Late this past Spring, Specialized got us set up with a pair of their flagship XC shoes – the S-Works 6 XC. Not only are they the lightest shoes available, they’re hell bent on power transfer and incredibly well crafted. They forgo laces with an upper and mid BOA dial and a velcro adjustment down low. A carbon fiber outsole keeps them rigid and a sturdy plastic molded heel cup keeps you locked in place nicely. We realize that $400 shoes aren’t for everyone, but once in a while its nice to see what certain brands are capable of delivering in terms of all out technology and efficiency. In Specialized case it’s even more provocative seeing as footwear isn’t their main focus – bikes are. Let’s dive in…
- Body Geometry sole and footbed are ergonomically designed and scientifically tested to boost power, increase efficiency, and reduce chance of injury by optimizing hip, knee, and foot alignment.
- Our stiffest and lightest FACT plate. Stiffness Index 13.0.
- Dyneema® Cubic Tech™ directional fibers are thermo-bonded to create no stretch zones for ultimate connection.
- Independent Boa® S2-Snap dials for on-the-fly micro-adjustment, backed by the Boa® Lifetime Guarantee.
- PadLock™ molded heel and one-piece stroble upper for superior fit.
- Titanium alloy cleat nuts can rotate to position pedal/cleats 5mm rearward.
- SlipNot™ rubber heel and toe tread for confident traction on all terrain with removable toe studs.
- Form Fit last with roomy toe box for ultimate connectivity and comfort.
- Two-bolt cleat pattern fits all major MTN pedals.
- Ceramic printing for lightweight durability
- Approximate weight: 270g (1/2 pair, size 42)
- Size 38-49 / Half sizes available between 40 and 47 / 44.5 tested
- $400 US
Fit and First Impressions
We weren’t surprised in the least to find that the shoes fit accurately, just like every other pair of Specialized shoes that we’ve tried lately. A tip of the hat is due to the brand for their consistency – and just for the sake of reference, our tester wears a 10.5 US/44.5EU. In terms of fit, what’s most noticeable and most commendable is the fact that the toe box was quite roomy while in contrast, the heel cup fit quite snug and a touch on the narrow side. In the shoe world, this would be referred to as a “combination last” – it fits a very broad range of feet, but beyond that, this type of fit is functionally beneficial. The roomy toe box allows for just the right amount of toe movement and helps to encourage blood flow while a slightly narrow fit at the heel provides support and stability, keeping you in line nicely for efficient pedaling.
If you’re unfamiliar, BOA dials are extremely well engineered and we applaud Specialized for taking advantage of them. As most of our riding won’t require cleats, we pulled them right away, but it’s worth noting that they are part of the package. For a shoe this racy and stiff, we were surprised at how practical they felt in terms of walkability. While the sole is super stiff, the lugs are well placed and grippy. Anyhow, let’s see how they performed on the bike.
On the Trail
If we haven’t already eluded to it enough, the first thing we noticed while riding the S-Works 6 XC shoes was the freakishly positive power transfer. Between the carbon fiber sole (which is the stiffest in the Specialized line), a secure fit and a well structured, plastic molded heel cup this comes as no surprise. Discomfort and hot spots are something that are typically synonymous with this particular level of stiffness and a shoe that really locks you in and prevents your feet from shifting around inside of it. In this case, there were some small spots in the footbed that made our tester just slightly sore, but only on very long rides. It’s also worth mentioning that Specialized offer a variety of footbeds for their shoes. Our tester who reviewed the 2FO Cliplite BOA used them and found them to offer a bit more cushioning in addition to a more personalized contour in the footbed. Regardless, the hot spots were subtle and only felt toward the end of long rides. If you’re already spending $400, you may as well spend another 30 and get the perfect footbed.
As far as the rest of the shoe goes, construction was top notch as it better be for this price point. We love BOA dials for the fact that they’re so much faster and easier to fine tune fit and tension with as feet get hot and swell or get cold and need more tension – this can easily be done without even getting off the bike. The heel’s shape and fit was fantastic; no blisters and no rubbing whatsoever. When it came to walkability, most associate an all out XC race shoe as being fairly impractical and while that was still the case, the S-Works 6 XC was much better than most of the other offerings our tester has tried up until this point. The relatively soft, grippy lugs made clambering on rocks and decomposed granite trails less treacherous than your average XC race shoe, but keep in mind with a sole this stiff, there’s hardly any flex off the bike as well.
As far as durability goes, we’ve been riding these for half a year quite frequently and they look as good as new. As expected, there are scuffs and scrapes, but the craftsmanship is truly top notch and they are wearing well. Not one loose thread has revealed itself and as they break in, they just get more and more comfortable. Last but not least, while there aren’t any large panels of mesh, but instead small perforations throughout a lot of the topsole, heat was well managed – even on days with temps in the 90s, our feet never got swampy.
There’s only so much to talk about in a shoe review, but in terms of quality the S-Works 6 XC is tough to beat. The pricepoint is an understandably tough pill to swallow, especially if you feel that you might want to spend the extra $30 on the “Body Geometry” footbeds, but realize that these shoes are built for a small, yet demanding portion of the market. In light of that, Specialized makes a slew of shoes in the $100-$250 range that are excellent performers for the trail/AM/enduro crowd. That said, for the gram counting XC racer or gravel warrior who wants a shoe that leaves no loss of power, yet delivers impressive comfort and a smart fit, it would be foolish not to put these at the top of the list of considerations.