Review: Northwave Extreme Tech Road Bike Shoes
There’s a lot to like about Northwave’s Extreme Tech road shoes.
They’re reasonably light, sleek, comfortable and fairly well vented…which tend to be the main things we look for in road shoes. While we’ve been testing quite a few really nice top end shoes lately, there are a few features that set the Northwaves apart. First, the carbon soles are incredibly well vented. And they have Speedplay mounting holes (though you’ll need an adapter to make them work) directly in the outsole, which reduces the stack height when using those pedals.
They also manage to have a very well padded tongue and top strap without sacrificing breathability. Lastly, the toe box seems more anatomically correct, carrying straighter forward around the big toe instead of coming to a central point like so many dress shoes.
All good things, and they’ve held up incredibly well to boot! Click on through for the full review…
At 296g, they’re not the lightest shoes I’ve tested, but they’re no tank. For reference, Bontrager’s RXXL and the new Specialized S-Works are both about an ounce lighter per shoe (size 47 tested on all).
You can see the vents on the upper in the top two pics. There are two small mesh vents on the instep, one across the toes and a strip along the outside under the buckle. Not a lot, but two other sections help dissipate heat: The numerous vents on the bottom and the huge, unfettered tongue. Note the silver mesh panels on the sole – three in front of the cleat mounts, two directly behind and two under the heel.
The front tread block doubles as an air scoop to direct air into the central front vent. It comes with two insoles, the thinner of which has holes that line up with the vents on the outsole to further aid cooling. For winter riding, a thicker, more solid insole is also included.
The tongue’s entire center section (pretty much everything that’s exposed to the wind) is a padded mesh panel. The padding is thick, but has huge holes to let air pass through.
The heel cup has directional fabric that helps prevent your foot from pulling out. It’s also shaped well, which probably has much more to do with it’s respectable heel retention than the fabric, but it all adds up.
The “Tech” part of the model name refers to the mechanical closures, of which there are two: The buckle and the dial. The “Speed Lace Winch” dial pulls a flexible cable through hidden eyelets to capture the forefoot. A large release lever makes exits quick and easy. The SBS buckle is a micro adjust closure with three different fit features. First, you have the large ratchet that closes it down. Second, you have two release buttons – one for minute adjustments (black) and one for full release (gray). Lastly, the attachment point on the inside of the shoe has four mounting positions, visible in the lead photo. They even come with a little tool to help adjust the strap’s mount between positions.
After more than half a year in them, the buckle and ratchet on both shoes are still functioning perfectly, and they make it pretty easy to find the right balance between security and comfort.
Aiding that is the one-piece, stitch free microfiber BioMap upper. Not only does it give the shoes a very sleek appearance, but it means there are no seams or other folds, creases or bumps to inhibit smooth movement of the material as your foot is cinched into place.
I’ve spent short hard days and long easy days in these shoes. Their sweet spot seems to be up to about four hours, but then again nothing feels fantastic after more than four hours in the saddle. So, for all practical purposes, they’re plenty stiff for top level racing but still work for the average club rider or enthusiast that just wants to get out and ride.
With most shoes, there’s often an initial “ooooh, these are nice” love affair on the first couple rides, then over time we start picking apart the little things that sometimes end up as annoyances. In fact, one of my best tests is, after riding other shoes for review, do I come back and ride these more? These have done little to offend (other than the color, depending on kit) over the past six months, and I actually do end up riding them on and off between others just for fun. Overall, they’re a great shoe.
Day-glow orange/green not your style? They’re also available in matte black, black/white/red and white/black color combos, all with a $325 MSRP. And there’s a mountain bike version, too. For those that want a slightly lighter weight version, the standard Extreme uses three Velcro straps in lieu of the mechanical closures.