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…