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Northwave Extreme Pro shoes review

11 Apr 2019

Designed for performance but also very comfortable on longer days in the saddle

Cyclist Rating: 
• Good power transfer • Intelligent release mechanism on dials • Secure and comfortable fit
• Slight rubbing on ankle • Expensive

It’s one of those things that ends up ingrained in your mind after years of your mum nagging you: ‘Make sure you wear your shoes in otherwise you’ll get blisters.’

My mum used to say it with every new pair of shoes. And with every new pair of shoes I’d ignore her. And yes, every new pair of shoes would give me blisters.

It wasn't just growing up, either. Many times when testing new cycling shoes, I've used them for a long ride on the first occasion and come home with my feet in a complete state.

I made the same mistake with the new Northwave Extreme Pro road shoes. I affixed my cleats, slipped them on and headed off for a long and tiring 100km ride around the Kentish lanes. Usually this would have been a recipe for blister-filled disaster. Luckily, my experience was quite the opposite.

Buy the Northwave Extreme Pro shoes from Wiggle

Despite being a shoe that Northwave claims to use ‘breakthrough technological solutions’ to give ‘its highest-performing shoes ever’ – usually code for ultra-stiff and uncomfortable – the new Extreme Pro shoes were among some of the most instantly-comfortable cycling shoes I’ve worn in a long while.

Upper comfort

Ultimately, the reason for these shoes feeling instantly like an old pair of slippers is down to some innovative and expensive technology.

The shoe upper uses Northwave’s ‘XFrame 2 concept’ fit which replaces the usual plastic inserts woven on most shoes with soft tape and something called Dyneema cable.

It basically allows the shoes upper to mould around the shape of your foot when tightened rather than assuming its own shape to which your foot is fudged into fitting.

This makes for a really comfortable shoe when riding. I never found the top of my foot struggling under unnecessary pressure even when I notched up the dials heading before diving into a big effort.

Northwave also uses a double SLW2 system for closure which, to my mind, offers the most secure fit of any cycling shoe providing a feeling of security throughout the shoe thanks to the distribution of tightening through the shoe.

The SLW2 dials also revert from their usual pull and pop system, instead using a double dial system that uses a small latch to loosen the dial. This allowed for more adjustment on the fly and also more minute changes, both that only help with comfort.

Combine this with a hugging one-piece upper and double closing system and you are left with a supple but secure fit that can be adjusted on the fly, while never feeling too tight no matter how much you notch the dials up.

Luckily, this comfort is also backed up with performance.

Sole purposes

If you’re supremely eagle-eyed, you’ll have noticed that the majority of the Astana team, including Miguel Angel Lopez and Jakob Fuglsang, have been racing to victory in these Northwave Extreme Pro shoes this season.

Vital to the likes of Lopez and Fuglsang is a shoe’s power transfer. Guaranteeing that minimal watts are lost through the sole of the shoe when pressure applied from the rider. If the sole is flexy, it will expend watts and waste unnecessary energy from the rider.

Northwave has tackled this by using a ‘Powershape Carbon 15’ sole which it claims uses unidirectional carbon that is ‘the stiffest on the market’ thanks to a tubular-inspired design that ranks at 15 on Northwave’s stiffness index, the highest score possible.

Lacking my own homemade stiffness detector, I cannot really access these claims.

But, as a 92kg rider who can produce sizeable torque and wattage, I can say is that I found the shoes to be incredibly rigid without seeming to compromise when I pushed down hard onto the pedals. Flex is something I have felt in poorer-quality shoes but not here.

This feeling of efficiency is also likely helped by Northwave’s Powershape arch’, a shaped base for the shoe’s inner that curves with the arch of your foot rather than just having a flat surface to push on.

This arch gave me the feeling of a wider distribution of pressure that went through the whole foot rather than just the ball, where your pedal is, which meant less pressure place onto one area of my foot and a smoother pedal stroke, especially when climbing.

While the carbon sole and secure fastening of the double SLW2 system provide a comfortable ride, it’s not all plain sailing.

I noticed that when riding out of the saddle, especially when lent over the bars putting in a significant effort, the top line and tongue of the shoe would start to rub against the ankle.

With the efforts causing the usual wave of lactic acid in the legs, the rubbing wasn’t so noticeable when riding but, after finishing the ride, I would feel the wear of the shoe on my ankle and a particular soreness.

Even tightening the BOA dials did little to stop the rubbing.

Buy the Northwave Extreme Pro shoes from Wiggle

It’s basically down to the to the upper not joining with the ankle in a perfectly neat line, with the slight kink that’s left prodding forward into the ankle ever so slightly. It’s a tiny moan but worthwhile especially if, like me, you are forced from the saddle quite often when riding.

It’s also worth noting that these shoes are £340. Now with Mavic selling shoes at £1,000 and Specialized at £500, I cannot complain that the world’s gone mad with the price of cycling shoes, especially as these are clearly marketed as top of the range.

But at £340, it’s clearly indicative of the trajectory of shoe prices at the moment which is slightly scary, I guess.

Look beyond the price, however, and what you have in the Northwave Extreme Pro shoes is a clever balance of high-performance and all-round comfort that’s prime for high stakes road riding.


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