A quality pair of bike shoes will maximise power transfer, fit like a glove and prevent clammy feet
How we tested
As ever, the first stop for the shoes was the trusty 220 scales, before all were fitted with Look Keo cleats. We then cast our critical eye over them, both for performance and for style; while not the obsessive Manolo Blahnik acolytes you’d find on Sex In The City, we nonetheless believe that looks are a factor. The first ride was on the turbo where power transfer and comfort could be more easily assessed at a constant and controlled output. It was then out onto the road and, despite near-zero winter conditions, our tester rode without overshoes to assess ventilation (based on the ‘Ice Block’ scale of breathability!).
First up, a caveat: to ‘activate’ the customised heat-moulded soles, you’ll have to visit a Shimano fitter, which could be an issue if buying online. That said, if you’re spending a lot on shoes, you’ll cope with the inconvenience. As it turns out, even without heat moulding the fit is good, although some might find them a little tight in the toe-box. Weight isn’t bad at 312g for the size 45s; the main buckle has a positive and precise ratchet; and the added security of the grippy heel cups is especially impressive. They impress on the bike, too, with the carbon sole delivering stiffness and no hotspots or discomfort on the top of the foot. There’s also excellent venting through the metallic mesh. But, and perhaps it’s a personal thing, we’re not sure about the shiny blue material in the uppers. It makes them look, well, just a little cheap…
Verdict: If you could mould the sole in your own oven, would be nigh-on perfect. 77%
Gaerne: Carbon G Chrono
These Italian beauties really look the business, with the web and metallic web tongue in particular earning serious points for aesthetics. They come in at 277g for size 44.5 and sneak in a penny under the £300 mark. Despite not being ‘oven-bake’, the fit remains really good. This is down to the Boa L5 closure system with two micro adjustable reels, a set-up that really does allow you to fine-tune the fit and dial in the perfect amount of security, and snugness without over-tightening. Typically for an Italian shoe, sizing does come up a little small and narrow. The carbon sole might be thin but is still stiff, delivering a low stack height and excellent power transfer. Ventilation through the go-faster metallic mesh vents is good, while the non-slip rubber inserts, including a replaceable rear one, mean you’ll not be tottering around like Bambi on ice.
Verdict: Plenty of features and top closure system, but a fairly big spend. 88%
Pearl Izumi: Pro Road III
Despite a flash of metallic mesh, these shoes have an understated, functional appearance – and certainly don’t have the Euro-bling wow factor of others on test. The fit is excellent. We especially like the adjustable buckle mounts and the extremely positive ratchet. The synthetic leather Clarino Rovenica uppers vent well, feeling secure and comfortable around your feet. The size 46’s 327g means they’re not the lightest shoes on test, but they do have a genuine feel of robustness. Pedaling performance is good, with the uni-directional carbon sole providing abundant stiffness and developing no hotspots. However, at just under $300, these shoes represent a fairly significant cash outlay. Although we found nothing really wrong with them, there’s little to excite either – no real USP to put them top of your shopping list.
Verdict: Solid shoes that won’t let you down, but lacking that must-have quality. 78%
Louis Garneau: Futura XR
These shoes give you plenty of bang for your buck, but their 359g weight (size 46) is the heaviest on test. They look the part though and, despite a relatively budget price tag, finish and appearance are good. If you’ve got wider feet you might want to go up a size, but there’s plenty of scope for adjustment. Two velcro straps and a main ratcheted one make dialling in a snug fit easy. You can also change the position of the ratchet to accommodate a wider or narrower foot. The interior is wonderfully comfortable and the heel cup has a one-way grippy texture that helps to ensure no slipping when pedalling. The full carbon sole delivers good power transfer, while ventilation throughout the whole shoe is excellent (maybe a little too good for autumn and winter). Best of all, they’re super-comfortable and totally hotspot-free.
Verdict: Comfort, looks and performance at a bargain price. But a tad heavy. 81%
DMT: Radial 2.0
Definitely ticking the bling box, these shoes are the first on test that require you to do a little home baking. It’s only the insoles that go in the oven, but you can definitely feel them moulding and conforming to your feet. The three velcro straps allow you to tweak the fit to a reasonable degree but we’d prefer the security and classier feel of a ratchet. With a seam-free, one-piece ‘slip last’ upper, though, the overall fit is secure, wonderfully comfortable and gives a hotspot-free ride. The carbon used in the sole is the same as used in Pinarello frames and its stiffness stats are seriously impressive. You really notice this when you put the power down and, although they’re one of the heavier shoes on test at 342g for the size 45,the power transfer is more than enough recompense.
Verdict: Comfort and power, but we’d like a ratchet clasp at this price. 79%
By some margin, these are the most expensive shoes in our grouptest – priced just a little above the second priciest. However, they’re no lightweights, weighing in at a pretty high 334g (size 45), so hopefully they’ve got other plus points to justify their hefty price tag. It’s a bit of a worry putting shoes this expensive in the oven, but there’s no denying that the process does give a bespoke feel. Combine this with the kangaroo leather uppers, the even pressure and finely adjustable Boa lacing, and you can achieve a genuine ride-all-day, super-secure fit. The comfort factor is increased with a fairly generous toe-box. They perform well, venting brilliantly and, with plenty of the bare 3K weave carbon on show and cradling your feet, you can see where the stiffness and superlative power transfer comes from.
Verdict: Brilliant shoes that blend comfort and performance. Pricey, mind. 86%
When you’re sitting in these oven-toasty shoes as they mould to your feet, the first thing you notice is their slightly flipper-like appearance. This is due to the wide Ergoshell toebox which, although not as aesthetically pleasing as a traditional narrow-shaped cycling shoe, is blissfully comfortable. This comfort applies to the whole shoe – they’re like a pair of carbon slippers. Stripped down and minimal at 278g (for the size 45), they’re very low cut around the ankle and have an industry-leading low stack height. But they still feel rock-solid and secure on your feet. There’s no stiffness either, with the carbon monocoque chassis ensuring all your effort goes through to your pedals. The leather uppers give a classy finish, vent well and, with replaceable sole guards and buckles, will give you plenty of miles of service.
Verdict: Odd-looking wide toe-box, but light, stiff, classy and super-comfortable. 92%
Fizik: R5 UOMO
Fizik’s early forays into the cycling shoe market received a bit of criticism, but the Italians have gone back to the drawing board… and, with the R series, have produced some cracking shoes. At 284g (size 44.5), the entry-level R5 is light and, although lacking the kangaroo leather, carbon buckles and sail cloth straps of its pricier stablemates, it’s a wonderfully stylish-looking shoe. The most significant compromise is that the sole is carbon-reinforced nylon rather than full carbon. They do feel a bit flexy walking but, on the bike (where it counts), power transfer is acceptable, despite them not being the stiffest of shoes. Fit is slipper-like, the ratchet clasp is positive and accurate to adjust, and there are no hotspot issues. As when you slip into a classy Italian-made suit, these shoes just make you feel good.
Verdict: You’re paying for handmade Italian style, so a little is lost on the spec. 82%
DHB: T1.0C Carbon
Wiggle’s own-brand dhb consistently delivers and these shoes are no exception. The only tri-specific shoes on test, they have most of the key multisport features. The in-to-out single velcro strap is easy to undo, doesn’t catch on your cranks and gives a comfortable but secure fit. Inside, they’re soft enough for sock-less use, have post-swim-friendly drainage ports and decent venting, as well as a decent-sized heel loop. All that’s missing are replaceable rubber heel bumpers to counter bashing coming into T2 but, at this price, we can’t really complain. The size 46’s 296g is impressive for a tri cycling shoe, while the full carbon sole gives a flex-free, efficient pedal stroke. The only criticism concerns their slightly austere looks. They don’t look cheap but, for a race-day shoe, they’re somehow lacking the motivating wow factor.
Verdict: Top-value, top-performing tri shoes, but slightly let down by their looks. 84%
You can pay a little, you can pay a lot. But our winning pair is slap-bang in the middle…
This is a really solid selection of cycling shoes, none of which would disappoint. At the cheaper end of the test are two really decent pairs of shoes. The Exustars would certainly make a good entry-level or training shoe, while the dhb shoes deliver both a carbon sole and triathlon-specific features at a very affordable price. At the other end of the test, the Lakes are a brilliant pair of shoes but, for the best part of $460, you’d be mightily surprised if they weren’t. The Gaerne Chronos don’t just edge it on price, but also on weight, looks and a more adjustable double Boa system.
However, it’s in the middle of the test that we found our winner. While its price tag is still quite high, the Bonts are just sublime. Once you’ve heat-moulded them, the fit feels genuinely bespoke, delivering a sense of connectivity to your bike that none of the other shoes come close to. For a crowning final test, our tester took them for a session on the boards at the velodrome. As well as receiving numerous
admiring comments, their performance in this high-wattage environment definitely confirmed their ‘Best On Test’ status.