An image of the Specialized S-Works EXOS Road Shoes out of the box

Review: Specialized S-Works EXOS Road Shoes 1

Specialized S-Works EXOS Road Shoes In-Depth Review

This is an in-depth review and unboxing of the new Specialized S-Works EXOS road shoes. These cycling shoes have been recently teased at the 2019 Tour Down Under where a Specialized sponsored Bora-Hansgrohe rider was spotted wearing the pair of new light weight shoes with a single Boa dial.

I’ll be reviewing a size 9.6 US-M. I’m typically a size 9 in most running shoes. I wear a size 9 in Adidas Ultraboosts and Nike cross trainers. I’ve always found cycling shoes to run a tad bit small so I fit into a 43 EU when it comes to cycling. I’m basing this fit off of the current 2 pairs of road shoes I own, the Giant Surge and the Louis Garneau Carbon HRS-2 road cycling shoes (used for indoor training). Sizing up also allows me some extra wiggle room for my toes and also space for my Woolie Boolie cycling socks on those colder days. It feels right for me. You can keep these notes in mind when you’re going to pick a size for your EXOS shoe but your best bet is to actually try them on at your local bike shop and see how they feel.

An image of the Specialized S-Works EXOS road shoes box label

The Packaging

Being a millennial, the unboxing experience is quite meaningful for me. I always dig a great unboxing experience. The packaging for the Specialized S-Works EXOS road shoe looks cool. These shoes come packed in hexagon shaped box with hexagon patterned cutouts. Looking through the cut-outs, you actually can’t see much. The shoes are wrapped in black tissue paper. It almost looks like the box shape was space pod inspired. Considering part of this shoe is made from the same material NASA uses in parachutes, maybe that’s what inspired it? Other than that, that’s all there is to the packaging. I think Specialized really wanted to keep the focus all on the shoe.

An image of the Specialized S-Works EXOS road shoes packaging box

What’s in the Box

In the box there’s a black single button shoe bag with a S-Works logo on the bottom right. I don’t know if I’d ever use this bag but it’s a nice to have. Then there’s the pair of Specialized S-Works EXOS road shoes and a shoe manual. The shoe manual is fairly generic. It doesn’t look like it’s specifically made for the S-Works EXOS road shoe. It’s got some instructions on how to put on the cleats. I won’t be cleatting these myself. I’m going to get these properly fitted at Bike Deopt. I find any minor discrepancies in the proper cleat placement and I’ll feel it in my outer knees on those longer rides.

Putting on the Shoes

The shoes themselves blow me away. They’re light. Ridiculously light. It almost feels weird holding them because you wonder if you’re actually holding a cycling shoe. According to Specialized, a size 42 shoe weighs 150-grams.

When I first tried to put them on, I thought they were too small. I actually couldn’t get my foot in. It turns out I didn’t have the Boa dial opened all the way. The trick is to open out the Boa and lift the shoe tongue up. This’ll open up the slack on the lace. Once I did that, my foot slipped in quite well.

Once on, they feel amazing. The Dyneema® material really conforms to the shape of your foot. The material get’s a bit wrinkly and it doesn’t look quite as nice once it crinkles up but when you look down and you see S-Works, it says kind of says it all. I really like the single Boa dial. Specialized placed it well and when you dial it in, it snugs nice.

I’m looking forward to getting these cleatted and testing them out on a real ride. I almost don’t want to try them out on my Wahoo Kickr so I might just wait another month or two. Once I try these out on a real ride, I’ll be updating this posting with some more feedback.

What are the S-Works EXOS road shoes for?

They’re made for going fast on your road bike.

What’s so great about these shoes and why are they so darn expensive?
It’s all about the upper material. Specialized used an exclusive blend of non-stretch Dyneema® material that’s similar to what they used in the S-Works 6 shoe. This material is apparently the same material NASA uses for parachutes. Using this material attributed to the massive weight savings. Specialized also used a soft heel and used an adaptive material to cover the toes.

The other major breakthrough is the carbon outsole. With the help of carbon engineers, Specialized were able to remove weight without sacrificing the stiffness of the shoe. That’ll explain the cutout holes on the bottom.

Do these shoes have Body Geometry?

Yes. The shoes come with a BG+ footbed and are compatible with all of the Specialized custom footbeds and wedges. If you’re concerned about fit, you most likely won’t have to be. Specialized has accounted for most foot sizes and shapes.

How does the fit compare to the S-Works 7?

While the fit will feel familiar to an S-Works 7 shoe, the reality is the shoes are completely different. The Specialized S-Works EXOS lacks a heel counter and toe box meaning this shoe has significantly less structure and provides a conforming fit. That being said, they still provide excellent foot hold and power transfer. The Dyneema® material will create a second-skin fit that’ll make you almost forget you’re wearing them.

Is this Specialized S-Works EXOS stiffer than the S-Works 7?

If we were to compare the ‘stiffness index’, the S-Works 7 is a stiffer shoe with a stiffness index of 15 versus 13 on the EXOS, however, a stiffness index of 13 is still considered quite stiff and you get the weight savings you can’t get on a S-Works 7.

What about my toes?

While your toes are covered by what seems like an ultra thin stretchy material, it’s very unlikely you’ll do any damage to them on a typical road ride.

Why one Boa dial instead of two?

With one dial, Boa’s IP1, it allowed Specialized to save weight and use a dial that pulls laces from both sides to close the entire shoe.

Is the heel lug replaceable?

Yes, the heel lug comes out via a recessed screw. You can undo this screen and replace the heel lug. It uses the same heel lug as an S-Works 7 shoe.

What is the Specialized EXOS 99 road shoe?

The Specialized EXOS 99 shoe is a limited run of sub 100 grams bike shoes. Specialized replaced the Boa® dial with laces for ultimate weight savings. They also made a special outsole that’s 20% lighter than the EXOS. These shoes were extremely difficult to manufacture hence they were lotted to a limited production of 500 pairs globally.

What are the weights for the Specialized EXOS 99 road shoe?

Size Maximum Allowable Weight (g)
40 92
40.5 93
41 96
41.5 97
42 99
42.5 100
43 105
43.5 106
44 111
44.5 112
45 116
45.5 118
46 122
46.5 123
47 127
48 132

Are these shoes durable?

Yes. Specialized has spent tens of thousands of hours testing them and they’re as durable as the S-Works 7. They also tested them at the 2019 Tour Down Under. I would say that if they can withstand tour level pro use, they have to be quite durable.

Can I use the S-Works EXOS for racing?

Yes, these shoes were made for bike racing.

Can the Boa® dial be replaced?

Yes, you can replace the Boa® IP1 system. There’s a great video on YouTube that shows you how to replace them.

Hope this product review of the Specialized S-Works EXOS road shoe has been helpful in giving you a closer look. After reading this review, you’ll need to decide if this shoe is right for you. If you’re a weight weenie or like to have the latest and greatest in cycling gear and shoes, it doesn’t get better than the Specialized S-Works EXOS, for now at least!

Let me know your thoughts on this new shoe from Specialized. Comment below and share.

One Comment

  1. The Bag is a great feature! If you don’t already use it then you should reconsider.
    I store my S-works 6 shoes in the bag before and after rides. It makes it convenient to carry my equipment to races, group rides and events.

    Great review, I’m make sure to pass by Bike Depot and try on a pair!

Leave a Reply