A canvas flat pedal shoe from Northwave with a wide size range and keen price tag but let down by the fit and sole.
The skate-inspired Northwave Tailwhip uses a canvas upper with Michelin rubber sole. Considering the materials and simplicity it’s relatively heavy for a flat shoe at 829g a pair. There’s a deep heel cup, reinforced toe cap, lace tidy and reflective heel tab to help pull them on and off. Three colours are available – brown, black and the off-white tested here – and there’s also an eco-friendly Tailwhip Eco Evo that uses 100% recycled materials for the upper and 26% for the sole.
Northwave hasn’t given the Tailwhip a gusseted tongue to help stabilise the foot, and the laces are too short to be able to tie in a double knot. In fact they’re almost too short to reach the elasticated lace tidy.
Northwave describes the fit as wide, and I could easily wiggle my toes around inside, and despite the deep heel cup, my feet felt fairly free to move around inside the shoe when riding. In other words, they didn’t feel locked in place.
The shoe stiffness is unremarkable – it neither feels too stiff or too flexible – but there is not much in the way of cushioning or shock absorption on bumpy trails or when landing jumps.
Co-developed with Michelin, the sole uses a triangular tread pattern across its entire surface area. Unfortunately the rubber is on the hard side, and the only real connection with the pedal comes from the pins locating into the grooves in the tread. There’s very little grip coming from the rubber itself. This means that your foot has to be positioned perfectly to feel secure. Stamp it onto the pedal in a hurry and you might not get the pins to mesh properly with the sole and have to readjust.
Furthermore, during climbing, when I was putting less weight through the pedals, my feet would slide around continually. I had to really concentrate on keeping pressure during both the upstroke and the downstroke.
At less than £100, the Northwave Tailwhip is a tempting prospect. But fit and comfort literally leave room for improvement and the sole just doesn’t deliver the kind of flat pedal grip necessary to compete with the likes of Five Ten, Specialized, Fox and Ride Concepts.