Specialized has unveiled its lightest ever road cycling shoes, the S-Works Exos weighing a claimed 150g (half shoe, size 42) with a Boa dial, and the even lighter Exos which switches to laces for a 99g weight (half shoe, size 42). They are also its most expensive ever shoes, costing £450 and £600 respectively.
You can skip straight to our first ride impressions review here if you want to know what the £450 Exos shoes are like to live with for a week.
These new shoes have been a long time in the works and are part of the company’s completely overhauled top-end shoe range which includes the S-Works 7 and Recon mountain bike shoe launched in the last 12 months.
With these new shoes, Specialized has set out to create the lightest performance road shoes possible. How impressive are the weight claims? Well, the size 45 Exos shoes you see here weigh 340g in total on our scales. For comparison, we had a trawl through the shoe review archive to see what else even comes close. Here’s a list:
As you can see, the new shoes are indeed very light compared to other production shoes. I’m sure some of you might point out lighter examples, like perhaps the £1,000 completely custom Rocket 7 shoes which are a reported 145g per size 42 shoe. Still, you can’t just walk into your local bike shop and take a pair off the shelf now can you?
The low weight also means a big price tag: the Exos cost £450 and the Exos 99 are £600. Still, that’s some way short of Mavic’s £900 Comete Ultimate shoes.
While the stunningly light Exos 99 shoes will be limited to 500 pairs worldwide and likely appealing to the most hardcore weight weenies, the regular Exos shoes with a Boa dial will likely appeal to a wider audience. They've already been spotted in the pro peloton where we can see them being used for big mountain stages or hilly time trials, though there’s no reason why they couldn’t be worn all the time in place of the more typical shoe choice.
So what makes them so light exactly? It’s all due to the upper which has been constructed from the same Dyneema Mesh as also used in the S-Works 7 shoes but in its raw form, without the outer layer, so it's even lighter.
Dyneema is claimed by its maker to be "the world's strongest fibre" and was apparently developed originally for NASA parachutes. It's especially strong, non-stretch and very light, and it’s that lack of stretch that has allowed Specialized to construct a shoe with minimal reinforcing, instead relying on the properties of Dyneema to keep your feet planted in the shoe.
This Dyneema is complemented by a softer more flexible material over the front of the shoe and around the heel to ensure good fit and comfort. The volume and fit of the shoe are the same as the S-Works 7 shoe but the fit is said to be quite different due to the materials, but we’ll get onto that in a bit more detail later on.
Underneath is a full carbon fibre sole with titanium cleat hardware, a removable heel pad and a sliver of rubber at the front to protect the carbon sole. Pressure mapping has been used to allow Specialized to remove as much carbon fibre as possible whilst maintaining the desired stiffness levels.
Talking of stiffness, they come with the company’s own stiffness index rating of 13, compared to the 15 of the S-Works 7. If you’re an absolute powerhouse and want maximum power transfer they might not be the best choice but for most people, it’s probably going to be sufficient.
What is this stiffness index and how are the numbers arrived at? Specialized tell us the number is the result of applying a 40kg load to the carbon sole and measuring the deflection. Stiffness index 13 means that there’s between 1.32 and 2.11mm of deflection under this 40kg load. For comparison, the S-Works 7 shoes have a stiffness index of 15 because they have just 0-0.61mm of deflection. The stiffness of the new Exos is also the name as the old S-Works 6 shoes.
If you’re precious about weight the Exos 99 (above) shoes will appeal. They use a lace upper because laces are lighter than buckles, straps and dials, and also back in fashion since Giro helped to popularise them a couple of years ago (I'm a big fan of Giro’s Empire Knit shoe at the moment) but I know not everybody likes them.
The regular Exos pictured here uses a single BOA IP1 dial. It’s not the same as the CNC machined aluminium dials used on the S-Works 7 shoes because of the weight targets, and because of the desire to use a single dial. The dial, attached to the tongue, tensions the single cord across the top of the upper with easy micro adjustments and a pop to release. The central channel is slightly off-set and the tongue has slim padding for extra comfort.
The Padlock heel cup on the S-Works 7 shoe was very successful in preventing heel lift, but to drive the weight down the Exos uses a softer more pliable heel cup, with a short tab for easing the shoes onto your feet.
Hold them in your hands and they are beautifully made and stunningly light, I don't think I've ever handled such light shoes. The upper is easy easily deformable in a way regular shoes aren't - you can see a demonstration of that in the video up above. But what are they like to ride? You can read my first ride impressions right here.
So those are the brand new S-Works Exos shoes which are available now in sizes 36 to 49 including half sizes, and a choice of white or black colours. The Exos 99 shoes only come in red and sizes 38 to 49. More at www.specialized.com
David worked on the road.cc tech team from 2012-2020. Previously he was editor of Bikemagic.com and before that staff writer at RCUK. He's a seasoned cyclist of all disciplines, from road to mountain biking, touring to cyclo-cross, he only wishes he had time to ride them all. He's mildly competitive, though he'll never admit it, and is a frequent road racer but is too lazy to do really well. He currently resides in the Cotswolds, and you can now find him over on his own YouTube channel David Arthur - Just Ride Bikes.