When I saw the Dromarti Race Shoes in a photograph I thought they were the answer to my prayers, a shoe made of real leather looking identical to those worn by my heroes of yesteryear, Merckx, Coppi et al, but updated to suit modern pedals.
Suffice to say that, when I got my hands on these hand-made Italian leather cycling shoes, my prayers were more than answered.
So on to the shoes.
Opening the shoebox for the first time I dicovered the contents were wrapped in a protective fabric drawstring bag, I knew they were going to be special.
Once out of the bag the quality of the shoes was obvious, the rich brown leather is soft and supple; inside the shoes are lined in soft hide, including a leather lining bonded to the supportive dense foam insole. The finish to the leather and the quality of the stitching all point to this being a shoe that is made to last.
Leather has long been accepted as the material of choice for high quality shoes, but has been overtaken by man-made materials for high end cycling footwear over the last couple of decades. Leather has many natural qualities that make it the ideal choice for performance footwear, it breathes, neutralises odours, softens and moulds to fit. It is warm and wind resistant in cold weather yet breathes enough to be cool and absorbent in summer. Add to this the fact that these shoes will look better with age, and just an application of dubbin or polish will restore them to looking their best. Contrast this with modern man-made fabrics which tend to look best when new and deteriorate from then.
Turn the Dromarti Race shoes over and you see the modern technology that updates them to the 21st century, a very thin but very stiff carbon sole, drilled to accept modern 3 bolt pattern cleats (Shimano SPD-SL, Look etc). There is no gimmicky aesthetic carbon weave surface treatment here, just a high quality carbon sole that looks as understated as the uppers.
With cleats fitted it was time to try them on. My test pair were a size 45- the same as I wear for cycle shoes - and these were just right for length but felt a little tight width-wise. As with leather gloves, where you are best buying them slightly tight and letting the natural properties of the leather give in the right places to create the perfect fit, the same appears to apply to these shoes. After a few hundred miles and a few hours wear, the Dromarti Race shoes have broken in, they now feel just right, not tight but snug fitting and very comfortable.
Shoe closure is via the superseded but not improved upon system - laces. The waxed brown laces tighten over a soft padded leather tongue, which make it easy to loosen and tighten areas to suit your foot shape, and have stayed tied and tight over several hundred miles.
The fit of the shoe has become almost perfect and there is no heel lift or slip when pulling up hard on climbs or sprints.
With a slim-line profile that minimises the clown footed look of many cycling shoes, they are the perfect accompaniment to a Merino wool jersey and cotton cap. They exude quality in both looks and build, yet this is by no means a case of style over substance. The high quality carbon sole ensures good power transfer to the pedals, and the snug fit means they stay securely attached to your feet, whilst being very comfortable by merit of the supple leather of both the shoe and its lining.
I really cannot think of anything I could suggest that would improve them, but aesthetics will of course play a large role in any potential purchasers decision. For me the styling is absolutely perfect; a faithful reproduction of cycling shoes of a bygone era, yet incorporating the best of modern materials where they are appropriate and can add value.
These go back in their little cloth bag after each ride, just to show them I care…
A beautifully crafted shoe, that combines retro style and the best of modern technology
road.cc test report
Make and model: Dromarti Race shoe
Size tested: 45
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
"Dromarti revives the spirit of cycling" is the tag line for Dromarti's range of shoes.
These shoes are going to appeal to the generation that still reveres the heroic cyclists of the Golden Age, and anyone who appreciates a timeless classic.
Tell us some more about the techincal aspects of the product?
Hand stitched leather uppers with soft hide lining mated to a slim yet stiff carbon sole with standard 3 bolt cleat fixing.
The build quality shows a real attention to detail, both material and workmanship are excellent.
The stiff carbon sole gives good power transfer to the pedals, and the fit means the shoe is snug and secure when really pulling hard.
I can see them lasting a very long time, only requiring a few pairs of laces and some polish to keep them in prime condition over the years.
The soft hide interior really does cosset your foot, and once broken in the uppers create an almost custom fit, like an old Brooks saddle.
They are not cheap, but they should outlast most equivalent shoes, and the style won't date. Almost an investment!
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Stiff, light and stylish. Performance is excellent.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The style, the quality of material and workmanship.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
To be honest I didn't dislike anything about them.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Absolutely
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
About the tester
Age: 43 Height: 6' 1" Weight: 155 lbs
I usually ride: Litespeed Icon My best bike is: as above
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, touring, sportives, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, mtb, Track Cycling