Live from Treviso, Italy, the Northwave Extreme Tech cycling shoes. These sleek $325 road shoes having plenty of technology and innovation from top to carbon bottom.
The top story is an upper that is almost completely seamless — a super clean look that has no overlapping seams or multiple materials stitched together. That boosts comfort because your foot won’t find anything that rubs raw. The minimalist approach also drops the weight down around 200 grams depending on your size — making the Extreme Tech extremely lightweight. Ahh, happiness.
We’d guess the lack of fabric stretch will improve the longevity of the shoe and because there’s not a mix of competing fabrics with different characteristics, the fit should also remain consistent over time.
The microfiber material is on the stiff side — there’s no stretch no matter how hard you crank the ratchet. Yet it also does a nice job of molding and hugging your foot. In general, Italian shoes focus on comfort and the Extreme Tech fits well. We found the toe box to be just right for our medium width feet, no pinch, just enough wiggle to keep the toes relaxed.
The Speed Lace Winch system is well-dialed and we highly appreciate that the dial is mounted off to the outside. For those with narrower or low volume feet, that means you can tighten the Dyneemal laces all the way. Some manufacturers place the dial on the tongue where it prevents the two sides from closing tighter. You turn the dial for tight and touch the red button to release — which makes on-bike adjustments easy to perform.
We’ve tested six ratchets on road shoes this year and some are surprisingly flimsy. That’s not the case with the Extreme Techs. We like our shoes bolted tight and the S.B.S. (Step By Step) ratchet system gives you a secure, precise mechanism. This year we tested one top-rated shoe and the buckle consistently pulled loose when we hammered the pedals. This isn’t going to happen in the Northwaves. The top strap over the arch is fully padded and offers four position adjustments for centering.
The ventilation across the top is on the minimal side with small punch holes on the toe and down the sides. The tongue has a mesh with bigger holes. We have no issues with hot feet here in Northern California but our temperatures never hit scorching. The real ventilation story is underneath the Extreme Techs and that’s where we’re headed next.
Turn the NorthWave’s upside down and there are three strong points worth detailing. The first is easy to explain, immediately obvious and always a performance gain. The super thin carbon soleplate is just 80 grams. Repeat after us: you’re flying!
Now some testers describe the Extreme Tech carbon sole as extra stiff but in our opinion, we’d go with optimal stiff. You can turn the pedals in anger, but there’s just enough “give” to mix in some comfort. Those of us who do three and four hour rides versus ProTour sprints, will find that an ideal balance.
While many people will toss the factory innersoles in favor of custom ones, Northwave provide you with two — one thin, the second thicker with more arch support. These days we all do a little shoe tweaking and it’s not hard to drill your own soles to line up with the sole vents. Now, we’ve always found it hard to “feel” the cooling effect of sole vents but we can tell you we had no issues with heat buildup or a hotspot.
The third benefit is the extreme pedal adaptability. In particular, these shoes are a bonus for people who ride Speedplay pedals. In fact, the sole actually says Speedplay Approved and Northwave sells their own adaptor kit. What’s great is that it’s significantly thinner than the standard adaptor plate. Closer to the pedal, a more connected design, perhaps even better power transfer.
Northwave talks up their BioMap (Biomechanical Mapping) and that sure sounds to some degree like Specialized’s BodyFit. We’ll take that on faith given that the shoes fit so well, weigh so little and crank so well.
The wrap: with the Extreme Tech, Northwave has delivered the extremes on every level: comfort, Italian fit, lightweight, stiff carbon sole and excellent ventilation. The only drawback? The orange and yellow version is scary-garish. Stick with the classic white and black and you’re golden.