Knitted uppers have taken over the world of sports footwear, first with running shoes, and cycling shoes are fast catching on.
Giro, Fizik and DMT all have premium knitted shoes on the market. Bontrager has joined the party with its Ballista Knit, which is based around its InForm Pro last for a close-fitting shoe built on a super-stiff outsole.
The outsole in question is its OCLV carbon unit rated at 12 out of 14 on Bontrager’s own stiffness scale.
The sole’s clean matt finish is supplemented by a V-shaped vent that sits forward of the cleat with a rubber toe bumper so you don’t scuff the sole when putting a foot down at the lights. At the rear, there’s a replaceable heel bumper, too.
It’s the upper where the real differences are apparent. The knit itself transitions between a fairly open weave around the toe box and heel cup with tighter knits around the cuff, and structural bands along the lace opening and through the mid-foot.
Contained within the knit are channels to take the wire for the BOA closure, the lacing is threaded through loops on the tongue opening, the wires then trail along the flanks of the shoe with the BOA mounted on the back of the heel.
Tensioning the BOA up from the back creates a different kind of fit and it’s among the best I’ve tried for the fit around the heel. Your foot feels locked in and you simply don’t get any heel lift, which can cause friction and discomfort; meanwhile, the toe box stays relatively free, loose even.
It’s a slightly strange fit if you’re used to close, stiff-fitting shoes, but once you get on the bike the fit in conjunction with the material works. The single BOA and lightweight material add up to a pair of shoes weighing 554g for a pair of EU 45s.
The more open, relaxed toe box fit is matched by an airy feel, the open weave allows air to flow through making these supremely comfortable on hot rides. The stiffness of the sole is ample for great power transfer when sprinting with enough movement so as not to cause discomfort after a few hours’ pedalling.
The nature of a knitted shoe marks them out as fairweather only, even though Bontrager gives the Ballistas a DWR (durable water-resistant) coating.
To make these more of an all-year-round shoe Bontrager includes a pair of rubberised waterproof overshoes. Designed specifically for the knits, they have a pre-shaped hole on the heel for the BOA IP1 dial.
The overshoes are high-stretch and impermeable to water (though the open underside will let in water in heavy rain conditions).
The Ballista Knits are a great option for long rides, especially in warmer conditions.
Bontrager Ballista Knit shoe details
- A V-shaped vent sits forward of the cleat with a rubber toe bumper so you don’t scuff the sole when putting a foot down at the lights.
- The BOA is mounted on the back of the heel. Tensioning the BOA up from the back creates a different kind of fit
- A relatively free toe box means the fit is supremely comfortable, particularly on hot rides with the airy open weave