It bears repeating that Northwave sit in the undisputed world center for fast feet. Being in the mix in Montebelluna Italy, means access to a talent pool that includes most of the top names in skiing, hiking, climbing and cycling and motorsport footwear, and Northwave just celebrated their Cinquantesimo Anniversario…
With 5 decades making top performance kit for cycling and snowboarding, Northwave’s latest, top-line road kicks are on the bench… the Extreme Pro 2.
On initial glance, the Extreme Pro 2 (E.P.2) look a bit like its predecessor, the Extreme Pro. But there are lots of changes from top to bottom. One substantial difference is that the prior versions (Extreme RR and Extreme Pro) had internal reinforcing strips that not only formed the lace/cable guides but also ran round the shoe below the surface to provide support/stability/strength.
The E.P.2 last (upper) material and bonding to the sole is both stronger and more effective and lets Northwave do away with the support strips.
Now the strip material is used only as guides for the “Bullet-proof” cable/lacing system….
OK, so not many folks will deal with bullets fired at their lacing system… But that doesn’t mean it’s not pretty cool that Northwave use a material that’s more durable than Kevlar, especially in the function of acting as a cable…
Both Kevlar and Ultra High Molecular Weight Polyethylene (UHMWP) are used in high-end body armor. But UHMWP kicks Kevlar’s ass because UMHWP is more abrasion/wear resistant AND it doesn’t absorb water like Kevlar…
This is all operated by Northwave’s SLW3 (…NFI what SLW stands for but guessing at Super Light Weight?) dials… You push the little metal-looking lever for an indexed cord release, Pull the little lever for full release, and tighten by spinning the dial.
There is a thin layer of Eva Foam on the top of the overlap (where a “tongue” would be on more traditional shoes) for padding. The overlap and retention system allow for a VERY comfortable and form-fitting.
E.P.2 feels like a more comfortable overall fit than past versions with Northwave going for a full TPU upper and using materials that no longer require the X-Frame (reinforcing strips). The old upper fit well, but this material, cut and last shape combine to move a bit more.
Note the perforations above… Oddly enough, these are paired up and positioned with enough frequency that Northwave feel like this also gives the upper a tad more freedom of movement.
That’s just a byproduct of their first job though… ventilation.
The E.P.2 does a reasonable job of breathing, as the perforations cover the bulk of the upper. Quantity makes up a bit for size on the E.P.2 holes and you’ll note that not all of them allow direct pass-through/airflow. It’s similar on both sides.
But while light doesn’t pass, this is genuine perforation of the TPU upper material that would otherwise block air/moisture travel. The holes that don’t allow light, do allow an evaporative effect, and these are better breathing shoes than Northwave’s Extreme RR and Pro-1.
Cycling shoe heel-cups have a pretty odd job… They have to hold your heels firmly in place vertically so your feet don’t slip out on the upward pedal stroke AND they have to allow your Achilles tendon to move (and your foot to move at the ankle).
The E.P.2 gets a very clean heel cup that moves the seam away from the centerline (at the Achilles). It gets a generous notch that doesn’t wrap your heel too high and allows for great foot movement.
This looks pretty straightforward, but Northwave uses a clever, one-way material that is a bit like Shark-skin in that it very smoothly allows your foot to slide into the heel cup but then holds it in place, acting as an effective anti-slip mechanism… Blown this picture up and you can see the detail…
Those little loops won’t cut you, they’re actually flexible material (this is blown up a LOT), but you can see the alignment and orientation downward that applies that bit of extra grip that makes this one of the best heel cups in the biz for support, comfort and simplicity.
Getting to the bottom of the E.P.2, the real heart of performance cycling shoes are the soles. Northwave’s Powershape Sole is full UD Carbon. It’s a solid unit with very little mid-foot or heel flex allowed, and damn near no give at all at the cleat interface… While some shoes allow a little sole-movement, there’s very little here.
The cleat area has a non-slip surface that does a nice job of grabbing your cleats…
A nice feature on shoes where it actually works because you feel more secure and less likely to over tighten your cleat screws… (which is a great way to toss several hundred dollars out the door).
This sole has a defined arch rather than remaining flat. It’s not overly pronounced but does mean that some custom insoles may change shape when inserted.
Northwave’s own insole is actually a relatively nice piece of kit.
It’s a dual density that actually provides some support, versus most shoes floppy efforts.
Note the ventilation holes on the insoles… These actually line up with the multiple vents in the sole itself…
In the case you use customs, you’ll want to drill em like I did, as the soles do a lot of ventilating on their own… But if the stockers work for you, it’s a nice BJ…
On The Road
So Northwave used to be the (big toe box) guys. Their last had a roomy front end that some found … too roomy. In the last several years, Northwave have become a bit more standard fit. Maybe a touch larger in the forefoot volume (that’s side to side and top to bottom (allowing for most aftermarket insoles to easily fit), but not like the old days (10+ years ago). The sizing itself is also a bit larger than some, so I would definitely use their size guide (as Northwave suggest).
Relative to aftermarket insoles, again, the sole has some shape that may accentuate hard-foam insoles made for flat bottom shoes. I mention this because folks paying upwards of $300-400-500 will also have custom insoles. The thin/hard material insoles should just drop right in.
The upper is (for my relatively normal feet) pretty darn comfortable. The overlap/tongueless pattern and the retention system combine for a very adjustable, very conforming fit… thick socks/thin socks/raised insole… didn’t matter. The E.P.2 just cinch up in a way that has no stress-spots/hot spots.
The three hole pattern is adjustable and if you take Speedplay too. Northwave have a FANTASTIC low-profile Speedplay adapter that I think is the best in the game (if your game isn’t already 4-hole specific).
You’ll find these available right now and while the SRP is $349, You can grab them for $279 on sale (at time of writing) direct from Northwave.US…
You can find more at: https://www.northwave.com
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