The Specialized S-Works 7 Lace follows hot on the heel cups of the S-Works Recon Lace gravel shoe, which launched last year, and marks the US brand's re-entry into the stylish world of the lace-up road shoe.
Spesh hasn’t had a lace-up road shoe in its range for some time now, but it seems that with the buzz around the Giro Empire dying down a bit and seeing Adidas back in the road shoe market with a laced model aimed at young and style-conscious cyclists the US brand thought, hey, we can do better than that.
Specialized describes the S-Works Lace as being “born from the winningest race shoe in the world but made for the booming ride culture… it takes the WorldTour performance of the S-Works 7 and combines it with laces to create one of our most supple and adaptable uppers for next-level fit. Combined with our Body Geometry technology for optimum foot, knee, and ankle alignment, going fast never looked so good.”
With its laces, the shoe effectively offers 12 separate points of tension adjustment (via six eyelets each side of the closure) to dial in a perfect hold across the foot.
The upper, which is made from what Spesh describes as “engineered mesh”, is combined with no-stretch TPU zones and is in theory better able to adapt to a wider range of foot shapes.
Additionally, the removal of plastic hardware such as Boa dials also removes a considerable amount of weight. Specialized claims a weight of 236 grams per shoe for the size 44 - our sample 44s weighed just 5g more than that, with a weight for both shoes of 482g.
The S-Works Ares, which we reviewed last year, weighed 255 grams per shoe while the regular S-Works 7 weighs slightly more than the Ares.
However, all the S-Works 7 shoes share the Specialized’s FACT Powerline carbon outsole, which is its lightest and stiffest outsole with a rating of 15.0 on Specialized's own Stiffness Index.
The S-Works 7 Lace also gets the PadLock heel cup, which reinforces and securely holds the rear of the foot.
And finally all high-end Specialized products get the Body Geometry treatment. Specialized explains this as: “The human body evolved to walk, not pedal, which leads to power-robbing foot collapse, misalignment of the foot, knee, and hip, as well as ‘hot foot’ in traditional cycling shoes. Body Geometry shoes, including the new S-Works 7 Lace, solve these problems with three patented technologies to deliver a pain-free increase in power that’s validated by scientific testing and two decades of well-documented ass kicking.” To be more scientific about it, these three technologies centre around the varus wedge, longitudinal arch and metatarsal button.
The S-Works 7 Lace has a RRP of £300/$325, which is quite a bit cheaper than the S-Works 7 (£370/$425), the S-Works Ares (£375/$425), the S-Works Vent (£399/$425) and S-Works Exos (£450/$425).
They come in three colourways - white, black and vivid coral/cast umber - and in sizes 39-49.
Specialized S-Works 7 Lace: first ride
When I reviewed the S-Works Ares last year I found the right one to be possibly the best cycling shoe I’ve ever used, combining a locked-in feel with supreme comfort and unbelievably efficient power transfer, while the left one was… absolutely excruciating. The shape of the carbon Powerline sole just wasn’t the same as the shape (or lack of) of my arch and there was no way of adjusting the shoe so that it didn’t feel like I was treading on a lump of rock.
That was the whole point of the Ares - the Boas didn’t need to be cranked down because the upper was designed to envelop the foot and do the job for them. But that literally left no wriggle room.
Of course I laid the blame at my own feet but my conclusion was that the S-Works Ares might give Sam Bennett an extra watt in his sprints but they gave me what-for in my left foot.
However, based on my first ride, my left foot is just as comfortable in the S-Works 7 Lace as my right.
Despite the same FACT carbon Powerline sole underpinning the shoe, the upper is much more adaptable thanks to the laces. Yes I can still feel where the sole isn’t exactly right for my left foot shape - for me it’s a bit too supportive towards the rear of the arch - but it’s very easy to tension the laces so that that section of the foot isn’t being pressed into the shoe. The cleat is forward of that point and although the stiff sole is intended to distribute the pressure evenly over the whole foot, it’s still the forefoot rather than the arch that is compressed over the pedal.
The 44 comes up true to size, like the other shoes in the S-Works 7 range. Also like those shoes, the S-Works Lace seems aimed at a narrower foot but has plenty of space in the toe box.
And then there’s the looks. Whereas for me the Ares has something of R2-D2 about it, the S-Works 7 Lace is pure classic style, it’s beautifully made and the stitching is perfect. There’s lots of lovely detail from the embossing of large S-Works logos into the sides of the shoes down to tiny S-Works logos on the tips of the laces.
Pristine white shoes aren’t for night rides on muddy lanes at the beginning of January (there's a black colour way for that), so I naturally wore overshoes to ensure every white square millimetre was protected, but when the sun comes out and the overshoes come off I think these are going to be the best looking, best performing shoes out there.
Stay tuned for my full review.
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Simon Smythe is Cycling Weekly's senior tech writer and has been in various roles at CW since 2003. His first job was as a sub editor on the magazine following an MA in online journalism (yes, it was just after the dot-com bubble burst).
In his cycling career Simon has mostly focused on time trialling with a national medal, a few open wins and his club's 30-mile record in his palmares. These days he spends a bit more time testing road bikes, or on a tandem doing the school run with his younger son.
What's in the stable? There's a Colnago Master Olympic, a Hotta TT700, an ex-Castorama lo-pro that was ridden in the 1993 Tour de France, a Pinarello Montello, an Independent Fabrication Club Racer, a Shorter fixed winter bike and a renovated Roberts with a modern Campag groupset.
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