Northwave Outcross Plus Shoes - Review

Nov 8, 2017
by Mike Levy  
Rocky Mountain Instinct BC Edition review test Photo by James Lissimore

With a more casual appearance and forgiving soles that don't force you to walk like you need to find the nearest washroom ASAP, Northwave's four-model Outcross series is the SUV range of the Italian brand's catalog, insofar as they're designed for all-around riding. The $159.99 USD Outcross Plus model reviewed here features the company's 'Explorer' sole, which Northwave describes as ''a calibrated stiffness midsole combines optimal power transfer in the pedal area with an ideally flexible medial zone so it also feels great when walking.'' Two hook-and-loop straps and a single SLW2 dial per shoe are used to adjust the fit. You can have the Outcross Plus in red, black, or the forest color pictured here.

Outcross Plus Details

• Intended use: all-around riding
• Walking-friendly design
• Michelin rubber tread outsole
• Single SLW2 dial per shoe
• Two hook-and-loop straps
• Weight: 413 grams per shoe
• MSRP: $159.99 USD


When I think of Northwave, images of brightly colored, very Italian racing shoes pop into my head, but their catalog is home to more than just carbon-soled, ultra-stiff shoes that cost a lot. Sure, they have plenty of that type of thing, but they also have loads of things like the Outcross Plus; walkable, wearable shoes that look like, well, a somewhat normal pair of shoes. That's a good thing, by the way.

Rocky Mountain Instinct BC Edition review test Photo by James Lissimore
Rocky Mountain Instinct BC Edition review test Photo by James Lissimore
The Outcross Plus shoe is subdued enough to go unnoticed, but that doesn't mean that Northwave hasn't squeezed some functional features into it.

The Outcross Plus' subdued appearance doesn't mean they're not home to some tech worth mentioning, however, so let's start at the bottom and work our way up. Michelin, those French tire folks, have their name on the outsole, although it's definitely not the same black stuff that they use for their tires. Whatever it is, Northwave says that it's ''28% more abrasion resistant than TPU,'' so their angle is to up the longevity factor - more on that below.

Unlike racing shoes that have soles stiffer than me on the dance floor to transfer as much power into those tiny pedals as possible, the Outcross Plus is meant to be comfortable on and off the bike. But it's not just a matter of giving the shoe a flexy sole, it seems, with Northwave using a "calibrated stiffness midsole'' combined with a ''flexible medial zone.'' Medial means 'in the middle,' and that's exactly where the shoe is designed to flex a bit, aft of the cleat so that you can plant the front of the foot, lift your heel, and have the shoe come with it.

Rocky Mountain Instinct BC Edition review test Photo by James Lissimore
The bottom of the Outcross Plus is home to rubber with Michelin's name on it, and it's supposed to be long-lasting and sticky.

The top of the shoe is made of a mesh material designed to let your foot stank out and the fresh air in, but it has also received both a water-resistant coating and a bit of extra padding up front where they'll eventually smash into things sooner or later because that's what happens.

The lower-priced Outcross Knit has these things called laces that cycling shoes used to use back in the day, and the standard Outcross sees three hook-and-loop straps across the top of the shoe, but the Plus model, shown here, employs Northwave's SLW2 dial and two of those same straps. The SLW2 system is neat because it does both micro-adjusting and full-release, whereas some other dial systems are only one or the other.


The Outcross Plus saw plenty of duty during the summer, a season that closely resembled how it'd feel if the earth was about three hundred feet away from the sun. Good thing these shoes are well-vented. I'd stop short of calling them airy, but they definitely breathe very well and it doesn't feel like your feet are in cement toasters during a long, hot ride. Some casual cycling shoes, which is how'd I'd classify the Outcross range, are guilty of exactly that, but these Northwave shoes are certainly not. They can feel a bit chilly now that it's cooled off considerably, however, so the Outcross' are probably not the best when the temps are low enough to see your breath.

They're also not as stiff as a sportier shoe, which may or may not be a good thing depending on how, er, sporty you happen to be. It's not that they're heavy or hot, but rather it's their flexible sole that really sets them apart from a pair of performance kicks. Off the bike, they're quite comfortable and feel very much like a normal shoe that has a stiff sole, a fact that makes them great for hike-a-bike adventures.

Rocky Mountain Instinct BC Edition review test Photo by James Lissimore
Northwave's Outcross Plus is a walkable shoe that is best suited to non-racer types.

Coming off a set of fairly sporty cross-country shoes, the Outcross Plus' were initially far too compliant, enough so that foot cramps weren't uncommon near the bottom of a long descent. That was when they were paired with a set of tiny cross-country pedals, mind you, pedals that offer deadbeat dad levels of support. When used with a set of trail pedals with large platforms, like the recently reviewed Nukeproof Horizon CLs, this wasn't ever an issue thanks to the larger pedals providing much more support underfoot.

When not on descents pushing fifteen-minutes in length, the bottoms of the Outcross' felt adequately rigid, more than enough for the causal, non-racer type. In fact, after going back to a set of performance shoes and then switching to the Outcross' again for a hot ride, it was apparent how much cooler and more comfortable the Northwave kicks are. The mesh upper is extremely forgiving, and the fit, while on the skinny side, is comfortable enough to be out of mind at all times. Who thinks about their shoes during a ride? People who have poor-fitting shoes is who.

Rocky Mountain Instinct BC Edition review test Photo by James Lissimore
While they breathe well during warm weather, the Outcross Plus shoe is a bit chilly when it's cold out. Depending on where you live, they might be two or three season shoes.

The two-strap, one-dial system works just as well as having two dials or three straps or any combination of those; there were no hot spots, and nothing came lose until it was supposed to.

That Michelin sole proved to actually be pretty impressive, too. It's soft enough that you don't feel like you're going to end up on your ass when walking on the rock limestone rock we have here, but it also doesn't get torn up by pedal pins. Maybe Michelin should use it to make mountain bike tires? The cleat is also recessed just enough so you're not clickity-clacking around when you're not on the bike, but one of them simply refused to stay tight. I know better than to use a thread locking compound on cleat bolts (only grease, please), but it nearly came to that. Instead, spinning the threaded insert around to use the other set of holes solved the problem, so it was likely a thread tolerance thing.

Pinkbike's Take:
bigquotesIf you're lucky enough to have long descents in your 'hood, or only use tiny cross-country pedals, I'd say to take a pass on these shoes. But, if you're looking for a pair of kicks that breathe remarkably well, and don't want the rigidity and sometimes flashy gaudiness of a performance shoe, the Outcross Plus' are worth trying on. Mike Levy

Author Info:
mikelevy avatar

Member since Oct 18, 2005
2,032 articles

  • 34 0
 The "Plus" indicates it is compatible with plus-sized tires on bikes with boost spacing
  • 4 1
 Plus goes with Plus unless there is a boost version for super wide feet...then it would be too confusing for me.
  • 5 0
 @lRaphl: Clipless-compatible Boost shoes also have 5mm wider cleat slots for added stiffness and stability, and are not backwards compatible. Aftermarket retrofit add-ons will be available unti everyone is forced to buy new shoes.
  • 4 1
 @PinkyScar: You can also order them with medium (27.5mm) and long (29mm) SLW2 dial and hook-and-loop straps but not with the old short (26mm) SLW2 dial and hook-and-loop straps anymore.
  • 17 1
 It will never make sense to me why people who prefers flats will make a comment in a clipless shoe review. Is there just nothing else to do?
  • 9 0
 Hey I need some sort of entertainment while I finish my coffee.
  • 2 0
 For someone like me who works in the bike biz and more or less lives on a bike, these look awesome! I hate walking around at work in stiff ass SPD shoes, and I hate having to switch shoes every time I get on the bike to go out for lunch or a quick test ride. I don't need a shoe to help me win races, I just want it to work for whatever I happen to be doing at the moment. My "street" shoes are just about dead. Might have to try these.
  • 1 0
 I have the older version of these from 2 years ago. I forgot a change of shoes after a ride and ended up in them for 8 hours. Met my wife and kids at a museum/historic district/lake that was close to a trail. I walked several miles in them. Only time I noticed is when I was walking on sidewalks or parking lots and stepped on a small rock with the cleat. Nice shoe on the bike. I use a trail pedal, no issues. They do flex/cause pain on a non-trail pedal.
  • 5 0
 Plus shoes that only go to size 47. Liars.
  • 1 0
 @mikelevy -

I like the look of these and the review was well written - Thanks!

Can you comment on where these fall on the stiffness scale of similar shoes? (I'm thinking Giro terradura, pearl izumi x-alp enduro, mavic cross-max, etc...)
  • 1 0
 I have the same shoes, and they have a little bit more flex than the terraduros, but are stiffer than the chambers. They work best with a medium-large size pedal (xt trail, mallet e, ht, etc). For the average consumer this is the perfect blend between flex and stiffness, amazing for walking and riding. highly recommend
  • 1 0
 @andrewgiesbrecht: thanks! That sounds just right as I find the terraduros a bit too stiff and the x-alps a lot too soft.
  • 1 0
 For everyone that likes these but thinks they may be a bit cold...Northwave now offer a 'winter' version with a GTX membrane that's windproof and waterproof - so in theory they should feel a bit warmer
  • 4 0
 Isn't that the same sole as Shimano ME7's?
  • 4 0
 Er look like normal shoes. Not like any shoes i've got
  • 1 0
 I'm a total Northwave fan now. My Enduro mids have been the most bombproof shoes I've ever owned. Definitely full enduro but they're awesome. Now I'm just trying to decide which of their winter shoes to buy...
  • 5 3
 One of the cleats wouldn't stay tight, but this is PinkBike so we'll just skip over that little detail...
  • 4 1
 I'm sure it's great and all...but damn, that thing is ugly
  • 6 8
 Is it so difficult to note whether or not the shoes are clipless? In this review I had to read half the article before I had any idea.
This is also a huge problem when looking at shoes from online retailers. For some the only indication they are clipless is a picture of the sole. How about just put it in the first paragraph?
  • 4 2
 I... Really? I can't imagine shoes that look anything like this being used with flat pedals - those look completely different.
  • 4 1
 I think it's valid, I would really like a pair of flats with more secure closure, like every pair of clipless has, so when a review doesn't say it gets my hopes up only to crush them. In a similar vein, it also really annoys me when reviews and press releases fail to mention the size of wheels the damn bike uses. You'd think that was important.
  • 3 0
 @Mngnt: These shoes I suspected were SPD. But there are many shoes that use just laces and look like flats but aren't. Buying shoes for my growing sons has been a headache, I have passed over many shoes because they give no indication of whether they are flats or SPD. I was just hoping PB would be mindful that giving dimensions below the header would help a lot.
This isn't just about shoes either; though it's rare, there have been reviews of wheels and complete bikes that never mention wheelsize and on my tiny 4S with a protective case it's nearly impossible to zoom in and get the details.
Over the past year there have been dozens of comments from people begging for options for closure on flats, so everytime I see a new shoe review I wonder and look hard to determine if the shoe is flat or SPD.
  • 2 0
 "Just out for a hike are ya bud?"
  • 1 1
 I liked my northwave shoes until I realized the boa is not replaceable. They are pretty susceptible to breaking off when going through rocky terrain. Would not recommend.
  • 4 0
 It's replaceable and the repair kit is pretty cheap!
  • 2 1
 At least they don't have the usual ballet shoes look.
  • 1 0
 Finally a new standard of shoes we have been waiting for
  • 2 2
 Can't quite tell if they are meant to be that colour or just grubby.
  • 3 4
 "The shoes were chilly when it's cool out."

Has the "reviewer" tried moving closer to the equator?
  • 2 0
 In his defense, I also have Northwave shoes and they ventilation is amazing.... which is awesome in the summer, but my toes have gone numb when it's like 50°F in the fall/spring. I wear ski socks and duct tape over the toe in the cold months.
  • 5 0
 Dress for the weather, or be sorry.
  • 1 0
 It wasn't a complaint, it was presented as an observation. It's very appropriate to include in the review a note that the shoes are well-ventilated and therefore more appropriate for summer use than shoulder seasons in cooler climates. That's part of presenting a complete view of the best use case for these shoes, and to help people figure out whether the shoes are suited to their needs.
  • 1 2
 @ThatDan: Thank you for that clarification on behalf of the writer. I will now put these shoes on my "summer shoe" short list, and continue shopping for shoes more appropriate for "chilly" temperatures. My feet do catch a chill quite easily, and I often wear slippers at home in fall, winter and spring.

I expect future reviews may include controls for ambient temperature, internal shoe temperature, and sock material & thickness.
  • 1 0
 @PinkyScar: we need more hard data. Shoes must be mounted with thermocouples at numerous locations inside and out, and we need exhaustive plots of time vs temperature, heart rate, and ambient conditions taken with several different socks.

Jk. Shoe covers are good too Razz
  • 1 0
 Sock game fail...
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