Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Stuff That Works: Call Me Imelda...

...because I love my shoes! Not quite like Phillipine First Lady Imelda Marcos famously loved her shoes, but my new Specialized S-Works Pro mountain bike shoes are high on the list of my favorite gear. I'll call this a product endorsement, because I try to share things that work particularly well for me.
My new MTB shoes before field testing. They still look good, but not nearly this good! I've only had to take the hose to them a couple of times.

Contact points
As I started getting serious about cycling,  I was very eager to learn all that I could about bikes and cycling. My neighborhood bike guru offered a bit of advice early on that went something like this, "If your ass doesn't hurt and your feet don't hurt, then you've won half the battle of riding long...". Add "hands" to the list and you've covered all of your contact points with the bike. I've been pretty well dialed in with the "ass" part on my road bike for a few years. I favor Giordana or Assos bibs and have a dwindling stash of Selle Itailia Genuine Gel Flite saddles. After trying many saddles, I settled in on this one about the same day that they quit making them in their then-current form, so I snatched a couple of spares on close-out from a shop in Southern Cal somewhere. There is a lesson in that exercise: If you find something the you really like and use frequently, buy several. The maker will inevitably change to something quite different. In this case with the Flite, the new version of the same saddle is a centimeter narrower and just doesn't do it for me.

Shoe shopping
As particular as I am about bibs and road saddles, I have had a much more difficult time finding shoes and gloves that fit me well, especially shoes. I have a very high instep, that is, my feet have a lot of volume from top to bottom, which has always made it hard for me to buy penny loafers and cowboy boots. I've got a common shoe size when measured (10D) and normal arch, but just need a lot of volume in the toe box. Unfortunately, most cycling shoes seem to be built on a European last with a relatively flat forefoot area. As a result, I can't close the top buckle on any Sidi I've tried, I can't get my foot into a "right sized" Shimano, and I've tried on LG, Mavic, Northwave, and more. I've worn Diadora shoes with some success, but my mountain bike shoes have never fit properly without winter socks. Along came Specialized. I've had a pair of their S-Works road shoes for a few years and have been absolutely satisfied, so I finally circled back around to them for mountain bike shoes. They tell a long story about why their shoes fit better, but the bottom line is that for many of us they DO fit better than anything else. They offer a variety of insoles, so I assume they leave some room to accomodate those in need of arch support, etc., and they also offer the Pro in wide and narrow sizes, which, for me, resulted in a gratifying perfect fit!
Sharing a Specialized road shoe moment with the lovely (and fast!) Melissa Shipman at the Bike To Work event.
I also use Specialized gloves for the most part. I've got big hands and many brands simply don't make a glove that fits. I prefer not to have Velcro on my gloves, so these really meet my needs. I have a collection of gloves that I've tried and shuffled to the back of the drawer.

Specialized claims that their shoes are the most popular shoe in the pro peloton and I think there are factors at work beyond sponsorship! If you have a difficult time finding accesssories that fit, give Specialized a try. They solved a couple of problems for me.

Edit: I got wrapped up bragging on my shoes and failed to mention that Arkansas Cycling and Fitness is the Little Rock area dealer for Specialized bikes and accessories.


charlie said...

I love my specialized shoes, I really liked the road pro look over the s-works so I ended up with the 2009 and later the 2010 versions which are the best road bike shoes I have ever strapped on. Based on my success with the specialized road pro I got the MTB version and they were a perfect feel as well prompting me to give away my sidi's.

luv2ride said...

Well said, John! I love Specialized bikes, Specialized S-Works shoes, Specialized tires, Specialized saddles...pretty much Specialized everything. I need to be employed by Specialized or need to buy some Specialized stocks!