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By Andrew Juskaitis, VeloNews technical editor
With the hint of spring in the air and the Buyer’s Guide long gone, I figured last week was the ideal time to follow up on an invitation to visit custom shoe builder D2 in Eagle, Colorado, about 20 miles east of Vail.
Don Lamson and Dan Kurtanich (D2, get it?) have been working together the past three years to provide cyclists what they call “the finest cycling footwear money can buy.”
You may recognize Lamson’s name. He has more than 20 years in the custom-shoe business, including time spent with Lampson Design and Doni. His business partner and old skiing buddy Kurtanich returned to Colorado three years ago to unite his money and Lamson’s know-how in a quest to build the best shoes in the business.
“I’m always surprised that a performance-minded rider will spend $5000 on a bike and then buy a pair of shoes that ‘kind of’ fits them,” Lamson said. “Improperly fitting shoes waste a rider’s energy, are often painful and can cause imbalance in the pedaling stroke that can end up causing injury to a rider’s knees and hips. Why risk all that, when our shoes can alleviate all those issues?”
D2 offers two levels of shoe-fitting. The “Custom” requires a trip to Eagle, but the $475 “Best Fit” can be negotiated at home, via Federal Express.
“Best Fit” buyers are sent an innovative “fit kit” that will provide Lamson with all the information he needs. First, the customer steps into a “crush box,” which leaves a detailed impression of each foot. Next comes a paper tracing of each fully loaded foot and four tape measurements of each foot. Finally, the customer shoots a series of photos of their feet with the enclosed digital camera, packs up the kit and sends it back to Eagle.
In as little as three weeks’ time, D2 will have the finished product back on the customer’s doorstep. If the shoes are perfect, the customer rides off into the sunset; if not, D2 will go to just about any lengths to correct the problem.
“We guarantee each shoe to fit perfectly, and we mean it. We’ll work with the customer for as much time as needed to get their shoes to fit precisely the way they want,” Lamson noted.
In my visit to D2, Lamson took me through a standard fitting. What I found interesting was the difference in the width and shape of my foot when measured fully weighted (on the paper tracing) and when measured semi-weighted (in the semi-soft foam “crush box”).
“These two measurements are critical to understanding a rider’s foot. Other custom shoe makers often measure using only one of these methods, which can create a shoe that’s comfortable when not loaded, but painful on the downstroke,” noted Lamson.
From the foam impression, tracings and tape measurements, Lamson and Kurtanich then prepare a plaster mold of your foot that is compared to their inventory of 252 stock lasts. If a rider’s feet have different sizes or shapes, D2 will build two different size shoes at no extra charge.
If your feet are really out of whack, you’ll be encouraged to step up to D2’s full “Custom” line, shoes that are built from a 100 percent custom last, a 3-D plastic model of a foot that costs $300 (it’s a one-time charge). This custom last is constructed in-house using a 3-D lathe, which operates off a laser scan of the rider’s foot (also done in-house).
“By the end of the process, we have a perfect representation of the rider’s foot,” explained Kurtanich. The company also keeps the customer’s last on file for any future builds.
Once the perfect last is chosen/created, D2 gets to work building the perfect pair of road or mountain shoes. And while the materials they use are state-of-the-art, the construction techniques and tools are surprisingly old-school.
A table of six 1950’s-era sewing machines graces the back room of their workshop. A worn, but well-maintained 1940’s leather working press lies in wait in the corner. Industrial-strength needle and thread are at the ready. Part carbon fiber, part Kevlar sailcloth, part Old World craftsmanship, D2 shoes are a blend of the very best components and techniques that can possibly go into building a cycling shoe.
Still, there’s no denying that the shoes are not cheap. When I asked Lamson about his prices, he replied: “While $475 might seem like a lot of cash at first, consider that a pair of high-end Sidis cost around $300. Add a $300 to $400 custom orthotic to those shoes, and you’re looking at a pair of $600 to $700 shoes that weren’t completely custom built for your feet. I see our shoes as a total bargain for what you end up with.”
In closing, he added: “Custom shoes are one of the best investments you can make into becoming a more efficient, comfortable cyclist. We don’t just build shoes here – we’re small enough to build a relationship that will hopefully keep our customers coming back for the rest of their cycling years.”
Both “Best Fit” and “Custom” shoes are the same price. The difference between the two is the $300 charge for the computer-generated, lathe-produced custom last. All shoes come with the custom insole; the “Custom” shoe includes custom colors, custom cleat placement, and custom toe box.
“Best Fit” Road or MTB shoe – $475
“Custom” Road or MTB shoe – $475
“Best Fit” “Pro Elite” Road or MTB – $525 (with Kevlar sailcloth reinforcing)
“Custom” “Pro Elite” Road or MTB – $525 (with Kevlar sailcloth reinforcing)
“Custom Last” – $300 one time charge
Orthotic only – $150 (orthotic for another brand of shoe)
Custom colors – $50
Custom cleat placement – $25
Custom toe box – $50
For more information check out www.d2customfootwear.com.