Hot footing it
Need better-fitting shoes? Heat moulding could be the way to go
“A cyclist’s feet are the most forgotten and neglected part of our bodies,” says Julian Wall of bike fitter CycleFit. “Shoved into often ill-fitting cycle shoes, then asked to transfer all our power 13,000 times [on an average two-hour ride] through a surface area little bigger than a couple of first class stamps. As a consequence hot foot, pain, cramps, instability and power loss are all too common.”
Getting proper-fitting shoes is vital for comfort – and comfort is vital to be able to perform at your best over a long ride. Which is where heat-mouldable shoes come in. By being able to customise a pair of bike shoes to the exact shape of your feet, you should avoid the rubbing, pinching and heel-slipping that you might get with regular shoes.
“People have said the shoes feel like wearing a pair of slippers because they fit so well,” says Shimano’s brand manager, Mark Greshon, of the company’s R320 heat-mouldable shoes. “It’s not just about comfort but also increased power transfer.”
So how do they work? With the Shimano R320s, everything happens during a special fitting. Greshon says, “It starts with the insoles, which go into an oven for a minute. Once they fit properly, the whole shoe goes into the oven and then you stand in them with a special plastic bag sealed around them, which has a hose attached that sucks out the air to vacuum-pack your feet. The pressure then shapes the malleable material to your foot.”
Baking your shoes in an oven may seem like a great way to end up with a hotpot of melted plastic and charred leather, but that’s why the whole process is done with trained fitters and special ovens. “We use a material called Rovenica on the uppers, which is a type of synthetic leather. It’s very light and it doesn’t stretch, even when wet, unlike real leather. For heating the shoes we use a German-made oven, which works at 100°C. Once you get the shoes fitted, they should still feel the same two or three years later,” Greshon adds.
Over at Bont, there are no such qualms about special ovens. With the Bont Vaypor shoes, you can heat them yourself at home. Steven Nemeth, CEO of Bont Cycling, tells us, “You shouldn’t have to go to a specialist place to do something like this. With our proprietary heat-sensitive resin, the benefit is it that you can heat-mould the shoe as many times as you want without limitations. Once you have it right, you can leave it and it will never change its shape.”
What if you’re a bit cack-handed with the cooking? Nemeth says, “We’ve built in a big safety margin. You’d have to do something insanely bad to ruin the shoes. In nearly five years we’ve only had two individuals who have damaged their shoes. And that was because they were bloody stupid.”
Lake CX331, $379.99, www.lakecycling.com
Bont Vaypor, $342, www.bont.com
Shimano R320, $455, www.shimano.com.au