2013 Specialized S-Works road bike shoes review and actual weights

Introduced last summer amid a spread of prototypes and test mules, the 2013 Specialized S-Works took a big step forward from prior models.

The outsole was the project of two years of testing and development and gets a rather unique two-tone design, putting a very thin (1.7mm claimed) section on the outside edge of the foot for improved comfort and weight savings. The rest of the sole is thicker to better handle the power transfer. Pressure mapping during testing showed that most of the force went to the medial (inside) side of the foot, so that’s where most of the reinforcements were laid up.

Specialized calls them the lightest, stiffest and most comfortable shoe ever. Those are some pretty tall claims, let’s see if they hold up…

2013 Specialized S-Works road bike shoes review and actual weights

My size 47 shoe weighed in at 261g, which is 13g lighter than the Giro Empire lace up and 5g lighter than the Bontrager RXXL road shoes I’m also testing. So, among other high end shoes, they’re tipping the scales pretty well. Fortunately, they back up the weight savings with comfort.

2013 Specialized S-Works road bike shoes review and actual weights

Available in white/red, white/black and these matte/gloss black, our test pair would match up with their top end matte black carbon road bikes quite well. The uppers are synthetic and thermobonded to the outsole, which uses a new last shape than prior models, too. The BOA S2 Snap dials both rotate forward to release on each shoe, which makes it more intuitive to adjust on both sides because the action is flipflopped appropriate to each side. It’s a small thing, but worlds better in practice than older models where clockwise did one thing and vice versa regardless of if it was on the left or right shoe.

2013 Specialized S-Works road bike shoes review and actual weights

The matte black with minimal gloss sections looks really good in person, and it’s holding up well so far.

2013 Specialized S-Works road bike shoes review and actual weights

The different thicknesses of the sole are obvious from the bottom. The thinner section flows along the outside edge and, because it doesn’t bear as much of the load, houses the lower air vent. On my first few rides, (UPDATED) I had a bit of pressure on the outside edge of my foot, which felt like a combination of my foot sliding to the outside and the thinner outer edge flexing under power, causing my foot to feel like it was sliding to the outside and over the pedal’s edge.

To remedy this, I slide my cleats outboard slightly and changed the insoles. The shoes come with the flattest (+) of three included Body Geometry SL Insoles installed. While seemingly counterintuitive, I put the middle (++) insole in. Both changes seemed to help, as I haven’t noticed any pressure points since. It seems backward that something that cants the foot’s inside higher would fix this, but so far so good. It could also have been the socks. My last ride, when the pic at the top of the page was taken, was pretty cold and I was wearing thicker socks. Other rides in these shoes have been with thinner, typical cycling socks. Overall, they’re pretty darn comfortable, but I’d like to put more miles and longer rides in before making final conclusions.

2013 Specialized S-Works road bike shoes review and actual weights

Speaking of that winter ride, temps were around mid-40’s to 50ºF, and with a good pair of thick wool socks my feet were perfectly comfortable. On earlier warmer rides in DeFeet or Swiftwick socks, I was also comfortable. The shoes don’t have massive venting, but aren’t totally closed up either. They seem to hit a good middle ground of decent sized vents and perforations.

2013 Specialized S-Works road bike shoes review and actual weights

Front of the toe has a bit of a bumper, but not really a grippy bit to assist walking. The rear, though, gets replaceable (or removable for the strictest of weight weenies!) heel lugs. The two bolts holding the lugs on are covered by the insole.

First impressions are pretty good, but they’re up against some stiff (pun intended) competition. In addition to the Bontrager RXXL and Giro Empire I’ve already put some miles on, Shimano’s new R320 just showed up, too. Oh, and Zach’s testing some new road kicks from Serfas. Look for those first impressions soon and a round of long term followups throughout the summer.


  1. I have these shoes, they are the most comfortable cycling shoe I’ve ever worn. You didn’t mention that the new Boas can be removed and installed without tools, if you break one of the top ones, you can swap in the lower one to get you home.

  2. I bought a pair of S-Works MTB shoes that have started to come apart at the sole….for the second time. When I purchased them for $380 they had a “lifetime” warranty. Funny, now I’m being told they don’t really have a lifetime warranty. NO MORE SPECIALIZED ANYTHING FOR ME, THANKS!

  3. Keith –

    I have had 2 pairs of Specialized MTB shoes that I broke the buckle off. I took them to a Specialized dealer and they ordered me a new pair. Maybe try another shop. They have always been great with Warranty.

  4. I have also had some small issues with Specialized shoes and they were *always* handled appropriately at the dealer. Never ever a problem, and the solution has been a new pair more than half the time, even for relatively minor issues.

    Regardless of whether they fit your foot I cannot fault their support.

  5. I have to agree with Keith on the warrantee aspect of “lifetime or satisfaction guarantee”. I had a set of S-Works tires that were faulty, and took them back to Mike’S and it was taken care of, but a year later I had an issue with another set of MTB tires and Mike’S told me they don’t honor the guarantee anymore. I’m sure this is both Mike’S Bikes doesn’t really care about individual customer satisfaction being they make money by way of volume, and Specialized backing down from their “guarantee” (It used to be on their website too) as it was most likely costing them a lot more money that it was worth.

  6. Spe 2013 are the best shoes I ever had. i rode about 1000 with since end of January and love the confort.
    the sole is magic and has improved my knee alignment.
    too much good improvement for 300euros/400usd.
    for those who have a doubt, take some time to look at all the pro wearing it….. no no no, I am not talking about the sponsored one… the other who wear it in white debranded (50% of BMC for example!)
    5***** product

  7. Chipo –
    Specialized dealer here. They did stop the lifetime satisfaction guarantee on tires and backed it to a 30 day. They did this because people were abusing it – bringing in tires that they had for a year and thousands of miles and worn through to the threads saying they suddenly weren’t satisfied, and they getting another pair of free tires and repeating. In my experience they still are among the best for customer relations in the industry.

  8. @Chipollini you’re “that guy” at the shop. i could see if they were new and in original condition and had a hole or the tread had a defect. but once they hit the pavement or trail, it’s on you.

  9. It’s always gonna be possible to find some to rip on a brand but seriously, trying to warranty a tire that is a year old is nuts. How about post the original purchase date and then mention how many miles you put on the two tires (one paid for and one warrantied)?

  10. I tried these shoes and didn’t like them. I found their change in shape from 2012 to 2013 to be not suitable for my feet (I’ve got flippers and they’ve moved to a narrower, more “European” shape). In the end the choice was between the updated Spec’d 2012 S-Works shoe and the Bontrager XXXL – both fantastic shoes. I went with the S-Works in the end because I’ve ridden on their saddles for a long time and trust the brand. I can honestly say I haven’t been disappointed in my choice!

  11. I have been trying to purchase these shoes in size 43.5 white/black for the past 2 months and all the local dealers have matte black only regardless of size. Specialized website has had very few sizes listed in that time. So there is very limited availability of this model.

  12. I always loved the S-Works shoes but they had flaws – it was too easy to mangle the cables. Now, the latest version has solved this problem, and we have the perfect shoe.

  13. Specialized stuff is pretty solid. Their apparel is yawn-inducing, for the most part (although they just posted on their website new 2013 apparel, which looks a little better). I think they take their styling cues from Apple, as most of their design is muted and monochromatic (for apparel I’m speaking of). Then again, we should all try to ban Primal Scream apparel from being worn by anyone, anywhere.

  14. I have these shoes as well. I have experienced the experience with my foot sliding around as well and I ordered the same size as my perfectly fitting specialized mtb shoes. I put my bontrager inform insoles in and they seemed to help.

    Also, does anyone else feel like the tongue cuts into the front of the ankle? Maybe it will soften over time but the tongue is shorter than most so rather than it sitting along your ankle, the edge ends right against it.

  15. I’ve had these for a couple of months now (approx 3000kms) and find them faultless. They are comfortable to ride in all day yet in a sprint there is no movement within the shoe. They can take a bit to get to the right tension on the boa’s, but you just mash the pedals a couple of times then tighten up.

  16. I’m replacing my Specialized S-works road shoes after 7 years (!!!) of hard wear and tear. They have held up amazingly well, have always been comfortable, and are still on their first set of BOAs which work great. I’m definitely sticking with Specialized for replacement shoes.

What do you think?