While the money-no-object S-Works road shoe gets most of the hype, the Specialized Pro Road ($285) has also earned rave reviews. We were especially interested in the Pro Road as it also comes in a narrow width, a must for our skinny dogs.
Out of the box, the all black Pro Roads look serious and flashy at the same time. Styling is subjective but we approve of the “soccer” style appearance — especially at the heel and the long Specialized written on the outside front. We also like the absence of multiple colors and crazy patchwork of materials. The nice black sheen will keep these looking brand spanking new for years.
Slipping into the Pro Roads, we definitely were happy with the narrow fit. Now, personally we’re in the shockingly narrow category, but most folks with slim feet will be happy. We would not rank as Pro Road as low volume — in terms of interior space, they felt about average.
Specialized makes a huge deal of their Body Geometry work in the contour of the outsole and their varus wedge footbed. We switched out the existing footbed for a thicker SuperFeet model so sadly we can’t comment on that. However we will say that overall the fit was great. No pinch in the toes, no heel pull-out, no hotspots or contact points that rubbed us raw.
The Pro Road uses two velcro enclosure straps and an M-Lock SL ratchet up top. The fabric material on the center of the straps gives you come extra ventilation and the tongue has a cool mesh to keep the top of your feet from overheating. While here in Northern California we don’t get the scorcher days, we’re ready should we take a bike trip to Egypt. Specialized calls the fabric upper Micromatric and we’d agree with the marketing hype that it’s supple and light. On the weight scale, this road shoe is 280 grams on a size 42cm.
Specialized gives you a beautiful slice of stiff FACT full carbon on the sole. They rate it at 11 on the stiffness scale with 12 being the highest S-Works rating. We find it hard to feel and quantify that. Specialized will tell you their TorsionBox technology dials up stiffness for improved power transfer.
When we jump out of the saddle for full thrust, the Pro Roads felt stiff enough to mount a breakaway. However, so did the Northwaves we tested last month. In short, great stiff sole and unless you race full time, it’s doubtful you’ll feel 11 versus 12. Plenty stiff enough in our book and there’s an argument that maximum stiffness will likely lead to discomfort. The 3-bolt cleat pattern fits Shimano SPD-SL, Look, Time, and Speedplay — you are always good to go.
Our one hitch with the Pro Road is the ratchet closure. In our testing, the mechanism wasn’t giving us that real cranked down feeling. Now granted, with our skinny, narrow feet we tend to lock down as tight as we can possibly crank. What seemed to happen was the strap pulling loose not at the ratchet but at the other end where it attaches to the shoe on the inner side.
We tried re-positioned the top strap to see if that fixed things. Not really — and we have to say, we think the mechanism is too lightweight. On the right shoe, the two ends of the coil spring seem to slip out of their anchor position when you crank the pressure.
Now we did web research on other reviews and reader forums to see if anybody else was having this issue. We couldn’t find a single person so it’s entirely possible this is just the one pair that slipped through quality control. Which is a shame because on every other measure — fit, stiffness, weight and styling — the Pro Road is one of our favorites this year. We may try epoxy to permanently glue the strap into the ideal position.
Upshot: The Specialized Pro Road is a fantastic shoe — just make sure you test the top strap and ratchet in the store to make sure everything works correctly.