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Specialized reworks S-Works 7 shoe for comfort

Spencer Powlison / Updated
The new Specialized S-Works 7 shoe is a big step forward in comfort relative to the prior model. Photo: Brad Kaminski | VeloNews.com

Since late 2016, Specialized has been working to make its top-of-the-line road shoe more comfortable, and that effort shows in the new S-Works 7.

While the previous generation S-Works 6 shoes were impressively light and stiff, they were unforgiving. By working for about a year with 10 doctors from Dr. Andy Pruitt’s CU Sports Medicine Center, Specialized found ways — with both material and design decisions — to reprioritize comfort.

The experts realized early on that blood flow, critically through the top of the foot was essential to keep feet happy.

First, Specialized fine-tuned the way the Boa dials and their cable guides were positioned, slightly angling the guides, and moving all of the hardware away from the center of the foot.

Second, they updated the construction. The reels and cable guides are now welded to the material (not stitched), resulting in a smooth inner surface. Plus, the tongue has significantly more padding than the S-Works 6 shoe did.

And most obviously, Specialized worked with Boa to build proprietary alloy S3 dials.

All of these features make the S-Works 7 remarkably more comfortable than its predecessor. We felt little to no pinching on the tops of our feet. It’s easier to cinch down the Boas without any pressure or pain. The new Boa dials are easy to use, but we wish they could completely release the cable like the IP1 dial. As-is, the quickest way to slip out of the S-Works 7 is to unhook the cables from the guides.

Below the tongue and Boas, Specialized made a few other key changes to improve comfort. Throughout the shoe, the S-Works 7 has a new fabric that blends Dyneema TPU synthetic with a mesh material. While it isn’t supple like natural leather, this hybrid fabric stretches in all directions, which is immediately noticeable when you slide into these shoes.

The more pliable material pairs well with a slightly wider toe box. This reduces pressure on the forefoot — another noticeable improvement over the S-Works 6. Specialized also offers both wide and narrow sizing options.

Our testers also appreciated the heel cup’s generous padding, which is sometimes lacking in race shoes.

Finally, Specialized tweaked the carbon layup and shaping of the S-Works 7 sole. As you’d expect, its engineers say this is the lightest and stiffest sole Specialized has made. This could be true, but of all the updates from the previous generation, this change was least noticeable. That said, these are exceptionally stiff race shoes.

High-end cycling shoes always toe the line between comfort and performance. The S-Works 7 does this better than nearly any other we have worn, and to top that off, they weigh the same as the old model (224g/shoe, size 42) and cost the same at $400.

Oh, and don’t worry, there will be four other color options — including black and white — if you don’t like that crazy pink/green fade.

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