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