When it comes to cycling gear, shoes are a little bit of a bogey product for me. I, like many Australians, have wide feet. I think it comes from years and years of running around in thongs or even barefoot as kids because the British don’t have them, and neither do the Scandinavians. So with one or two exceptions, when a European designed cycling shoe hits the desk, I can usually be pretty sure that it won’t really fit properly. Sure, I’ll be able to wear them and maybe I’ll get some pain along the outside of my foot after about 20km, but they never feel as good as I suspect they should.
So I was pretty interested to have a crack at Bontrager’s RXL shoes because a) they’re designed in America and b) they have some pretty cool features. Americans genetically are a lot like us having come from a wide range of ethnic backgrounds. And they also enjoy a similar lifestyle which means, you guessed it, wide feet. Yep, those Yanks have been frustrated by European shoe lasts just like we have.
Bontrager have dealt with the problem in a pretty interesting way, mainly through the use of their unique upper. This clever design which Bontrager call a Derby cut, means the tongue is attached to the shoe right at the bottom of the toe box. This not only means that you get no rubbing from seams but it also allows for the entire top section to concertina outwards allowing for wider feet. Nice. In addition you can also adjust the length of the top ratchet strap to suit your foot. Again, a very nice touch.
Still it’s no point having an upper that suits wide feet unless you have a wide sole as well. So Bontrager have teamed up with American company e-Soles (lucky it isn’t Ritchey) to provide the inner which sits on top of the unidirectional carbon sole. eSoles have an EVA footbed with a customisable plastic arch support. This along with a metatarsal pad makes for a pretty comfortable inner. The standard inner sole provides plenty of support, but if you still need more you can purchase an upgrade kit which gives you four different arch supports and two metatarsal pads.
I have to say that the inside of this shoe is easily the most comfortable I’ve ever tried and I very much regret the fact that I lost one of them in France. The arch support made such a difference I wonder why more companies don’t do them? Sure, several companies are doing it, but more would be good.
The RXL is also a great shoe in hot weather with a huge amount of ventilation. Not only is almost the entire upper made of mesh, but there are two vents in the sole, one at the front and another under the arch. In fact I only have one quibble with these shoes and that is the length of the second and third Velcro straps. As mentioned before, I have pretty wide feet so I was pleased with the width of the upper, but I found that the straps were so short that I barely had a centimetre of grip on them. And on several occasions under load these pulled away. Hopefully Bontrager will address this in the next incarnation of this model. Apart from that, these are very comfortable shoes indeed.
Weight: 295g each (Size 45)
Distributed by Trek Australia