Review: Garneau Course Air Lite II cycling shoes.

 

Garneau has a killer road cycling shoe on its hands.

The Course Air Lite II won a 2017 Eurobike award based on a technology they called the X-Comfort Zone. It’s a proprietary design that creates a stretch expansion area at the base of the small toe. This allows for greater comfort in a wide range of foot shapes and width. That, along with a few other techno-goodies made the Course Air Lite pretty buzz worthy.

I’ve been wearing the Course Air for six months and we’ll just say up front, I’m impressed. I like them, they look great, they fit well, they make my feet happy.

Let’s start with the X-Comfort Zone. Thanks to this ability to flex, Garneau claims it will fit from B to D+ widths. It looks like a two piece construction — elastomer and spandex insert. It can expand up to 5mmm which lets your foot take it’s natural position without any pinch points or constriction. This improve power, reduces injuries and boosts your comfort.

It’s a cool idea, one the Eurobike judges noted in their award statement: “We like the greater comfort and freedom in critical zones offered by these shoes. A range of adapters allow adjustment to different feet geometries and where pedal pressure makes the foot wider.”

Those adaptors are three interchangeable foam wedges that work with Garneau’s Ergo Air Transformation 3D insole to dial in arch support. They give you three options on the insole — the Coolmax Summer version that maximizes airflow and a Winter version that blocks the air vents on the underside of the carbon sole. Several reviewer have appreciated that high degree of customizability but because my feet are so narrow and low volume, I had to swap out the Garneau insole and skip the arch inserts for a SuperFeet footbed that would fill up the show more.

Having narrow, skinny feet, I couldn’t truly put the X-Comfort Zone to the test but when I put my hand in the shoe and pushed on the zone with my fingers, I could feel how it expands out, flexible yet firm. I will say that yes, the Course Air Lite run narrow in general and a B width fit is possible. That’s with the SuperFeet. (As an aside, I also fill up the volume on all my cycling shoes by taking a thick padded insole from another pair of shoes and cutting it in half so I have a top piece that I stick under the tongue area of the shoe. This gives me a tighter fit and also makes the shoes look better because I don’t have to crank the ratchet or Boa dial all the way down.)

All that to say that I ended up with a tight, secure and comfortable fit in the Course Air Lite II’s even thought I have very narrow feet. What made the fit even better is Garneau’s use of a directional fabric on the inside of the heel and the back half of the shoe. Run your fingers over it in one direction and it’s smooth, reverse direction and it’s grabby. It works terrifically well in the Course Air Lite to help hold your feet in position. I’ve read that this type of fabric has been used on other shoes in the past but my Sidi and Mavic shoes don’t have it.

I’m late to the Boa party but now that I’m finally here, yes, I get why it works so well. Some cycling shoes place the Boa dials on the top of the shoes and others on the side. The side position works best for me because of my narrow feet — I can really pull the two sides together tightly. If the Boa was in the middle, the sides of the shoe would eventually hit the dial and you couldn’t get any tighter. No bueno.

The Boa® IP1 have a nice, confident sounding click-click-click as you make your micro-adjustments up and down. To release the Boa, you just pull up and it pops open, loosening the plastic wires. The Garneau version worked flawlessly and I was happy to feel so secure when I cranked it all the way down on my skinny dogs.

Garneau claims that have stiffened up the carbon sole on this, the second generation of the Course Air Lite. I am not putting out 400 watts on a hors categorie climb so I haven’t pushed the stiffness to the limits. That said, they feel plenty stiff. The catch is the hollow section of the carbon sole with the built-in air vents just underneath the balls of the feet and then the additional vent underneath in the middle of the shoe. You’d have to think that would affect stiffness but like I said, it works for me. This is also have a tiny effect of raising stack height. I would sacrifice better ventilation for a super marginal, perhaps negligible loss in stiffness and stack. Just my humble op.

When it comes to style and fashion, Garneau went for a fairly minimalist design that looks fast and sleek. You have basic black, white and two eye poppers — orange and optic green. Personally I like the svelte look — the lines are clean and the microfiber material is smooth so it cleans up well. You always look kinda polished.

The last little touch is the toe protection that keeps the shoe from getting as scuffed up. It’s relatively subtle so the Course Air Lite II still looks fast. I appreciate anything that recognizes that leather toes quickly get trashed.

Just to check a few boxes, a size 42 weighs in at 7.8 ounces (222 grams), comes with a shoe bag and fits all major road pedals.

In conclusion, I think these are greta shoes that love up the Eurobike hype. It they came in a narrow width, life would truly be perfect.

 

 

 

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