A great shoe that does everything the S-Works 7 did so well - but even better. The ventilation and vented panels on the upper are a great improvement and the powerline sole, although rated 13 rather than 15 on the stiffness index, feels as stiff as ever and great for sprints and sharp efforts. They score 4.5/5 and only lose 0.5 due to price, although good deals are available online currently - with 40 per cent off, they are a certified 5/5.
Some of the ventilation is lost with an arch support fitted
Expensive (at retail price)
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Specialized is a brand that has been at the forefront of cycling innovation for decades, having been set up in California 48 years ago. Their big ‘S’ and ‘S-Works’ monikers adorn the likes of Bora-Hansgrohe, SD Worx, and Alpha-Vinyl Quickstep in the World Tour.
Having expanded from tyres to bikes, and to now making a full range of anything you could possibly want to set out on a ride, Specialized now has a line in the best bib shorts, best helmets and best cycling shoes - not to mention the best road and the best gravel bikes themselves.
Specialized S-works 7 Vent Road Shoes: construction
These shoes look great. No surprise, as they are just the same as the original S-Works 7, albeit now with some mesh panelling. At just 273g (per shoe, size 45), they felt noticeably light in hand while setting up the cleats, with the fitting system also being identical to the Specialized S-Works 7 that they’re based on.
Putting the shoe on, it did feel slightly different to the original model, mainly because of the material on the upper being that bit more pliable. The upper is made of Dyneema material with mesh panels to improve airflow to the feet, although the suppliness has a secondary benefit of reducing the potential for hotspots on your feet.
The fit of the shoe is the same as the S-Works 7, with a wide enough toe box, moderate volume on the top, and a heel cup that is more forgiving than the S-Works 6 but still keeps your feet locked in. The sole is Specialized’s FACT Powerline carbon outsole, but with the additional holes for improved ventilation and reduced weight. It’s the same one as used on the Exos super lightweight shoes.
At 223g (claimed weight for a 42) they are lighter in weight than the competition from the Shimano S-Phyre RC903 (225g 42), Rapha Pro Team Shoes (250g 42), Fizik Vento Stabilita (227g 42), Bont Vaypor S (230g 42), Specialized S-Works Torch (225g 42) and Sidi Shot 2 (318g 45).
The cleat fitting is also situated further back than a lot of brands (aside from Shimano) meaning that for those that want a bit more of a mid-foot cleat position - which has been found to be better for foot stability - these offer that.
Specialized S-works 7 Vent Road Shoes: the ride
The cleats were easy to set up as it’s the same pattern as on the original Specialized S-Works 7. I left the insole that came with the shoe as standard, rather than using the high arch support that I normally do. This meant there was a bit of pressure on the outside of my feet, but that I could also feel the airflow through the shoe under my arch which was significant.
The fastening mechanism is exactly the same as on the regular S-Works 7 and one that I really like with the micro adjustments both tighter and looser from the Boa dials. However, it would be nice if they could be ‘macro’ loosened by pulling up the Boa dial - the same as on the Exos and many other similarly priced shoes.
The S-works 7 Vents felt very stiff - yet still comfortable - and power transfer was very good, especially on short sharp climbs where I wound up doing maximum efforts on. When I tightened the shoes down towards the end of the ride to do some sprint efforts, I felt very planted in them and was able to put out my maximum power transfer and even set some sprint PBs. There was no heel slippage or excessive movement in the shoes.
Although the stiffness is rated 13 on Specialized’s own scale - which is the same as the lightweight Exos, but down on the S-Works 7’s score of 15 - these shoes still felt more than stiff enough for high power efforts.
For the second ride, I fitted in my Specialized Body Geometry high arch insoles that I normally use. The issue with this is that they do not offer as much ventilation as the stock insolves in the S-works 7 Vent - the difference between them was really quite noticeable.
One aspect I really appreciated was that the mesh panels on the side are located exactly where I get hot spots on my feet so they are even more comfortable than the regular S-Works 7. Something often forgotten is that when cycling in hot temperatures, our feet are likely to expand a bit, thus changing the fit of our shoes.
Having the mesh panels with a bit more give exactly where it’s needed, means that these shoes are all the better adapted for riding in hot weather - there’s more to them than just the venting, that’s for sure.
Specialized S-works 7 Vent Road Shoes: value
These shoes are expensive, at $425 / £399 retail price, putting them firmly in the premium section for cycling shoes and also more expensive than even the brand new Specialized S-Works Torch (£385/ $450) - and also pretty much any of the other competition, aside from custom or semi-custom shoes.
However, they are readily available for about 40 per cent less on many websites at the moment, including Specialized itself. If comfort is your main goal, and you know that the fit of the S-Works 7 suits you, these are supremely comfortable and by far the best fitting cycling shoes I’ve worn.
That said, with shoe fit being so individual, it is always best to try in store before you buy, or wear them at home on a carpet before committing to cleating the shoes up.
Specialized S-works 7 Vent Road Shoes: conclusion
The Specialized S-Works 7 Vents do everything the standard S-Works 7 do, but with additional ventilation, no ‘real world’ lack of stiffness and even greater comfort. All this does come at an additional premium, however the shoes are currently available at heavily discounted sale prices. These shoes are perfect for indoor racers, warm weather riders, or anyone who wants a shoe that does it all.
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