Specialized S-Works Evo MTB Shoes: Quick Review- by Grannygear

specialized s-works Evo MTBSomewhat new for 2013, the Specialized S-Works Evo MTB  is the top of the heap in the MTB shoe line from Specialized.  I was given a pair to try at the Global Press launch this past summer and I have been in and out of them since then.  Let’s take a look at the basics here.  From the Specialized website:

Designed for the demands of uncompromising World Cup XC racers, this ultra-light and stiff carbon shoe offers Body Geometry performance and Boa® dial adjustability. The S-Works MTN shoe is the pinnacle of cross-country performance.
  • Performance-enhancing Body Geometry contours in the outsole and High Performance Footbeds
  • Light and stiff, full-length FACT carbon midsole: 10 stiffness index
  • Durable injection composite outsole with improved grip and traction properties for confi dent traction
  • New S2 Boa® cartridge closure for improved durability and easy replaceability
  • Incremental adjustment, braided stainless steel cable and easy 3mm Allen replaceable cartridge system
  • Engineered Micromatrix upper is light, durable and supple fi tting, with welded reinforcement rand for complete upper durability
  • 2-bolt cleat pattern, compatible with all major MTB pedals
  • Ultra-vented tongue for breathability
  • Approximate weight: 370g (1/2 pair #42)

They are for certain the most expensive shoe I have ever used, priced at $370.00 retail.  Now that is a lot of dough, but there are others on the market that are more costly such as the Sidi Draco or Vittoria HORA.  I typically buy a shoe in the $120.00 – $150.00 range and that puts me into the solid “enthusiast value” zone.  I likely would not get a full carbon (or carbon at all) sole and certainly no fancy retention system.  They would be a bit heavier too, more often than not.  But often these high end racing shoes can be like taking a thoroughbred on a trail ride.  They can be skittish and uncomfortable for hike a bikes with a sole that is slippery carbon or too inflexible to walk well in.

specialized s-works Evo MTBspecialized s-works Evo MTBspecialized s-works Evo MTB

specialized s-works Evo MTB

Speaking to the shoe guys at the Specialized Global Press Launch, they wanted to improve on both these points with the 2013 version of the Evo shoe.  They added some rubber-ish clear material to the carbon mid-sole so that if you were scrambling across rocks or were riding unclipped, you would have more purchase on the terrain or pedals.  They also added some toe area flexibility for hike-a-bike times.  So I was very interested to see what you get out of a nearly $400.00 shoe compared to a 150 buck model.  Could I tell?  Would I care?

After many hours of riding (and some walking-pushing) in the S-Works Evo shoes, and along with some comments from other owners (who all had older versions), I do have some thoughts and observations.

The Good –

  • Stiff mid-soles are a hit with me.  Yes, it may be a subtle amount over the other shoes I have in the closet, but I can tell a difference, to the point where, if I was not aware of the balance point of the shoe/pedal interface,  I likely could not feel the pedal pressure under the shoe at all.  I might as well be standing on a flat surface.  Is it worth as much as or more than two times the cost over some other shoes I have?  I might be if you are a very powerful or heavy rider or are used to a road shoe’s typical stiffness.
  • One of the complaints other owners commented on the older version was the too smooth mid-sole and the added grippy material on the 2013 version never felt like I was skating around on ice when I had the pedal or a rock in that area of the shoe.
  • I had enough flexibility at the toe section to give me good results when off the bike and hoofing’ it.  No complaints here.
  • They are good looking in a classy, understated way.  No NASCAR colors or graphics.
  • The S2 BOA lacing system makes it very, very easy to micro adjust the amount of compression around your foot.  Lots of tiny little clicks.
  • The Body Geometry foot-bed system allows for finding the right fit for your individual needs.
  • They seem to be holding up fine…no premature wear, etc.
  • They vent decently well, but not as well as the Northwave shoes we tried earlier this year.
  • The cost.  They are a bit cheaper than other high end MTB shoes with comparable features.

The Not So Good –

  • The S2 BOA system has left me less than absolutely enthused.  Yes, the adjustment capabilities are super, but they are kind of persnickety.  Despite being very careful to use the little tabs to pull the wire out as I unspool them, they still have developed some little micro bends in the wire.  As well, sometimes they re-wrap the wire instead of loosening.  I also cannot get them to give me the wide opening that a buckle allows for, so getting my foot in there with a heavier sock on is trying [EDIT:  I since found out that the BOA lacing simply and easily unhooks from the plastic rail holding one end of the system in place.  Then shoe is wide open.  Silly me.  Thanks to one of our readers for the clue-in…GG].  The most common complaint among other riders I asked who were wearing these were related to the BOA system.  No failures, just little niggling issues like these.  It is a replaceable part, that S2 BOA, so if they get boogered up, you can get new ones.
  • The cost.   Well, that is just a part of the deal with all these high end shoes, so it is what it is.  Pay to play.

All in all the S-Works Evo MTB shoes for 2013 look to have improved on the 2012 versions and do not disappoint when the shoe meets the pedal and the trail begins to speed by.

NOTE: Specialized supplied these shoes to Twenty Nine Inches for test/review at no charge. We are not being bribed, nor paid for these posts, and we will strive to give our honest thoughts and opinions throughout.