It might be the budget option, but trickle down features and stylish looks make the Sport MTB a real contender
Looking at the new Specialized Sport MTB it’s hard to tell it is the company’s entry into clip-in mountain bike shoes. This latest version takes its styling cues from shoes way up the range, blending in some of the features that make the top end Specialized S Works 6XC shoe highly regarded.
The look of the Sport is one of complete understatement. There are no weird colours or unnecessary bells and whistles, just three Velcro straps and a completely black colour scheme. It’s not to say it’s a boring shoe, in fact it should prove to be very popular as it has the stylings of a much more expensive piece of kit.
The upper is constructed of a relatively robust man-made material, complete with large perforations to provide relief from hot, sweaty feet. The downside to this feature is an obvious reduction in the Sport’s ability to protect against the elements. The toe is reinforced to protect your toes when accidentally kicking rocks, plus the crank-facing side has a shiny coating to reduce crank rub. Specialized has included a nod to safety with the stealth reflective heel panel.
Sticks like Velcro
As is often found on more entry-level shoes, retention is by way of three long Velcro straps. These are offset to spread the load without creating pressure points and work well in conjunction with the adequately padded tongue to comfortably hold the foot in place. The only issues with Velcro straps are if you need to adjust the tightness, as it’s a case of undoing it fully. It’s nigh on impossible to recreate the exact position again and again. Also, if you have a relatively low foot, the longer strap excess can catch in undergrowth and pick up mud.
The fit of the Specialized Sport MTB is excellent for most ‘average’ (foot shape) riders. The toe box is relatively wide and the heel shaping and inner material help to minimize heel lift. The Specialized Body Geometry shaped insole and canted midsole aid foot alignment through the pedal stroke.
The nylon reinforced sole has an adequate amount of stiffness, eliminating discomfort when using clip-in pedals. Specialized has tuned in a large amount of fore and rear foot flex to encourage easy walking and running. The rubber outsole has a relatively aggressive tread pattern but toe grip lacks bite on really mucky upslopes.
How do they stack up?
Over the course of the test period the Specialized Sport MTB performed admirably. During one ride I rode with a Sport on one foot and an S Works version on the other. Aside from the slightly tighter fit of the Velcro and the stiffness difference when pedaling hard, they felt equally comfortable. The Sports shrugged off mud and stones and still clean up really nicely – although the lack of waterproofing is definitely an issue in poor weather. The Velcro straps get a bit tedious, lacking the easy fine-tuning of other systems. If you have very low volume feet or want a system that’s easy to adjust on the fly, you might want to look elsewhere. For most riders though, the combination of good looks, adequate stiffness and pedaling comfort make it an ideal stepping-off point for getting into clip-in pedalling.
As an entry level shoe the Sport MTB is fortunate enough to benefit from some of the features of its more expensive brethren. This latest model also has the best styling to date and has the look of a much more expensive model. Specialized’s Body Geometry concept provides a comfortable and stable platform to ensure happy pedalling. The only real issue stems from the Velcro straps, which can take a few attempts to apportion the right level of retention. Also, if you have a low volume foot, the excess length of the straps can catch on undergrowth.