While it’s a bit late to keep labeling some of our reviews as “TS Epic”, I’ve still got quite a few items that saw the rocky, pointy, pokey torture of seven days across Pennsylvania’s finest. Lake’s MX331 mountain bike shoes took the beating pretty well, hitting the course almost new, came away with a few battle scars, but are still my go-to shoes.
The MX331 are Lakes’ top of the line mountain bike shoes. They use a single BOA closure that, so far, hasn’t given me any problems, and bring just about every technology you’ve heard of in a cycling shoe to bare: Carbon fiber sole, heat moldable shape, Kangaroo leather, Outlast temperature regulating liners, antimicrobial silver mesh, and a real rubber outsole.
They’re offered in a good range of sizes, including wide options for most, and in men’s and women’s lasts. I generally wear a US13/EU47. I would have liked to have tried a wide version since these are a snug race shoe and, while I like the features and lightweight, my tendencies favor slightly more casual paces and longer days. Unfortunately, the wide sizing stops at 46.5. Fortunately, the standard sizing accommodated my foot pretty well.
So, the shoe fits, but should you wear it? Step past the break for details and a little carbon carnage…
TECH DETAILS & WEIGHTS
The uppers are constructed of Kangaroo leather with a silver mesh, the latter helping to kill bacteria and prevent funk. It seemed to work pretty well since there were a few wet days during the race, but no stink. For riding seven straight days for hours at a time and not having any odor, I’m impressed.
One of the attributes of the Kangaroo leather is supposed to be abrasion resistance. Sure, they look a little scuffed up, but there’s no tears or rips anywhere. When you see the soles, that’ll seem more impressive. The tongue and heel have Outlast linings for better temperature regulation, but I couldn’t tell. Honestly, on the hottest days, these could stand to be a bit cooler (like having a mesh tongue instead of solid leather), but overall they’re comfortable for a wide range of temps.
All of the stitching is perfectly intact after several months of hard riding.
The insoles are lightweight and comfortable, with vents front and rear. The shape of the last is very straight on the instep, which is a bit more anatomically correct than other cycling shoes that resemble dress shoes.
One surprise was how quickly they dried after stream crossing or rainy rides. I took them off slightly damp, set ’em by the door of the RV and by the next morning they were dry. No stuffing, hair dryering or anything special…and that’s in East Coast humidity.
The heel cup and arch section of the midsole are made of a thermoformable carbon composite. Stick them in the oven for a couple minutes (instructions are included), then slip them on and have someone gently squeeze them around your achilles tendon, heel and arch. You’re able to repeat the process several times if necessary. I did it once and could only tell the slightest difference in feel. They were fine out of the box for me, though – no heel slippage or looseness.
The MX331s have a near full coverage real rubber tread with a replaceable rear section. It grips great, something tested thoroughly on slick rocky unrideable sections and super steep climbs. The carbon at the cleat mounts is reinforced and has held up to scratches and scrambling very well.
These shoes came in just as I was packing gear for the TS Epic, so time was a bit too tight to weigh and photo when they were fresh out of the box. So, consider this “trail weight” with a bit of dirt on them. Cleats are removed, though. 470g and 480g for size 47EU. That’s certainly not the lightest shoe out there, but it’s not bad, and they’re sturdy and supportive in ways some featherweights aren’t.
FIT, FUNCTION & REVIEW
One area where the rocks overcame the shoes was the edges of the carbon outsole. It took a beating:
It looks bad, but it hasn’t affected comfort or performance, and it hasn’t propagated or otherwise worsened in the months since the race.
The other area where the rocks won was on the tread. The right shoe’s soft rubber delammed after getting sliced…
…and eventually just had to be removed. I also had to trim just a bit of the tread blocks adjacent to the cleats to improve pedal clearance. It wasn’t necessary with all pedals I used, so best to check your own situation before taking the SOG to it.
Overall the shoes are very good. At first, they seemed a bit snug, particularly at the big toe, but they’ve formed to my feet a bit and have become more comfortable over time. I’d still like to try a 47.5 at some point, and if you’re on the fence, I’d say try a half size up first.
One of the features you can’t see is a floating carbon last. Zach snapped some cutaway photos at Sea Otter (along with their killer new 2014 range). Lake says it reduces foot fatigue without affecting power transfer. I say my feet felt fairly fresh after some very long, rough days in the saddle, though there were a couple of times when I felt a bit of a hot spot over the cleats. It wasn’t a crazy, painful burning, thankfully – I think this is where having a wide version would come in handy. On the plus side, I never felt any foot numbness. I did run the BOA just snug enough to keep my foot from slipping around, never overtightening it.
Regarding the damage, I highly doubt they’d have suffered the crunching and tread ripping on my home trails in NC…we just don’t PA’s jagged, relentless rocks. And since it hasn’t worsened, I’m confident recommending them. Heck, even the BOA has held up and I’ve typically steered away from shoes with it. It’s a neat idea, but I’ve replaced three or four on other brands of shoes before. All in all a really good shoe that can take a serious beating and remain perfectly pleasant on your feet.