We put Northwave's top-end road shoes through their paces
The current trend in cycling shoes is towards minimal, understated designs with very few shouty features. One glance at the Northwave Extreme shoes is enough to tell you that they buck this trend, but that doesn’t mean that they’re not excellent shoes.
As you would expect from any £260 shoes, the Northwave Extreme shoes feature a full-carbon sole that is incredibly stiff and very thin for excellent power transfer, with the slender construction meaning that it’s light too, with Northwave claiming that the sole on its own weighs just 60g.
However as is the case elsewhere on the Northwave Extreme shoes, the best thing about the sole is probably its ventilation, with seven good-sized vents dotted across the sole to give a pleasant cooling breeze when using these shoes in hot conditions. This is complemented by the footbed, which is also perforated with small holes.
This excellent ventilation was actually a real surpise when you first look at the shoes as there is little sign of vents on the uppers. There are four or five medium sizes vents on the sides and toe of the shoes, and small holes over the rest of the upper, but that’s it. Still, those few vents certainly work a treat, and these are excellent shoes even at the height of summer.
Nowhere near as good, however, are those dials. Most other high-end shoes, such as the Specialized S-Works 6 shoes or the Bontrager XXX Road shoes, use dials from American company Boa, which allow you to both tighten and loosen your shoes in small increments.
Watch: how to fit your cleats
However, Northwave has decided to use its own S.L.W. 2 (Speed Lace Winch) dial adjustment system which unfortunately falls short of the mark on two counts. Firstly the dials are not as prominent as Boa dials. This is fine if you want to be that tiny bit more aero, but means that the dials can be tricky to grip on to if you’re trying to tighten your shoes on the move, particularly if you’re wearing gloves.
Secondly, although you can both tighten and loosen the S.L.W 2 dials in increments, the process is not easy or intuitive. Rotating the dials one way tightens the laces, but rotating them the other way does not loosen them. Instead you can loosen the laces in increments by pressing repeatedly on the little silver button above the dial, which is also used to fully release the laces if you pull it up.
That system works fine, offering plenty of adjustability, but it is unfortunately nowhere near as easy to use as the latest Boa dial system.
Other elements of the Northwave Extreme shoes are better, and I was especially impressed with how little my feet moved around. I’ve got quite narrow feet, and the first time I pulled these shoes on I was instantly worried about the relatively wide toebox. However on the bike I didn’t have any problems with my feet shifting around, perhaps helped by the grippier material that is used for the heel cup.
The final inescapable thing that I have to talk about is the colour. It was a bit of a shock opening the box of our test pair of Northwave Extreme shoes to discover the reflective design you see here. It’s great when riding in the dark and shines up nicely when lit up by car headlights, but if you want something more understated then there are black and white options available.
For more details visit i-Ride.
The Northwave Extreme shoes tick almost all of the boxes that you'd expect from a pair of high-end shoes, with excellent power transfer through and all-carbon sole, great ventilation, and good comfort. Fitted with a better dial adjustment system and things could be perfect.