For this sort of money, you’d want a supremely comfortable, well made and efficient pair of shoes – fortunately Specialized has delivered.
Specialized’s FACT carbon development’s been applied to the sole, bolstered by a rubberised tread. The sole is stiff – it gets 12 points on Specialized’s stiffness scale, just one down from the S-Works XC race shoe. This means every ounce of effort is translated to your pedals. The tread isn’t as aggressive as some shoes, so in really sloppy conditions it can lose traction, and when combined with the stiffness of the sole the Trail shoes aren’t brilliant at hike-a-bike, but they’re still better performers than many cross-country race shoes in this respect.
The Body Geometry SL footbed canters the foot outwards for a more efficient position and aids comfort. The foam used is relatively dense, but prevents your foot from bottoming out on the carbon sole, meaning that comfort on long rides is maintained.
The toe box is well protected from errant rock strikes, but the rest of the upper is lightweight and flexible, giving a snug fit. The inside of the heel is raised, offering a bit more protection for your ankle, without making the shoe feel clunky. Heel hold is excellent, thanks to the well shaped heel box.
A Velcro strap and two Boa S2-Hex dials secure each shoe. You definitely need to unhook the Boa wires to get the shoe on and off, but the dials offer plenty of micro-adjustment to help get fit just right.
Despite its looks, the shoe is well vented, making it a great option for the new year.