CYCLING SHOE REVIEWS
- Exceptionally lightweight
- Straight last
- Stiff carbon-fibre base
- Exos 99 Lace-up version better fitting
- Little to no upper rigidity to hold the foot in the best position
- Poor upper longevity
- Soft heel cup
- Single Boa (lace-up best)
- Cut-outs at carbon-fibre base reduces overall stiffness
- S-Works 7
- Giro Imperial
Specialized S-Works EXOS is one of the world’s lightest cycling shoes coming in at 170g/shoe (size 45EU) and without a doubt, it’s a shoe packed full of features and incredible workmanship to achieve something so light. However, there have been some significant sacrifices to achieve something so light and at a price point of £450, it’s by no means a try-and-see purchase.
The Exos is built upon the same straight-last and retains a similar medium to wide profile as the S-Works 7. Four sections along the carbon-fibre base have been removed to reduce the shoe’s weight and as a result, the shoe isn’t as strong as the S-Works 7 but this comes as no surprise given there’ll have be compromises along the design process to achieve such a lightweight shoe.
The Exos’s upper uses Dyneema, an incredible non-stretch, lightweight, and mesh-like material that has been welded and bonded together to minimise any unnecessary weight and irritation spots.
Keep in mind that any upper that utilises such thin material is never going to have the ability to hide any such seems and as a result, the welding and bonding of the upper material is more out of necessity rather than technology but none-the-less, the end result is impressive.
The heel cup of the Exos is no different as it too has been debulked to make way for less weight. Whenever we look into shoe design, one of the first aspects to consider a well-made shoe is the heel cup. Soft heel cups mean the foot works harder to stay stable so being able to hold the heel firmly helps to minimise the displacement/drift of the forefoot in almost all conditions. Without this structure, sure this shoe is light but will this be problematic.
The Boa fastening mechanism has been cleverly redesigned to remove metal components and ultimately reduce its weight. Specialized has also produced the Exos 99, an even lighter version of the shoe that has laces instead of a Boa’s and this version will undoubtedly have a much-improved fit over the Boa. A single central Boa on the upper part of the shoe’s tongue will likely mean increased tension towards the ankle and less tension towards the lowest aspect of the tongue. This is always my hesitation when seeing cycling shoes with only one Boa and/or an additional fastening mechanism.
The downside to using such a lightweight system is the overall form of the shoe. Form is different to fit. Shoes can fit well but form badly over time and this is my experience with the Exos. Straight from the box, the upper glistens and you sit there and almost gaze at its incredible design. However, after taking look at the shoe after several hundred kilometres, the shoe closer resembles a crumpled parachute and the shin quite quickly fades.
The ability of the shoe to hold your foot over time is just as important as the fit of the shoe itself. Remember, the shoe works as an extension of the foot. If the upper allows your foot to move and float about then the shoe is no longer providing its primary role and undoubtedly, this will affect performance.
When I think of the Exos I think of innovation. However, this shoe just isn’t for me. There is little value in spending money on high-performance insoles only for this shoe to slop around and not hold the foot properly on the Mík.Fit orthotics. It would be similar to paying for having your teeth whitened professionally but not brushing your teeth at home. Your paying for something that you’re not helping in the background.