Fans of flat pedals of the female persuasion looking for shoes have usually had to settle for unisex models and minimal choice. Happily, Specialized have recognised the need and entered the market with the women’s specific 2FO shoe.
‘2FO’ stands for ‘Foot Out, Flat Out’, a phrase that’s used a lot within mountain biking. It comes from the added security a lot of riders feel being able to throw a foot out to the side when traveling fast on rough, steep or muddy terrain.
As a dedicated flat pedal rider, I’ve tried a lot of different shoes from a variety of brands and I have to say I’m pretty impressed with these beauties. They are the most comfortable flat pedal shoes I’ve tried to date.
The Specialized 2FO women’s MTB shoes have a stiffer sole than a lot of the other flat pedal MTB shoes I’ve used in the past, and I was surprised at how big a difference that made on long rides. I tend to go out for 3 to 5 hours, and normally by the end I have achy feet, and my plantar fasciitis (an inflammation of cartilage in the heel) is playing up and causing me pain.
The stiffer sole supported my foot better, provided a noticeably better transference of power when climbing, and a sturdier platforms when descending. No heel pain, no stiff toes or ankles - result! The stiffness in the sole is produced by a nylon plate inserted into the sole in the zone which makes contact with the pedal. It’s called a ‘lollipop’ and it’s shaped to allow more flexibility in the toe and heel area, which allows you to flex the foot for walking and gripping the pedal.
Exceptional fit also plays a large part in how comfy these shoes are. Feet are obviously different person to person, but for me the Specialized 2FO were snug and very supportive about the midfoot, meaning very little movement of the foot and no heel lift when walking or pedalling.
The 2FO shoes are cut quite high on the ankle, which provided more support, plus protection from pedal strikes, rocks and general bumps. Specialized have also opted for an injection moulded rubber cover patch over the the toe area to protect the shoes and of course your toes. So far, so effective, and no signs of peeling or separation from the shoe either.
Of course, when it comes to MTB shoes for flat pedals, the biggest question has got to be ‘does it grip?’. The Specialized 2FO shoes come with a new proprietary rubber called ‘SlipNot’ which as a metal music fan pleased me greatly.
It doesn’t have that instant tackiness or stickiness that FiveTens have, but that also does mean it’s slightly easier to reposition your foot on the go. When it comes to technical descents, I had no problem with grip. The tread pattern, which is different in the pedal contact zone of the shoe to the heel and toe, gripped tightly onto the pins in my pedals (Hope F20, in case you’re wondering). The SlipNot rubber itself is designed with a directional pattern inspired by sharkskin that increases traction when your feet are in that dropped heel position you should be in when descending. It took it down various rocky trails in Afan and the Mendip hills, and didn’t lose contact once. Impressive!
The sole is also supposed to give you grip when walking, and although I wouldn’t want to try climbing anything extremely muddy, they did okay for general scrambling about on the trail and push ups.
Mountain biking in the UK is almost synonymous with riding in wet muddy conditions, so in my opinion a good MTB shoes doesn’t just need to be comfortable, it needs to be good at resisting weather and drying out quickly so you don’t have to put cold, wet, soggy shoes on the next day. The Specialized 2FO have a mesh toe reinforced with a PU plastic. This did let in puddle water and rain, but not as much as I’d been expecting, and the holes on the side allow water to drain out quickly. They dry surprisingly fast, too!
Less important for riding, but still important for me, is how these look. I liked the casual style, and the great fit means they look neat and compact on the foot. I love the distinctive look, a metallic purple body with bright yellow accents and laces. You can swap the laces out for the included plain black pair, but I like my kit loud. The ‘Lacelock’ is a little well-thought-out detail that’s so simple and handy I don’t know why it’s not on more shoes. It’s a little elastic loop on the tongue that holds your laces in place, so you don’t catch them in the chain when riding.
Another bonus of the purple outer, apart from it’s robustness, is that it cleans up easily so a splash of water post-ride will get most of the muck off. I did find that the ventilation in the toe area meant I got cold feet when riding in chilly weather, so it’s worth adding extra insulation for winter rides. The flip side is the ventilation will be great when the weather warms up.
When it comes to sizing, I did get a little confused. I’m a UK 7, which is usually a European 40, but the Specialized size 41 fitted me perfectly. They do go down to small sizes; a 36, which is the equivalent of a UK 2.
Sizes: 36 - 42
Price: £90, available from all Specialized dealers.
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