This article originally appeared on BikeRadar
The latest evolution of high-end road footwear from Specialized, the S-Works 7, features a a streamlined design, custom metal BOA dials and a more forgiving fit than the previous iteration. After a few rides, my impressions are nearly all positive.
S-Works 7 vs S-Works 6
- much easier entry
- less rigid top of the heel enclosure
- new sole with material removed under outside of foot
- wider toe box
- 265g for size 45 shown here
- $400 / £330
The heel cup itself is quite similar to the previous generation, but the top of the heel cuff is much more pliable
What I like
First, a quick primer on the S-Works 6 shoe: The last iteration of Specialized's high-end footwear was/is crazy light, crazy stiff, and crazy hard to get your foot into because of the vise-like clasp of the top of the heel cuff. The shoe has a locked-on feel not found elsewhere; you can ride the shoe without tightening the laces at all. The Dyneema fabric used on the upper didn't stretch at all. While the shoe felt line extension of the cleat — you were really locked into the bike — it also felt like a dress shoe to get into, and to walk in.
Fast forward to the S-Works 7, and the top of the heel cuff, while still cradling the back of the foot, is pliable and comfortable. The heel cup still feels locked on, but it doesn't feel like you are compromising all-around comfort to get there.
Sponsored riders told Specialized that they liked the positive heel engagement of the S-Works 6, but would prefer something with more flexible padding at the top
Specialized kept the Dyneema fabric but manipulated it a bit by laminating it with a TPU mesh.
It's been cold here in Colorado, so I can't really speak to the temperature comfort of the shoe yet, beyond noting that the toe box and tongue are covered with tiny perforations, while the sides of the shoe are not breathable.
The toe box is slightly wider than the S-Works 6, and it's more pliable, too. I think this is a good thing.
The 7 at left has a wider toe box and a softer overall feel than the S-Works 6
The new BOAs look slick and are easy to operate, micro-adjusting in both directions. The laces slide easily off the hooks when taking the shoes off, and slide just as easily back into place when you put the shoe back on.
After a few 90-minute rides and one 5-hour ride, I can say I find the shoes to be very comfortable, but still possessing nearly all of the locked-in feel of the 6s.
BOA made Specialized its own metal dial. Both companies tested a number of designs to find something grippy - even with sweaty or sunscreen-covered fingers - but not sharp
What I don't like
On the whole, I'm a fan of what Specialized has been doing with shoes the last few years. Dr. Andy Pruitt is now in his 18th model year working on what used to be called Body Geometry shoes, and there are many good reasons Specialized kicks are top sellers.
The one thing that bugs me with the S-Works 7 is how the stiff corner of the upper sticks into the top of my foot when walking. While riding, there is no problem, as my foot doesn't really move at an acute angle to my skin while pedaling. But when walking, it does, and the thin material pokes me. It's minor, but now that I've noticed it, it's irritating.
The top stiff edge of the S-Works 7 upper, just above the top black loop, presses into my foot when walking
Custom footbeds by Retül and MasterFit
Specialized purchased 3D-fit experts Retül, and custom insoles are now part of the offerings from the division that also does dynamic fittings for saddles, bikes and more.
Retül worked with ski-boot fitter Masterfit to develop cycling-specific, heat-moldable insoles. Retül made me a pair at its office in Boulder, Colorado.
Specialized's Retul fit division offers custom insoles with technology from ski-boot company MasterFit
I'm not picky about insoles in most shoes, so I didn't feel any burning need for a custom solution. Still, it turns out custom footbeds are pretty comfortable. And these, of course, are tailor-made to slide into Specialized shoes.
The S-Works 7 shoes are light with hyper-stiff soles and a comfortable upper fit for rides of seemingly any duration. The new BOA dials are polished and easy to use. Unlike the ski boot style of the 6s, the 7s are easy to get in and out of, but they still feel locked onto your feet for a positive connection to the pedals and the bike.
I will update this as a full review after some more miles. In the meantime, click through the gallery above for a closer look.
I will report back after a few hundred more miles on the S-Works 7 shoes