Bontrager’s new top-of-the-line road shoe is built for the professional peloton, but is available to you and me. They don’t come cheap, but there’s no question the XXX Road shoes earn their keep.

Bontrager XXX Road Shoes Features:

  • inForm Pro last for an optimized, high-performance fit
  • Platinum Series Carbon sole – Bontrager’s lightest, stiffest sole
  • Dual independent Boa IP1 dials for zone-specific adjustability
  • Premium Clarino microfiber upper for lightweight, durable and supportive comfort
  • Ergonomic inForm footbed for all-day comfort and support
  • No-slip heel lining
  • Stiffness index 14
  • Weight: 260 grams (44.5, each)
  • MSRP: $399.99
Bontrager XXX Road Shoes Review

White Lightning — these shoes are race-ready.

Are the XXX Road shoes legal doping?

No, I’m not condoning doping. What I am embracing are legal advancements that will give you an edge in your local criterium or on that elusive KOM you’ve been seeking. Some of these things are placebo, but others do truly give you an advantage. That said, I’ll go on record that the new Bontrager XXX Road shoes are akin to legal doping, so thankfully you won’t be required to provide urine samples.

Why are they so close to cheating without actually cheating? Well, because these shoes are stiff, form-fitting and sexy. Is this the shoe for everyone? Well, no, but if you want the best-in-breed, look no further than these dancing shoes.

While there is no universal standard for sole stiffness, these rightfully boast an index of 14. After taking a handful of other shoes I’ve got on-hand, these hold their own. They are noticeably stiffer than the Bontrager Velocis, and pretty much identical to the Garneau Course Air Lite that I tested earlier this year (another great shoe, by the way).

Throughout the year, I’ve covered the full lineup of Boa-clad road shoes from Bontrager, and the XXX’s are in an elite class. I will admit that my first couple of rides in them made my feet hurt, seemingly because they are so stiff. Subsequent rides have been met with practically no numbness or foot pain — only foot-cradling comfort. Particularly, the metatarsal button and wide toe box really help maintain circulation on long climbs and hours in the saddle. Plus, that wide toe box came in handy as I nursed a broken pinkie toe this summer.

Santa Cruz Stigmata CC in American Fork Canyon - Bontrager XXX Road Shoes

The XXX’s are my secret weapon when rocking the cross bike on the road.

Power to the pedals

I ride Speedplay Zero pedals and getting the cleats set up was very straightforward. The only thing of note is I had to place the cleats as far inward as possible to provide proper heel clearance, so you’ll likely need to do the same.

As far as shoe lacing options, the XXX’s sport Boa’s IP1 system. What that means is the dial ratchets in both directions to tighten/loosen and pops up to release. What’s cool is that with this system, they mirror image the right and left shoe so inward is always tighter and outward is always looser. In the saddle, it makes for an intuitive system to adjust on-the-fly and I used it a lot. No question, it beats every other lacing system on the market. And, having dual dials allowed me to pinpoint the upper/lower fit as needed. As an added benefit, you can dial in the fit while wearing shoe covers — that’s not possible with Velcro or ratcheting buckles.

I’ve exclusively worn Bontrager RXL socks with these and have found them to be a great match in every way. It was easy to consistently dial in the fit and my feet stayed put for instant power transfer. The no-slip heel lining noticeably keeps your heel locked into place.

On the road, these shoes make you feel fast and that’s why they are a secret weapon. You’ll notice the initial stiffness on climbs and while sprinting — the Platinum Series soles don’t flex one bit while the uppers cradle your feet in soft Clarino leather. That combination of fit and stiffness rewards those seeking the highest level of performance.

Breathability is fantastic in these, but keep in mind that they do get chilly when the temps drop. You’ll want to have a good pair of shoe covers on-hand for cold weather riding. On one recent ride, I got caught in a brief rainstorm that was just enough to get my feet wet. One the rain stopped, the XXX’s dried out fairly quickly — in part due to the breathability.

Durability has been solid — in spite of these being bright white. I did spray them with shoe protector just to add a little better stain protection. It seems to be helping since I only have a few minor scuffs. The soles show little sign of wear and should you need it, the heel tread is replacable.

The Good

  • Leather uppers set these apart
  • Wicked-stiff soles
  • Dual Boa IP1 for the best closure available
  • Perform well even when soaking wet
  • Available in bright or subdued colors
  • Proven durable
  • Locks your feet in place with zero slop
  • Adjustable even when wearing shoe covers

The Bad

  • A whole lotta Benjamins
  • Stiff soles made my feet hurt on the first few rides
  • Watch that toe overlap — you can scuff your toes in a jiffy

The Bottom Line: Bontrager XXX Road

The pro-level XXX Road shoes have every feature you’ll ever dream about in a pair of road shoes. Yes, I did say dream because these are the shoes dreams are made of. With foot-cradling stiffness and power transfer, you’ll appreciate the legal doping these shoes deliver.

Buy Now: Visit Bontrager.com or Your Local Trek Dealer

In Summary

9.0 Bonkers Stiff

The Bontrager XXX road shoes are off-the-charts stiff and responsive -- like legal doping. If you want the fastest, most responsive and capable shoes on the market, look no further.

  • Comfort 8
  • Stiffness 10
  • Quality 10
  • Breathability 9
  • Value 8

About Author

A Seattle native, Jason developed a love for the outdoors and a thing for mountains. That infatuation continues as he founded this site in 1999 --sharing his love of road biking, mountain biking, trail running and skiing. That passion is channeled into every article or gear review he writes. Utah's Wasatch Mountains are his playground.

4 Comments

  1. Hi! Nice review, I love the idea of “free speed” coming from the shoes! Hard to find many complete reviews on these, so your insight is appreciated.

    To that effect, I was wondering on how you would rate these for wide, low-arch feet with a high instep. I currently have Lake shoes and they are supremely comfortable, but are starting to feel their age.

    Any input would be hugely appreciated, thanks!

    (If these work out, I’m going for the red ones. Holy moly those are some sweet looking shoes!)

    Cheers,

    • Thanks for the kind words, Bernard. Yes, these are fantastic shoes. Super stiff and racy with a little more wiggle room that most race-specific shoes. But, I’d still be hesitant to give you the nod with your foot shape.

      Perhaps you might be better-served with the Velocis shoe? It’s available in wide widths and is nearly as good for about half the cost.

      http://www.feedthehabit.com/road-biking/bontrager-velocis-road-shoes-review/

      They don’t have a red color, but they do have a sweet black/salmon color that I tested. I quite like them. But, again, not red. Good luck finding your perfect fit. Oh, I’d say another option might be the Specialized Audax shoe — they also are available in wide.

      • Thanks Jason, that was my gut feeling – and thanks for the velocis suggestion. Though I love the look of that hot salmon+black, I’m not sure Id like it as my only shoe color.

        I’ll definitely look into the Specialized, as well as Shimano’s wide shoes (R171 and R321) and Lake, even though Lake is apparently hard to find in Canada.

        Thanks again and keep up the good work! If ever you’re in Montreal, I’ll buy you an espresso to thank you properly.

        Cheers!

        P.S. What is that cool captcha plugin?

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