Northwave’s new Extreme RR shoes feature a new X Frame upper for form-fitting security and an updated sole with ample stiffness and ventilation. Here’s a closer look at the latest from one of Italy’s top brands.
Montebelluna Italy is arguably the world capitol of outdoor / performance footwear crafting. Northwave have been here for 23 years but the region has a centuries-old history of design and manufacturing spanning skiing, hiking, climbing and cycling. Lowa, K2, Asolo, Hoka, Salewa, Tecnica, Scarpa, Fischer, Zamberlan, La Sportiva, Dynafit, Arc’Teryx, Nordica, Gaerne, Sidi and many others have their roots, current design and/or manufacturing in this part of Northern Italy.
Even the equipment used to manufacture several different kinds of footwear are made here and shipped all over the world. If you go back far enough (800 years or so), several very popular Italian shoe brands (think Prada) also have roots here.
Northwave’s Extreme RR is also designed in footwear Mecca.
The Extreme RR is Northwave’s top of the line and the upper structure is a completely new direction for Extreme line to date.
Northwave call the upper structure “ X Frame” and it’s actually several different material layers bonded together while maintaining a thickness of just 0.5mm…
The feel to the hand is very soft. It’s almost alarmingly soft and, when combined with the shoe’s reasonably light weight (220g claimed and an actual weight for these in size 42.5 of 226), that supple feel gave me the impression that these couldn’t possibly offer enough support.
But they work very well…
The key to providing plenty of support (while spreading the load) are strips of material that are soft and pliable laterally, but that have virtually no stretch… These strips are carefully laid out across the shoe and anchored at the sole (Red).
There’s an additional top strip (blue) that looks like it reinforces a seam and also has a bit of a gusset stitch to reinforce the overlap section that replaces what would be the tongue in shoes with a more traditional design.
All of the non-stretch strips end in a fabric loop around the Dyneema wire of Northwave’s SLW2 rotor actuated closure system.
This fabric routing differs from lots of other cable / wire secured shoes that use hard plastic routing points.
Dyneema is a super-strong material that Northwave feel is better than the fishing line or steel wire used in some other closure systems. Like the loops that hold it. it’s also fairly soft and flexible (but again has very little stretch).
The combination of a pliable Dyneema line, the fabric end points and the very soft upper materials are all designed to do one thing… Wrap around and conform to your foot shape to provide a secure fit with as little pinching / tight points as possible.
At days end, different people have different feet, but the combination of a fairly roomy interior and the X Frame materials and closure system mean that the Extreme RR wrap around and conform very well to my feet.
The interior volume for Northwave have tended to be a bit larger than a lot of other brands historically, though over the past couple of years the shape has changed a bit. These are still comparatively roomy to my Sidi and Vittoria but there is a little more point to the toes versus something like the shape of Bont’s Vaypor +.
Completing the new upper is a new heel cup and the continued use of “No-Slip” material.
There is an integrated heel cup that adds some stiffness to the rear structure of the shoe and it’s molded in a fashion that, combined with the X Frame and relatively short SLW2 closure line, makes getting into the Extreme RR a bit of tight squeeze.
Once you’re in, you’re in though and it wasn’t until I tried to take off the first shoe I tried with this material that I realized that the heel cup material was a bit like shark skin.
This is a Mako shark skin, not Northwave’s heel material, but you get the point(s)
Pet a shark from head to tail and it’s smooth sailing. Pet a shark from tail to head and, depending on the size and type of shark, you could remove a layer of your own skin.
The first time I took off one of the Extreme RR’s, my sock stayed in the shoe… In fairness it was a fluffier cotton running sock and hasn’t happened with cycling socks, so it’s not THAT course.
Running my finger down into the shoe was nice and smooth but pulling it back out across the fabric felt like a medium grit sand paper. Mind you there’s no discomfort associated with it at all and it’s not a dramatic “GRIP” but the material does have some one-way hold.
The Extreme RR Carbon 15 sole resembles older Extreme models but they’ve updated the construction to make this the stiffest sole ever for a Northwave shoe.
Full Unidirectional Carbon structure and an updated reinforcing layer haven’t changed the overall look much versus the 14 model.
There’s still vents front…
And both mid-foot and rear…
And the shape still features structural ribbing to fight flex…
The sole is ready for Look pedals (including Look’s “Position Memory” center bolt) with a roughed surface…
And Northwave have the best alternative to Speedplay specific soles on the market with their impossibly thin Speedplay adapters…
I can’t say that the 15 is a substantial change to what was already an excellent Carbon 14 sole, but the construct is a bit lighter and the venting is still functional, so there’s certainly no down side to a solid set up.
One place where Northwave have noticeably stepped up is in their shoe inserts…
These come in standard and High Volume version, with the higher volume adding 2mm in thickness…
They’re made from a dual density material that maintains support much better than past editions…
And to facilitate the effectiveness of the sole venting, the insoles are well perforated in both the heel and forefoot…
Something that I like about Northwave shoes in general terms are that they have a fairly flat interior rather than a base shape that tries to work more arch support into the shape of the shoe. Shoes with too much internal shaping will deform a lot of foot beds (particularly some custom orthotics) to the point that they’re no longer beneficial.
On The Road
The Extreme RR are a very comfortable shoe. The X Frame upper structure works really well with the SLW2 closure to form a VERY comfortable fit. The SLW2 dial system is efficient and you can operate it with gloves and in a fairly similar fashion to BOA… It’s also proven very durable over time on past models.
The new inserts are good enough that I actually used them for several rides (and would be fine continuing that way) but I ultimately slid in a set of custom orthotics. Custom beds combined with the new X Frame upper fit in a fashion that the Extreme RR’s felt closer to my custom made D2 shoes than anything else I’ve tried to date.
It’s a funny feeling when something fits very well… There I am, standing on the pedals and hammering away and there’s no lack of security. They’re on and adjusted and snug, but they don’t feel that way. That kind of comfort is odd for off the rack shoes, but these have that feel.
This being Arizona, I will always have a concern with ventilation and looking at the Extreme RR’s would have you think that they might not be the most breathable…
But the perforation hides a bit in their matte-blackness… Tossing a light inside gives you a little better idea how much ventilation is here…
The perforations combined with some actual ventilation from the soles (even using non perforated insoles) offer good air flow though and while I do have a couple of shoes that offer more air flow, these are just fine up into the 80’s and 90’s so far.
The Extreme RR’s are on store shelves now and have an SRP of $399. This is the “Black” version and they also have a Flo Yellow version.
You can see more at Northwave.com
• Check prices for Northwave Shoes on Amazon.com here.
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