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Specialized S-Works 7 Lace road shoes review

All the endearing attributes of the regular Specialized S-Works 7 shoes cloaked in a lighter, sharper and trendier lace-up package

Specialized S-Works 7 Lace road shoes
(Image: © Aaron Borrill)

Our Verdict

The most stylish S-Works road shoe on the market. It also happens to be the most affordable, if you can use such a word in this context.

For

  • - Beautiful, focussed design language
  • - Textured, 3D aesthetic
  • - Impressive ventilation
  • - Classic lace-up appeal
  • - Light and stiff outsole
  • - Non-slip replaceable heel tread

Against

  • - Price won't appeal to all
  • - Limited colour options
  • - Take time to lace up and tie

The hotly contested best cycling shoes space just got bigger with the new Specialized S-Works 7 Lace. They represent the fifth instalment in the brand's growing S-Works shoe portfolio, joining the S-Works 7, S-Works Exos, S-Works Vent and the S-Works Ares. Apart from the S-Works Exos, which offered a limited-edition lace-up option at launch, the Specialized S-Works 7 Lace are the only shoes in the S-Works road line-up to ditch Boa-dial retention. That doesn't mean they're any less focussed - these are S-Works-branded shoes after all - but their utilitarian lace-up appeal is likely to garner interest from a broader demographic, not just the purist.  

Let's take a closer look.

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Specialized S-Works 7 Lace road shoes

The Specialized S-Works 7 Lace shoes are available in three colours (Image credit: Aaron Borrill)
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Specialized S-Works 7 Lace road shoes

Ours feature the 'vivid coral/cast umber' colourway (Image credit: Aaron Borrill)
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Specialized S-Works 7 Lace road shoes

It's a beautiful design comprising splashed paint and galaxy-like colouring (Image credit: Aaron Borrill)
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Specialized S-Works 7 Lace road shoes

They're based on the regular S-Works 7 but take on a more traditional lace-up retention system (Image credit: Aaron Borrill)
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Specialized S-Works 7 Lace road shoes

The laces add to the visual drama of the 'vivid coral/cast umber' design (Image credit: Aaron Borrill)
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Specialized S-Works 7 Lace road shoes

Unlike the black or white colours, the texture of Dyneema material pops against the purple hues (Image credit: Aaron Borrill)

Design and aesthetics

While the contemporary shoe design formula is very much about Boa dials and keeping things as tight and foot-hugging as possible, there is still a place for the classic lace-up - even at the performance end of the spectrum. The Specialized S-Works 7 Lace is a beautiful example of lace ups done right. It builds on the fundamentals of the regular S-Works 7 borrowing the same blueprint and attention-grabbing details, and stitches in a lacing system that does little to take away from the package. In fact, the laces add to the visual drama.

The shoes are available in three colourways: two traditional black or white options and a more eccentric 'vivid coral/cast umber' mottled pattern like the shoes pictured here. The design is very Jackson Pollock-like in application, featuring yellow splashes that contrast the purple and reds of the coral theme quite exquisitely. The whole design and way in which the colours interact with each other is playful and helps accentuate the honeycomb-like motif of the Dyneema uppers, while the gloss-black heel cups, black laces and carbon fibre soles add a refined touch.

Compared to the black or white shoes which do well to accentuate the debossed S-Works moniker on the outer flanks, the vivid corals are less conspicuous in their bragging rights requiring you to inspect them closely for the presence of any S-Works references. Other than on the shoe itself, you'll find S-Works on the aglets of the laces and the outer sole.

In terms of practicality and general maintenance, white is always going to prove a challenge to keep clean - especially in the northern hemisphere where colder, wetter winters can discolour things - but the busyness of the coral design does well to hide any blemishes, stains or dirt.

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Specialized S-Works 7 Lace road shoes

All in the details: even the lace aglets get S-works branding (Image credit: Aaron Borrill)
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Specialized S-Works 7 Lace road shoes

The S-Works 7 Lace also benefits from Body Geometry tech (Image credit: Aaron Borrill)
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Specialized S-Works 7 Lace road shoes

Compared to the black or white shoes which do well to accentuate the debossed S-Works moniker on the outer flanks... (Image credit: Aaron Borrill)
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Specialized S-Works 7 Lace road shoes

...the vivid corals are less conspicuous in their bragging rights requiring you to inspect them closely for the presence of any S-Works references (Image credit: Aaron Borrill)
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Specialized S-Works 7 Lace road shoes

Rated at a stiffness index of 15, the Fact Powerline is the brand's lightest and responsive outsole (Image credit: Aaron Borrill)

Specifications

As touched on above, the S-Works 7 Lace is constructed from the same materials as the S-Works 7 upon which it is based. That means it gets lightweight Dyneema uppers and Fact Powerline carbon-fibre sole. Rated at a stiffness index of 15, it's the brand's lightest and responsive outsole. The big difference in terms of construction (the regular S-Works 7 utilises a twin Boa system and Velcro strap) comes in the form of the lace-up retention system. This has helped reduce the weight of the shoe which comes in at claimed 236g (size 44). Our size 42 test pair weighed in significantly lower at 212g per shoe without cleats.

The shoes feature a three-bolt cleat pattern with titanium inserts, lots of fore-aft adjustability and alignment markings to make the cleat-fitting procedure an easier task. Like its Boa sibling, the S-Works 7 Lace also benefits from Body Geometry tech and gets specially designed insoles with longitudinal arch and varus support as well as a metatarsal button. Specialized also offers a mouldable custom insole for those who have special requirements.

Laces aren't for everyone and those who prefer to race or are focussed solely on performance tend to shy away from this retention system in favour of Boa dials - I get that. It's hard to ignore the convenience of on-the-fly adjustability but laces can be just as effective if tightened correctly and the tension spread evenly. Specialized made a point of ensuring these shoes offered a comprehensive spread of support through the lacing system. As a result, the shoes offer 12 separate points of tension adjustment which creates a better system to comfortably ensconce the foot.  

As I pointed out in my S-Works Ares review last year, some of the Boa closure systems have various bits that weave over each other when closed, which can create hotspots or aggravate the tendons on the top of the foot. A lace-up system is simpler in execution and provides a better, less restricting fit. I'll get onto the performance of the lace system and riding experience in the next section.

Specialized S-Works 7 Lace road shoes

We've been testing the Specialized S-Works 7 Laces for the past three months in varying conditions (Image credit: Aaron Borrill)

Laces win races (not just to the coffee shop)

One of the only bugbears when it comes to lace ups is the time it takes to put them on or take them off. To ensure effective closure, the lacing procedure can be an arduous and cumbersome task requiring the user to to tug and pull the laces until tension is spread evenly across the top of the foot. It takes a while to master it but the upshot is a tight and comfortable fit - the laces are non stretch in application, which help dial in just the right amount of tightness. Once you've got everything sorted the laces can be stored neatly within a band located on the tongue.

From a performance perspective, the 7 Lace shoes are not much different to any of its S-Works siblings I've tested before. Of course, the sole is super rigid and provides a solid connection with the pedal platform but there's more to a cycling shoe than stiffness index. One of the standout attributes in this regard is the padlock heel cup which helps stabilise the foot on the up stroke of the pedalling arc. Over time cycling shoes can develop a crease at the back of the shoe when the heel area collapses under excess load, and this can create a weak point in the system. The padlock solution has proved to improve power delivery and ensured a more balanced pedal stroke. And it works.

I've been using these shoes for the past three months in a variety of conditions and they've handled it all impressively. The ventilation of the Dyneema mesh material works a treat in warmer temperatures but still manages to effectively regulate things when it's colder, too. While most of my testing has been conducted outside, I have spent some time on the smart trainer to establish how they handle heat built up in a static environment and even in this setting, they failed to cause any hotspots or discomfort. Overall, the fit is great. Not only is there a roomy toe box up front but also enough space on the sides which should find favour with those with broad feet.

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Specialized S-Works 7 Lace road shoes

Here we have the white version - more refined but easier to dirty (Image credit: Aaron Borrill)
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Specialized S-Works 7 Lace road shoes

The S-Works debossing is much clearer in this guise (Image credit: Aaron Borrill)
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Specialized S-Works 7 Lace road shoes

The textural play between the different surfaces helps provide a tactile and layered appearance (Image credit: Aaron Borrill)
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Specialized S-Works 7 Lace road shoes

Use these during winter at your own risk... (Image credit: Aaron Borrill)
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Specialized S-Works 7 Lace road shoes

Another look at the lace-up system (Image credit: Aaron Borrill)

Verdict

The Specialized S-Works 7 Lace shoes are not for everyone and the lack of on-the-fly micro-adjustability means these kicks won't find favour with all cyclists, especially the diehard racers among us. That said, there's always room for lace-ups in my cycling shoe collection as they offer a classic look coupled with contemporary lightweight attributes, not to mention impressive all-around performance. 

At £300 / $325, they're not what you'd label as affordable either, but are significantly cheaper than any of their S-Works stablemates. What I like about these shoes is the versatility - they can do everything from the club coffee ride and full-throttle chain gang session to a hill climb - well, once you get the lacing retention balanced. When you do, they're just brilliant and, for the most part, as effective as their Boa-equipped siblings.  

Tech Specs: Specialized S-Works 7 Lace road shoes

  • Price: £300 / $325
  • Sizes: 36-49 (EU)
  • Weight: 212g (actual per shoe, size 42 without cleats) 
  • Outsole: Fact Powerline carbon (Stiffness Index 15)
  • Retention: Lace
  • Colours: 3 (White, Black, Vivid Coral)   

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