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Ekoi R4 road cycling shoes review

8 Aug 2018

Never bad, never spectacular, the Ekoi R4 road shoes are just 'good' in every area

Cyclist Rating: 
• A stiff carbon sole • Comfortable faux-leather • Good looking
• Nothing that really stands out about the shoe as a whole • Atop dials

Having now tested plenty of items that have passed through Cyclist HQ, I have come to the realisation that cycling companies are very capable of making their items good.

By good, I mean that every aspect of the product scores a solid 7 out of 10. Seldom does any part of the product drop below a 5 but it very rarely goes above an 8. 

There may be small bits that annoy or you do not get along with but usually, that will be a personal thing and not something that warrants them being marked down harshly.

On the flipside, rarely is there anything that is spectacular that really makes it stand out from the crowd.

Buy the R4 road cycling shoes from Ekoi here

It was during my coffee stop on this weekend's club ride that I came to this epiphany. I was sitting with a face full of cake thinking hard about what I could say during the review of these Ekoi R4 shoes.

I couldn't put my hand on anything in particular that I didn't like but then nothing stood out to me that made me think these shoes were outstanding.

Ekoi has created the R4 shoe which is good, in almost every department, just not great and here's why.

Comfortable carbon 

Ekoi's biggest claim with the R4 shoe was that its unidirectional carbon soles offer 'unbeatable power transfer', the likes of which record a maximum score of 10 on the stiffness index.

Coupled with the low stack height of 4.8mm, you should basically feel as if you are pushing a sheet of iron directly on the pedal.

I cannot say that I noticed any flex in the sole. Even when thundering my entire 90kg carcass down onto the pedal, the sole seemed to remain rigid and transfer the watts I was desperately trying to put down.

But, I cannot say that it felt particularly stiffer or more responsive than soles I have used in the past. In fact to the contrary, I have used soles previously that did seem more hardened, most notably the Easton EC90 SLX 2 carbon soles attached to my Giro Empire shoes.

Despite being as stiff as claimed, it has to be said that the soles remained comfortable, an aspect of these shoes that did leave me impressed.

With carbon soles giving little away, long rides can see your feet feeling tight and swollen having had little room to flex. This wasn't the case with the Ekoi R4 shoes. 

Even after a ride of 80km on a noticeably unforgiving aero road bike - which left my hands and backside in a sore state - my feet felt comfortable and ready to keep riding, a credit to shoes with soles designed to be so stiff.

More widely, the comfort of the shoes in other departments was also pleasing, albeit not spectacular.

The upper is constructed with a resistant synthetic leather called Alcantara which shares many properties with the real stuff. It's soft and malleable, moulding around your foot like actual cowhide. 

However, a lack of ventilation means that in warm weather, like we are experiencing now, your feet will overheat and become uncomfortable despite Ekoi's best efforts to provide perforation. 

The heel has been fitted with a fairly heavy-duty rubber pad which makes walking noticeably easier and also makes standing in the shoes that bit more comfortable, but did catch on my driveside chainstay, on occasion. 

The tongue has also been padded slightly helping to keep it plush against the bridge of the boot no matter how tight you pull the dials, which actually leads me to a rare criticism.

Atop by name, not by nature

Ekoi has opted against using BOA dials and has instead fitted the R4 shoes with ATOP. For me, this a slight flaw.

In terms of the mechanism to close and open, ATOP dials are not bad. In fact, I prefer the 'twist to open' technique of ATOP to the pull of a BOA.

My problem is that ATOP dials never seem as sturdy. Wrenching the dials around a couple of times, I never felt as secure as I do with BOA dials.

I found myself notching them up to almost maximum capacity before feeling properly strapped in. 

Then when I got riding, I often found that the dials were almost unfastening themselves. I was constantly having to reach down and tighten the dials back up mid-ride in order to feel properly secure. 

This didn't happen enough for me to really mark down the R4 shoes but enough to annoy me a little and enough for me to brand these shoes as only 'good' and nothing more.

If looks could kill

It took me a while to like the look of the Ekoi R4 shoes. They have all the characteristics to look great but something wasn't clicking.

With perforated synthetic leather and a separate toe piece, the R4 shoes have a vintage design that is clean with its lack of colour and embellishments.

The 'Ekoi' across the heel isn't intrusive and the 'R4' on the rear is classy, but I wasn't completely sold.

It was not until some of my colleagues around the office commented 'nice shoes' or 'Hey Joe, those shoes look good' that I really began to fall for their looks and even then, was this because I had been complimented on them?

Buy the R4 road cycling shoes from Ekoi here

Again, I would describe the shoes looks as 'good' or 'alright' but not 'beautiful' or 'stunning'.

Finally, if these shoes were sold at the recommended retail price of £248.77 I would politely suggest you find an alternative but because Ekoi operates a system that sees most of its products on sale almost all of the time, chances are you will pick them up a little cheaper. 

At the moment, these shoes are on sale at £120 on the Ekoi website, a cool £129 less than retail and pretty reasonably priced, but again, this is just good and not great.


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