by Tom Hill
February 18, 2014
Very good at what they do. Only you know if what they do is what you want
What makes a race shoe a race shoe? Low weight and high stiffness are the two most obvious performance criteria; every joule of energy expended by the wearer must go towards moving their bike towards the finish line, rather than lifting/flexing the soles of their shoes. I’ll also throw in my own particular requirement: the shoe must be garish, ideally eye-wateringly so. And manufacturers add their own criterion to race shoes, too: light, stiff and bright footwear never, ever comes cheap.
Lake’s MX331 Cross ticks all of those boxes, including the last one of price (ouch). If the rest of the shoe wasn’t so unusual, I would spend longer eulogising on how magnificently stiff yet foot-coddling they are (and they really, really are). However, Lake has decided to do something different here and create a shoe that is designed to excel during a cyclocross race – epitomised by the huge goofy metal teeth hanging out the front. They take the place of studs and make the shoe look like Plug from the Bash Street Kids. These may not be pretty, but they are incredibly effective; I was able to run up steep muddy banks in a similar manner to front-pointing with crampons and in true mud and slop they gripped tenaciously.
It is ironic that the USP of these cycling shoes is how they perform off the bike. They’re very good sprinting-in-mud shoes but they do come with more conventional studs to allow swapping to suit conditions. This means that they will make equally good mountain bike race shoes, particularly for those races where you may expect a bit of pushing through mud (particular 24-hour endurance races come to mind). I wouldn’t want to walk far in them, though, and I can’t see the carbon sole surviving long on rockier surfaces.
Overall: Very good at what they do. Only you know if what they do is what you want – and whether your pockets are deep enough.