A tale of two soles: A few bits of rubber is all that separate the S-Works 6 XC and S-Works 6 Road shoes

Blink and you might miss it. These are not the same shoes. Other than the different colored tongues, a quick glance at the uppers and it would be very easy to confuse the two – which is kind of the point. Pictured above is the Specialized S-Works 6 Road and S-Works 6 XC mountain shoe. Together, they represent the pinnacle of S-Works light weight shoe design regardless of where your ride will take you.

Just like the bikes themselves, riding shoes are going through some interesting evolution. With the rise of gravel racing and mixed terrain riding, suddenly super light XC shoes are appealing again (at least to me). Many of my rides these days on “gravel” bikes consist of long miles on the road, interspersed with single track excursions. I might not be looking for shoe like the S-Works 6 XC for racing cross country, but it appealed to me for road riding where I still needed some real traction. And then there’s the potential of using them for CX….

 

 

While there are some critical differences between the two, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a road and mountain shoe that were so much alike. Both shoes are designed with speed and connection to the bike in mind and feature a very lightweight upper. The grey portion of the shoe is made from Dyneema Cubic Tech which is a sort of super fabric that uses directional fibers that are thermo bonded in place (if you’re a tech geek, the Dyneema site is pretty interesting. Dyneema fibers were even used to power the Stringbike!). The result is a stretch free fit, no matter how much you sweat, pull, or pedal. In front of that is a perforated toe which features one of the few distinctions between the two. The 6 XC adds a bit of abrasion protection for the toe box while the 6 Road goes without. Fit is adjusted through dual Boa S2 dials with a lower velcro strap. The other difference on the upper is that there is a bit more padding around the PadLock heel for the 6 XC. That’s good news because that was really my only complaint with the 6 Road – the opening around the ankle can be a little uncomfortable, though it gets better as they break in.

Of course, the other huge difference is the sole. The road version sees a FACT Powerline 3 bolt SPD-SL compatible sole while the MTB version uses a non-Powerline FACT plate, but still has the same 13.0 stiffness index. For the road, the sole has a replaceable rubber heal tread and also offers titanium alloy cleat hardware that can be flipped to positions the cleats another 5mm rearward. Over on the 6 XC, the minimalist rubber tread is augmented with replaceable toe studs, and a two bolt SPD cleat pocket with extra fore/aft adjust ability. Note that the carbon sole of the XC uses a woven pattern, likely to increase impact resistance where the Road shoe uses unidirectional fiber.

Inside, the two shoes use the same Body Geometry footbed which is pretty minimalist, but does the trick.

How much weight will that tread cost you? Just 48g per shoe. That makes the S-Works 6 XC as light as a lot of road shoes, let along mountain bike shoes.

At those weights, the benefits of such a light shoe are quickly apparent out on your bike. One mistake I made with both of these shoes – compared to others I didn’t need to tighten the Boa dials nearly as much. The PadLock heel cup does a great job of keeping your heel from slipping, and the upper really doesn’t seem to stretch which gives you plenty of power even backed off a few clicks. Give ’em a thorough break in period, and then you’re off to the races. Or not.

Both the S-Works 6 XC and S-Works 6 Road are available in full and half sizes and retail for $400 with an included storage bag.

 

 

Comments

19 thoughts on “A tale of two soles: A few bits of rubber is all that separate the S-Works 6 XC and S-Works 6 Road shoes

  1. “Many of my rides these days on “gravel” bikes consist of long miles on the road, interspersed with single track excursions. I might not be looking for shoe like the S-Works 6 XC for racing cross country, but it appealed to me for road riding where I still needed some real traction. And then there’s the potential of using them for CX….”

    Unfortunately you’ll be forced to ride those “long miles on the road” using MTB pedals should you choose to wear the S-Works 6 XC to gain that extra traction. I love S-Works road shoes – have worn every version since 2010 and put more than 50,000 miles on them – but the material used in the latest road version (in an effort to shed weight) just does not hold up as well as previous versions. And at $400 a pop, riding the shoes for more than one season would be nice.

    As for using the CX version for wet and muddy cyclocross races, I can’t imagine they’ll hold up…even with that robust abrasion protection for the toe box. All of my S-Works shoes fit like a glove; comfortable right out of the box. But the ultralightweight arms race is really compromising durability.

    1. Shimano’s road and mountain equivalents are almost impossible to tell apart except for the tread on the bottom. Ditto of Fizik.

      1. Same with Diadora, Gaerne, and Sidi. That comment made by the author is either pandering to Specialized or made by somebody with a limited knowledge of cycling shoe offerings. Now the fits may vary due to bonding to different soles but quite a few offer the same basic upper in road and mtb shoes.

  2. Love the new ones, couldn’t get the MTB version as they chose to not make the s works XC in wide. Had to change to Speedplay Pave pedals for the gravel bike.
    I have bought a pair of each MTB and Road shoes and drilled out the Road shoes for SPD each year but now just have to switch pedals for CX. Pretty disappointing they limited the selection of widths.

  3. Anybody else notice at Cyclocross worlds, womens winner Sanne Cant and the French junior kid both fell and broke their boa dial on their shoes. Mathieu Van Der Poel also jacked his up after a tangle at the Zolder World Cup. Not sure I’d run dials on the MTB/CX bike.

    1. I have broken the ratcheting buckle from specialized before and had it jam with mud so much that use a different shoe for a pre-ride. It’s the same risk but a manageable one. By the way the boa dials are free lifetime warranty, the specialized buckles are part of a 40 kit.

  4. This are decent shoes for anyone who has not ever tried SIDI yet. But eventually, there is no return from Sidi. And they have been doing this full carbon shoes, with small thread sole since for ever and ever.

    This whole american cycling industry thing is kind of pathetic from an Euro point of view. Get a SIDI, for god sake, the last 15 years each pair and sole thread is fully replaceable.

    1. I’ve had mi SIDI’s for 9 years now and they have been the only shoe I’ve used on the road in all that time. I love the durability and the fact that almost everything on them is user replaceable. I do get foot pain and hot spots after a few hours though. I’m tempted to try something different, but they are really great shoes.

      1. “I do get foot pain and hot spots after a few hours though…but they are really great shoes.”

        Seems to be the definition of NOT a great shoe?

    2. Tried Sidis. They were a nice enough shoe, but no matter which width I tried, they didn’t fit my feet. Doesn’t matter how good a shoe is if the last doesn’t suit a rider’s feet.

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