Review: 2011 Specialized S-Works Shoes

Overview: This top-end model delivers across the board and provides everything you could want in a cycling shoe. Specialized Body Geometry features deliver a solid platform that make this shoe wearable for a majority of foot types, two BOA closures secure a perfect fit and the FACT 12, high modulus carbon sole is as stiff as you would ever want.

11 Specialized BG S-Works Road Shoe Red/White

The 2011 S-Works Road Shoe in White and Red.

Price: $349.99

Specialized has perfected the use of the BOA closure system with the new S-Works Road Shoe. Nothing has changed from the 2010 model – all the same Body Geometry features are present along with two BOA S1 dials that rotate in either direction to tighten or loosen the shoe. The top dial locks the ankle and heel down while the mid-foot dial snugs the arch and forefoot.

I previously owned a pair of the 2009 S-Works shoes that only had one BOA dial. I bought a pair of the new model to see if performance and fit were enhanced with two dials instead of one.

I was in awe at the comfort of these shoes right out of the box. There was no “break in period” what so ever. This may be due to the fact that I was already riding in Specialized shoes, but I was still impressed with how comfy these were on my first ride. Sizing and fit feels similar to previous editions of the shoe. I found the heel to be on the narrow side with a snug mid-foot and roomy toe box. One of the reasons I truly love this shoe is that it will fit a range of foot types thanks to the BOA closure system. I have a slender foot, but the dials allow me to tighten these down enough to get a secure fit. There’s no way this upper would work on my feet if I was trying to synch down a buckle and a couple Velcro straps. This phenomenon has made me a believer that the BOA dials are a superior closure system over traditional buckles and straps.

11 Specialized BG S-Works Road Shoe White/Black

The BOA dials rotate in either direction to tighten or loosen the shoe.

The cords of the BOA lacing system disperse pressure more evenly over the top of the shoe, creating a uniform enclosure, the way the laces of a running shoe work. The inherent problem with straps is that they can cause pressure points as you tighten them down. Many companies address this problem by making pads that are built into the strap that disperse pressure. The Specialized Pro Road Shoe utilizes this design. If you can’t get past the idea of having dials on your shoe, the Pro Road has all the great Body Geometry features of the S-Works shoe without the BOA dials.

11 Specialized BG S-Works Road Shoe White/Black

The super-stiff carbon sole has an air port near the toe and features a better heel pad than the 2009 S-Works shoe.

The FACT 12 carbon sole supplies sensational stiffness. Every time I stand up to pedal, I feel confident knowing my shoes are working for me, not against me as I push down on the pedals. The sole is also ventilated to keep air flowing through the shoe. The water-resistant upper is well ventilated too, with open mesh panels on the tops and sides of the shoe.

I have mentioned Body Geometry features a few times now, so here are the key innovations you’ll find on all Specialized shoes that address the natural bio-mechanical problems that arise from cycling.
  • Varus Wedge: Engineered into the outsole of the shoe to account for the naturally canted angle of the foot. Having this angle is fine for walking, but it can cause rotational movement of the knee, shin and foot while biking. This creates knee pressure and strain while degrading efficiency. The varus wedge accounts for this angle, creating a balanced platform for maximum power output.
  • Metatarsal Button: Lifts and separates the metatarsals to eliminate hot spots that occur from bunching of the toes.
  • Longitudinal Arch: Similar idea to the varus wedge, except arch support is supplied from the footbed instead of the outsole. Specialized offers three levels of arch support in their footbeds which can be purchased separately.
11 Specialized BG S-Works Road Shoe White/Black

The White/Black color scheme is ultra classy.

Final Score: I have never given a perfect score in a review, but I’m so impressed with these shoes that I have to give my first ever 10 out of 10. The fit rivals the slipper-like feel of the Sidi Ergo 2 at $80 less. The sole is stiffer than anything else I’ve ridden. The BOA closures are a definite improvement over the 2009 model, giving the upper a customizable, secure fit. The styling is classy without being too flashy. Some people may not like the shiny finish, but I think that if you’re dropping $350 on shoes, you want to be noticed, at least a little.

The only issue that can, and probably will arise, is that the BOA dials will need to be replaced. Like all moving parts, the BOA dials and cords will wear out over time. I have never had to replace these, but I can’t imagine it being too difficult and the parts cost less than $20.

Specialized uses the BOA dial on several other models in its line of 2011 shoes. They seem to be ahead of the game, creating trends and utilizing new technologies. It will be interesting to see who follows suit.