What's Cool In Road Cycling

FOOT JOeY: Lake CX 401 and CX236 Shoes

Lake Cycling Shoes have been around a while longer than a lot of folks in North America might realize.

The brand doesn’t have the recognition in North America that some others enjoy, but it’s not from a lack of quality and/or background. Lots of folks remember Andy’s fairly good Giro days, and he sported frozen-Lakes…

Lake’s founder, Lee Katz popped out of Illinois to helped Shimano develop its first shoe line and started up their Korean manufacturing division. No secret why these have some similarities to the very popular Shimano molders. Lake produced in the same facility for 11 years but they’ve gone on their own for the past 4.

The CX 401 is Lake’s current top of the line and under use by guys like Tyler Farrar, Carlos Sastre and several others.

click the thumbnail at the top for the LARGE view

The shoe’s pretty easily recognizable as something a bit different than most production shoes as the Kangaroo skin uppers are bonded cleanly over a heavily shaped, full carbon bathtub sole.

Of course the fact that these are heat formed to fit is the stand out feature, but the materials and detail on the CX401 merit closer look.

The shaped sole and material wrap requires custom formed protection and the bumpers on the front stand out (I guess as much for the brilliant red as for the shape). The sole tread at the toe is fixed as part of the scuff guard and isn’t really designed to be replaced. That said, I can’t see the toes getting much wear at all, given the sole shape. walking is done on the cleats and heel tread…

The heel is a lot more likely to wear and that’s a replaceable rubber.

Replacement might require a little muscle though as the screw is there but it’s also bonded to the sole…

The top is a clean look with a single Velcro strap over the BOA cable system.

Twist the boa dial when it’s pushed down to make for nice even pressure as the cable pulls tight.

And pop it up to release…

A nice little touch adding a finger pull to pull up a bit of slack from the lower section giving a bit more room around the arch when the cable gets snug.

The little loop also helps loosen the cable instead of yanking on the tongue when pulling your shoes off, but the BOA system comes loose very easily on its own, just when you pop the top of the dial…

One of the knocks on many BOA system shoes is that the cable is in effect the single closure “strap” of sorts keeping your foot in the shoe. Other shoes have 3-4 fastening points and if one gives (and I can’t remember my last velcro failure) there are a couple others that help hold your foot. With past BOA failures, your foot is almost instantly out of your shoe…

I’ve seen a crash result from this and have heard of others, but most of that was with older systems that used a less durable “fishing line” than the coated cable used in the new BOA systems.

I prefer an additional strap like the CX 401 or some other supplemental closure with BOA… Newer BOA systems also have far better pathways and snugging-points for the newer cable to run through that cause less friction and wear on the cable.

The upper of the shoe is an outstanding product choice in Kangaroo Skin…

The cutting detail and stitching are better for 2010-2011 than past years. Detail work throughout is very good.

As for the Roo material, well, I literally owe my ass to Kangaroo skin (and it’s proper application by Alpinestars…)

Kangaroo skin is the material of choice in ultra high end Moto leathers from many manufacturers and as this story goes, I had the misfortune of crashing at speed along with a friend… As a fairly good comparison, my friend was in standard leather (from a highly respected manufacturer) and I was in Kangaroo. We both slid on our asses roughly the same distance at roughly the same speed. While he ground away more than a little “cheek meat” (or course when it’s your ass, ANY meat ismore than a little) and he also destroyed the back and elbow of the suite. I walked away with zero damage to my ass and while the thigh and ass of the suite were worn too much to use again, I actually made a jacket out of the top half of the suite… (add insult to injury, I was also crashing his motorcycle and the wreck was totally his fault : )

Anyhoo, Kangaroo skin is far more abrasion resistant than standard leather so as relates to bike shoes, you can use less material. Roo skin is also softer and more pliable than standard leather (and most all synthetics with any sort of durability). That makes for light weight and a lot of comfort.

Lake also use a second layer to line the inside of the shoe…

Roo skin’s softer, more pliable feel is especially notable inside with the brushed grain skin. It’s the softest inside of a shoe I’ve ever used.

Lake also use a material called “Outlast” in the heel section and to cover the tongue and heel (it’s the black colored stuff in the pictures).

This is a nanotech material that regulates heat to more closely match skin temp. The tech term is Microencapsulated Phase Change Material but it’s really just a very thin but very effective insulator / regulator that works against heat or cold.

Venting on the shoe has improved over past versions of the shoe. Holes punched in the roo skin work about like you would expect, and there are a couple of small mesh areas that let in a little air and light.

You might have noted the vent holes on the soles as well. There’s a hole at the nose, a few on the sides of the sole and one at the back.

You can see a bit of light through these on the inside, so they are open.

The insole/ is reasonably thick compared to a lot of company’s stock offering. But then most shoe companies stock offering are just plain pathetic.

It provides a bit of cushion here but it leaves arch support and shape to the shoe’s moldable sole. It also has a few venting holes punched through the cushioning.

Podiatric Pop Tarts
So what’s it like to heat these up and mold em to your foot?

I honestly hated the idea of heating these up and molding them, but I really shouldn’t have stressed at all about fitting. It was pretty dang easy.

[Aside, while lots of shoe brands make custom uppers for their pro sponsored riders, Carlos Sastre and Tyler Farrar reportedly molded their own sets. Something to think about as a lot of brands make custom uppers for their top level racers, meaning you might have the same brand, but you’re not riding the same shoe as some of your hero’s. With the CX401 you’re getting your hooves shod the same as the big horses…]

I made sure to have a mid thickness cycling sock on and also a pair of full fingered gloves that will allow good feel but some heat resistance to handle the shoes (regular mechanix gloves worked for me). I then followed some advice that had me molding them twice. (Lots of folks mold these multiple times to get it right and the shoes are designed for multiple moldings.)

For both moldings, you’ll do one shoe at a time. Heat the shoe per instructions (preheat oven to 180 degrees and put the shoes in for 5 minutes). Take the shoe from the oven and put it on and tighten the boa system to a point where you feel even, but light, pressure over your foot (not tight, not “snug” just light even pressure…

The first molding, I heated the shoe and put it on. Then I stood on a towel folded over several times to create some cushioning. I used what I guessed was a third to half of my body weight. Standing on a towel lets your foot expand the shoe to your foot without flattening out the sole and the arch too much. I didn’t let the shoe go flat and didn’t want it to expand too much and once a little weight was applied and I felt the relief in the area where they were a little tight, I took my weight off that foot and waited it to cool before removing (about 15 minutes). Also note that you don’t want the upper materials or the rubber bumper on the heel to come off, so standing on a towel and not making the BOA system too tight doesn’t stress things too much.

The second molding, I heated the shoe (one at a time again) in the same fashion, wore the same sock and this time once the shoe was on and the BOA system tightened to the same light pressure, I used gloved hands to evenly squeeze around the heel cup. I squeezed fairly tight and kept squeezing around the back half of the foot until the shoe was cool.

I did this for both feet and then mounted cleats and tried em out…

I would guess the feeling was on par with Joey’s.

Now I don’t have whacked out feet… They’re pretty normal shape, if a little wide and this two step molding process nailed the fit. BUT I have a buddy who had to go back and heat a third time to get a little more width and also to put a little more pressure on the shoe to knock down the arch a bit more to his liking… These come standard with a lot of arch height, so some folks may have to take a couple of runs at it, but it’s not difficult.

In Use
The BOA system works well and gives nice even pressure over the top of the foot and that’s with very little tongue padding for the shoe. The BOA tab might interfere with the more stout shoe warmers some of you non Phoenix AZ people might be using right now, but I’ve not heard of anyone that found it unusable.

Ventilation is better than the last version. It will work well for a lot of climates but the extreme heat we get here in Arizona might get past the limits of the airflow in this model. That said, with Roo skin in and out, I may pop over to the shoe repair place and have them punch a couple more vent holes and I have no doubt that the Kangaroo skin will handle a couple more well placed holes. Unless you deal with 90 – 100+ degree plus riding, you won’t need to bother though.

The toe box on their “WIDE” model is just that… It’s very roomy and you could easily get a few “E’s” in these. The taper is fairly aggressive back to a narrow heel cup, but it spreads easily on heating and it’s better to have these start tight than start loose so that you’re not yanking on the bonding of the uppers when heated to get more snug fitting.

The sole is very stiff, front to back. There isn’t much flex to speak of and I didn’t feel the cleat through this sole at all despite running these shoes with no socks… I know people that like a little give between the heel and forefoot so that their feet can move a bit. Folks that prefer some foot movement will find a little twist flex available but very little flex in line from front to back. Although it’s fairly thin, the wrap around / bathtub carbon sole shape of the soles of the CX401 really cuts down on flex compared to the bending allowed on most simple flat carbon soles.

One argument that I would make with some other reviewers of this shoe is that I don’t see my custom foot beds working well given the substantial built in shape of the CX401.

Custom orthotics would have to also be custom tailored to this shoe’s substantial arch tilt in order to work and because the customer would also be heat molding them for the heel cup area, there would be no realistic baseline for orthotic makers to cut material. You would be adding the arch of what are probably very solid custom insoles to a very solid arched shoe and blowing out your custom fit.

I think the CX 401 are better when molded than most any stock shoes with standard and several aftermarket inserts. But I do have a few custom orthotic inserts in stock high end shoes that will compete and in fact fit a bit more comfortably than the CX401. But then you’re talking about 400 dollar stock shoes with 300-400 dollar inserts including your doctors fitting fee’s. At 700 – 800+ dollars you’re talking custom shoe territory nobody’s stock shoes and inserts can beat.

These cost $489 and that’s nobody’s version of cheap. But given the semi custom fit (lots of base sizes and a run of “wide fits are available) and the fact that Kangaroo skin is between 2 and 4 times the cost of leather and most of the super synthetics used in cycling today… The price is relatively well put.

But if you’re looking for a lower price stock shoe or a better platform for custom insoles, you might also like Lake’s CX236.

This features a solid carbon sole, available in 3 or 4 hole cleat drilling.

The BOA system placed neatly at the heel…

And the interior is flatter and will be at home without much adjustment if you go the route of custom insoles. It’s also vented…

The BOA system’s ankle mount means the cable rings the ankle opening of the shoe.

And the cables sit high on the tongue.

This makes for a fit that is not only comfortable but one that I found to be very secure.

The sole is solid carbon with both the toe and heel bumpers molded on and not replaceable.

Full grain leather uppers with mesh for venting, clean stitching and cuts, full carbon soles (these do have a little flex between the heel and cleat platform) and a well done BOA system are all marks of shoes found comfortably in the $300 range. Someone forgot to tell Lake though and they’ve left em at $229…

With a flatter platform, coupling these with custom foot beds could have you rivaling the CX401, but match them with some of the semi custom foot beds offered right now and you could have a hell of a nice pair of kicks and stay under $300.

Considering the fit finnish amd materials of the CX236, I would say they suffer in one area only, that being they have the moldable 401’s as stable mates. Having a shoe in the line up that runs a couple hundred bucks more money makes the 236 seem “cheap” strictly as it relates to an image thing… The simple fact is that the 236 go eyeball to eyeball with a few companies top line kicks. If Lake made no higher dollar shoes, I wouldn’t think twice is someone laid a retail on these another hundred or so dollars higher.

You’ll find the entire Lake line of shoes available through VeltecSports.

Have Fun,
Charles Manantan

Thanks for looking. If you have other experiences with gear, or something to add, drop us a line. We don’t claim to know everything (we just imply it at times). Give us a pat on the back if you like the reviews, or a slap in the head if you feel the need!

PezCycling News and the author ask that you contact the manufacturers before using any products we test here. Only the manufacturer can provide accurate and complete information on proper use and or installation of products as well as any conditional information or product limitations.

Send your comments to: [email protected]

Like PEZ? Why not subscribe to our weekly newsletter to receive updates and reminders on what's cool in road cycling?

Comments are closed.