Knit shoes have gained more and more attention in recent years. With advances in technology, these woven uppers are not only breathable, but stiff and comfortable as well. Bontrager’s new Ballista Knit road shoes were updated and built to deliver the ultimate in fit and breathability.
Bontrager Ballista Knit Road Shoes Features:
- inForm Pro last for a high-performance fit
- 100% OCLV carbon outsole delivers efficient power transfer
- Heel-mounted BOA® IP1 dial allows for pinpoint fit
- Breathable, lightweight knit material contours to your foot
- Light DWR for added water resistance
- Stiffness index 12 of 14
- Heel Reel system locks your foot into place
- Custom-fit shoe covers included for cold weather
- Weight: 260 grams (44.5, actual)
- MSRP: $324.99
Taking knit to the next level
Initial varieties of knit shoes left something to be desired. Yes, they were light and certainly breathable, but often they were sloppy and unsupportive. As Bontrager continues delivering some of the best cycling shoes available, their latest take with the Ballista Knit shows just how awesome knit shoes can be.
With this design, Bontrager went with the tried-and-true BOA IP1 fit system. I’ve covered this very well before and consider it the ultimate retention system on the market — hands down. Typically the BOA dial sits on the outward side of the uppers, but the Ballista Knit places it on the heel. Interestingly, ten years ago I tested The North Face Sentinel BOA trail running shoes that had the dial in that same location.
There are pro’s and cons to having the dial on the heel. On the good side, it allows the cable to wrap around the ankle and cinch the entire foot aft in the shoe. The directional fabric in the heel cup (think fish scales) then further locks your heel into place. It’s a solid fit and noticeably keeps your feet in place. Because of this downward cinching, the tongue is a thicker than other shoes (e.g. Bontrager Velocis or Bontrager XXX). That added thickness does add to the comfort and, I believe, is necessary because of the pressure applied with the cinching pattern.
On the downside, I’m not quite as adept at on-the-fly fit adjustments with the heel placement. It’s much easier to reach down to the forefoot for adjustments than on the heel while in the saddle. Maybe it’s a mental block, but I lose track of the proper turning direction on the Ballista Mesh, but never do on the Velocis or XXX, for example. In addition, when performing pre-ride stretches, I didn’t realize how much I rest my heel on the floor to do hamstring stretches, etc. With the BOA dial, I tend to ratchet it up/down on the carpet as I’m stretching.
Breathable for heat, covered for cold
As you can imagine, the Ballista Knit is downright airy. On warm days, there’s little to be desired here as the wind flows through and keeps your feet cool. For hot days, these and the Time Osmos 12 are some of my favorites. But, Bontrager takes knit to the next level by adding DWR treatment to shed light amounts of rain. Obviously, the open mesh material will allow plenty of water to enter during a deluge, but that little bit of water resistance is a nice touch.
Additionally, Bontrager includes a custom-fit set of shoe covers. These offer added warmth on cold, wintry rides and have a heel opening for the BOA to be accessible. It’s cool that these are included, but be forewarned, they take a bit of elbow grease to put on and take off (much more than other shoe covers). But, unlike other shoe covers, these are custom-fit and perform like they were made for each other (because they were). For the record, I did wear them with other shoe covers and was still able to manipulate the BOA dial.
Because the shoe covers are a little more difficult to put on/off, I typically just wore thicker socks on rides from 45-55 degrees. For lower temps, shoe covers are a must.
Stiff and responsive
With a stiffness index of 12 out of 14, the Ballista Knit shoes are as stiff as you’d really ever need. Step on it and the OCLV carbon soles transfer energy in spades. I used these exclusively with TIME XPro 10 Carbon pedals and the cleats were easily-mounted and adjusted for proper placement. My knees and ankles were happy as a lark for hundreds of miles on the road and smart trainer.
Speaking of smart trainers, the popularity of Zwift is at an all-time high and it’s hard to find a better indoor training shoe than the Ballista Knit. The aforementioned breathability of these shoes goes a long way when worn on a long indoor training session.
When standing to sprint or power up steep climbs, these shoes are unflappable. And, as the miles ticked along, my feet were always comfortable. These uppers stretch in just the right places and accommodate various foot shapes with ease. I will say that the forefoot is a little more narrow than the Velocis, but the mesh fabric is much more forgiving. The insoles also feature a small metatarsal button to help spread out your toes and aid in blood flow. Not once did my feet get numb in these shoes.
The white color I’ve been testing looks sharp and snappy, but did tend to get dirty. That shouldn’t come as a surprise, but if you’re worried about that, just go for the black option.
FIT NOTE: I’m a size 10.5 with a regular width foot and low arches. The 44.5’s fit me perfectly and are the same size I wear in all Bontrager shoes.
- Breathability is the bomb
- Unique fit system actually works well
- Locks your heels in place
- Includes custom-fit waterproof overshoes
- Flexible knit uppers accommodate swelling feet and wiggly toes
- BOA placement is sometimes awkward
The Bottom Line: Bontrager Ballista Knit Road Shoes
Knit shoes are gaining in popularity and after testing the Ballista Knit, it’s easy to see why. With pinpoint support built into the woven uppers (using tighter knits where needed), the uppers are supportive and stretchy at the same time. Matched with a stiff OCLV carbon outsole and a BOA IP1 dial, these are some great shoes if breathability is tops on your priority list.
Buy Now: Available at TrekBikes.com
When it coves to breathability, nothing beats a set of knit shoes. Bontrager's new Ballista Knit is not only breathable, but stiff and supportive at the same time with pinpoint knit patterns throughout the upper. Using the BOA IP1 on the heel also allows for a locked-in fit beyond what you'll find elsewhere.