The 99g S-Works EXOS 99 claims to be the lightest production road shoe ever made
Limited to just 500 pairs (ever, according to Specialized), the EXOS 99 makes heavy (or rather, light) use of Dyneema Mesh fabric for minimum weight and costs a decidedly decadent £600 / $700 for the pair.
Lightweight Dyneema construction and traditional laces are key to the EXOS design
There are no ratchet straps or Boa dials, just good old fashioned laces. The sole uses Specialized’s lightest FACT Powerline carbon to maximise stiffness.
The EXOS’ cleat nuts are titanium
Are the 99s a little too rich for your blood? Well then the everyman S-Works EXOS is for you. These cost a mere £450 / $600 and weigh a claimed 150g per shoe for a 42.
Construction is similar but there’s less of the Dyneema and a Boa dial should make for easy adjustment.
The standard S-Works EXOS gets a BOA dial and slightly less Dyneema
The two Specialized-sponsored teams in the WorldTour — Bora-Hansgrohe and Deceuninck – Quick-Step — look to be wearing a new pink-to-orange fade edition of the S-Works 7 shoe along with matching socks at the race.
So far, we’ve only spotted a single Bora-Hansgrohe rider wearing a new pair of lightweight shoes, which are finished in a similar design. The rider in question was also seen fitting a set of Body Geometry SL footbeds to the shoes.
The toebox and structure of the upper on the new shoe looks to be completely replaced by a much thinner material, perhaps constructed entirely using the Dyneema Mesh material used in some components of the existing S-Works 7 shoe.
The toe box area on the S-Works 7 shoe is replaced with an almost sock-like upper
Initially developed by the American space agency, NASA, for use in parachutes, Specialized was the first cycling brand to utilise Dyneema in a shoe and did so for its incredibly high level of strength and its lack of stretch.
The Specialized Powerline carbon sole used in the S-Works 7 shoe was also the stiffest shoe sole the brand had ever developed, so, in conjunction with a Dyneema upper and secured correctly, the new lightweight shoe should produce excellent power transfer despite the lack of structured support in the upper.
However, some of this stiffness may have been lost because the shoes appear to have a cut-out section in the sole, presumably to shift more weight off the shoe.
An area of the sole also appears to have a cut-out section, presumably to shift more weight
Instead of using the two custom Boa S3 dials as seen on the S-Works 7 shoe, the new lightweight shoe appears to have a single Boa L5 dial, although this isn’t completely clear from the photographs we managed to shoot of the shoes.
The wires and Boa look to tension the central area of the upper
The Boa dial is fitted to the tongue of the shoe as opposed to earlier shoes from Specialized, where it is fitted to the outside area of the shoe. This will likely provide a more equal distribution of tension with the single dial and possibly also improve the aerodynamics of the shoe.
The new thin material combined with halving the amount of Boa dials will certainly reduce weight and while this is purely speculation, the new shoe will likely be marketed as a climbing shoe, or potentially one of the lightest shoes on the market, if put into production.
Specialized has not yet announced any details of the shoe, but we have contacted the brand for comment and will update the article with further details as soon as we can.
If stiffness levels and power transfer performance can be maintained from the S-Works 7 shoe in the new shoes, could this new minimal design be the future of cycling race shoes? Leave your thoughts in the comments.
Matthew is an experienced mechanic and an expert on bike tech who appreciates practical, beautifully-engineered things. Originally a roadie, he likes bikes and kit of every stripe, and he's tested a huge variety of both over the years for BikeRadar, Cycling Plus and others. For a long time Matthew's heart belonged to the Scott Addict, but he's currently enjoying Trek's lovely aluminium Emonda ALR and having a torrid affair with a Giant Trance e-MTB. At 174cm tall and 53kg, he looks like he should be better at cycling than he actually is, and he's ok with that.