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On test: Specialized 02 Pro Road Shoe
These shoes aren't just made cycling
By Anthony Tan
Unlike Nancy Sinatra's boots, Specialized's Pro Road shoes aren't just made for cycling - they also won't let you down when you're strutting along the pavement. And don't try telling us you haven't embarrassed yourself in front of your mates once or twice before outside your favourite café.
But cycling is the first and foremost reason for using Specialized's top-shelf pair of road shoes, and that's a great reason in itself. And while they may not look as flash as some of the more established Euro brands, they certainly live up to their "Body Geometry" name in the comfort category.
"Body Geometry" is a term used by Specialized on its range of cycling accessories that, as the name implies, is designed to conform to the geometry of an athlete's body. In respect to the Pro Road shoes, there are three pertinent features that are claimed to stabilise the cyclist's foot bed, help prevent injuries and increase performance. Sounds promising, doesn't it?
First up is the Varus Wedge. No, not another Star Wars alien bad-guy, but a cleverly designed part of the shoe's footbed that is said to bring the foot in better contact with the pedal - eliminating the rotational movement of the shin, knee and foot.
Next, enter the Metatarsal Button: a raised area under the footbed behind the rider's forefoot. The inclusion of the metatarsal button spreads the metatarsal bones slightly, and is said to prevent nerves and blood vessels from being crushed under the pedalling load, with less swollen feet at the end of long rides. Ahhhhh, relief.
And finally a built-in digital camera. Umm, sorry - I was getting carried away there - I meant to say the Longitudinal Arch Support. It's a diagonal, slightly raised area on the medial (inside) portion of the footbed that is claimed to provide a more stable foot platform, minimising arch flex and retaining more of the rider's energy in each pedal stroke. Power to the pedals I say.
I have to admit I was a touch sceptical about an accessory from a company whose forte is in bikes. You'd also think carbon, rather than vinyl straps, or at least a carbon sole would be a certainty on a pair of shoes valued at 150 George Washingtons.
However after a week of riding, I have to say the scepticism was beginning to wear thin. And after a month of riding, it had all but vanished. My feet have enjoyed the ride. Immensely.
One of my biggest gripes with cycling shoes is the seam of the upper rubbing against the top of my feet. The other is the excessive rotation of my foot and knee while pedalling; the problem exacerbated given that I'm of the flat-footed variety. So many years ago, I went to a sports podiatrist, handed over a wad of bills, and got a pair of orthotics custom-made. Immediately my whining was halved. The case of the uncomfortable upper though, is in the hands of the manufacturer, and Specialized do an excellent job here. No overlapping seams = no uncomfortable rubbing-of-the-skin-against-the-upper feeling.
And to see how good Specialized's Body Geometry insoles were, I tried the shoes without my orthotics. Again, I was pleasantly surprised at how good they were, with minimal difference between my custom-made orthotics and the production line insoles. The combination of the Varus wedge and the Body Geometry insole works a treat, minimising the amount of knee wobble (not a technical term) - so that your pedalling action is straight up and down.
The extra "give" in the vinyl straps was also welcome, especially on longer rides. Carbon straps can sometimes be too good, restricting the amount of circulation as your feet swell; so it felt nice to have a tad more flexibility in this department. While we're on the subject of longer rides, one gripe is the virtual non-existence of any padding in the upper. I'm used to the generously padded neoprene variety - so the minimalist upper could do with some more cushioning.
But what really put a smile on my face was the moulded rubber heel. After so many years of walking around in cycling shoes with stuff-all grip, I could now walk around the paved area of the Pierre's bakery with renewed confidence.
Sure, I still look like an idiot wearing cycling attire at a coffee shop, but at least I'm not going to fall over with my espresso and almond brioche in hand.
Price guide: $149.99 (USA)
What do you think of the Specialized 02 Pro Road Shoe? Let us know