Specialized S-Works Torch Shoes Review
Over the past ten years, Specialized has become one of the world’s leading manufacturers of cycling shoes. Its rich and varied footwear portfolio includes 39 models, ranging from boutique-priced S-Works models to more budget-friendly versions. Specialized offers everything from flat pedal shoes for shredding the bikepark to raced road shoes for Pro Tour victories to the perfect shoes for commuting.
We reviewed the S-Works Lace 7, Recognition Ventand Recognition models. All of these shoes are a variation on a theme. Specialized took the S-Works 7 road shoe (launched in 2018) or the S-Works Recon mountain bike shoe (2019) as a starting point and varied uppers or closure systems to suit preferences or needs. use by cyclists. Since the S-Works 7 has been around for four years (and Specialized-sponsored road teams have been spotted wearing a new shoe for the past few months), we knew a next-gen S-Works shoe was coming. .
So what’s up?
At first glance, the new shoe looks a lot like the old one. Unless you constantly look at different models of cycling shoes and memorize their closure arrangements, you probably won’t notice the missing Velcro strap at the toes of this shoe. Honestly, I don’t think anyone will miss this weird little strap, and I haven’t met anyone using it.
The removal of the Velcro strip has become possible thanks to a completely reworked shoe upper. Specialized moved down and angled the lower BOA dial to allow the dial to ride up and move instead of just crossing the foot. This arrangement creates a better wrap and support to the front of the shoe, eliminating the need for an additional strap. The new upper also ditches the Dyneema fabric in favor of an in-house material that uses sandwiched layers of material in different areas to create a softer upper where it is needed while providing more support in others.
Specialized also reworked the carbon baseplate, shedding 20 grams while maintaining the same level of sole stiffness. This new baseplate is also slightly wider but retains the same length as the previous version used on the S-Works 7 shoe. Finally, Specialized has also introduced an asymmetrical heel cup. This design provides more room for the Achilles while providing a locked-in feel. So more comfort without sacrificing the engaged ride quality that S-Works shoes are known for.
The new S-Works torch comes in three colors to start with. We tested these shoes in white. Runners who don’t feel like constantly cleaning their shoes can buy them in black or oak (some green to black). Specialized will release a deep navy version and a bright coral version later in the year, as well as a “team white” version that features larger Specialized logos for riders who prefer that kind of look.
How do they ride?
Specialized provided our gear team with several pairs to evaluate. Here are my impressions of the shoe first, followed by notes from three other test crew members with different foot shapes, riding styles, and shoe preferences.
I haven’t had good experiences with S-Works shoes in the past (the Vent models being the notable exception as they use different cushioning). I even made one video on how to break the notoriously stiff shaft of shoes. All the updates to the new S-Works Torch shoe have apparently fixed these issues for me. The new shoe was comfortable from day one, no longer digging around my ankle. The tongue provided ample padding and wrapped around it to protect the tops of my feet from any Boa yarn hot spots. The grip was secure without feeling constricting, especially in the toe box, which felt very roomy.
The stiffness and pedaling efficiency were on par with what I would expect from a top race shoe, which is to say the S-Works Torch is incredibly stiff.
From an aesthetic point of view, I appreciated the very discreet branding on the shoe. It fits right into the sleek look of the shoe and should be appealing to many riders who prefer less branding. The white finish was easy to clean. After about a month of living with the shoes, they stayed white with simple post ride wipes.
When I spoke to my colleague Matt Phillips about his experience with the S-Works Torch, he prefaced our discussion by noting that he generally doesn’t like shoes that use Boa dials. “I prefer lace up or velcro shoes as most dial or ratchet shoes tend to put my feet to sleep. But that said, I found the S-Works Torch to be very good and much more comfortable than the S -Works 7.”
Matt continued: “The overall fit feels a bit in the middle of the road which is a good thing as it should work well for many riders. Specialized has been making shoes like this for a while, but the Torch is much more refined, with excellent heel retention and a very durable upper that wraps the foot without any kinks or hot spots. I’m also glad to see the little Velcro strap gone. It never seemed to do much except pull up the front of the shoe.
Trevor Raab liked the clean, minimalist look of the S-Works torch. Still, he noted that behind that very minimalistic exterior was a well-executed, premium performance road shoe. “What I noticed first was how effective the baseplate vent was at channeling air into the shoe. After more miles, I found the shoes found the right fit. balance between being stiff enough for racing without feeling unforgiving on long rides I wish the Boa dials that Specialized chose to use had the option to do a full version rather than just the micro adjustments from before The toe box felt almost too wide, but that didn’t prove to be an issue after getting used to the flare feel.
Rosael Torres-Davis also really liked the aesthetics of the new S-Works torch, but struggled to make the new wider fit work with her narrow feet. “I really like the overall shape of the shoe, and there was no need to break them in, and I didn’t experience any hot spots or discomfort on my first few rides. But I found the shoe too wide in the toe area for my narrow feet.
For reference, Rosael tested the Torch in size 41.5, and her favorite shoe is a Giro Empire laces in size 42 due to its narrower fit. Trevor tried on the Torch in size 42, and he usually wears the same size in Giro and Fizik shoes. Matt tested the Torch in size 41. His favorite shoe is the discontinued Giro Prolight SLX, but of the current shoes he likes the Fizik Powerstrap R1/R2 and the Giro diet. Its size is consistent among these models. I tested the Torch in 43.5 and found it comfortable, but I used Fizik shoes in 42.5 and Giro shoes in 43.
We all tested the regular fit, but Specialized plans to offer the new S-Works Torch in wide and narrow versions. The wide cut version adds another 4mm of width to the baseplate, while the narrow cut will use the standard baseplate paired with a reduced volume stem. According to a specialist representative, these variants will be available in the US market at a later date and in the black color option.
It’s impossible to write about a new S-Works product without talking about its price. These new shoes retail for $450. Is it worth it ? Perhaps? Compared to high-end shoes from other brands, the price seems in line with similar offerings from Giro (Imperial $425), Bontrager (xxx $420), Shimano (S-Phyre RC902T $430) and Sidi (Blow 2 $580). But that doesn’t mean you can’t buy good road shoes for less money. I recently tried it Fizik Tempo Decorations, which were excellent and cost less than $300. Matt noted that one of his favorite Boa shoes was the $240 Giro Diet.
While Specialized isn’t commenting on future product offerings for the S-Works Torch, I expect to see various iterations of it in the future. Currently, Specialized offers the S-Works 7 in a Vent and Lace version, so we’ll likely see these in the future of Torch.
My main concern with the Torch (which was raised by Rosael) is that the new shoe might not work well for cyclists with narrow feet. Specialized has widened the base plate of the new shoe by 4mm compared to its previous high-end road shoe. The slim fit version will still use this new baseplate but combined with a reduced volume upper. I hope you like the black shoes, because that will be the only color option offered.
Leaving aside the question of whether S-Works Torch will work for your feet – which can be hard to answer without physically trying on the shoe – these shoes are an improvement over the model they replace. It is much more comfortable than the S-Works 7, weighs less, but maintains the excellent power transfer of the S-Works shoes. If previous S-Works shoes didn’t work for you, this new shoe probably solved those issues. So if you are looking for a high end road shoe, this should be on your list of shoes to try.