by AJ Barlas
Roughly 10 years ago, a couple of Australian rippers showed up to races with a unique looking, bicycle-specific shoe on their feet - something that hadn't been seen before. Back then the shoe of choice for flat pedal riders was often the Vans Caballero, at least Down Under anyway, but this new shoe intrigued everyone. Maybe it was simply because riders like Chris Kovarik and Nathan Rennie were winning races on them, or maybe it was the fact the shoes were unattainable for the average Joe? No matter what it was, the first Intense flat pedal shoe, a kick developed with the folks at Five Ten, was a game changer. The combo of a "sticky rubber" sole and purpose-built uppers worked very, very well for mountain biking.
Fast forward several years and a number of other bike-specific shoes have entered the ring. Almost two years ago to the day, Sombrio decided it was high time they put their design twist in the mix, launching a range of FlyerSol rubber shoes with a skate-inspired look to them. After a few months and hundreds of miles of use, it's time to weigh in on the second version of the Shazam, Sombrio's mid-top flat pedal riding shoe.
Sombrio Shazam Highlights
- Gusseted and reinforced self-centering tongue
- Functional heel pull-tabs
- Ultra-durable liner
- Triple needle construction toe box
- Innovative laser de-bossed lace cover system
- Proprietary FlyerSol rubber compound
- Aeriole EVA midsole
- Super kush Dura4rm insoles
- S-Foil progressive rocker, and positive cast logo lug design
- Reinforced waxed action leather uppers (White)
- Reinforced waxed canvas/suede uppers (Electrocuted Lemon)
- MSRP $119
Out of the box I was impressed with the Shazam shoes. They felt light and minimal, and the materials appeared durable. Trying them on gave a similar sense of satisfaction when my size 11US foot fit like a glove into the fresh mid-top. One of the key features that stood out upon initial inspection was the intelligent and functional placement of durable leathers where the shoe is most likely to see the scuffing and heavy abrasions from general use - notably the heel cup and toe box.
For comparison, the sole of the Shazam is thinner than Five Ten Impacts, providing more pedal feel and flexibility while holding a little more rigidity over similar shoes like the Vans Gravel. The logo tread pattern looked like it would grab pedal pins nicely, adding to the traction of the sole.
Concerning fit, the shoes aren't super wide, and are best matched with narrow feet. With minimal padding throughout they fit snugly. The mid-tops are a true mid-top, reaching up the ankle far enough to add support and help prevent smacking ankles on the crank arms (or whatever else in the event of a crash). The shoe is also well-sealed with the addition of the lace cover system.
On The Trail
First ride for these bumblebees was straight to the Whistler Bike Park. The shoes took all of one day to break-in with the help of a chairlift and the occasional hike-a-bike back up the trail to right some wrongs. At the end of the day I was happy to take the Shazams off my feet, but did not have any pressure points or blisters. One immediately apparent issue was a slight rubbing on the back of my bony heal (but whose isn't?) while hiking. However, there have been no issues when wearing them casually, or when remaining on the bike. Given that hiking with a downhill bike is quite common, this may be something to consider and is something I will keep note of as I kick these shoes in the dirt more throughout the summer. Why this is happening I can't be to sure - the shoe is tight enough to avoid any heel lift, leaving me to go back to the lack of padding as already mentioned.
Initially the Shazam shoes were mated with DMR Vault pedals, a combination that I personally was not a huge fan of - then again I'm not sure the Vault pedals are right for me, but I digress. Once standing tall on a pair of trusty Easton Flatboys I was a happy fella, as the smaller pins seemed to play quite well with the many little indentations available in the sole between the miniature Sombrio logos. Grip was great, even in the super dusty, loose and rough conditions we are currently experiencing in British Columbia. The sole has remained comfortable while rallying down the trail, with just the right amount of flex and feel. This can be viewed as an incredibly personal part of footwear choice for mountain bikers, so I won't go to far into it, but will say that they have more pedal feel and are less stiff than Five Ten Impacts, but a little stiffer than a Vans Gravel (another favorite flat pedal shoe of mine).
The shoes saw some testing in semi-damp conditions early on (think hero dirt with occasional puddles thrown in), but between feeling out the shoes and not enjoying the contact with the aforementioned pedal choice, it's hard to comment on their wet weather capabilities. Given the experience thus far, I would be surprised if they offered anything but great grip with a decent pedal.
The shoes have kept my feet dry when splashing through puddles while keeping a good amount of trail debris out, something that has been a problem with other shoes. This is likely thanks to a combination of the close-fitting style, mid-top height, and lace cover system.The lace cover could be seen as a love/hate thing for some, but to be honest, they didn't appear to be noticeably hotter than similar flat pedal shoes. The lace cover also keeps the laces secure without needing to tie double knots.
Things That Could Be Improved
The close-fitting style isn't all good, though, with the seam along the perimeter of the tongue causing some discomfort on top of my foot if sufficient attention wasn't paid while lacing up. It's easy enough to adjust when fitting the shoes, but a little more padding in the tongue and a more refined seam around the tongue would no doubt increase the level of comfort.
The only other gripe with the shoes has been a strange lump under the heel of the left foot. Initially it was thought to be something that had made its way into the shoe and under the sole, but upon close inspection nothing was found. I can only assume that it is an irregularity in the sole of the shoe and that it would be unlikely to come across a similar problem in another pair. It doesn't affect the riding experience and is not noticeable until walking on level ground, so it's no big deal in my mind (so long as it's a one-off issue).
Long Term Durability
After a couple of months of downhill in the bike park, regularly hitting the trails after work, plus the random pumptrack session here and there, the Shazam, aside from a little dirt, looks just like when I first pulled it out of the box. The sole shows the usual wear from the pins, though even this is quite minimal. There are no loose seams, tears, or lace loops that have failed. Sombro's durable materials make for a reliable and enjoyable shoe to ride in.
What's The Bottom Line?
The Sombrio Shazam shoes have become one of my favorite pairs to hit the trails with. They offer great pedal feel and traction, mid-top support, and keep your feet happy, dry and clean. They aren't perfect however, and Sombio has a few minor problems to work out of the relatively new shoe. That said, the more I ride in them, the more I enjoy them. They continue to offer enough comfort while causing no problems on the trails. If you're looking for something a little less tacky than Five Tens while still offering great grip, the Sombrio Shazam offers exactly that in a sleeker, more casual package.
For additional details, visit www.sombriocartel.com.
About The Reviewer
AJ Barlas started riding as most do, bashing about dirt mounds and popping off street curbs. Not much has changed, really. These days the dirt mounds have become mountains and the street curbs, while still getting sessioned, are more often features on the trail. He began as a shop monkey racing downhill since day zero, only to go 'backwards' and start riding and racing BMX later on. He then came full circle once moving to Whistler. AJ loves riding everything from 8 hour mountain pass epics (bonking) to lap after lap in the park and 20 minute pumptrack sessions at sunset. Driven by his passion for biking and exposing people to the great equipment we ride, AJ started and maintains the Straightshot MTB blog. So long as wheels are involved, and preferably dirt (the drier and dustier the better), life is good.