Stuff Fatty Loves: Shoes Edition

09.21.2010 | 11:08 am

A Note from Fatty: This is the first in a series (of indeterminate length, because I don’t think very far ahead, and I don’t know whether people will like these) of posts about bike-related stuff that I own and love. These posts are not reviews, because reviews are generally about new products and need to at least pretend to be balanced in coverage. Instead, these posts are about stuff I have had long enough that I’m way past certain that they’re awesome, and hence want to tell my friends about them.

In April of 2009, I wrote a post titled, “An Open Letter to Specialized.” In it, I pretty thoroughly trashed their mountain bike shoes, saying that while the shoes fit great, they just didn’t last; with them I had had to purchase new mountain bike shoes every other season.

I said that Specialized had worn out their welcome, shoe-wise, and finished with an open appeal to any shoe manufacturer that would like to earn a loyal customer.

Two companies sent me new mountain biking shoes. Sidi sent me their top-of-the-line Dragon 2 SRSs. Here they are, back when they were new:

201009211019.jpg

And — to my huge surprise — Specialized stepped up in the face of ridicule and sent me a new pair of their Specialized BG Pro Carbon MTB shoes. Here they are when they were new:

201009211021.jpg

The Evolution of Preference

I told myself that the fairest way I could decide which pair of shoes — if either — I liked best would be to switch on a ride-by-ride basis. The thing is, I knew that system wouldn’t last forever. At some point, I knew I’d start using one pair of shoes more often than the other. And that, probably, I’d wind up wearing one of those pairs pretty much exclusively.

I should also point out that I started out hugely biased against Specialized; they had already failed me and were on double-extra-secret probation, as far as I was concerned.

And besides, the Sidis were the cooler, sexier brand, and were way (like double) more expensive.

So, in short, I was pretty sure that Specialized was going to take a drubbing, handing me one of those oh-so-rare-and-delicious “I told you so” moments.

You can already tell where this is going to wind up, can’t you?

Well, just in case you can’t, take a look at the shoes now that I’ve had them for about two riding seasons:

My Photo_22.jpg

Yeah, the Specialized shoes look like they’ve been used a lot more, don’t they?

I’m surprised too. It’s because these shoes are used a lot more, by the way — not that they wear out fast.

The truth is, I was pretty good about switching between the shoes for about a month — long enough to realize that both brands of shoes are very good.

But while I like the way the Sidis look and fit, I simply love my Specialized BG Pro shoes.

And here’s why.

No Maintenance

My previous pairs of Specialized shoes all self-destructed within a couple of seasons, which is a huge problem, considering how expensive cycling shoes are. But after a couple of seasons, here’s how this pair looks from the side:

My Photo_29.jpg

And here’s the sole:

My Photo_25.jpg

Obviously, these shoes are scuffed and dirty (and it’s high time I replace my cleats). If you look past those things, though, you’ll note that the shoes are completely intact. The mesh on the uppers is in great shape (in spite of the fact that I have not cared for them at all), and the soles are still intact. I can also tell you that the velcro still fastens securely and the ratchet on both shoes works flawlessly.

In other words, these shoes are in as good of shape after two seasons of a lot of riding as when I got them. Without my ever doing anything to take care of them.

And I have no reason to suspect they won’t be good for at least another season or two of lots of riding.

Comfort

One thing I have never complained about — and in fact have praised, multiple times — is the Specialized “Body Geometry” system. Specialized has clearly spent a lot of time and money researching how feet fit in shoes.

As a result, my feet have never hurt when mountain biking this season. And that’s saying something, considering I have worn these shoes on some pretty long rides, including:

  • The Kokopelli Trail
  • The Leadville 100
  • The Park City P2P
  • Several hometown all-day epics

No hotspots. No aching arches. No soreness or blisters. Ever. My feet are the one part of my body that have never endured even a second’s worth of discomfort this riding season.

The fact is, once I put my shoes on, I never think about my feet the rest of the ride.

Which I think is about as high of praise as you can have for mountain bike shoes.

Matchy-Matchy

I’m now a big enough fan of Specialized shoes that last weekend I took The Runner out to a bike shop and bought her an equivalent pair of these shoes (but much, much smaller, because The Runner’s feet are dainty). I think that’s worth pointing out because while it’s one thing to like something that’s given to you for free, my endorsement might be more credible when you know that I am also willing to buy them at retail.

So, Specialized, we kind of took the long way ’round on this relationship, but I think it worked out pretty good for both of us in the end. You’ve won me back. I love you guys.

Now c’mon over here and give me a hug.

53 Comments

  1. Comment by sloguy | 09.21.2010 | 11:25 am

    I think that Specialized should step up and sponsor your site now. Great “Stuff Fatty Loves” series.

  2. Comment by Alon | 09.21.2010 | 11:27 am

    I love Specialized shoes also. That’s the only brand I wear now, both road and mountain. Specialized “stuff” in general is pretty great (even if you don’t get it for free)!

  3. Comment by Ian Hopper | 09.21.2010 | 11:30 am

    Ok, I get it, you dig the Specialized shoes… but there wasn’t much more feedback about the Sidi’s. I’ve always cringed at the amount of $$ that the Sidi’s cost, but I’ve been buying and wearing them faithfully since about 1993 and I’m wondering if they really cost any less than those high end Specialized shoes. Like most shoes of quality, my sidi’s took a bit of breaking in before they fit like the proverbial glove but I love them. FWIW, I’ve never owned Specialized bike shoes. I’m curious to hear from other readers their feedback.

  4. Comment by jlaudolff | 09.21.2010 | 11:39 am

    The specialized are awesome, BUT the interior of mine are starting to disintegrate. 2+ seasons of road commuting and occasional mtb and cx. Still a great value and never any pinching or hotspots. Unlike my experience with the road sidis which always pinch or have hotspots.

  5. Comment by JAT in Seattle | 09.21.2010 | 11:48 am

    I used to favor Specialized MTB shoes, but one morning before driving my kid to school (and then planning to ride the rest of the way in to work) I realized that I’d forgotten something and ran back to the apartment at which point i realized I’d brocken the sole rightin half across the line where the cleat cut-outs were.

    I went Sidi after that and have been pretty happy with everything except the price… all my shoes tend to disintegrate indice the heel counter, so I’ve stopped holding this against any particular shoe or brand.

    but maybe I’ll give Specialized another try.

  6. Comment by JAT in Seattle | 09.21.2010 | 11:49 am

    sure wish I could edit my typos…

  7. Comment by Daniel C | 09.21.2010 | 11:57 am

    Love the new series. If those Sidis are size 45-46, I can give them a good home. My old dominators are way over due to be replaced.

  8. Comment by Jeff L. | 09.21.2010 | 12:04 pm

    What size are you? I know someone that would take those free sidi dominators off of your hands and I live close.

  9. Comment by RonH | 09.21.2010 | 12:07 pm

    The only hot spot I ever had with Sidi road shoes was standing in the parking lot just after finishing the Hotter’n Hell. I noticed an incredable burning sensation just behind the ball of my right foot. Seems the cleats were picking up the heat off asphalt and transfering it through the mounting screws direcly onto the bottom of the foot. Sitting down (and changing shoes) solved the problem.

  10. Comment by centurion | 09.21.2010 | 12:09 pm

    I’m also a Specialized BG shoe owner. They are amongst the most comforable shoes of any type I have owned. I also have foot problems that require inserts in all of my shoes, except for my Speialized BG shoes. They fit perfect right out of the box.

  11. Comment by MattC | 09.21.2010 | 12:18 pm

    I’d love to have a set of Sidi mtb shoes to replace my ancient Answer’s…(and to go w/ my fairly new Sidi road shoes). Alas, it’s the dreaded $ issue. Sidi’s are nice cuz they have narrower widths than Specialized (who specialize in having a gimundo toe-box..tried a set on, my feet got lost in there). I figure you should give your Dragons away to some lucky reader…I also wear in the 44 range…(just in case…GRIN!)

  12. Comment by Fat Cathy | 09.21.2010 | 12:30 pm

    You never really said why you ended up favoring the Specialized shoes over the Sidis.

  13. Comment by Lucas | 09.21.2010 | 12:33 pm

    Fatty,

    I love my Specialized shoes; I bought a pair of the BG Sport MTB shoes in 2005 for my road-bike when I first got back on bikes after a multi-year “hiatus”, because I wanted to try out clipless pedals and was a bit intimidated by road pedals. 2 years later I swapped the SPDs for some Looks (and a nice pair of Specialized BG Carbon Pro road shoes), and the ol’ BG Sport MTB shoes moved to a dual-role as:

    my MTB shoes

    AND

    my commuting shoes!!

    We are now in the 5th year of their use (for the past 18 months it has been daily) and only now are they getting to a point where I need to replace them (are you listening, Specialized? ;)… they are more than a bit stinky, and one (only one!) of the straps has lost all velcro adhesion, and one more is close behind…

    …so long story short (too late), I am glad that your relationship w/ specialized has been rekindled, and I would think of no other shoe for my biking needs.

  14. Comment by Elisabethvi | 09.21.2010 | 12:40 pm

    What does the Runner think of her new shoes? (I love the woman’s point of view)

  15. Comment by Jason | 09.21.2010 | 12:50 pm

    I have those exact shoes and love them, except for one very big except. On the inside of the shoe, where the strap bolts (an actual bolt) to the shoe, the plastic bit tabs hit the crank. This happens a lot on technical parts where I am standing and the bike is swaying back and forth. My only solution has been to snip off the excess plastic and move the cleats a bit…but it still happens sometimes. Makes me nuts.

  16. Comment by Santi | 09.21.2010 | 12:54 pm

    Since you’ve tried Sidi Mega width shoes and Specialized BG shoes… Do you think someone that is used to Sidi Megas could fit comfortably in a standard width Specialized BG Shoe (since they don’t come in wide sizes)?

  17. Comment by Frank | 09.21.2010 | 1:07 pm

    I wore Sidi MTN Bike shoes for the last 10 years and when they were a little too ratty, I bought new Specialized shoes. I have to say, the Sidi’s last … maybe that’s why they cost so much. But the Specialized have fixed a problem I had with 1 knee. Probably the better geometry.

  18. Comment by Erik | 09.21.2010 | 1:09 pm

    I have a pair of Specialized MTB shoes, size 47, that I’ve had since 1999 that are pretty much toast. Suede and green nylon, 2 Velcro straps.

    I use them on my road bike too, because I can’t find a pair of road shoes to fit me.

    Needless to say, Green and Brown Suede do not look good with Team Fatty Orange or Pink.

    Can you help hook up a fellow Fatty with some new kicks?

  19. Comment by MaineMTB | 09.21.2010 | 1:20 pm

    Hey Fatty-

    Great idea for the new series. As a long time Sidi guy, I would have loved to have heard more about the uber-expensive dragons. I get that you like the Specialized, but I don’t really understand why they are better. And I’m due for some new shoes next spring.

    Just my $.02. Keep up the good work.

  20. Comment by DavidV | 09.21.2010 | 1:46 pm

    if those Sidi’s are a 46 I’d be happy to take them off of your hand (you want to make sure the Runner doesn’t get mad at clutter). Just as a favour to you… :-)

  21. Comment by Erik | 09.21.2010 | 1:50 pm

    Presenting my aforementioned circa 1999 fugly Specialized kicks. mrj1fwj

  22. Comment by Jim | 09.21.2010 | 1:50 pm

    I rock the Sidis. They do sometimes have hotspots but not half so much as when I ride with my Vibram Five Fingers.

  23. Comment by Erik | 09.21.2010 | 1:50 pm

    once more with the right link:
    mrj1fwj

  24. Comment by Ashley | 09.21.2010 | 1:56 pm

    I, too, got a free pair of Specialized, but the company didn’t send them to me, they were on the clothing swap table at my school one day.

    I tried them on and never looked back. I use my Specialized MTB shoes for road, with the whole comfort while walking thing, and after many many rides they still look and feel great.

    Also, like you, I put them on at the beginning of the ride, and never think about my feet again, unless it starts raining, because then they’re wet.

  25. Comment by Darwin | 09.21.2010 | 2:09 pm

    I have been using Specialized road shoes since last year. I use a size 48 Wide and have never found shoes I really liked in 30 + years of riding until I bought these Specialized shoes. They fit ver well, are comfortable and seem to be well made since they show little sign of wear.

  26. Comment by Sean | 09.21.2010 | 2:23 pm

    Specialized also sell the BG footbeds separately. Running these in the Sidi’s is probably not 100% the same as using the BG shoes with the BG last, but probably helps.

    My first MTB shoes were Specialized Ground Controls, the black Darth Vader ones back in the early 90’s. Those were some bad shoes.

  27. Comment by Dave | 09.21.2010 | 3:29 pm

    Funny you talk about Specialized spending a lot of development time getting the shoes to fit right. I have a pair of SIDI tri shoes and had to put Specialized foot beds in them to get thru long training rides without hot spots.

    If you’re taking requests on gear you like. I’d like to hear about sunglasses, pedals, helmets, grips and gloves.

    Looking forward to this series.

  28. Comment by Bryan (not that one) | 09.21.2010 | 3:46 pm

    I like both the idea of a “stuff Fatty loves” series and reading the comments about others experiences.

    I’ve seen my local newspaper use the term, “one in an occasional series” for articles about some topic that they write… well, occassionally.

    I wish more bike shoe manufacturers catered to those of us with larger feet. I wear a size 14W and the choices are VERY limited.

  29. Comment by Caleb | 09.21.2010 | 5:05 pm

    I actually use Specialized Mtn Bike shoes for my road bike shoes. They are the first and only pair I have owned so far. I’m sad to see your report on this. Hopefully since i’ m just using mine for road biking they last longer. But either way I think I’m ready for a new system. Perhaps Specialized will be off the plate this time?

  30. Comment by cece | 09.21.2010 | 5:49 pm

    I wear Specialized road shoes and they have been the greatest shoes because of their fit. In my previous shoes, I got lots of hot spots and in these I do not. They fit like a glove and after 2 seasons, they lasted longer than the most recent man in my life did!
    Cece

  31. Comment by Getz | 09.21.2010 | 5:52 pm

    Love the series idea. As a newer cyclist, it will be great to see the brands and products that you (and the commenter’s) have had the best luck with over time.

  32. Comment by bikerman57 | 09.21.2010 | 7:11 pm

    Simple….. Specialized should have the opportunity to be one of your website sponsors….. let them know the good news….

  33. Comment by Zed | 09.21.2010 | 7:58 pm

    I put in much less mileage than you do (here’s my epic ride count this year: ZERO), but I also use Specialized BG shoes. Other than having to replace the velcro once in a while, they’ve held up pretty well for, um … six seasons now. They’re cozy, and they fit me better than most of my regular shoes, though I should mention that I occasionally experience numbness in two toes on the left foot. Details, details. I’d buy ‘em again.

  34. Comment by Jeremy | 09.21.2010 | 10:10 pm

    I own three pairs of Specialized shoes. I love them. They fit great. They’re stiff in the right places. They’ve held up well to my abuse. I tried on the SIDIs and could not find one that fit my foot without pinching somewhere.

  35. Comment by Sylvia | 09.21.2010 | 10:58 pm

    My husband had Sidis. I went to buy good shoes for me, tried on both and had to buy the Specialized. Then I bought him a pair of Specialized. He now only wears the Sidis if it’s really crappy outside and the shoes are going to get wet AND muddy. He has the road, I have the mtb. I *really* like the Specialized BG pro shoes. For us, they were well worth the price. My husband rides a lot of miles and they are still in good shape after a year and a half. I looked and found a store that carried the Specialized in my size to try on only after your original post.

  36. Comment by GTM | 09.22.2010 | 12:03 am

    Would love to see Specialized produce the BG shoes in Bigger (50+) and wider sizes.

  37. Comment by Weean | 09.22.2010 | 1:24 am

    My second ever pair of cycling shoes were the last Specialized’s before they introduced Body Geometry. They fit like a glove. I loved those shoes.

    So when they wore out I went ahead & ordered a new pair of the (baseline) BG shoes. Bad news, they changed the last (in hindsight; well, duh). Worse news, I get hotspots on every ride lasting over 20 minutes, which simply doesn’t happen with my Adidas.

    Shoes & their fit are a very personal thing, maybe second only to saddles. Or maybe if I had my own fantastically successful blog & Specialized sent me their top-of-the-range shoe gratis (size 40 if you’re paying attention) I never would have suffered the hotspot issue.

  38. Comment by Anne | 09.22.2010 | 7:32 am

    You never really mentioned why you liked the specialized better than the sidi´s better.

    I absolotely love my italien cycling shoes.

  39. Comment by Andrew | 09.22.2010 | 8:15 am

    Agreed—Specialized makes good stuff. I have a pair of their shoes (though they’re coming apart after too many hike-a-bike sessions) and I used to have a pair of their gloves (I hate my current gloves).

    But all-in-all, I’m a big fan.

  40. Comment by FatPedro | 09.22.2010 | 8:18 am

    Slightly related question – how do you keep your feet warm?!? I hate cold feet, and I get them bad sometimes. Perhaps poor circulation in my Sidis?

  41. Comment by GJ Jackie | 09.22.2010 | 8:34 am

    Isn’t anyone else out there just a bit pissed off that cycling shoes cost so much? Over $330 for the Sidi’s and $150-200 for the Specialized? I think that’s getting a little crazy.

  42. Comment by rich | 09.22.2010 | 8:49 am

    I bought the Sidi’s about 4 years ago and love them as both my mt and road shoes. This year, they’re getting a little thrashed and I bought some road specific shoes and pedals.
    Now shopping for new mt shoes – might have to give the specialized a try. Can’t really afford the new Sidi’s….agree with OP – why are shoes so expensive?

  43. Comment by Flyin' Ute | 09.22.2010 | 9:05 am

    Going on 6 years with my Sidi’s. Best shoes made. I gave my old Specialized to DI.

    Size 50 Sidi if you are listening.

  44. Comment by Heber Chad | 09.22.2010 | 9:17 am

    Road – Sidi’s (43.5 wide + new foot bed = sooo comphy)Mtn – Specialized (right out of the box, they’re so old I have no idea what model they are). Love them both.

  45. Comment by Franky | 09.22.2010 | 9:35 am

    I started with a pair of Specialized shoes and still own them to this day with my commuter. For my road excursions I have a pair of Shimano which I like as well. I second the price issue…waaaay to expensive.

  46. Comment by graisseux | 09.22.2010 | 9:39 am

    It bothers me that you left those rocks in the soles of your shoes. I just wanna pry ‘em out! Yeah, I have OCD.

  47. Comment by bacmapei | 09.22.2010 | 12:32 pm

    I am still using my first pair of shoes (Time MXC); however, I need something narrow for my skinny feet. I was planning to buy Sidi Dominator 5 and was excited to discover they have a narrow version. Reading this review and finding that Specialized also has a narrow size in this model has me rethinking my plans.

  48. Comment by Dep820 | 09.22.2010 | 1:02 pm

    I wear a size 42, just so you know..

    I have been thinking of buying a new pair of shoes and was going back and forth between Sidi and Specialized. Thanks for the review.

  49. Comment by Jeff | 09.22.2010 | 4:00 pm

    I’m still waiting for a 10 EEEE cycling shoe that is not custom made. Those Ws are much narrower than I need.

  50. Comment by PW Dave | 09.23.2010 | 5:11 pm

    I’ve owned both and prefer my Sidi’s. Confortable and long wearing. Just goes to show you there is a right fit for everyone.

  51. Comment by wilsonjr | 09.24.2010 | 12:40 pm

    I have the Pro road shoes. They are great. I lke the fact that I can replace the heal pieces when they wear down. (Plus I have a wide foot and the cost is much better than the Mega Sidi’s)

  52. Comment by Andrew | 09.24.2010 | 4:25 pm

    Since I’ve seen a bunch of comments about it- Specialized make narrow (AAA), regular (C-ish?), and wide (E-ish) sizes in all their Pro-level shoes. I know Sidi makes both Mega and narrow shoes at all levels, but good luck finding a narrow shoe in stock.

    Oh, and I love my Pro road shoes. Never think about my feet in them.

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