When Specialized set us up with a pair of their then-new S-Works Evo shoes last fall, I was excited by the idea- but worried about being let down. After all, everyone seems to be seeking the holy grail of a race-weight and race-stiff shoe that has enough tread forefoot flex for off-the-bike sections and the durability do it all, day in and day out. That is the idea behind the Evo version of the big S’ range-topping shoe: after a year, have they delivered?
To build the S-Works Evo, Specialized started with a carbon fiber foundation that rates a 10 on the company’s “Stiffness Index.” Rather than leaving large expanses of the hard, slippery stuff exposed, they added racing stripes (a lovely black/cyan is now available) and covered those a dense translucent rubber. The raised tread is soft and grippy, providing plenty of confidence off the bike, and optional toe spikes round out the package.
Drawing on their extensive biomechanics research, the uppers begin with Specialized’s excellent (if only lightly supportive) BG+ insoles and wraps the foot in a lightweight Micromatix synthetic. The deep heel cup is is lined with the same smooth material as makes up the outer, which has proved comfortable and friction-free on long hike-a-bikes. Now that it has (or I have) broken in-a process that took several months–the tall heel no longer becomes irritates my Achilles’ tendon on long rides or hikes. Be sure to try on a pair of Specialized shoes before special ordering, though: they seem to run about 1/2 size larger than Shimano, Mavic, or Pearl Izumi.
The sole, while stiff and not quite as able to follow the ground as Pearl Izumi’s X-Project or Specialized’s Rime shoes, is perfectly comfortable off the bike. The grippy tread provides plenty of confidence when dabbing in dicey sections. It’s only the toe lugs that have left me wanting- toe studs would be too slippery on rock but the minimal lugs are wearing a bit faser than they should and don’t give as much purchase as they might on steep scrambles.
The most controversial feature- and the one that initially gave me the most pause- is the Boa S2 retention system. Though light and precise, the system has an Internet reputation for poor durability. I’m happy to report zero issues with the ratcheting dials. Since realizing that the cables were meant to be detatched when removing the shoe they’ve also become a whole lot faster to use. As with any retention system, picking up a spare set for long or remote trips isn’t a bad idea (and they’re small and easy enough to bring along).
Despite the multi-piece construction, the entire package weighs in at 340g/shoe (actual, size 43)- the claimed size 42 weight. Despite that light weight, the S-Works Evos have weathered the past year extremely well. No fraying seams, no torn fabric, no real scars to speak of.
With the Achilles area broken in and my preferred BG++ insoles and varus wedges in place, the black Specializeds have become my go-to shoe. They’re more than stiff enough for racing or single speed use but comfortable enough for all-day rides and 24-hour racing. With the $370 S-Works Evos, Specialized promise a no-compromises XC/trail shoe. Apart from some quick-wearing toe lugs, I haven’t found any. In short, the S-Works Evos have exceeded my expectations, put my Boa-fear to rest and proved to be the best shoes I’ve ridden. That said, for the money they really ought to be.