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Editor’s Note: This story was corrected on October 27 to show that all D2 shoes are made by hand in Colorado. D2 recently closed its Mexican factory to bring production back to the U.S.
Don Lamson is not new to the custom shoe world. In fact he’s been at it for 25 years. From DONI, his first company, to Lamson Designs and now with D2, Lamson has worked at perfecting his craft. And from personal experience I can say that he doesn’t give up until his shoes are just right.
So, custom shoes huh? Well, if you’ve had recurring problems with your feet, knees, hips or even back, a custom shoe (or orthotic) could help. I have had issues lately with my feet thanks to higher mileage and longer-distance events. And historically I’ve had knee issues. Stretching and strength work have helped me a lot, but I wanted to see if I could become even more comfortable and efficient. Custom shoes were the next step.
But first, the tough part: cost. These are very expensive shoes at a whopping $975! But, Lamson argues, and I believe correctly, that many cyclists have actually spent more looking for high-end shoes that fit comfortably. Hundreds of dollars may have been wasted shopping down blind alleys and in the end, the consumer may never find shoes that work as well as D2 custom shoes. Still, that’s a big pill to swallow when it comes time to empty your wallet.
Luckily I live in Colorado and simply drove to the D2 offices in Eagle. Lamson himself took the time to show me around his facility and measure my feet and take impressions of them. All D2 shoes are made by hand in Colorado. D2 recently closed its Mexican factory to bring production back to the U.S.
If you don’t live in Colorado, D2 will send a fit kit with detailed instructions on how to trace and measure your feet as well as a set of crush-foam boxes to take impressions of your feet. You will certainly need help from either a D2 dealer (best scenario), a professional bike fitter or a meticulous friend.
After measuring my feet, Lamson took a quick look at the shoes I had been using. We talked about the positives and the negatives of them and about my past in cycling, both in terms of equipment and in terms of injuries. Lamson took notes while we talked and his understanding of bike fitting and biomechanics is obvious.
My fifth metatarsal heads protrude a bit from my feet and Lamson pointed out the toe box width would be pretty important for me. Otherwise, according to Lamson, I have fairly normal feet. Not too narrow or wide, arches with medium height, left foot a half size larger than my right.
The next step was the most fun: picking colors. I figured that if I was paying for custom shoes, I’d make them as garish as possible. So, gold and checkered panels it was.
Trials and tribulations
A couple weeks later my shoes arrived at the VeloNews office (normal turnaround is 4-6 weeks). I put them on wishfully, but was a little concerned about how tight they felt. Obviously they were made to measure for my feet and they followed the contours of them more closely than any other shoe I’ve ever had one. My feet felt claustrophobic.
I bolted up cleats and went for a ride. The shoes felt strange to be sure, but not unbearable. As I slowly increased the length of my rides in the D2 shoes though, my feet never adjusted.
I called Lamson and we discussed an adjustment to the orthotics. After making me a new set, I tried again … without luck. The whole shoe was still a bit too tight for my taste/comfort. So, Lamson happily took them back and put me on larger lasts.
The increase in length along with the new orthotics have me happier than ever.
Now, I want to point out before I get too far along that my experience is not typical.
D2 Cleat Placement Tools
Don Lamson also has a couple of nifty tools to help with cleat placement. Included in his $95 cleat kit ($125 for a printed poster version) are a tool for measuring from your heel to the first metatarsal head, a chart to help identify cleat placement based on your foot’s measurement and a tool that helps setup your cleats. Experimentation is made highly quantifiable with D2’s system and differences left to right are easy to accommodate.
Bike shop fitters should check them out as a reliable, systematic approach to cleat setup. Like many tools, they are only as accurate as the hands that hold them. But I had really good luck with them.
Many customers don’t need a single adjustment. And when they do, they rarely need larger lasts. I found some D2 customers on my own and asked about their experiences and they all had good things to say.
Is D2 in your future?
The biggest piece of advice I have for prospective customers is to very clearly communicate your needs, worries and past experiences to D2 and your fitter.
I have a bit of a checkered past when using orthotics and custom shoes (I’ve had both of them previously). While they certainly work for many people, my experiences were never good ones. With Don Lamson, my experience has been fantastic and his commitment to making my shoes work for me has been exceptional.
Editor’s Note: Nick Legan paid for the shoes discussed in this article.