If you’ve got awkward feet that don’t quite meet the straight line on a scatter graph, these could help you obtain the performance benefit of a good fit. Even if your feet conform to the Mr/Ms Average template, they're a good shout for hard and fast racing. However, they’re not everyday shoes - the heat-moulded carbon really does work, but it impacts comfort when standing, for example. The weight and Boa dial choice* aren't competitive when considered alongside the price, either, but Lake has a genuine USP when it comes to personalised shaping.
Heat moulding really does work
Foot stays planted during efforts
Stiff sole for power transfer
Painful when standing
Could be a bit overkill for relaxed rides
Price should justify higher end Boa*
Shoes are an oft overlooked component of the performance puzzle. Whilst the foot and ankle don’t produce any power themselves - it all comes from the quad and the glute - “you can lose a hell of a lot through badly fitting shoes.” That was the line we got from former British Cycling physio, Phil Burt, when we last discussed cycling slippers with him.
Lake is a brand that prioritises fit. Many of its road cycling shoes are available in regular, wide and extra-wide widths, and its party trick is heat-mouldable carbon inserts to create, in theory, the perfect cocoon.
The CX403 road cycling shoes (yes, the name is confusing, no, they’re not cyclocross shoes) are top of the range, with plentiful carbon inserts. If you’re after a race shoe, we’d recommend them, but they don’t come with such a glowing report card if you’re seeking more of an all-rounder.
Lake CX403 shoes: construction
The CX race shoes are designed for racing, evidently. Therefore, its last (which forms the shape of the shoe) has a narrower toe box and tighter heel than that which you’d find on the ‘competition’ shoes, and overall volume is lower than that of the ‘sport’ shoes. This creates a more strapped-in feel that is suited to high-cadence and high-power riding.
The CX403, unlike other shoes by Lake, doesn’t come in an extra-wide last, but it does come with a wide fit. There are women's models, from size 36 to 43, which come with a wider toe box.
I have difficult feet - like spades - which are wide at the front and narrow at the ankle. I opted for a men’s wide, but in hindsight the women's standard might have been better as I'd have had the room needed at the front without a wider rear portion.
The upper is constructed from ‘Klite Kangaroo leather’, which is very soft. This contrasts heavily with the CX6 carbon-fibre stabilizer support panels at the midfoot and ankle.
The outsole is a custom fit carbon-fibre sole, and it comes with a standard three-hole cleat mount, but there is also the option to request a four-hole Speedplay/Wahoo pedal specific pattern which you can use without adapters.
The outer features perforations and there are vents along the sole, with perforated Kangaroo leather across the lining. The heel pad is replaceable, there’s also a rubberised toe protector to help guard against scuffs.
The closure is controlled via two side-mounted push/pull IP1-S Boa dials*. These tighten by turning anti-clockwise, and they do loosen a little, but to make a large adjustment you'd need to pull the dial back to its starting position.
These aren't particularly lightweight shoes, mine came in at 315g per shoe, which is 630g a pair in a size 39.5 (wide). That's without cleats and with insoles. Competitors are closer to 400g but Lake is more about fit than being featherweight.
Lake CX403 shoes: moulding the shoes
These shoes are not designed to be ridden without being moulded. Trust me, I tried it, and it hurt - a lot. Happily, moulding the shoes is really easy. It’s best to have this done at a dealer, but I completed the process at home using a standard oven and thermometer.
The recipe is easy: heat the oven to 90 degrees, place the shoes inside for four to five minutes, then place them onto your feet and gently press the mouldable areas. If that sounds scary considering the price tag, it’s not: Lake says you can mould the shoes as many times as you like without doing any damage.
Lake CX403 shoes: the ride
As mentioned, I do not recommend you ride these shoes pre-moulding. I gave it a go for a one-hour spin and felt ready to trade them (and my feet) in immediately. The mid-section dug in agonisingly. I tentatively heat moulded the shoes the next morning, and the experience was entirely different, with the now perfectly fitting mid-section hugging my foot, allowing total stillness through the pedal stroke, whilst the ankle section clung on well too, even in high-cadence efforts.
I’ve used the shoes for track league events and three road races, as well as the majority of my training and more casual rides over the last eight weeks.
When the pressure is on, they’re excellent. I wouldn’t hesitate to choose them ahead of a track meet or crit race.
I have read customer reviews stating that riders have found them too hot. This isn’t an experience I’ve had, but body climate is quite individual.
When it comes to more casual riding, I’ve found the Lake CX403s to be quite a harsh choice.
I like a stiff sole - my go-to are the S-Works 7 road shoes which my colleague found to be a little too stiff. However, combined with the restrictive fit - which is great during racing - this feels a bit heavy-handed for me for more relaxed ambles. When testing some alternative clipless pedals (requiring a different cleat), I did feel quite relieved to slide my foot back into a pleasantly worn S-Works shoe. Ditto, when I wore the S-Works for a session involving 20-second hill sprints, I immediately missed the extremely stiff sole and grip of the Lake CX403. It really is horses for courses, but, most cyclists only have one pair of cycling shoes, especially when they cost quite this much.
I will add that, since my ankle/upper foot is quite narrow in volume, I did have to crank the upper dial on the Lake shoes, which might have influenced my experience by way of making the hold feel more vice-like. Still, since the USP is a glove-like fit, this can't form much of a caveat.
The heat-moulded shoes are also only comfortable when ridden as moulded. They are not pleasant to stand in, for example, as I found out when a road race was delayed for 20 minutes with the soon-to-be-peloton held at the start line. Similarly, when I swapped the insole for an alternative, I needed to repeat the heat moulding process with that insole; failure to do so was uncomfortable. Most consumers probably won’t swap their insoles frequently, so this isn't too much of an issue.
Finally, whilst the Boa IP1-S dial* does offer micro-adjustments, in both directions, the specialist closure brand has since introduced the Li2, which offers finer steps between adjustments, and is lower in profile. It’s not a game-changer, but it would be nice to see Lake incorporate this.
Lake CX403 shoes: value and conclusions
At $549.99/£425, these are extremely expensive cycling shoes, much more so than even the likes of the Specialized S-Works 7 at $410/£370. You do gain the heat mouldable element, and that is particularly enticing for riders who have struggled to find the right fit for their feet before. Shoe lasts are made for ‘averages’, and if yours don’t quite slot in on the straight line of the scatter graph, these may be the best way to obtain that solid power transfer that could make all the difference to your riding.
However, they’re not simple, slip-on/slip-off shoes. I’d choose these shoes for racing any day of the week, but they’d not be top of my list if I was only to have only one pair, as many riders do.
Since Lake does market these shoes as its 'race' option, and there are 'competition' and 'sport' varieties available for more casual riding, I can't really mark the CX403 down for doing exactly what it says in the blurb. The missing one star comes mainly from the price, weight and lower level Boa dial*.
[* Boa dial choice - Lake later told me that the IP1-S dials are being replaced with newer Li2 dials as a "running change," so higher volume selling sizes already have the Li2. Therefore, you can likely ignore this criticism if you ride something like an EU 44, or are buying shoes a few months after the publish date of this review.]
- Sizes 39-46.5, standard and wide
- Weight 315g per shoe (size 39.5, wide)
Cycling Weekly's Tech Editor Michelle Arthurs-Brennan is a traditional journalist by trade, having begun her career working for a local newspaper before spending a few years at Evans Cycles, then combining the two with a career in cycling journalism.
When not typing or testing, Michelle is a road racer who also enjoys track riding and the occasional time trial, though dabbles in off-road riding too (either on a mountain bike, or a 'gravel bike'). She is passionate about supporting grassroots women's racing and founded the women's road race team 1904rt.
Favourite bikes include a custom carbon Werking road bike as well as the Specialized Tarmac SL6.
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