The Takeaway: Specialized adds a lace-up variant to its successful S-Works shoe range. The new S-Works 7 Lace combines the comfort and style of laces with race focused performance of the S-Works 7 shoe while dropping some weight and cutting the price.
- Price: $325
- Weight: 472g per pair (size 44)
- Sizes: 36 to 49 (38 to 47 available in half size increments)
- Available in white, black, or vivid coral (as tested)
Specialized’s S-Works shoe range has become ubiquitous in competitive road cycling at all levels and for good reasons. Specialized’s Body Geometry technology offers many benefits to riders by helping align the foot, knee, and ankle for better fit, power transfer, and comfort. All things that riders look for in shoes. The range has been so successful that there are currently four distinct S-Works shoe versions with various closure designs, heel support, and upper material. All of them use BOA dials, and all are priced at $425.
The S-Works 7 Lace adds a fifth variant to the lineup by taking the standard model, the S-Works 7, and reworking it to accommodate laces instead of BOAs. Visually it makes for an incredibly clean and sleek look for a shoe. It also drops a bit of weight. My pair of size 44 lace up shoes weighs in at 472 grams per pair. Compared to the S-Works 7 shoes, the 7 Lace model drops 56 grams, and more importantly, they are $100 cheaper than the BOA version.
The overall shape and fit of the 7 Lace are incredibly similar to the S-Works 7. Both shoes use the same Powerline carbon outsole, which Specialized naturally claims is their lightest and stiffest. The Padlock heel cup is shared between the two shoes as well. The obvious difference is laces versus BOA dials.
I have been a fan of laces for cycling shoes ever since I first tried the Giro Empire shoes around 2012. Since then, I’ve used many different shoes with all kinds of closure systems, but my preference for laces has remained. Part of this is because I have low volume feet, meaning that with many shoes, I will max out the retention system to get my desired level of tightness. With BOA dials or Velcro straps, this will often result in hot spots and discomfort, even on shorter rides. Laces generally solve this issue for me as they provide twelve individual points of tension adjustment on the shoe. This is basically a fancy way of saying that I can gradually apply more tension when lacing up my cycling shoes as I move up the shoe towards my ankle. I get the tight and secure hold I want without the pesky hot spots.
In ten years of riding with laces, the only time I’ve had to stop and retie them was because there was a rock in my shoe. While I do tend to fiddle with my shoes while riding using BOAs I never seem to miss the on-the-fly adjustability when I lace up. But for many riders, the lack of on-the-fly adjustability with laces is a deal breaker. If you are a rider that is curious about laces I would still encourage you to try them. Yes, it takes a bit of practice at first to get the tension of laces right but after a few rides, you’ll be rewarded with a consistently tight and comfortable hold.
A lot of this applies to lace up shoes in general, so how are the new S-Works 7 Lace specifically? If you are a rider that has used S-Works shoes in the past and have liked them, then you will not be disappointed with the new 7 Lace. The fit is identical to the current S-Works 7, and because the shoes share the same carbon fiber sole, they will perform similarly on the bike. I have had fit issues with S-Works shoes in the past stemming primarily from their minimal amount of padding and their very stiff uppers, which are great for performance but make for a painful initial break in period. I won’t claim that these issues weren’t present in the 7 Lace, but they were much improved. The initial break in period was much shorter at around three to six hours of riding.
So far, I’ve been able to ride in the new shoes for about four months, and they’ve become my go-to shoes for riding on the road. They’ve proven to be very comfortable, so much so that I rarely ever think about them while on the bike. Stiffness and power transfer are excellent and on par with other brands high end models.
The durability of the 7 Lace has been good so far. Keeping them clean has been easy, with an occasional wipe down using a damp cloth doing the trick. The engineered mesh upper is thin to the point of being transparent, but the “vivid coral” color shoes I have still look essentially new after four months of use. If the distinctive coral isn’t your style, the shoes are also available in solid black or white.
Overall, I really liked these shoes. They offer performance on par with other S-Works shoes while being $100 cheaper. The laces, which work well for me, also seem to solve some comfort issues that I’ve had with other S-Works shoes. For riders that have had fit issues with Specialized shoes in the past, I would recommend cautious optimism. The laces add comfort, but they don’t change the fundamental shape of the shoe, and as with other contact points like saddles, shoes are very personal in terms of fit. But, if you’re a rider that has gotten along with Specialized shoes in the past (and are open to laces), then chances are good you’ll like these as well.