A few months ago, a young Californian brand by the name of Afton sent us a pair of their Vectal clipless shoes for testing. They come in four colors, and we received the most striking one for the test. Anyway, with time, mud and dirt, it doesn’t make much difference.
Afton shoes are clearly meant for all-mountain, enduro and gravity, given the weight of a single 42.5 size shoe: 488 grams including the cleat. The proprietary Intact rubber, thanks to its tread and texture, allows the pins of pedals such as the Crank Brothers Mallet E to wedge in perfectly, providing further stability.
Regarding the rubber sole, the thickness ranges from 4 to 12 mm and it’s rigid enough to transfer the power to the pedals very well. Thanks to the generous cleat pocket (35mm long), the positioning can be easily adjusted according to the rider’s needs.
The closure is a combination of laces and two Velcro tongue straps.
The toe and heel areas are reinforced, in particular the front rubber layer is quite sturdy.
The insole is anti-microbial and offers proper heel and arch support.
The list price is of $119.99 US.
On the trail
I tried the Afton Vectal together with the Crank Brothers Mallet E pedals, since their large surface is perfect to support this kind rather soft shoes, unlike XC style shoes with a carbon sole. Actually the Vectal sole provides good support to the foot, so they can be comfortably used with CB Candy pedals as well. It was super easy to find the desired clip configuration thanks to the long clip travel. Clipping in and out is very smooth, since the rubber does not interfere at all. It is worth mentioning that I installed a shim provided by Crank Brothers under the cleat.
The shape of the shoe is nicely suited to the pedal platform, providing support and allowing the pins to stick to the rubber when the weight points downward (in the picture below, the rider was sitting on the saddle).
The most impressive aspect of these shoes is how comfortable they are. Out of the box there are no hot spots, and above all, the sole soaks up vibrations like no other. This helps a lot when riding fast and harsh trails, because it tires the calves less when riding out of the saddle (i.e. downhill off-road). I have rather wide feet, but the shoes felt comfortable all the time. The Velcro strap near the neck of the foot was best left a bit loose so as not to limit the pedaling range of motion, but it is easy to reach and adjust.
Width is just “right”: the shoes don’t touch the crank arm even using pedals with a short axle such as the CB. For the record, with the same pedals, the Giro Chamber would rub on the pedal arm.
Since I tested them in winter, I can’t say much about their breathability in summer heat. They dry-up relatively quickly when wet. When you have to walk or carry the bike, the rubber offers good grip on the rocks but not when it’s muddy, since the sole is pretty flat. The cleat sticks out a bit, but that’s because of the shim I chose to install.
Afton Vectal are by far the most comfortable MTB shoes I’ve ever tried, since the rubber absorbs vibrations like no other. They’re solid: after 4 months of testing they have no signs of wear and tear at all. They provide good power transfer from the foot to the pedal, but they give their best on the downhills, where, on long runs, they tire the lower part of the leg less when out of the saddle. Definitely recommended!