While some manufacturers have gone wholeheartedly down the heat moldable path, others have chosen to stick with the tried-and-true formula of well-researched last shapes and high-quality out-of-the-box fits.
Few have espoused that attitude more than Sidi, who proudly proclaim to "put the pizza in the oven, not the shoes." New for 2011 are flashy new colors for several models – including metallic bronze, neon yellow and, of course, white – and refinements to its proven ratcheting buckle designs. The inner strap anchors are now neatly tucked away beneath a surrounding layer of Lorica for a cleaner look and tidier shape while the buckle mounts are now perforated for improved breathability in that area.
The biggest news to more budget-minded buyers, however, is the introduction of the new Sidi Design Series range. In contrast to the made-in-Italy nature of the rest of the line, the SDS shoes will be made overseas using their own lasts, sole plates, and heel cups. Fit-wise, the toe boxes are roomier, there will be less rocker, and the volumes are slightly increased overall for a slightly more casually oriented feel. In addition, SDS shoes will use a more conventional synthetic leather instead of Sidi's usual Lorica.
Included in the SDS collection are the road-going Nevada with a fiberglass-reinforced nylon sole and three-strap upper and the Sierra mountain bike shoe with the same upper but a walkable, non-replaceable tread and two-bolt cleat compatibility. As expected, prices are usually inexpensive for Sidi at just US$149 per pair.
As SDS only compasses men's model right now, Sidi has in the interim decided to drop the prices on the still made-in-Italy women's-specific Zephyr and Giau models to the same US$149.
New footwear from Northwave
Northwave will introduce a number of new models for 2011. On the road side is the new Evolution SBS model with the company's three-layer carbon sole (top-end ones use five layers) and new lighter-weight upper using a similar ratcheting main buckle as on the Aerlite SBS but slimmer and more flexible twin forefoot straps. The unique wooden insole is said to better regulate temperature in hot conditions, too, along with the new ventilated Omega heel cup.
Further down the price scale are the buckled Typhoon Evo SBS and the three-strap Typhoon Evo, both with a carbon-and-fiberglass sole, the same Omega heel cup as on the Evolution SBS, and similarly lighter-weight Velcro straps for a more form-fitting feel.
Northwave's most exciting looking off-road model is the upcoming Striker SBS, modeled after the minimal and lightweight construction of high-end soccer cleats. The mostly mesh ratcheting buckle-plus-two strap upper uses just a few panels of microfiber material to hold the shape, lending an airier feel in hot weather plus a more compliant fit. Down below, a the new Speedlight 3D fiber-reinforced sole design opts for fewer lugs but ones that are more tapered in shape to better pierce the ground and shed mud.
Pearl Izumi plays the walkable card
While Pearl Izumi continues to cater to the mainstream road and MTB crowds, the real draw of its '11 shoes range are the expanded X-Alp and X-Road lines. Built with more real-world usability in mind, all seven models employ fully treaded outsoles that are far more walkable than typical cycling footwear plus slightly roomier fits to keep your toes from crashing into the front of the shoes.
New on the off-road side is the X-Alp Elite, using an adjustable ratcheting buckle-plus-twin offset forefoot strap upper layout similar to what's found on the company's high-end mountain bike shoes but a dual density EVA midsole for cushioning and a lugged carbon rubber outsole for surefooted grip, even on long hiking sections.
A partial-length internal plate keeps pedaling reasonable efficient, too, while the removable cleat cover reveals the usual two-bolt insert for use with most popular mountain bike pedals. Despite the generous allotment of rubber, claimed weights are surprisingly competitive at 415g apiece.
The X-Alp Seek IV is styled more like a trail runner and in fact, does use a nearly identical laced upper as on the company's isoSeek IV. Pearl Izumi mates the airier upper to the same lower chassis as the X-Alp Elite for the same pedal-friendly performance characteristics and weight actually decreases a bit to 365g apiece.
Following a similar formula to the X-Alp Seek IV is the Fuel, which likewise borrows its meshy, laced upper from Pearl Izumi's syncroFuel road runner but with its own dual density EVA midsole and partial-length internal plate for more efficient pedaling. Another removable cover reveals the same two-bolt cleat pocket as on the X-Alp range but with a smoother carbon rubber outsole intended more for pavement use.
Also coming from Pearl Izumi for 2011 is its new PRO Series insole system. Similar to what Specialized has done with its Body Geometry range, the new PRO Series footbed incorporate full-length arch supports and raised metatarsal areas to help maintain blood flow to your toes. Instead of Specialized's trio of molded-in arch sizes, though, Pearl Izumi's slick system uses interchangeable inserts that provide three levels of arch support and forefoot varus but all in a single, tunable package.
In addition to making things simpler for retailers, Pearl Izumi's setup also more readily accommodates asymmetries in riders' feet without having to purchase multiple kits.
Vittoria's new Hora hits the road
Highlighting Vittoria's 2011 range is the new Hora road model, built with a fairly conventional adjustable ratcheting main strap but a rotary dial-controlled steel cable for the forefoot similar to what's found on BOA-equipped footwear. Anchoring the whole lot is Vittoria's top-end Air System carbon sole with ventilated toe and midsections.
In addition to the carbon fiber insert around the midsection of the upper, Vittoria contends the Hora provides an extra-secure fit while still remaining lightweight at a claimed 307g per shoe (size 8).
Women's versions will also be available.