The S-Works road shoe is completely revamped with new last, materials and Boa closure system (Warren Rossiter/BikeRadar.com)
Specialized have unveiled a new version of their S-Works road shoes at their 2013 product launch in Snowbird, Utah.
This is no evolution but a ground up redesign, a development which began over two
years ago around the time the previous version hit the market. The team working on it was headed up Specialized’s design head of footwear Rob Cook, with input from Dr
Andy Pruit and Rob Pickles at BCSM (Boulder
centre of sports medicine).
Some 37 prototypes have been made to produce the finished shoe, from a usable 100g shoe to a version with a carbon bathtub
construction which because of a totally inflexible sole meant you could only squeeze your foot in with a large amount of force. Such extreme features divided opinion in the guinea pig testers, with the finished shoe a compromise between weight, stiffness and fit which has already been used by pros to great success.
One of their many prototypes
Tom Boonen received a pair of pre-production samples prior to the Tour of Qatar. Specialized wanted the Omega Pharma – Quickstep star to give them a try prior to the race and provide
feedback on any changes he’d like to see, but he actually ended up racing in them — to overall victory, no less — and has continued to do so since, having the best Spring Classic season of his career.
The new shoe required the design of a whole new last (the
form on which the shoes are manufactured), shaped by feedback and
data acquired from both pro and amateur riders. It has a mapped 3D heel form with a plug-fit feel which holds your heel in the shoe better, all but
eliminating the chance that your foot could lift away from the shoe under hard
This all-new shape and construction make for a heel
section that’s significantly stiffer torsionally than the previous shoe. The
shape has also evolved around the instep and arch, a more ergonomic fit which, when combined with the correct foot bed, one that offers
better support, too.
Up front the toe-box has been reduced in volume for a
closer fit. The shoe is also available in a women’s version that has all the same characteristics with the small but significant change being that the shoe
collar is reshaped and lowered; anatomical data shows that women’s ankles are
closer and shorter to the heel than men’s.
After months of research to find the ideal material,
Specialized found that one wouldn’t be enough. They’d need different materials in different parts of the shoe as some areas needed more stretch than others.
Up front the fit has to be
adaptive, so the mix is a lightweight air mesh and synthetic leather with
plenty of stretch. The heel material is selected for lightweight and hi-tensile
strength with minimal stretch for a highly supportive fit, anchoring the heel
in place and extending all the way to the inner arch
for a stable platform.
The carbon sole is also new, with a ‘power line’ design that concentrates stiffness along a rider’s big toe-ball-heel centerline
Each section of the shoe is laser cut, with the pattern
cutting layout set to make sure the materials stretch characteristics are
optimised. These pieces are thermo-bonded together (hot-plate welded) which creates a sock-like one piece upper.
The tongue section is now radically off-set with the dual Boa closures set further into the shoe’s side, a feature Specialized say makes the shoe easier to adjust from the saddle.
The outsole is where most of
the new design work is found. BCSM did a 99 point pressure test, which
gave a map of pressure points as well as the size and amount of those
pressures. It allowed them to design a sole that’s stiffer and thicker
where it needs to be and minimal and lightweight where it doesn’t.
sandwich structure is just 4.5mm thick for a low stack height (the shoes ship
complete with shorter bolts for this reason). The medial side of the sole is
‘L’ shaped to create a supportive form around the inner foot.
BCSM took the prototype of the final shoe and undertook
tests on the all-new chassis. With the shoe optimised with pro foot beds
and inserts dedicated to that rider, they found they were 28 seconds faster over a 10km time trial (on a roller set-up in lab
conditions) against the previous version – a huge gain.
BCSM also tested the shoes straight out of the
box with no optimisation and found over the same course that the rider had a
6.5 watt improvement, with less knee deviation. We can only take them at their word as we’ve yet to try the new shoes. We’ll be testing them out over the coming days so we’ll report back soon on our initial impression.
The new shoes are designed to work with a new line of Body Geometry insoles, which are made with new denser, foam said to last three times longer than the previous edition