• MSRP $400.00
  • Size 44

  • Buy them if: Stiffness and style are goals number 1 and 2
  • Leave them if: You have a high-volume foot, particularly near your ankle
  • Bottom line: Pro-level race shoes that offer exceptional style and stiffness, and unbeatable ankle retention

Few shoes have fit my foot as well as Bontrager’s XXX shoes. The previous generation shoe was one of my favorites; it looked cool, fit well (for narrow feet, anyway), and its outsole was super-stiff. So the updated XXX shoes, launched this summer, had plenty to live up to.

And they largely have. The shoes look rad, they fit well (for narrow feet), and the soles are still super stiff. But this new generation does have some differences you’ll want to consider before throwing down $400 for them.

For starters, the heel retention seems much improved. The heel cups kept my heels firmly planted, even when I loosened up significantly on the Boa dial closest to my ankle (more on that in a moment). This complemented a planted feel throughout the rest of my foot too, regardless of Boa position.

Bontrager XXX Shoes
Photo: Dan Cavallari | VeloNews.com

There also seems to be more room in the forefoot than the previous generation of XXX shoe. I have a fairly narrow foot, but I also prefer some wiggle room for foot expansion as the ride progresses. The ball of my foot felt just supported enough, without any pinch points or hot spots. If you’re wide-footed and looking for a very roomy shoe, this might not be the right shoe for you. But the narrow-footed crowd will find this shoe to be generously spacious.

I did swap out the insoles for some InForm insoles from Bontrager. These offer more arch support. The stock insoles are fairly thin and didn’t adequately support my medium-high arches. Of course, this is specific to the rider’s foot, but it’s nice to know Bontrager has an option for those that require special needs.

Venting feels about the same as the previous version of the XXX shoes, which is to say, it’s good but certainly not the airiest shoe on the market. I’ve got about 100 hot, summery miles on the shoes, and while I’ve never been out riding and noticed a breezy feel over my foot, I certainly didn’t feel stifled either. Venting relies largely on the perforations on the TPU upper and a vent in the outsole, so this wasn’t exactly surprising. But I’ll take a slightly hotter shoe in favor of the supportive and supple TPU upper any day.

Bontrager XXX Shoes
Photo: Dan Cavallari | VeloNews.com

So generally speaking, the XXX hits all the right notes for a high-end race shoe. But I did experience one problem that I had hoped would resolve itself as the shoe broke in. The positioning of the Boa dials is such that the front dial is responsible for snugging up your forefoot, while the rear dial closest to your ankle snugs up over the top of the foot. Bontrager even touts the lacing routing and the asymmetrical design which, in theory, should relieve pressure over the top of the foot.

Yet this is exactly where I felt some discomfort. Early on in my testing, I ended up backing the Boa dial off almost completely to relieve this pressure, but it seems to be a function of the shoe’s cut, and the way the Boa routing pulls it all together. Eventually I learned that backing off the front Boa dial over the forefoot, and leaving the one near the ankle loose—but not too slack—hit the sweet spot. It took some tinkering to discover the sweet spot.

Bontrager XXX Shoes
Photo: Dan Cavallari | VeloNews.com

Folks with low-volume feet may be exempt from this phenomenon; I have a high instep, which means my foot happens to be fairly high volume near the ankle where the inferior extensor retinaculum is (don’t worry, I had to look that up, too). That’s exactly where the Boa snugs up, leading to some discomfort.

In terms of construction, aesthetics, stiffness, and features you’d expect from a high-end race shoe, the XXX shoe is a home run. Just be sure to try them on first to make sure they mate well with your feet. They aren’t right for me due to my high-volume foot (near the ankle and top of the foot), but for low volume feet, they’re worth checking out for sure.

Bontrager XXX Shoes
Photo: Dan Cavallari | VeloNews.com