The sole is the basis of any XC-based shoe – you’re looking for a stiff, stable platform that can transfer energy into the pedals, while still giving decent grip on loose or muddy ground. B’Twin’s done a good job with the XC9 shoes.
The sole gives a surprising level of stiffness. It’s not quite up there with more serious (and pricier) race slippers, but we never felt that energy was wasted through flex.
The XC9 fares well on soggy ground. The deep treads are aggressively cut, letting them dig into mud, while the tread’s material has enough give to aid grip. You can add studs too, while the shape of the tread helps guide your foot onto the pedal.
Sadly, the XC9 is let down by the upper. The two velcro/single buckle straps secure your foot, but the upper still gives little support. With the straps done up tight, the lack of structure means the material creased, reducing comfort.
The heel box holds you tight and offers some protection, but the toe box lacks rigidity, leaving your toes vulnerable to impacts. Ventilation has proved to be good so far though.