Project 24 Initial Review: Specialized’s crazy stiff S-Works EVO MTB shoe

See all of our Project 24.2 posts here!

Specialized‘s EVO designation is attached to products that are targeted at riders who don’t readily fit into one category or another. Intended to be pro-quality gear for those whose focus isn’t necessarily racing, EVO bikes and accessories are designed to be both burly and efficient. For riders who expect a high level of performance- but aren’t willing to accept the compromises that race gear often makes.

At least that’s my interpretation. In any case, Specialized designed the S-Works EVO MTB shoe “was developed to meet the needs of aggressive trail riders who demand more from their gear.” Seeing as I consider myself to be an aggressive trail rider and know that I ask a lot of my gear (flattery is an extremely effective selling tool), the S-Works EVOs seemed like they would be a great fit. Hit ‘more’ for photos, pricing, and initial impressions…

A long time fan of Specialized’s Body Geometry insoles, I was excited that the S-Works EVO comes with built-in varus cant and BG+ insoles (the least supportive of Specialized’s three support levels). Running about 1/2 European size larger than Shimano, Mavic, or Vittoria shoes, I chose a 43- which weigh in at 780g with 40g worth of cleats (right at the sz 42′s claimed 740g). The two S2 Boa monofilament (rather than the advertised stainless steel) closures, complimented by a third Velcro strap closure, are the same as used on Specialized’s Rime. Though they’re not as fast to don or doff as standard ratchets or Velcro closures, they are lighter and offer finer adjustments- barring any durability issues, it’s a wash in my book.

The densely padded tongue does a good job of protecting the foot from the BOAs’ cables while the synthetic Micromatix upper helps to keep the shoes light, sturdy, and (presumably) vegan-friendly. The Microtex material also lines the inside of the heel- nice to see as I often wear through textile heel liners before anything else fails.  The fit generally works well for my low-volume (but average width) feet, though there isn’t a whole lot of room around the outermost two toes. When still boxfresh and shiny, the nearly all-black EVOs attracted a couple of ‘bike cop’ comments- but those have been quieted by a bit of grime and scuffing. The only flair comes on the base of the shoes in the form of racing stripes that are, well, awesome.

With their full-length (but moderately tread-ed) FACT carbon midsole and 10 “stiffness index” rating, I expected the S-Works EVO MTBs to be stiff. What I didn’t expect was how much stiffer they feel than other carbon-soled shoes in my closet. For the first time ever, I’m noticing annoying flex in my single speed’s e*thirteen crankset and pedals.

Don’t take their stiffness to mean that Specialized have built the EVOs purely for speed. The tread is comfortable for moderate amounts of walking and its rubber reassuringly grippy on exposed rocks. The only real demerit after a couple of months’ use comes from the overly tall heel, which can irritate the Achilles’ heel while riding or walking. The problem seems to be most noticeable early in any given ride before going away somewhat.  It’s not as bad as it was when the shoes were new- on a recent 7 hour training ride the shoes didn’t irritate my Achilles’ at all and in fact didn’t draw any attention to themselves at all.  Either the S-Works EVO MTBs or my feet are finally breaking in.

Removing the BG+ insoles in favor of aftermarket BG++ insoles’ additional support, I’ve found the S-Works EVO MTBs to be extremely comfortable- and I have been reaching for them more and more as they’ve broken in.    All of which brings us to the price. At $370, the S-Works EVO MTBs are gob-smackingly expensive. That said, their sturdier-than-race construction should help spread that price out over several years. The shoes’ combination of light weight, trail-friendly construction, and stiffness mean that they could be at bat for most every ride, too. Are they up to it? I certainly intend to find out…

marc

www.specialized.com

Comments

Chris - 02/08/12 - 9:45am

How would you compare these to the Rime? Any pluses or minuses for either or? Is one better suited for any particular environment? Thanks!

Matt - 02/08/12 - 3:08pm

I have last years Pro shoes which were about $280. Not very impressed with the quality. I can tell now that $370 is beyond ridiculous. They must be paying DC/Quiksilver a lot to use that Boa patent.

Dru - 02/08/12 - 7:11pm

actually they pay Boa to license the technology, just as DC and anyone else who uses it. still don’t understand the point of XC-styled shoes for trail riding, glad to see these at least have SOME rubber on the bottom….

Marc - 02/08/12 - 9:58pm

Chris,

The EVOs are a bit stiffer than the Rimes, so more comfortable for long rides. I’d choose the Rimes’ grippier tread and slightly less-stiff sole for any riding where hiking is in the cards or dabs can be dicey- unknown backcountry rides (with the possibility of long hike-a-bikes), Sedona, and Moab come to mind. At ~half the price, the Rimes don’t give up a whole lot to the EVOs for riders who don’t need or want a super-stiff shoe. Wear the EVOs on a single speed, though, and you won’t want to go back.

marc

Chris - 02/09/12 - 9:26am

Thanks Marc! That helps a lot.

Matt - 02/09/12 - 11:23am

I did a little research on the Boa patent and found out that it is its own company, Boa Technology. They license out their system to the likes of DC and Specialized. I always thought DC inventerd it because they were such an early adopter for their snowboard boots. The system is the best in my opinion, but still, the price Spec is asking for these shoes is a joke. They have completely lost touch with the consumer.

edubfromktown - 02/09/12 - 1:58pm

I haven’t been impressed with other MTB shoes with the BOA system. By the end of a nice rocky MTB ride, they consistently loosen up. I’ll stick with Sidi Dominator’s thanks very much. The S-works designation sure has a lot of stretchmarks on it at this point (over marketed to the maxxxx).

ed.rides.bikes - 02/10/12 - 10:09pm

the price is on par with Sidi (actually $80 less than Dragon 3s). don’t really understand the complaints…

Wilson - 02/12/12 - 2:23pm

For shoes that appear from a KMART or Walmart $8- pair of geek shoes, no thanks. I’ll take top of the line SIDI Dragon 3′s for $80 more in heartbeat. That’s always been S-Works problems, they look cheap.

TheDude - 02/13/12 - 1:08pm

Wilson – Hold a pair in your hands and you’ll know quality. Put a pair on and you’ll see feel what comfort and performance really are.

Stop hating on sweet shoes!

RUSTYDOGG - 02/13/12 - 3:38pm

Decent looking shoe. At least they put some side protection on there. Thats always been my main complaint with Sidi is no side protection. And of course, the absurd cost for the replacement SRS soles (the toe primarily) that tear up on the first rock clip or rocky hike-a-bike.

JasonDoubleU - 02/15/12 - 11:44pm

Caution, Kool Aid drinker…
These shoes appear to have the same sole and basic construction as the regular 2008-10 s-works mtb shoes. I had them for 3 plus years as the only bike shoe I owned and they held up very well, mtb, road, commuting and MN winter riding with booties. They should last a long time!
Also, I do bike fits in a Specialized shop and I am always adding BG insoles and wedges to other brands of shoe and people are amazed at how much better they feel, the insoles are even better in Specialized shoes. We’ve had very good luck with their shoe line and don’t sell anything else, we often have people come in from 100′s of miles away to get fit and buy shoes.
Hate the marketing if you must, but Specialized has great product.

Matt N - 09/28/12 - 2:01pm

Marc – any chance of a follow-up post addressing the durability of these shoes?

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