- 5 / 5 Bee's Knees General Rating -
- 2 / 5 Bee's Knees Personal Experience -
- 2 / 5 Bee's Knees Personal Experience -
Love ‘em, hate ‘em, cycling shoes are more or less a necessary evil of cycling. Evil because until you find the brand or model that works for you, it’s an expensive game of trial and error. I lost at this game numerous times over the course of a few years until purchasing a pair of Specialized Expert Road shoes. For me, these roomier shoes provided the perfect fit at a fair price point. After owning two pairs of Experts for several years, I thought I’d take a look at the S-Works road shoes to see what sort of benefits could be realized.
Material choices for the S-Works model are premium to say the least. First, the carbon sole outfitted on this shoe sports Specializeds greatest stiffness rating. Compared to the Expert, any gain in stiffness wasn’t particularly noticeable yet I can’t imagine a shoe being any more solid. Attention was taken across the entire shoe to employ various levels of padding placed in key areas while omitted from others. For one, the tongue is very thin, seemingly comprised of two thin plies of synth-leather and little else. Perforations can be found over the entire shoe as well as a single air vent in the base. Where some companies use premium leather which requires a break-in period for true comfort, Specialized took a different approach to be a highly advanced shoe that feels the same on day one as year one.
A pair of BOA S2 dials makes for rapid and incremental adjustments of tension on the fly. Simpler BOA dials I’ve used lack a click-to-detention feature. Let me just say after using the S2 I will never be satisfied with anything less. The convenience of micro detentioning is something no rider will want to live without. Another added benefit of these dials is the simplicity of replacement them. In combination with the thin tongue, I was amazed with how even the distribution of tension was across the entire shoe. While I never found the Expert model uncomfortable, the S-Works model had all the right ju-ju. Another significant difference for this shoe compared to those below it is the new heal cup. This design is slightly taller and possibly more narrow to address some concerns of heal slip. Further resolving this issue, a grid of silicone or otherwise tacky dots is placed inside the heal cup unquestionably increasing heal grip.
In a word, the fit of these shoes is very specific. As mentioned above the S-Works shoes employ a higher heel cup with more rigid construction and improved grip. I regret to report my experience with this construction was simply terrible, but only in respect to the heel cup. From the date I purchased these shoe until the time I sold them nearly a year later, I never successfully road more than 20 consecutive miles without being subjected to rub induced blistering. I spoke with Specialized regarding this concern and their response was professional but rather unapologetic. The rep I spoke with was honest in acknowledging that I wasn’t alone in my experience but a greater number of riders had praise for the new design. Originally I thought there would be a break-in period but after reluctantly and slowly racking up a few hundred miles, it became apparent that these heel cups wouldn’t work for me. In every other respect the S-Works model was marvelous. It didn’t stray too far from the overall experience I had with the expert, each area seemed marginally better. The width was roomy without being excessive, the sole insert with metatarsal button and longitudinal arch were familiar and comfortable, and the breathability was more controlled and less noticeable than the expert.
Addressing the Specialized S-Work Road shoes in both an objective and subjective manner yields different results. Certainly these are the finest constructed shoes of any brand that I have owned or tested. Between the superb S2 dials, premium materials and sharp aesthetics, these shoes offer more zest than a California lemon. A major difference established after testing was also the even distribution of tension over the tongue and consistent contact throughout the entire shoe including the sole. Where opinions will differ is over the comfort of the heel cups as mentioned. Months and several blisters later it became evident that I was not a good candidate for these shoes and no amount of riding would change the shoes fit. You’ll notice two ratings above, one reflects my experience, the other represents a rating were the fit appropriate for me. Personal experience aside, these shoes are magnificent, I only wish they worked for me. If you have experience with this product, please leave your feedback on my video unboxing so we can gather a broader gauge of comfort. Happy riding!