BONTRAGER XXX ROAD CYCLING SHOE – TOP PERFORMER WITHOUT TRADEOFFS

This review of the Bontrager XXX Road Cycling Shoe appears alongside others in my review The Best Road Bike Shoes.

Among most of today’s road bike shoes, there usually seems to be some trade-offs you need to make. Performance vs. comfort. Functionality vs. style. The right size vs. enough room. Good venting vs. three-season use. Appeal vs. price.

With the new XXX Road Cycling Shoe, Bontrager has created a shoe that, in nearly every instance, doesn’t force you to make these choices.

Starting with performance, I found the XXX as stiff as any shoe I’ve worn. I didn’t feel any flex in the carbon outsole at max power output no matter whether I was climbing or going full gas on the flats. And with two good-sized vents under the toes and a narrow one running the length of your arch, you don’t give up any cooling potential for that stiffness.

The heel cup holds my heel in place with a shape that fits me well and is easy to get in to and out of. It has a snug surrounding reinforced by dense plastic ribbing on the outside and uses a flexible material at the top around my heel cord.

Rather than having a tongue like most shoes, the Bontrager XXX upper wraps over your midfoot from the Boa dial side of each shoe. The amply perforated and well vented upper itself has the soft feel and durability of leather except in this midfoot area where it is as strong as the stiffest tongues in shoes I’ve worn.

This wrap design in combination with IP1 Boa dials gives me a fit and level of stiffness on my upstroke that I haven’t felt with other shoes this comfortable.

And honestly, I haven’t found many shoes this comfortable, certainly not with the performance of a stiff outsole or the fit that comes with dual Boas.

Comfort in the XXX comes from a combination of things. The midfoot wrap design and leather-like upper give me a snug, cozy feel. On top of that, there is enough give across my forefoot, that widest part of your foot between the outside of the ball one side and the bone that sticks out below your small toe on the other.

Having worn these through the hot summer and now into the cooler fall, that “give” is still there but there hasn’t been any loss in shape.

There’s also a ton of room for my size D width feet in the toe box, as much as I’ve felt in any other road shoes and far more than most. I almost feel guilty that my toes should be so free in shoes that fit so comfortably snug and are otherwise so stiff.

To my eyes, these are good looking shoes. I usually make a mess of the toes and heels of my shoes kicking my regularly greased Speedplay pedals forward to put the cranks in position to zero offset my power meter or to merely clip-in.

I’ve been pleasantly surprised how well the white XXX model shoes I’ve been wearing have resisted showing dirt and grease and how easily and well they’ve cleaned up.

For shoes this good, I’d prefer a few more color options than white, black, white with navy or red trim. Full-on neon yellow and red would be good options for those of us like me looking for more visibility in our kit, especially in our shoes which are constantly moving and can catch driver attention better when they are brightly colored.

While these Bontrager XXX shoes do come in half sizes from EU38 to 46 (men’s US 5 to 13), it’s a shame they don’t come in different widths as many of my other top-rated performance cycling shoes do.

Based on what I reported above about how these fit my feet, these also might work though offer a little less forefoot room if you are an E width. It took me about 5 rides before I got the midfoot wrap to “break-in” to fit some of the taller cuneiform bones in my midfoot. So be aware of that when you first get into them.

If you are a B width, I think you’d likely find these shoes too wide.

While I think these shoes are worth it, of course, I wish they were less expensive. They sell for $400/£300, available through this link to the Trek store. Compared to my other top-rated shoes, this is the same you’ll pay for the Specialized S-Works 7 and slightly less or more than Sidi Wire shoes depending on model and retailer.

Note that the name of these shoes is the Bontrager XXX Road Cycling Shoe, not to be confused with the previous, similarly named but far different performing and fitting model Bontrager XXX Road Shoe.

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