What's Cool In Road Cycling

Northwave Extreme Shoes Review

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Montebelluna Italy is arguably the world capitol of outdoor shoe making. Northwave have been here for 23 years but the region has a centuries-old history of outdoor footwear design and manufacturing spanning skiing, hiking, climbing and cycling.

Lowa, K2, Asolo, Hoka (running), Salewa, Tecnica, Scarpa, Fischer, Zamberlan, La Sportiva, Dynafit, Arc’Teryx, Nordica and many more all have their roots, current design 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 series is also designed in footwear Mecca.

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In a place where ski boots and bindings have their own museum, it’s no wonder Northwave developed their own fastening system for the Extreme, rather than following the herd by using the (very good) BOA system.

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Northwave’s dial in fit system, the S.L.W.2 (Speed-Lace-Winch) is fairly straight forward to use and I like the added security of these features designed to not risk full tension while adjusting on the fly.

The large dial is a smooth operating ratchet, large enough to find easily on the fly and tightens quickly while indexed in small enough increments that you can pretty easily find a sweet spot. The dial is also unidirectional (tighten only) and is less likely to get bumped and loosen up.

You can easily make micro adjustment to loosen the shoe by pressing the side button.

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This button is also indexed meaning only a small amount of cable is released on each press, meaning too firm a press or too long a press will not release too much tension (again, very easy on the fly).

The side button is dual action in that firmly pulling up on it will fully release the tension, allowing quick shoe removal.

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I like this versus dual direction dials and or “pull to release” set ups, but I’ve not had issues with any of the more modern set ups. The S.L.W.2 set up just seems a bit more secure and less likely to allow for error.

The lower closure is tried and true velcro.

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Another very good design feature with the Extreme is the unidirectional fiber material found in the heel of the shoe…

Northwave call it simply the “No-slip heel”

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The heel cup isn’t particularly high and there’s very good room allowed for your achilles to move, but occasionally that low height and room for movement means heel slip and an insecure fit. Not so with the Extreme as the material is specifically designed, in both shape and texture, to grip your heel.

The heel material also means that a secure fit isn’t dependent upon firmer heel padding and also doesn’t require overly tight adjustment of the retention systems out front.  This heel is secure in a fashion that allows for a bit more comfort all over the shoe than some other designs.

One the road, the favorite functional bit of the shoe is the Airflow System

The heart of the system is the all Carbon sole.

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Relatively thin, and weighing just 60-ish grams (depending on size), this sole is very stiff despite the 7 vents molded in.

These vents are not just for looks as they are on some shoes…

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The airflow is aided by a vented insole that has a bit of support and a slight met pad…

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Of course ventilation doesn’t work as well without holes at both ends of the sole as well as in the upper last. Northwave’s upper isn’t as fully perforated as some shoes and in Phoenix AZ that can make for a pretty bad day.

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But the sole venting works so well in conjunction with the last venting that the Extreme works well even on summer rides that start in the 90’s and end in the 110’s.

The tongue is well padded yet also well ventilated.

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Another exceptional design element from Northwave and Speedplay eliminates one of the weaknesses in the Speedplay system…

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The cleat interface is genius in cutting 80% of the stack height from the typical Speedplay 3 hole adapter.

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The normal plate required is 2.5mm thick. This plate is just .5 thick.

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While some shoes are designed specifically for Speedplay, this system eliminates most of the downside of any other adapter system and also makes for a shoe sole shape that better follows the contour of a foot versus building a flat platform required for Speedplay specific designs.

For Look cleats, there is a rough textured surface added to the soles as well.

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Herein though is one of the few down sides to several very light shoe designs in that there is no available 3 hole cleat /screw adjustment built into the sole of the Extreme. Most folks will find enough adjustment on Look cleats themselves, but for some with notable leg length differences or special cleat positioning needs, the lack of adjustment is worth checking.

The Northwave Extreme check in at 232 grams (home scale) and run in sizes 36 to 48 and are also available in double E fitting. They’re a reasonably roomy toe box as standard, which is nice as some shoe manufacturers seem to have slimmed down a bit over the years.

The sole is fairly stiff for the weight of the shoe. Some light kicks these days have quite a bit of movement, but these are very solid.

Adjustment is easy with Northwave’s closure system. I would imagine that they could do away with the lower velcro, but adjustment is easy on their L.S.W.2 set up.

Build quality is very good. It’s what I would expect with Northwave and I’ve been running their shoes all the way back to having a pair of their first offering, the Integral… Back then I’m liked that they were two different colored shoes and nobody else in the US seemed to have a pair.

Now I like em because my feet breath well, the last (upper) is accommodating and the adjustment system makes for a very even fit with no hot spots or stress points (and I have fairly high arches). The heel cup material is fantastic, allowing for a more supportive and comfortable overall fit.  All of this is what you should expect when the shoes come from a part of the world that’s been living for feet for nearly a Millennium.

You can see more about these (and shortly about Northwaves yet to be released Extreme RR) at: www.Northwave.com/en/home

• Click here for prices for Northwave Extreme shoes at Amazon.

Have Fun,

Charles Manantan
[email protected]


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