A soft Dyneema upper, a rigid carbon fiber sole, and titanium hardware give shape to the lightest production cycling shoe to hit the market. ‘No ifs, ands, or buts about it,’ according to Specialized. This is our first look review.
Sometimes “stupid” is a good thing. It’s not meant as a putdown, but to express complete disbelief and respect for the form, function, and ingenuity of a thing. So when I say the Specialized S-Works EXOS road shoe is stupidly light, believe me, I’m merely expressing awe — and a little glee.
To be fair, I’m not sure I’m qualified to even wear these shoes. At 150 g (under 5.3 ounces) per shoe, the EXOS is the lightest BOA-equipped cycling shoe ever made, according to Specialized. So basically, this thing aims to squeak out a few precious extra watts from the fastest of the fast.
What’s more, Specialized created an even svelter sister shoe, the EXOS 99 LTD. And it’s so light (and expensive) that the brand will launch only 500 pairs.
So what’s the deal with these two lightest road shoes ever made? We got our hands on a pair of the EXOS and some designer input on the EXOS 99 LTD for some first impressions. If you’re impatient, check out our video below:
Specialized EXOS Lightest Cycling Shoe
Right out of the box, two things are clear. First, the shoes are laughably light. I’m a size 47 (13 U.S.) and my pair weighed in at 6.5 ounces (184 g). So these are heavier than the quoted 150 g (size 42). Still, everyone in our office who held them called them the lightest shoes they’d ever come across.
Second, and perhaps more importantly, the EXOS doesn’t feel like any cycling shoe you’ve worn — it’s soft. Specialized made the upper from Dyneema, the strong yet supple wünder-material now used on everything from tents to jackets. Dyneema provides a tensile-strong textile that’s incredibly light. And the vamp around the toes comprises the same semi-stretchy nylon Specialized uses for its aero-purposed Sub6 WarpSleeve.
In a word, the upper feels insubstantial. That’s great for weight but also a little unnerving. The rider’s toes feel about as protected as they would in a pair of socks. But these shoes aren’t designed to take abuse — they’re designed to go fast, period.
Despite the EXOS’s pliant upper, it remains a very rigid shoe — a must for power transfer. Specialized rates the EXOS with a 13 on its “stiffness index.” According to the brand, that qualifies as “extremely stiff”; just as stiff as the S-Works 6 shoe, though not as stiff as the S-Works 7. That’s due to the carbon plate sole, made of Specialized’s lightest FACT Powerline tech.
In addition, four mesh-covered cutouts along the sole further shave grams. If that causes puddle worry, rest assured: I poured water into the cutouts and felt inside. After a couple of minutes with water covering the cutout, I still could not feel any dampness on the inside. I’m not saying start stomping through standing water; these aren’t waterproof shoes. But if the weekend peloton goes over some street puddles, you’ll have a respectable barrier.
And the EXOS shares another feature with the S-Works 6: the single IP1 BOA dial. Whereas the S-Works 7 used two “zonal” dials, the EXOS saves weight with one tongue-mounted dial. Rounding out the tech, Specialized used lightweight titanium-alloy nuts that accept standard three-bolt cleats.
Specialized EXOS LTD 99
Still, if the 150g EXOS isn’t stupid light enough, Specialized has one more trick up its sleeve: the EXOS 99 LTD. As the name implies, this shoe weighs in at just 99 g. That’s a shade under 3.5 ounces — lighter than a small cotton T-shirt.
The 99 LTD has all the carbon-Dyneema-titanium goodness as its full-production cousin, but instead of the BOA system, it uses laces. And while that makes up a good chunk of the weight savings, Specialized created an even lighter carbon plate on the outsole to drag the weight for a size 42 under 100 g. And that’s also what gives this shoe its “LTD” badge.
“This plate is extremely difficult to manufacture due to the tight tolerances,” said Specialized product manager Stephen Quay. “And it’s one of the reasons that we’ve limited our production to 500 pairs globally.”
Specialized EXOS Cycling Shoe Availability, Price
And now the moment you’ve all been waiting for — where can you get it and how much will it cost? Simmer down, Lance.
The full-production, BOA-equipped EXOS will retail for $500. That’s expensive. As for the EXOS 99 LTD, it’ll set you back $700 for a pair. And that is stupid expensive. But, that’s the price you have to pay to go stupid fast.
Find the EXOS online and at select retailers. The 99 LTD, meanwhile, is available for preorder through select retailers, with delivery beginning May 1.