Might this be the best non-Italian shoe for your feet? Well...minus a stormtrooper mistaken appearance.
The Good: Fit, weight, flex, price, grip, support
The Bad: Look, neoprene boot practically useless, pressure points up top
So, I had been rocking XC shoes since back in the day where I was dragged kicking and screaming into the world of SPDs. Mashing the pedals on the slippers is great because they're stiff as a 4x8 but because of the top section of my foot they were constantly falling asleep. Why? Well...because they were essentially being smashed against a 4x8 super stiff carbon board. I wasn't quite ready to dive into the world of flat pedals as I've gotten nice and used to the laziness of floating my feet around. Besides, my aging knees creak and moan at the mention of flat pedals. Fair enough.
What would be the compromise? I wanted a shoe that had a good stiffness to it but not so much as to restrict the capillaries from receiving their mandated blood flow to keep the piggies going to market. After all, nobody wants to make it to market and then pass out. Right? I also didn't want to sacrifice the off the bike climbing qualities of an XC shoe(really? they do OTB?) to have a skate shoe look(and grip). I wanted a front box that would maybe flex so that walking wouldn't be painful or torturous or feeling like I had a set of roman 4x8 bricks strapped to my foot like XC slippers can sometimes exhibit. I was also tired of the Cinderella slipper looks of XC shoes(and the required spandex wear) but also didn't necessarily find any skate shoes with lugged soles either. Am I searching like Goldilocks? Am I impossible to please? Bear with me here.
I tried them on at the store and they just slipped on. I'm not Goldilocks. I'm Cinderella. And I'm going to the ball mofo! They fit like a glove. That said, Mavic has always made shoes for me feet(adidas included). I have a high arch and a high arching top half to my foot. Now, while few shoes will deal with the top half of my foot, I also wanted to be able to fit in my orthotics and these have enough volume inside for that. But I found there wasn't a ton of need for the orthotics. The included insoles seem to work just fine. For once, I found myself riding and not feeling like I had to constantly adjust my shoes. I don't seem to have the upper section pressure like other reviewers I have seen across the web. The lacing system works really well for me. It's pretty no nonsense and easy to work. I have even marked the perfect spot with a sharpie to try to attain the perfect fit(knowing it will likely stretch over time). Anyway, I can go to the dance now because the shoes fit. The best part is I can drive to the dance in these if I'm running late. These are the first shoes I've ever a. felt comfortable enough to drive in and b. don't even notice half the time that I'm wearing bike shoes fully laced while driving and c. driven in while not transporting someone to a hospital.
Now, would you be seen at the dance in these? No. Absofuckinglutely not! Well, unless you always rock white pants. They are ugly. Over the years Mavic has never either understood aesthetic or they're just proud French. I'm gonna lean towards the latter because they still insist everyone wants yellow. Luckily, these are the white shoe(the yellow is their top tier). One thing they DO have going for them is they don't use Mavic's ratchet system. I've had little luck with their ratchets over the years and they're like finding a unicorn in a magical forest. I've been lucky enough to find one replacement set over the years. They are just really hard to track down. I wanted a strap. I got a strap. And it's durable as anything out there with super strong velcro. These won't win you any style points but they keep dirt a little bit to make your friends forget about them enough to stop making fun of your moon boots. That said...they're waterproof(minus the tongue which has mesh) enough to keep me comfortable even in the mild winters of the NorthWet. I've worn them in all conditions save for snow and they've never really bothered me and I've never felt like I had to put my shoe covers on them.
Let's get to the performance...shall we? Well, I was looking for a good stiffness but a decent front box flex. Wow! It's like Mavic was listening to me and heard my siren call. They have a great stiffness to them on the back 2/3. As a matter of fact they're likely not an XC super T89a24.1104 OSHA carbon footbed missing soccer spikes up front but I'm yet to say "man I wish these were more stiff!". The front toe box flexes for hike-a-bike and is the perfect balance. They are like wearing the perfect footbed with the right flex for real mountain biking. We're not tiptoeing through rocks like an XC racer. We're mountain bikers. We have suspension. But when we screw up and have to get off or you're rehiiking a section these are as comfortable as they get with superb grip. I had no issue with cleat clearance either. Using my Time cleats there's plenty of space all around and I've never had issues clipping in.
So, really, is there much to fault with these? No. They're light, they have the perfect flex, they fit great(on my feet) and at $120 they're a complete steal. What's to dislike? Well, unless you're a total Star Wars nerd they're pretty stormtrooper-like and the neoprene cuff on the top is relatively useless(I get a lot of small pine needles and pebbles inside). Even more important: they're really hard to find! But if you can find them you should try them. They're a well thought out and well executed shoe for the every man who uses cheater pedals.