Stiff soled, lightweight, and very stylish shoes. The fit is the same as the previous S-Works 7 shoes - so if that worked for you, so will these. Lacing may also not suit everyone, as adjustment on the fly isn’t really possible and it’s hard to tighten them enough for full gas sprints. But for anything aside from maximal sprints, these are great shoes and incredibly comfortable so their four star rating is well earned. Their price is competitive for lace up shoes and they are available on good deals online at the moment.
Material can rub on ankle
Difficult to really tighten the fit for sprinting
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There are quite a few brands that have tried to expand across categories, but perhaps none more successfully than Specialized. From bikes to saddles and shoes to helmets, Specialized isn't just up there with the best - in many cases it is leading the trends.
Focusing in on the best cycling shoes, Specialized's S-Works range has continued to expand, with sprint specific and super ventilated options backing up the core Boa dialled model. We've reviewed all of those, so now we're turning to the most affordable model in the range: the S-Works 7 Lace.
Specialized S-Works 7 Lace: construction
The upper of the shoes feels very similar to the Dyneema fabric used across the range of Specialized S-works shoes and offers a supple and pliable upper for high levels of comfort.
The laces are fantastic non-stretch ones which don’t have give at all when clamped down - meaning that despite the comfort of the upper, you still have that 'locked-in' and efficient feeling.
Another nice touch is that the eyelet holes have metal inserts rather than being simply punched into the fabric. This will greatly increase the longevity over the old S-Works Sub 6 which were prone to ripping.
The lacing also offers a 12 point tension system, allowing for far more adjustment than the usual two Boa Dials, common on most shoes. That said, on-the-fly adjustment is a complete non-starter.
The toe box offers ample room so that even when your feet heat up there are no hot spots or rubbing on the sides. The shoes feel a bit higher volume than the usual S-Works 7, so making sure you have a good insole does help. The Varus Wedge and Longitudinal Arch really do help with knee alignment and I still find this platform the most comfortable shoe platform out there.
The FACT Powerline sole is supremely stiff and offers no flex whatsoever. Clear fitting is done via a 3-bolt system which allows for a large degree of fore and aft adjustment for anyone who wants a more mid-foot cleating setup.
I wasn’t sure about the Vivid Coral/Cast Umber colour initially but it has really grown on me. It’s also easy to forget that white laces gather dirt very quickly, so black laces and a patterned design mean this doesn’t show road dirt anywhere near as much as white or even black shoes would.
Specialized S-Works 7 Lace: the ride
Being a long time user of both the S-Works 7 and the S-Works Sub 6 lace up shoe, this shoe was a familiar mix of the two. The fit feels near identical to the S-Works 7 with the same sole, cleat fitting, and a tougher material for the upper that feels similar to Dyneema used on the S-Works 7.
It also uses the same brilliant non-stretch laces of the Sub 6, however there are six reinforced eyelets on each shoe which is a huge improvement as the eyelets on the Sub 6 were quite fragile and required aftermarket reinforcement to prevent the upper of the shoe from ripping.
As with all lace up shoes, there promises to be a great ability to distribute pressure over the foot as there are 16 attachment points. In practice, you can adjust the tightness to be looser, say, on the mid foot, and then clamped down on the upper.
But over the course of a ride the laces seem to distribute the pressure and it becomes even over the foot. This does make getting the exact right lacing a bit of trial and error, as I found the shoe was sometimes a little loose for a sprint at the end of a ride, but still supremely comfortable for the duration of the ride.
The shoe is insanely stiff, 15 on Specialized stiffness index which is the highest of their shoes; the upper also has no give. However there are no issues of pressure on the feet, with the varus wedge giving great knee alignment and the toe box being nice and roomy so I had no issues with feet rubbing or hot spots.
One little thing I did notice, is that the dyneema upper comes up a little further than the regular S-Works 7, which if you flex and extend you ankle a lot - such as in big gear efforts - then there can be a little rubbing. But this has subsided a bit as I have ridden more in the shoes.
Performance-wise they feel impressive. High-cadence and low-cadence high-power efforts feel planted and strong. Sprinting is a little different as I love to really clamp my feet in for those efforts and the lacing offers no on the fly adjustments. Even tightening the shoes down a fair bit, full gas sprinting did have a big of movement in the shoe. I’d say these are ideal for anything other than sprinting, so for longer rides, climbing, and time trials they perform very well.
One thing users of the Sub 6 will miss is the Warp Sleeve, a fabric sleeve that hid the laces and made the Sub 6 a favourite among time triallists. However I can confirm that if you still have a Warp Sleeve, it will fit the shoe well, so I’m sure the aero credentials are pretty decent compared to the S-Works 7 with is Boa dials. There is still the presence of a lace holder on the tongue of the shoe, which thankfully is stronger than the old Sub 6 one which I found broke quite easily.
Specialized S-Works 7 Lace: value and conclusion
Compared to the rest of the S-Works line up of shoes from Specialized, the S-Works 7 Lace are far cheaper at $325 / £300 compared to $450 / £365 for the new S-Works Torch or $425 / £375 for the S-Works Ares. That's because lace-up shoes are generally cheaper to manufacture than those with Boa dials.
Other lace up shoes such as the Giro Empire SLX (256g size 46/185g size 42) and the DMT KRSL (205g size 42) are the main competitors. Weight is hard to gauge as I’ve seen varied weights for the Giros but the S-Works 7 Lace appears to be a similar weight to the competition but at a better price point. The Giro's are $370.00 / £329.99 and the DMT's $349.49 / £329.00 while the S-Works 7 Lace are $325 / £300 making them a fair bit cheaper.
A stylish and lightweight shoe that is as stiff as they get for optimal power transfer. The limited S-Works logos really adds to the refined look and the Vivid Coral/Cast umber colour is a nice change to regular black and white.
The shoes are very comfortable for longer rides, however the lacing means that it’s impossible to adjust on the fly and difficult to really dial down the shoes for sprint efforts without feeling your heel slip.
These shoes are ideal for time triallists, or those looking for a great, stylish, and comfortable shoe for training and longer rides where power transfer matters.
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