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CYCLING SHOE REVIEWS

Bontrager XXX 2018 cycling road shoe lateral view
Bontrager XXX
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STRAIGHT LAST
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STANDARD DEPTH
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STANDARD WIDTH
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280g - SIZE 45
PRICE
£ 300
Pros Pros
  • Straight last
  • Lightweight & super stiff
  • Elegant design
  • Low profile, snug fit
  • Firm heel cup with sandpaper-like grip to improve contact
  • Huge improvement on its predecessor
Cons Cons
  • Shallow/medium fit will not cater to all foot types.
  • Sizing of Bontrager in general. 46EU is more like a 45.
Similar Fit
  • S-Works 7
  • Giro Empire & Imperial

Bontrager’s XXX, their top-end road shoe, is a mix of smart thinking and elegance but what stands this shoe most apart isn’t when comparing this shoe against other brands but rather how much it has evolved from its predecessor.

Some of those observing the running footwear industry’s knee-jerk reaction to barefoot running some years ago, were caught off-guard when several brand’s popular designs seemingly changed overnight. Shoes that typically evolved at a snail’s pace, where the most noticeable differences each season were simply its aesthetics, were completely different in their structure but beared the same name. Whilst this statement bears a somewhat negative connotation, the evolution of Bontrager’s XXX is anything but.

1.2 CYCLE SHOE REVIEW
1.1 SUBJECTIVE DATA

What sets this shoe apart from its predecessor is its depth. If you’re new to this website and unfamiliar with width, depth, and last then click here for some more information. But yes, this shoe reminds me of the running shoe industry’s reaction but this time in a positive way. The high, “gappy” profile has been replaced with a much more tapered and shallower depth and the fit is so much better.

Bontrager’s existing XXX (pre-2019) was so high that it became a key shoe for us to work with, considering some orthotics are built with more bulk at the forefoot to maximise the power of particular feet. As a result, this high toe box ensured the foot sat comfortably without feeling squashed. However, there are still far more cyclists in the world without Mík.Fit Custom Cycling Orthotics and as such, it’s hard to imagine this shoe fitting well amongst the high percentages of populations.

In a cycling era where there are many curved-lasted cycling shoes, this almost straight-lasted sole ensures this shoe will cater very well for the neutral to pronated foot types. For those of you with keen eyes, yes this sole isn’t 100% straight but it’s closer to straight than semi-curved.

In terms of a similar fit, it’s now similar to Specialized’s S-Works 7. The S-Works seems ever so slightly broader with a tighter heel cup but as far as comparisons go, the straight lasts and the forefoot depth ensure a familiar feel and I wouldn’t hesitate to bring the two shoes out together for clients to compare fits.

1.2 CYCLE SHOE REVIEW
1.3 OBJECTIVE TESTING

Another aspect worth noting is the new upper. The existing XXX was very much a spring/summer shoe due to the two big vents above the toes. It’s worth noting that with synthetic uppers being so popular in cycling due to the material’s ability to withstand flex incredibly well, it’s vital to have ventilation as the materials don’t breathe like leather.

This season’s synthetic upper is dotted with ventilation holes without leaving large areas of mosquito-like mesh. As a result, it will naturally be more water-resistant but having taken away those huge vents, it’s no longer the airiest of shoes but it’s trying to find the best of both worlds.

​Another positive change has been the improved design of the rearfoot section of the shoe. Bontrager has essentially created a stiff, plastic exoskeleton to really hold the heel securely and it does exactly that. The addition of sandpaper-like material on the internal walls also helps to provide even more grip and the overall result is a shoe that whilst snug, has a nice overall fit.

1.2 CYCLE SHOE REVIEW
1.3 OBJECTIVE TESTING
Why is there a half star off? It will cater well for many feet but the snug fit won’t be an ideal option for many feet. Bontrager’s sizing is also slightly smaller than expected, meaning it’s wiser to buy a couple of pairs online just to be sure of the fit with the intention of returning the other.

Overall, however, Bontrager has reinvigorated this shoe. It is worthy of its price tag and along with its elegant look, it’s a shoe that we will be seeing more of both within the peloton and cyclist-laden cafes throughout the world.

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