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Quick Look: Lake MX331 and the new MX175

Lake addresses hard-to-fit feet with top-of-the-line carbon-soled mountain bike shoe

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After Stage-Race Distribution stepped up as the North American distributor, Lake is back in action in the U.S. and Canada and has some unique and quality products to offer the American market. We received two Lake mountain shoes — one top-end, carbon racer and one performance-inspired mid-ranger — earlier this year and are just starting to put the miles on them.

Lake MX331 >> $370

The lowdown: Lake’s top-of-the-line carbon-soled mountain shoe
Pros: Moldable carbon heel and arch; real rubber lugs for improved traction; available in men’s and women’s models; Boa closure; real leather; optional toe spikes; replaceable heel tread
Cons: Pricey

The most inspired feature on the MX331 is definitely the moldable carbon heel, featured also on the equivalent road model, the CX331. For a precise, customized fit, place the shoes upright in the oven for five minutes at 180 degrees F; then slip your feet in the warm shoe for 15 minutes and let them conform to your feet.

The pair of MX331 I’ve been riding aren’t customized yet, but that process in itself sounds like heaven to me, and Lake says the process can be repeated as many times as needed, so I have a feeling I may try five or six times — just to be sure they fit perfectly. The inner and outer arches are also heat moldable. A side-mounted Boa closure completes the ideal fit.

The tread is the same as the MX175 for the most part, but the MX331 offers optional toe spikes. Additionally, there is a grip in the arch of the foot and the heel is vented. To improve durability on impact, Lake uses a carbon/Kevlar weave in its CFC carbon sole in the MX331.

I weighed my size 39 MX175 — the only size available in the prototype — and one shoe weighed 328g per pair, just 2g less than the size 40 MX331.

Lake is experimenting with a prototype cyclocross-specific version of the MX331 and is considering it for production in 2014.

It’s a rare treat when a company makes its top-of-the-line mountain bike shoe in a true women’s fit, and the MX331 appears to be a solid competitor to the Specialized S-Works MTB, which also features a Boa closure and carbon sole and retails for $360.

The Lake MX331 will retail for $370, which is certainly enough coin to give anyone pause before handing over the credit card, but the price fits appropriately with the other shoes at this level of performance.

Lake MX175 >> $160

The lowdown: Stiff-soled mid-range mountain bike shoe, available to consumers later this year
Pros: Leather uppers; Boa closure; stiff sole
Cons: Lugs in place of toe spikes; no grip under the arch

The first stock of the MX175 mountain bike shoe has already arrived in the warehouse and will be shipped to distributors and consumers soon, unchanged from the prototype I’ve been riding. With a few minor differences in design, the MX175 is a direct descendant of the MX331, produced with different materials to set it at a substantially lower price point.

Nonetheless, Lake uses top-end natural materials, including real rubber and leather for top performance. The uppers are meant to conform to the rider’s foot, and the leather is aimed at improving breathability over synthetics.

Pyramidal texturing should provide extra traction to top off the deep and moderately flexible rubber lugs, which are widely spaced to shed mud.

Fiberglass-injected nylon makes for an ultra-stiff sole with a little give in the toe for added comfort on long days.

The MX175 is fortunate enough to have adopted many of the key design features of the MX331 at a much lower price point, including the Boa closure, mounted with a quick-release loop and PowerZone technology, which allows the rider to increase the tension over the foot by looping the Boa lace over two optional hooks on the outside of the foot.

Production models will be available in white and orange or black and silver. Like most Lake shoes, they come in men’s and women’s lasts. Having soles that stiff with a Boa closure for $160 makes the MX175 a definite head turner.