Designed for the pro peloton and raced by the cycling elite, there is no denying that the Specialized Women's S-Work 6 is top end in every sense of the word
The Specialized S-Works 6 race shoe has a traceable lineage back to the pro peloton with both male and female versions worn by the likes of Peter Sagan and Lizzie Deignan and, as the name would suggest, this is the sixth incarnation of the Californian company’s high-end performance-oriented collection.
Specialized put a lot of R&D into its women’s side if the business, so it’s no surprise to see the S-Works 6 under its Body Geometry umbrella as regards sole construction and footbed fit.
Ergonomically it’s been designed to be slighter than the male S-Works 6 version, but Specialized says it still carries the same attributes in terms of performance using the same top-end, lightest and stiffest FACT Powerline carbon soles and incredibly lightweight one-piece Dyneema (a manmade fibre 30 per cent lighter than Nylon) upper.
With two Boa S2 Snap dials and a Velcro toe strap, not only was I impressed that these weigh a mere 386g, which by my reckoning is also the lightest women’s specific race shoe on the market, but they are able to ensure a millimetre-perfect fit. It’s also easy to adjust the tension on the move (although my concerns about Velcro durability in toe box areas still remains).
There’s a saying that goes something along the lines of ‘the hardest bit of going out training is just getting your shoes on’ and never has it been more apt than when getting into the S-Works 6.
I don’t think I’ve ever included the ability to actually put a cycling shoe on in a review before, but the narrow upper of the shoes means that unless you completely back off the steel Boa cables, undo the Velcro and heave with a shoe horn, a foot ain’t ever going in, and that does make me wonder how high bridges or extra-wide feet would cope.
That said, once on the shoe did have a high volume in the toe box area, which for me with narrow feet, meant creating a slight fold in the tongue where the Velcro had to be pulled in tightly.
The other noticeable difference when compared to other road race shoes is the very low heel cup. It allows a complete range of ankle movement and probably helps keep the overall weight to that impressive 386g, but it did take a while to get used to.
When pedalling the shoes convert every inch of effort into forward propulsion; even the Dyneema Cubic Tech upper with directional fibers are thermo-bonded to create no stretch zones which, combined with a low stack, keeping your foot as close to the pedal as possible, means every movement is detected and harnessed.
There was a real sense of increased power when riding the S-Works 6, although it’s impossible to carry out a like-for-like experiment to verify energy saved or wattage improved. But, even if it’s psychosomatic it still served to enhance the ride.
All of this is exactly what one would expect for such a high-end shoe, but with every detail performance driven, there’s little space for all-day comfort, making them an out-and-out thoroughbred pair of race shoes and it will take riders a while to dial in to this minimalistic platform.
In terms of meeting its raison d’être of a creating a pro peloton-worthy lightweight, stiff, snug and secure race shoe that helps deliver explosive speed, I would say Specialized has excelled with the S-Works 6.
The downside for us non-sponsored riders is that performance like this comes at a cost, so as well as being the lightest women’s specific road shoe on the market, the RRP of £310 makes the Specialized S-Works 6 also the most expensive, but with potential real riding gains they could be priceless.
The Specialized S-Works 6 road shoes are the ultimate performance cycling shoes, power transfer is faultless and they're incredibly secure. But with every detail performance driven there’s little space for all-day comfort, making them an out-and-out thoroughbred pair of race shoes.