chainstays of dual suspension bikes all the time, and it sure can hurt. If this is an issue for you, the ankle protection provided with these will alleviate that worry.
Clambering up rocks, or dabbing your foot down on tricky climbs is great also, the rubber sole doesn’t slip on hard surfaces, where the usual high end shoes will make you do the splits.
Ultimately, we will be wearing these shoes more than anything, but there is the Specialized Rime shoe that is even more flexible for walking in, as a good option.
The Trail shoe fills the gap between a super relaxed skate style shoe like the Teva Pivots and the flashy race ones like our new fluorescent green Scott Premium shoes nicely.