One of the biggest boosts for your Mojo is new shoes, and Chuck Peña has gone to the top shelf for a pair of Lake CX402s. Priced at US$540, they’re not cheap, but a work of shoe art in ‘carbon and kangaroo leather… dead sexy!’ is Chuck’s description of Lake’s flagship model. But are custom fit, colors, and kanga-leather worth the price?
When I think of Lake shoes what immediately comes to mind is Andy Hampsten, the 1988 Giro d’Italia, and the Gavia. Shoe closure was with Velcro. Clipless pedals were still a new phenomena.
Not just snow … toeclips!
But that was then and this is now. Modern cycling shoes have ultra stiff carbon fiber soles and BOA dials to precisely cinch them closed. Andy Hampsten is long since retired and now runs his own cycle touring company, Cinghiale. But Lake is still in the pro cycling game with Lawson Craddock (EF Education First-Drapac), Florian Senechal (Quick-Step Floors), and Christian Knees (Team Sky) wearing their shoes at the World Tour pro level.
The CX402 is Lake’s flagship model
Two things set the CX402 apart from the rest of the pack. The first is price. $540! No, that’s not a typo. Now that you’ve picked your jaw up off the floor, I’ll repeat that … $540. Second, the CX402 is custom heat moldable. More about that later.
All the bells and whistles you’d expect
So what kind of shoe do you get for $540? For starters, you get an ultra stiff carbon fiber weave sole. But it’s more than just a sole. It’s actually a shell that wraps partially up in the forefoot area and almost completely up and around the rear-foot and heel area. The carbon in latter part is exposed, showing off the glossy weave, and is what’s custom heat moldable.
The bottom of the sole has a standard 3-hole cleat mount that provides a lot of fore/aft adjustment. I found this particularly welcomed as I like to set my cleats fairly far back to get the ball of my foot directly over the spindle. On some shoes I’ve ridden (and like a lot), I can’t get the cleat back quite as far as I would like. With the Lake CX402s, my cleat placement was spot on.
Lots of markings to be able to get your cleats mounted just right
Lake also make the CX402 in a 4-hole Speedplay-specific pattern. I actually ride Speedplays and initially thought about getting the Speedplay version to review. But that would’ve resulted in an ever so slightly lower stack height and I didn’t want to deal with the hassle of potentially having to change my saddle height based on one pair of shoes and then change it again if I wanted to ride on one of the other pairs of shoes in my riding stable (Pearl Izumi Pro Leader IIIs and Fizik R3Bs). But for Speedplay users riding only one pair of shoes (or with other shoes that are also 4-bolt pattern), not having to deal with an adaptor and a lower stack height makes a whole lot of sense.
On the underside is a meshed covered intake vent at the front to draw in air to help keep your feet cool. And six little exhaust ports mid-foot plus another small vent at the back to help pull air through and then out of the shoe. In cold or wet weather, you might want to tape over these.
The heel pad is replaceable in case it gets worn out clattering about coffee shop floors, but not the front toe pad.
The uppers of the CX402 are made with K-Lite kangaroo leather by Packer Leather, which is one of the strongest leathers in the world. That allows the leather to be cut very thin yet still retain its strength. It also makes for a supple and comfortable “fits like a glove” (pardon the mixed metaphor) fit around your foot. The leather is perforated for air flow/cooling. It is also has an antimicrobial treatment. The tongue is a ventilated mesh material that’s also padded.
Carbon and kangaroo leather… dead sexy!
My CX402s are white with a black toe bumper area. So a bit of a two-tone color scheme that sets them apart from the crowd. But it’s more than just visual aesthetics. The black toe bumper is actually genius. How many times have you rubbed your toe up against your front tire attempting a track stand or maneuvering in ultra tight quarters? If you wear white shoes, the result is a black tire mark that can’t be buffed out and can be nearly impossible to conceal with white shoe polish. Not to mention scuffed up leather. But not something I need to worry about with the CX402s.
If white isn’t your thing, the CX402 is also available in all black for the traditionalists and red if you really feel like making a statement. None of those float your boat? Then you can do the Lake custom color program (for an additional $49) and use their online wizard to pick and choose your own colors for different sections of the shoe. If you want, you can make the left shoe completely different from the right shoe. And if that’s not good enough, you can go Full Monty and design your own graphics, which will end up setting you back an extra $109.
If you own a Bianchi, you can do custom CX402s to match
Red, white, and blue or bleu, blanche, et rouge?
Your shoes are limited only by your imagination with Lake’s full custom graphics
Closure is via two BOA dials. The forefoot dial tightens a steel lace in an x-pattern over the front of the shoe. The rear BOA dial pulls a wide strap over the top of the foot and essentially replaces what was a ratchet closure on previous generation shoes and before that was simply Velcro. The benefit of BOA dials is that the mico-click stops allow you to dial in (pun intended) fit precisely (as little as 1mm) and exactly as needed to get it “just right.” And once the fit is dialed in, it’s also locked in.
With BOA dials you can get a Goldilocks fit … just right
One (very minor) niggle I have is that the BOA dials Lake uses are one-way only. That is, you can only click turn them to make the fit tighter. If you end up over-tightening, you have to fully release the tension (by pulling up on the dial), push the dial back in, and then re-tighten from scratch. Most other manufacturers use a two-way BOA dial that allows you to both tighten and loosen in micro-steps, which is less hassle — especially if you’re trying to make adjustments while riding. Also, if you’re used to bi-directional BOA dials, the uni-directional dials are righty-tighty on both shoes. Shoes that use two-way dials have the left shoe opposite, which is actually more intuitive when you’re riding — you turn the dial towards the outside on both shoes to tighten and towards the inside to loosen. I guess the counter-argument Lake might make is that once you have them cinched up properly, you shouldn’t have to fuss with the BOA dials.
[Ed. Note: Our test shoes did not include the latest version of the BOA IP1 dial that allows for micro tightening and loosening on the fly plus a pull-up quick release – which is now available on newer lake models.]
The removable insoles are pretty standard. But they’re not what provide padding. Instead the entire bottom of the inside of the shoe is padded (this is usually an exposed cardboard last or carbon fiber in other shoes, depending on shoe design). The result is uber comfortable that feels as though the cushioning is more uniform and evenly distributed all along the bottom of your foot.
That’s not the insole; it’s the built-in cushioning on the inside of the shoe
These are the insoles, which are probably the lowest tech and least sexy bits of the CX402
So far I’ve described what could be a top end shoe from almost any other manufacturer. Where the Lake CX402 is different from most other shoes except something like the Bont Vapor+ is that the heel cup can be heat molded for a more custom fit. The part that’s heat moldable roughly corresponds to the exposed carbon on the side and at the back of the shoe.
The moldable section extends to just above the exposed carbon fiber that wraps around the back of the shoe
The process is pretty simple and straightforward:
1. Pre-heat oven to 200ºF (90ºC)
2. Remove insole before placing shoe in oven
3. Place shoe in oven on middle rack
4. Heat for 5 minutes
5. Remove shoe from oven (it should be warm but not so hot that you can’t otherwise touch or hold the shoe in your hand)
6. Check that heel cup is moldable
7. Insert insole back into shoe
8. Put shoe on foot while seated or on a trainer (not standing!)
9. Cinch up the BOA dials but don’t overtighten them (just enough so they feel snug)
10. Apply even pressure to the upper portion of the heel cup using your hands
to form to the shape of your foot
Voila! Let the shoe cool down so the carbon hardens back up and takes form before you take the shoe off. Then repeat on the other foot. Here’s a video to give you a better idea of what’s involved:
I’ve done the heat molding twice to fine tune the fit. I may still fiddle with it a bit. According to the Lake website, you can do the heat molding up to five times.
Yup, that’s my shoe baking in the oven!
It’s worth noting — especially if you are buying via the web – that you need to pay careful attention to Lake’s sizing. Initially, Lake sent me a pair of size 43 shoes because that’s the Lake equivalent to US size 9 and I wear a size 9 in pretty much every shoe I own (cycling or otherwise). But it turns out that a size 43 was actually too big for me. I had a gap between the back of my heel and the heel counter, and there was no amount of heat molding and forming (I tried) that was going to get the heel counter to butt up against my heel. After some discussion with Lake, they determined I needed to downsize to a 42.5, which is US size 8.5 according to Lake.
If you’re going to buy a pair of Lake shoes (any model), don’t go by your traditional shoe sizing. Instead, what you really need to do is take your foot measurements. Lake has charts that show what foot measurements correspond to their shoe sizes (note that you should add 5mm to your foot length to get the recommended size). According to Lake sizing, a US 9/Euro 43 is for someone with a foot length of 270.5-273mm. But even though I wear a size 9 in all my other shoes, my foot length is actually 265mm (so 270mm when you add the recommended 5mm), which is a US 8.5/Euro 42.5 for the Lake CX402s (266.5-270mm). So my advice is to “measure twice and cut once.”
Lake also makes certain models (including the CX402) in a wide version. So foot width measurement also matters.
Lake doesn’t make any weight claims for the CX402, but on my scale one shoe weighed in at 315 grams so 630 grams for a pair
Most comfortable shoes I’ve ever ridden
Notice that the above header doesn’t say that the Lake CX402 are the most comfortable shoes I’ve ever worn. Yes, the heat molding allows you to get the shoe to conform to the shape of your foot as much as possible. But what you’re getting to conform is hard, stiff carbon fiber that’s wrapping around from your forefoot back to the heel cup. So when you first put them on, the CX402s feel very firm on your foot, which also makes them feel tight (even before any tightening of the BOA dials). That tightness is probably accentuated by the fact that the CX402 is built on what Lake calls its Race last, which is tighter in the heel and has a narrower toe box with less overall volume than any of their other shoes. According to Lake, this last is “Designed or very high-cadence riding and higher pressure and a slimmer fit.” While my toes didn’t feel like they were squished together, they also didn’t feel like they had a whole lot of room. To be fair, the same can be said of a whole lot of other cycling shoes I’ve worn — especially if they’re Italian (yes, I’m talking about Sidi and Fizik).
So “comfortable” (as in a pair of slippers) is not a word I’d use to describe the CX402s just wearing them.
But something magical happens when you clip in and ride. All that tightness/firmness just seems to disappear. Even with the BOA dials cinched down a good amount, my feet don’t feel like they’re in a vice grip hold. The toe box doesn’t feel as constrictive. There are no hot spots or pressure points. My analytical intuition tells me that your foot is weighted in the shoe differently when you’re pedaling versus sitting or standing and that’s why they feel so different riding.
Put power down on the pedals and you can feel the direct power transfer and how stiff the carbon fiber sole is. But the built-in cushioning softens the blow so you don’t feel that stiffness “pushing back” directly on the bottom of your foot (more like as if the sole was a composite material with some flex). This is particularly noticeable on out-of-the-saddle efforts up steep climbs. And the more miles you ride, the more you’ll appreciate the lack of “carbon sole fatigue.”
Locked and loaded in Lake CX402s
The only thing I really seem to notice riding the CX402s is the arch on the insoles. I have relatively flat feet and OEM insole has just enough arch support that I can feel it. Not to the point where it’s a bother or uncomfortable, but I can feel it’s there – probably more so when grinding a gear uphill in the saddle. Lake makes custom moldable insoles and those might be worth trying to see if they make a difference.
For all their “uncomfortableness” just wearing them (and they are not uncomfortable to the point where they are painful or you can’t wear them; it’s just that you can really feel the shoe on your foot), the Lake CX402s are all-day comfortable pedaling (hammering, if you choose). They were more than good enough for Sky’s Christian Knees to wear for the 2017 Vuelta a España.
Just keep in mind that they’re not the best for extended sitting around and socializing when you stop at your local coffee shop — but stop nonetheless because cycling and coffee just go together. And you’ll probably want to slip them off fairly soon when you get home after a ride.
Are these the shoes you’re looking for?
If you haven’t figured out by now, I’m more than just a little bit impressed by the Lake CX402s. So much so that they are now my “go to” shoe for a ride unless I’m going on a coffee ride that’s more about coffee than riding. The white with black color scheme is a combination of Euro pro with a touch of bling. The almost surreal comfort could be considered a marginal gain of sorts. It doesn’t make pedaling any easier, but it somehow makes suffering just a little more sufferable. Plus it just makes common sense that a more comfortable shoe is going to allow you to pedal both stronger and longer.
Did we mention that the CX402s were custom fit?
But are the Lake CX402s for you? At $540, these are clearly shoes that not everyone can afford (or justify the spending to their spouse without risking divorce). Certainly, if you just haven’t been able to find a pair of cycling shoes that comfortably fit your feet, the CX402s with custom heat molding should be on your short list for consideration. As high end, high performance oriented shoes, racers — such as Sky’s Christian Knees who wore custom CX402s in the 2017 Vuelta — who demand the ultimate in stiffness but also don’t want to sacrifice comfort are logical candidates for the CX402s.
But the demographic for the Lake CX402 is wider than that. You don’t have to have odd feet or be a racer to reap the rewards the CX402 has to offer. You just have to be a serious enough roadie who spends hours on end in the saddle to appreciate the sublime comfort of the CX402. If all you do are shorter distance rides, then these are not the droids you’re looking for. But if you do a lot of higher mileage rides — especially centuries, grand fondos, and sportifs — these could be just the ticket for pedaling bliss. You’ll just have to channel your inner Imelda Marcos and figure out explaining missing a mortgage payment or borrowing from your kid’s college savings fund.
Not Andy Hampsten, not the Gavia, but still Lake shoes
• See more at the Lake Shoes website
• Check prices at AMAZON.com here
PEZ contributor Chuck Peña is a former weekend warrior racer who now just rides for fun, but every once in a while manages to prove Fausto Coppi’s adage true: Age and treachery will overcome youth and skill. He lives in Arlington, VA with his wife (who is his favorite riding partner), his daughter (who takes great joy in beating him at golf all the time, but at least he’s still faster on a bike), and their dogs (who are always there to greet him when he comes home from a ride). You can follow him on Twitter @gofastchuck and on Instagram @espressamente_chuck.
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