CYCLING SHOE REVIEWS
- A seamless upper made using a single piece of 3D woven fabric
- Comfortable for cyclists with bunions etc
- Wide and appropriate dual Boa placement
- Elegant design
- Shallow depth and medium fit could limit compatible cyclists
- Heel cap not replaceable
- Questionable upper longevity but further testing required.
- S-Works 7
- Giro Imperial / Empire
- Bontrager XXX
Rapha has always had quality products that speak of minimalism and sleekness. Whilst they have always maintained pride in choosing top-end materials, there has been a consistent argument that you’re paying more for the brand’s look and ethos than the performance benefits of their products. However, release after release of high-performance kit indicates Rapha is more than just about pretty products and this is what brings us to talk about the Pro Team Shoes – Rapha’s second and much more serious venture into the top-end cycling shoe market.
Built with a straight last and a medium width profile, this shoe is finished off with a surprisingly shallow and streamlined toe box which indicates it’s more for the thinner, more slender feet of the cycling world. Blindfolded and sitting side-by-side to Specialised’s S-Works 7, you’d certainly feel a familiar shape and fit although there is definitely a significant difference when it comes to each shoe’s uppers which we’ll come to in a tick.
We’ve spoken al lot about the benefits of straight lasts over curved ones in cycling and so straight away this shoe has our attention and it’s clear that Rapha has designed this shoe thoughtfully.
Whilst the shoe’s width could be an issue for some riders the upper is ultra-comfortable and glove-like. Shoe width is not something a lot of riders think about and it can be quite deceiving particularly when you’re wearing something as comfortable as the Pro Team shoe. Click here if you want to read more about the ideal shoe fit.
The Pro Team upper is are made using a single seamless piece of 3D woven fabric. To the right foot type, this product feels more like you’re wearing a really tapered, comfortable woven sock. The fact that it’s seamless and so comfortable is good news for cyclists with bunions and other digital irritations. So much so that this shoe could be an alternative to Lake’s CX241, particularly considering it has a much more appropriate straight last.
Rapha has wisely chosen to introduce a dual Boa system as its fastening mechanism over the Classic’s lace and strap system. Again, the position of the Boa’s are comfortable and not dissimilar to that of the S-Works 7 (Can you see a trend happening here?). However, they have not added the lower forefoot fastening strap which in our opinion is a wise move (as it’s just not necessary) as the lower of the two Boa’s has good retention over the dorsal forefoot.
The plastic exterior heel cup provides a very secure fit without any noticeable pressure points. This is the biggest dilemma of the S-Works 7 so some could suggest that Rapha have been so impressed by this brand’s shoe that they wanted to replicate its formula and improve upon it’s weakest points. However, there’s no additional grip on its interior or ability for DIY heat molding so whilst the shoe holds the foot well, this is an addition that could be an added bonus in the shoe’s next iteration.
An interesting design to note is the physical distance between the Boa’s and their respective attachment points as this isn’t something seen too often particularly with Boa’s. The tongue itself is very firm but equally as thin and there’s absolutely no padding so it’s feasible to think some riders are going to feel the plastic cords but we’re yet to feel it. The benefit of having the Boa’s and their attachments so wide apart is simply that it improves the shoe’s overall fit. If the tongue (or vamp as it’s technically referred to as) has less than 15mm or a thumb-width when fitted properly, the shoe is simply too narrow. Since the shoes are designed to fit a variety of foot types, this ensures the Pro Team Shoe will fit well across the board.
One thing that has our attention is whether or not the shoe will be able to retain its strength in the upper for as long as the stiff carbon-fibre base will. Truth is, our team hasn’t been wearing the shoe long enough to really put the shoe through its paces but time will tell and we’ll let you know.
Nonetheless, Rapha has produced something both sleek and thoughtful. The shoe’s width will limit the riders that it truly suits and I suspect some riders will buy it thinking it’s more comfortable than it is practical for their foot’s shape. However, it scores well on our shoe list and that’s why it has been given 4.5 stars. Why the half a star loss? The upper… We really want to see how well it lasts over time.