Scott's Road RC Ultimate are probably the most comfortable bike shoes I've ever worn, with a sock-like fit yet supreme stiffness in the sole too. Like a lot of very good cycling gear they are unfortunately very expensive and you wouldn't want to get them filthy dirty, but they're a seriously good investment if you want some of the best racing shoes money can buy.
Believe it or not these aren't even the most expensive shoes in Scott's road shoe hierarchy: the £399 RC SLs have full slabs of carbon over the upper while the RC Ultimates here have 'Carbitex' strips layered over textile mesh. It actually makes the RC Ultimates 10g heavier but presumably a tad more breathable because of the mesh, so they're pitched as the more comfortable and climbing-friendly option, while the RC SLs are all about speed.
They've got a lovely sock-like fit when you slip them on, and the tongue is a very soft synthetic material that doesn't rub against the upper part of your foot at all, no matter how tight you close the dials. Scott says the inclusion of the Carbitex fabric strips (basically thin bits of carbon to wrap your foot securely) adds extra stiffness in the upper and makes for a closer fit so no power is lost. To counteract this it's layered over flexible soft mesh which gives the weightless, 'second skin' type feeling.
Out on the road I love how secure my feet feel in them; there are no pressure points and even though they're stiff enough for the most demanding of racers, you're getting proper all-day comfort here.
The shoes open and close with two Boa IP-1 dials, which engage with a click and tighten clockwise, with micro-adjustments of 1mm at a time possible on or off the bike. I haven't used the new Boa S3 dials exclusive to Specialized (read about them in this S Works 7 first ride report) and the IP-1s are my preferred Boa dial. Two is plenty to get a perfect fit on this shoe.
The sole is rated the highest grade of 10 on Scott's 'stiffness index' – which is difficult to quantify seeing as this doesn't compare with other brands – but my own anecdotal experience is that they are indeed very stiff and absolutely solid during sprints and hard uphill efforts. Scott has layered the carbon to allow some torsional flex from arch to heel, which increases comfort and minimises the chance of knee and/or strain. I can sometimes feel a bit boxed in and my feet get achy in very stiff shoes, and that's something I didn't get at all in the RC Ultimates, so my arch definitely welcomed that bit of torsional flex.
The soles have the standard three bolt holes for cleat mounting (you'll need an adapter for Speedplay), and you can move them forward and back slightly to get more precise alignment.
While the RC Ultimates are virtually off-the-peg shoes, you do get Scott's ErgoLogic customisable insole system which allows you to adjust the footbed depending on your foot volume arch. Numerous pads are supplied for high, medium and low volume feet, so, for example, you can stick in the arch adjustment pads with a larger stack if you have a high arch. The metatarsal pads are designed to reduce numbness and distribute pressure evenly, which for me did the job very well. With my pretty neutral feet I stuck with the medium-sized pads on my footbeds, and for me this was just right.
Breathability was fantastic, as expected (I can see why they're favoured by climbers such as Simon Yates of the Mitchelton-Scott team), with the mesh preventing my feet from overheating during warm rides in the Canaries. My one niggle is that the nylon mesh is pretty difficult to clean, and I'd be very reluctant to take these out for rides in abject weather. They do seem durable, though, so can stand up to rain well and will be fine if they're well covered by overshoes, but I'd definitely be buying some more shoes for poor weather training rides – pushing that spend up further.
So what else can you get for around a lofty £350? Bont's Vaypor+ at £349.99 and Lake's CX402 at £370 both come highly commended and are heat-mouldable, so may be considerations if you've got particularly awkward shaped feet.
While Scott says the RC Ultimates are super-light at 560g a pair, they're comprehensively trumped on the scales by Giro's 386g Prolight Techlaces that Sean rated very highly, so if you're an absolute weight weeny those might be the way to go. However, I do think Scott's shoes have more universal appeal as an all-round shoe, with the added carbon making it a good in-between choice if you dabble in flat-out racing and long, hilly days in the saddle.
You might have gathered that I like the Scott RC Ultimates a lot, and for me personally they're the best off-the-shelf shoes I've ever worn. Like most people reading this, though, I would struggle to justify dropping £350 on bike shoes no matter how good they are. That said, after having the pleasure of wearing them for a couple of months I'd be far more inclined to.
Based on their performance alone these shoes would be worthy of top marks, but considering the price and the need for other shoes to wear in abject conditions to prevent spoiling how pretty these are, I'd consider them close to perfection but not quite a solid 10.
Stunning set of lightweight endurance road shoes that are a little too nice to use year-round in the UK
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Scott Road RC Ultimate Shoes
Size tested: 45
Tell us what the product is for
Scott says, "Technology and comfort intersect in the SCOTT Road RC Ultimate shoe. We've combined Carbitex, a structural carbon fabric, with a textile mesh for superior comfort and breathability in the upper while allowing you to transfer all your energy to the pedals. HMX spread tow carbon fiber with a Corecell foam core provides unrivalled stiffness and light weight in the sole. All the benefits of our lightest, most exotic materials are wrapped into this all-day shoe for elite racers and fondo riders alike."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
'Extreme Stiffness', rated 10 on Scott's stiffness scale
HMX carbon sole
BOA system with micro adjustment (two BOA IP-1 dials)
Upper: Carbitex Fabric, Lightweight Microfiber, 3D Nylon Airmesh
The upper really hugs your foot well, thanks to the Carbitex straps. There was no discomfort around the foot at all, and although the sole is super-stiff it doesn't feel too intrusive.
Difficult to beat for long hilly days, and the power transfer is excellent.
Quite difficult to clean, and the lightweight construction means I'd be hesitant to use them for muddy winter riding.
The best-fitting off-the-shelf shoes I've ever worn. Everyone's foot is different, but I'm a pretty neutral size 45 and they are perfect.
The size 45s were just right for me, and that's my normal size.
Pretty light, just 280g a shoe.
Highly comfortable, probably the most comfortable road shoes I've ever worn.
There's no getting away from it, they're very expensive.
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
The mesh parts won't deal with mud and rain as well as solid synthetics or leather, so it's best to use them with overshoes, or for dry miles only.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Superb comfort and stiffness, not an ounce of power is lost through these.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The comfort, the fit, and the low weight, none of which interferes with the stiffness underfoot.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Not much weather protection, but then again they are climber's shoes. And of course, the price puts them beyond consideration for most of us.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Regardless of funds, yes.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? If they had loadsamoney... yes!
Use this box to explain your overall score
These are the most comfortable off-the-shelf shoes I've ever worn, and work exactly as they should as per the product description. They're very expensive and financially out of reach for mosts cyclists, but regardless, they're a 9.
About the tester
I usually ride: Road bike (currently Specialized Tarmac) My best bike is: Ridley Chronus TT bike
I've been riding for: Under 5 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, commuting, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding, triathlon races
After cobbling together a few hundred quid during his student days off the back of a hard winter selling hats (long story), Jack bought his first road bike at the age of 20 and has been hooked ever since. He was Staff Writer at 220 Triathlon magazine for two years before joining road.cc in 2017, and reports on all things tech as well as editing the road.cc live blog. He is also the news editor of our electric-powered sister site eBikeTips. Jack's preferred events are time trials, sportives, triathlons and pogo sticking (the latter being another long story), and on Sunday afternoons he can often be found on an M5 service station indulging in his favourite post-race meal of 20 chicken nuggets, a sausage roll, caramel shortbread and a large strawberry milkshake.