With some longstanding favourites in the Specialized line such as the Sworks 7’s, the shoe team decided to up the ante, take some of their new material technology and make a all signing, all dancing summer shoe.
So fresh and so clean !! the shoes are striking and minimal with a large s-works logo in grey. They look the part and the vents are instantly noticeable. You are greeted with the metal touch and the precision feel of the BOA knobs, its very impressive. Slipping it on, it definitely feels like a specialized shoe, in the sense that the toebox area is wide and feels expansive. It can be a polarizing feeling, I like the design philosophy of Specialized and Shimano toe-boxes.
The shoes are light and I don’t mean ultra light like like the EXOS but grab it and instantly provokes “gosh this is light”
The Vent’s have a velcro toe strap, a mid and upper boa. That gives me confidence that Specialized are concerned about fit and power transfer, since single boa systems do seem to have a less efficient feel.
The laminated highly engineered upper surface material is instantly apparent, its thin yet strong and uses a material called Dyneema, known to have amazing tensile strength to weight ratio, the carbon fibre of flexible materials. Looking close you can see the layers and technical detail. The upper is one piece with one stitch line at the inside heal. The material has some advanced properties making it stretch free yet supple.
You can immediately see venting around the toe box on the new bumper and venting in several places through the carbon sole. These plus the venting on the upper are all new. With quite a lot of it, just below the velcro strap and right above your toes is perforation. The tongue and insole are also perforated for maximum effect.
For 3 months I have been riding the vents as my main shoe, thats somewhere around 250hrs total , and its taking me a while to put my finger on some of the subtle aspects that I love and hate.
First off its important to set the context, – I have a medium volume foot with a slightly higher than normal longitudinal arch. In general small volume shoes don’t work that great for me. Something to consider before getting into the realm of too tight or too large.
The venting as the name suggests is really good. Is it mindblowing, no. But definitely a shoe sensation I prefer. I have had quite a few pairs of shoes that ran too hot for me and im a fan of the toe bumper vents.
The toebox seems a smidge wider than a Specialized SWorks 7, and I don’t mind that at all. In fact I really like this for the breezy feel and when your feet get hot and swell up.
The tongue is well designed, padded where needed to protect delicate bones on the top of the foot and tons of vent room. Thats a tricky balance to active. It fit snugly and never folded under on itself even though being thin in the non padded area.
The sole (outsole) carbon footbed is what you would expect from a shoe at this level – stiff and transfers power well. It feels amazingly efficient under foot. It specialized’s highest rated outsole, so there is no compromise here. Designed to give a little where it matters, it acts as transparent, no comment , its that well done.
Heel cup called Padlock is designed great, perfect fit, no slip. Not much more to say here but the tooling on the PU wrap seems to have been done very well.
What’s not to like about Titanium cleat nuts, yeh its the little things.
One other thing, ever since the Shimano 310’s / 315’s (?) I do like a “front bumper” / toecap, it holds up well and unlike having a fabric material which tend to get surface rip / scuffs this doesn’t seen as how its a flexible plastic.
My biggest dislike first, The front area of the shoe, specifically the material just below the velcro strap could have done with some more prototyping and development work as far as shape and how it folds around the foot with the interaction of the velcro hole and loop. Maybe the vent cut outs need a little tweaking of a few position or removal of a few mm’s just above the “S”. A few adjustments of a few millimetres could make for a better fit in this area. Or maybe the velcro could be stitched down allowing a better motion of the upper without a stiffer loop hole. I found slipping into a pair of Shimano’s had a marginally better fit in this respect, more consistent.
I managed to pick out 4 things that rate as minor dislikes:
Let’s talk BOA’s and tension adjustment. Is it a big deal? no not really, more of a personal preference. Fit to the foot is critical and the design of the loops, the positioning on the foot, with fantastic micro adjustment and the S3 Model Boa dials really deliver. Although I love the tactile feel of the BOA S3 knobs, from a pure functionality perspective I like the IP1 models a smidge better, as its easier to get the shoe on and off. The IP1 BOA allows a pop and quick release of the wires, meaning it comes off fast. I found with the Vent’s and the S3 mechanisms that you had to twist more to release and then you had to finesse the wire loops from the cable guides.
My second niggle is discolouration, even after a short period of time some parts of the white shoe yellowed pretty fast. I especially noticed the mesh / vent areas in the tongue and the venting at the top of the front top yellowed fast.
Thirdly, In general they have great air venting around the foot, but I found that because the Vent’s came with its their specific perforated insole it may cause some issues for some replacing insoles. The front of the Vent insole is highly perforated, you can see the light coming through in the photo, along with specific areas that align with venting in the carbon sole.
The normal insoles supplied with shoes are too flat for me and I typically have to swap out for something with higher arches, so I popped in my BG ++ Blue insoles. The downside is that replacements are not vented in the same way as the default vent insoles, meaning you lose some of that venting capacity. See the photographs to compare the two and how the holes line up with the outsole vent areas
The restriction is notable in the area opposite your arch. the shoe has been designed with a vent from the outsole / carbon but a revised insole will block that venting, rendering it not as effective.
Is this a big deal, no.
The final niggle is very small and something that many people won’t notice or care about. For me I expect it to be better on a $400 shoe. The material trim edge around the top of the heal cup ends in n abrupt way which is unfinished with not a lot of finesse, sort of like it got some bad stitching. Something I expect to be more refined.
I’m into this shoe because of the performance characteristics and pretty sure it will become my go to. If you are looking for light, responsive, good looking shoe that has good to great venting this is certainly one to try. It moves air well for summer days and as a side bonus makes for a good shoe to ride the turbo on also because of its advanced breathing. My word to Specialized would be make some insole options to go with this shoe and maybe rev the drawings to take care of the niggle bits 🙂
S Works Vent here
$425 -233 grams (1/2 pair, Size 42).