Featured User Review: Specialized S-WORKS Road Shoe

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Featured Review: 2011 Specialized S-WORKS Road Shoe
by jbstebbens

Price: $350 at R&A Cycles
Review Date: September 6, 2010
Overall Rating: 5 of 5
Value Rating: 5 of 5

Bike Setup:
Calfee Dragonfly/Dura Ace/Zipp wheels/Dura Ace 7810 pedals

Summary:
This review is for the 2011 shoe I bought from R&A Cycles in Brooklyn, whom I very highly recommend.

I’ve been riding/racing for 26 years and I have say: these are the best shoes I have ever had.

Specialized shoes in the past have typically ran big for the size you choose, but I’m not sure this is quite the same as it used to be. I find a very close fit as compared with my Shimano shoes. My Shimano’s are 41′s and the Specialized are 41.5. That’s pretty close I think. Years ago, there was almost a full size difference.

The BOA lacing system is also a real plus. You can snug up and ‘lock’ the shoe very evenly with this type of closure system as opposed to regular Velcro straps. The locking ratchet type buckles on most shoes do work well(even though there is only one of them on the shoe-like Sidi/Shimano/etc.) but the BOA system seems to pull the shoes more evenly around your entire foot. As has been said by others, it’s like wearing a sock.


On my first ride with these shoes, I could immediately notice an improvement in my spin. I could apply a good amount of force to the shoes around the entire pedal stroke without any movement of my foot in the shoe. It was a really good fit enabled by this BOA system, I think. My spin improved right away and I’m doing 115-120rpm as opposed to my typical 110-115.

The sole is stiff enough and doesn’t seem to be any different than the other shoes I’ve tried. I’m only 145lbs, so maybe a heavier guy could tell a difference more than I could.

The shoe does have a slightly off camber angle of the sole. Specialized has plenty of information about this on their site. Supposedly, with a regular flat sole, it creates a lot of pressure on your knee as your knee tries to combat the unnatural angle it has been put in for the pedaling motion. So the Specialized shoe will actually put your foot on the pedal at a slight angle. If you want, you can buy shims and footbeds/innersoles to not have this angle that is already built into the shoes – go to the store and look at shoe if you can.

So I was a bit nervous about how I would adapt to this after I’ve pedaled in ‘flat’, no angle on the sole type shoes for 26 years. But maybe it’s an improvement, right? I clicked in and took off, eagerly awaiting the difference and wondering if I would like it or not. The thing is: after a 54 mile ride that first day with the shoes, I really couldn’t feel any difference. I’m sure there was one, but I couldn’t feel it at all. The shoes fit and rode like I expected(actually better than expected)and I didn’t experience anything negative to complain about or to try and correct later.

These shoes look good too. They are really bright white and are very easy to keep clean

Strengths:
- these shoes fit really well. Everyone has a different foot, I know, but these shoes seem to fit me better than any shoes I’ve ever had, mainly due to the BOA type lacing system these shoes have, as opposed to the velcro straps, which never seem to stay tight enough. The nice thing about the BOA system, is that you can crank on the tightness of the shoes, and it never loosens up. It’s locked in.

- these shoes also have a sort of gloss or protective coating on the leather. It’s some type of clear coat or something. They don’t seem to stain or retain the dirt like most other brands do, and they are very easy to wipe off and get clean again.

- the price point. For comparable shoes, you’re looking at $500 for the good ones like Lake’s or a pair of the top Bont’s. I would still venture a guess to say that neither of those $500 shoes have the fit/finish and function as well as the Specialized do. I didn’t buy these Specialized shoes on a budget, I wanted the best shoes regardless of cost. What really sold me and caught my attention was the use of these shoes by Alberto Contador, Andy Schleck, Jens Voigt and Fabian Cancellara.

Weaknesses:
- although it’s minor, there isn’t any reflective materal on the back of the shoe. Sometimes, I’m still riding when the sun is going down and I’d like there to be something on the shoes that reflects the headlights of a car.

- I have the 2011 red/white pair and the red really isn’t ‘fire engine’ red, like I would like it to be. It’s a ‘bright’ red which almost borders on the start of a pinkish type tone. They could have done better on a nice attention getting classic red.

Similar Products Used:
Sidi, Time, Shimano, Carnac, Rivat

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About the author: Thien Dinh

Thien Dinh gained most his cycling knowledge the old fashioned way, by immersing himself in the sport. From 2007 to early 2013, Thien served as RoadBikeReview Site Manager, riding daily while putting various cycling products through its paces. A native of California, Thien also enjoys tinkering with photography and discovering new music.


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  • gregg says:

    Wow, that’s a great lookin’ shoe!

  • Lars says:

    Indeed, it is a great shoe. However, among the “forgotten” weaknesses mentioned in the (somewhat biased appearing) review above is the boa system. I have had my S-works now since May, and twice the boa laces have had to be replaced. The slightest misalignment during loosening or tightening, will make the adjustment wheels eat up the plastic cover of the boa-wire. This easily leads to a wheel not being able to grab the wire, and thus not locking to up the wire. Yes, they are very nice and comfortable shoes, but do expect a pretty heavy maintenance. I have had four previous models from Specialized, but this has not answered the expectations in terms of durability.

    L

    • Shane says:

      My S-works were faulty after only riding 5km boa-wire system let me down, both on the left shoe but a very comfortable shoes when it works. off to the bike shop again on tuesday, shop closed Sunday and Monday not happy as I just spent 380.00. fingers crossed the next pair last more than 5km F&%K!

  • Bill Morris says:

    I purchased the S-Works shoes on April 27, 2013, I loved them from the moment I put them on. They are very light, fit well, venting is very good. I have ridden many times where air temp was 100+ and road temp was definitely higher than that. My feet never felt hot. The heel hold well, and the adjustments via the Boa system did not pinch in any area. HOWEVER… speaking of the Boa system, I had an issue with one of the lower ratcheting wheels. It quit holding and loosened up while riding. I took it back to the shop of purchase, they had to order a Boa. They got them within a couple of days. I had the shop guy replace it, and had him replace the others as well. I though Specialized would foot the bill, I was wrong. The Boa’s are $15 each, the shop gave me a small break on the price and didnt charge to replace them. The shop guy said he has replaced his Boa’s about 5 times since he purchased his shoes 2.5 years ago… I would say keep them clean (as recommended), and be careful when loosening and tightening them. Also the replacement Boa’s have been reinforced with a bit of metal.

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