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Bontrager Ballista Road Shoes



Great fit and very comfortable, though they lack a little stiffness in the sole for a race shoe

At every product is thoroughly tested for as long as it takes to get a proper insight into how well it works. Our reviewers are experienced cyclists that we trust to be objective. While we strive to ensure that opinions expressed are backed up by facts, reviews are by their nature an informed opinion, not a definitive verdict. We don't intentionally try to break anything (except locks) but we do try to look for weak points in any design. The overall score is not just an average of the other scores: it reflects both a product's function and value – with value determined by how a product compares with items of similar spec, quality, and price.

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The Ballista Road Shoe from Bontrager is a smart and sleek design that offers a very precise fit right the way around the foot. They don't have the stiffest sole on the market, but they offer a good all-round package for fast group rides or smashing out a sportive.

  • Pros: Eye-catching colour, full Boa system gives an excellent fit
  • Cons: Some flex in the carbon sole, Boa can interfere with overshoes

First of all, these specific shoes are a limited edition model that comes in this fluoro yellow colour, and the grey/black material you see around the rear is actually reflective for some added visibility in the dark. The standard models are available in red, white and black, but both the LTD and standard have the same RRP.

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The first thing you'll no doubt notice about the Ballistas is that the retention system isn't like that on most race shoes. A single Boa dial has been placed on the heel, with the wire being run around the sides and then down the front of the shoe like normal.

Bontrager Ballista Road Shoes-3.jpg

It is actually a very good concept because, with the additional tension being placed around the side of the ankle, you get a fit that actually wraps around the foot rather than just pressure being applied above the tongue.

If aerodynamics are your thing then removing all of the closure system from the front of the shoe probably cleans up the airflow a bit, removing the need to wear Lycra overshoes in races or time trials, for instance.

If it's winter overshoes we're talking about, though, which are thicker and a little bit less stretchy, they can be a bit of a faff to fit over the Boa dial – especially if they use zips.

Breathability is good thanks to the number of venting holes on the front and sides of the shoes, and the upper is pliable enough to feel soft against the skin while still being tough enough to shake off the odd scuff and knock.

Bontrager Ballista Road Shoes-2.jpg

The tongue is well padded, especially at the top and there is plenty of comfort here too when the shoes are fully tightened.

The sole is a full carbon job and has a stiffness rating of 12 out of Bontrager's index of 14. All companies have different index levels, so on its own it's kind of a pointless number. What I can say is that the Ballistas offer a decent amount of stiffness for most riding, although when really putting the power down, in the saddle or out, I could detect some flex around the mid-sole, which was a bit disconcerting.

Bontrager Ballista Road Shoes-4.jpg

Price-wise, a penny under 200 quid isn't unheard of for this type of shoe: Boa system, full carbon sole and a build quality that looks and feels to be very high.

They are well made, and as I've said are very comfortable, but they are up against some stiff (if not stiff enough) opposition from the likes of Shimano with its RC701s, which come in at £169.99. They use a full Boa system and have a carbon fibre sole, although Steve did think that their stiffness could also be improved.

> Buyer's Guide: 14 of the best performance road cycling shoes

They are £20 cheaper than the Giro Sentrie Techlace shoes, though, which cost £219.99 and are quite a bit heavier than the Ballistas.

Overall, I like the Ballistas, especially in this limited edition colourway, and unless I'm really going out for a smashfest I'd happily wear them for a ride, long or short.


Great fit and very comfortable, though they lack a little stiffness in the sole for a race shoe test report

Make and model: Bontrager Ballista Road Shoes

Size tested: 45

Tell us what the product is for

Bontrager says, "Everyday speed

The Ballista LTD Road Shoe is lightweight, aerodynamic, and super efficient - and it has a rear mount Boa System that provides incredible security for riders who want to get the most power out of every pedal stroke. This limited-edition shoe also comes in a high-visibility color with integrated reflective elements that can help you stand out on every ride."

Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?

Bontrager lists these details:

Hi-vis colorway and integrated reflectivity adds contrast to enhance visibility, day and night

inForm Pro last delivers an ergonomically optimized, high-performance fit

100% OCLV carbon sole is extremely lightweight and stiff for efficient power transfer

Heel-mounted Boa IP1 dial offers precise, two-way fit adjustments

Stiffness index 12 of 14

Streamlined, aerodynamic upper helps to reduce drag

No-sew, fused upper for lightweight construction

Heel Reel draws foot down and back to create a secure heel lock for a more efficient pedal stroke

Rate the product for quality of construction:
Rate the product for performance:
Rate the product for durability:
Rate the product for fit:
Rate the product for sizing:

Sizing across shoe brands fluctuates quite a bit. I normally wear a size EUR 45 in most, which matches my size 10UK, but I found the Bontragers a little bigger than most.

Rate the product for weight:
Rate the product for comfort:
Rate the product for value:

How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?

The high-vis upper does tend to mark quite easily but the majority of it wipes off.

Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose

Great shoes across the board when it comes to fit and comfort.

Tell us what you particularly liked about the product

Great fit thanks to the Boa system.

Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product

Slightly flexible sole.

How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on

They're £30 more than Shimano's RC701 shoes, and £20 less than Giro's Sentrie Techlace shoes.

Did you enjoy using the product? Yes

Would you consider buying the product? No, I prefer a stiffer sole.

Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes

Use this box to explain your overall score

I'm wavering between 7 and 8: there is a lot to like here with the Ballistas' fit and performance for the price, but the sole isn't as stiff as I'd expect for this kind of shoe and money.

Overall rating: 8/10

About the tester

Age: 40  Height: 180cm  Weight: 76kg

I usually ride: This month's test bike  My best bike is: B'Twin Ultra CF draped in the latest bling test components

I've been riding for: Over 20 years  I ride: Every day  I would class myself as: Expert

I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, commuting, club rides, sportives, fixed/singlespeed

As part of the tech team here at F-At Digital, senior product reviewer Stu spends the majority of his time writing in-depth reviews for, and ebiketips using the knowledge gained from testing over 1,500 pieces of kit (plus 100's of bikes) since starting out as a freelancer back in 2009. After first throwing his leg over a race bike back in 2000, Stu's ridden more than 170,000 miles on road, time-trial, track, and gravel bikes, and while he's put his racing days behind him, he still likes to smash the pedals rather than take things easy. With a background in design and engineering, he has an obsession with how things are developed and manufactured, has a borderline fetish for handbuilt metal frames and finds a rim braked road bike very aesthetically pleasing!

Add new comment


Yorky-M | 5 years ago
1 like

is there any real comparision with the stiffness index?

I have old shimano shoes with 10 on the sole. The new specialized says 12. Is it wall pissing or anything the customer can use across brands ?

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