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Bont Riot+ MTB Cycling Shoes review

17 Apr 2020
Verdict:

Ideal gravel or cyclocross shoes with a blunt toe box, excellent features, and heat-mouldable fit

Cyclist Rating: 
Price: 
£150
For 
Comfy • Heat-mouldable • Very stiff
Against 
Not the lightest available

Promising to correct many mistakes Bont claims other shoemakers perpetrate on your trotters, these Bont Riot+ MTB Cycling Shoes could be the solution to painful feet - wide or otherwise.

Founded in 1974 by Inze Bont after he couldn’t find boots to fit his broad feet, the brand started out making speed skating shoes. Now producing a large range of mid to high-end bike shoes, the Australian firm continues to custom-build many of its models on request.

Priced at £150, these Riot+ models represent the entry-level offering, yet include almost all the features that set the brand apart; including a unique ergonomic shape, heat-mouldable soles, reinforced uppers and a rebuildable construction.

With the road and mountain bike versions of the Riot+ model differing only in the number of cleat holes and the chunkiness of the attached tread, this makes them ideal for performance-critical off-road use. A bit aggressive for a touring shoe, they’re instead well suited to gravel or cyclocross use.

Fit

Bont’s big selling point has always been its unique anatomical shaping. It doesn’t matter how clever the rest of a shoe’s features are - if it doesn’t fit, it’s no good. Until now, when cycling, at some point my feet will start hurting. With some shoes this comes after around 80km, others manage double that. But eventually, they’ll ache, then cramp, then go numb.

Shoes I’ve tried and found uncomfortable include; Specialized, Shimano, Gaerne, Giro, Vittoria, Mavic, Sidi and Fizik. I’ve played with sizing, cleat position and upping my cadence. And while using some brands’ specific wide or high-volume versions has helped, it hasn't cured the problem.

Buy the Bont Riot+ MTB shoes from Wiggle for £93.50

When cycling the outside of my feet always feel as if they’re trying to spill over the edge of the sole. This is where the problems start. Bont’s shoes are more foot-shaped. As a cyclist and not a member of some medieval court, pointiness is not a trait I massively prize. Yet nearly all cycling shoes echo dress shoes and taper sharply towards the front. This is despite most people’s feet being broad and relatively flat across the front.

Leaving Bont’s designs looking a little lumpen, after years of pain, I’m now prepared to make some concessions to ergonomics. According to Bont, squishing your toes together isn’t good for them. Given that I’ve found myself able to ride 200km+ in its shoes without problems, I’m inclined to agree.

Construction

Constructed of unidirectional carbon composite, the heat-moldable soles on the Bonts seem uncommonly stiff. With no hint of naff-looking carbon weave, they’re also very hardwearing.

The soles are also unusual in their bathtub design. Essentially, the bottom third of the shoe is composed of the sole, as opposed to a conventional design where it makes up only the flat base section. Extending slightly upwards around the toe box, by the arch they’re several centimetres high around the edges. This means your feet sit firmly within the belly of the shoe, with plentiful support and no possibility of overhanging toes.

Potentially odd feeling to start with, any nagging points can be smoothed out by heat moulding. This allows you to both flare out uncomfortable edges and tuck-in the fit where you want it to be more secure.

Just pop the shoes in the oven, then once warmed through stick them on your feet and get prodding. You can do this an infinite number of times, so start slow. It took a few rides until mine were spot-on.

Buy the Bont Riot+ MTB shoes from Wiggle for £93.50

Moving on from the soles, up top two rigid tapes wrap over the shoe to prevent it stretching with extended wear. Closure is then achieved via one velcro strap, which adjusts the width and volume of the shoe, and one Boa dial which allows for secure retention along with quick adjustment and release. Finally, the heel can be pinched in when moulding and is relatively secure by default.

When it comes to tread, the underside of the Riot+ is made up of four rubber sections along with holes for two studs at the front. Most will likely leave these unfilled, however, cyclocross riders will appreciate the option for adding extra bite to deal with slippery run-ups. Either way, these rubber bits do an excellent job of shielding the sole from damage. And when they wear out, all are available as spare parts.

Sizing

A quick survey of the office and online reviews yields the following... People with wide feet love Bonts. People with normal feet often quite like them. And people with narrow feet find them a bit baggy.

But what size Bonts to try? One thing I can tell you is the brand’s online sizing tool isn’t going to help. Having measured my feet it directed me to a ridiculously small shoe, so I sized up. When they arrived, they were too small anyway - so I sized up again.

This probably goes back to my original sin, buying shoes without trying them or getting expert advice. In my experience, Bonts actually size up about as you’d expect - online sizing tool be damned.

Performance

The support and wide footbed make the Riots especially comfortable for big rides. They also seem pretty indestructible. Like Sidi shoes, they trade a bit of weight in order to become a genuinely serviceable product that should last years with care.

At 420g per shoe for a size 46, they’re not the very lightest, but they’re not too bulky either. Given their longevity and stiffness, I was perfectly happy to carry a few extra grams.

For more information: bontcycling.com

Conclusion

In Bont, I’ve found the shoemaker for my previously unlovable feet. I also think there’s enough good design going into the brand’s shoes that they’ll suit a huge number of other riders. But like saddles, there’s also the possibility that my affection stems mostly from a fluke of ergonomic coincidence.

Buy the Bont Riot+ MTB shoes from Wiggle for £93.50

What suits one person won’t always be good for the next. If you cycle a lot and suffer from your feet, you could potentially save significant grief by talking to a proper shoe fitter. And by that I mean one that charges by the hour, not the Saturday kid at your local bike shop.

Still, make sure Bont is at least on the list of brands to try, especially if you’ve got wide feet. Mine give them 10 toes up.