If you prefer classically contoured shoes and haven't found a just-right fit, Lake may be the brand you seek. Lake was founded by a couple of industry guys who believed that the connection between the rider and the pedal was both fundamental to performance and largely downplayed.
Lake understands that you can get a good shoe from a number of brands, so they staked their claim on quality construction and achieving a perfect fit. To that end, Lake are famous for offering a crazy range of half-sizes and widths, and their shoes are made on an equally wide variety of lasts (forms that mimic the shape of the foot), which are regularly updated to conform to our changing anatomies.
MX 322 Details
• Use: XC Racing/Trail
• Natural/synthetic Helcor upper, carbon-reinforced heel-cup, carbon sole
• Aggressive tacky rubber outsole
• Heat-moldable heel cup
• Rear-biased cleat slots
• Sizes: 39 to 46 in half sizes, 47, 48 & 50 (regular, wide & X-wide)
• Weight: 740g (size 42 no cleats)
• Colors: Black/silver, Blue urban (Black/yellow reviewed discontinued)
• MSRP: $429.99 USD
• Contact: Lake Cycling
Lake's MX 332 is one of their most expensive off-road offerings. Its MSRP tops $400 USD and it is designated as a racing shoe. To that end, the 332 is built on a slightly narrower last than the brand's sport shoes, but that doesn't mean you'll have to cram your foot into it like technical rock climbing footwear. The MX is carefully profiled to conform to the shape of your foot from toe to heel.
"Get that right," says Lake's Liam Walsh, "and you don't need to crank down the laces to prevent your foot from moving around while you pedal. Your toes won't go to sleep on long rides and you won't get heel movement."
Getting the Fit Right
I was a good candidate, it seems, for a custom fit. Technically, I should be riding a size 42, but I've been sizing up to a 42.5 in order to keep my toes from taking a beating in the rough. Walsh did some measuring
and recommended that I try a wider shoe and suggested I return to size 42. The narrower shoe, he said, moved my feet forward, away from the heel cup and crowded my toes towards the front.
The difference was readily apparent. I needed much less tension on the laces than I was used to - and I reduced it further during the review period. The MX 332 features a pair of Boa lacing systems, which look a little futuristic for my taste, but admittedly, they provide more accurate and even tension than conventional shoe laces. The bottom line, however, was that my toes didn't get beat up and my heels remained snugly in the back of the shoes. No mid-ride adjustments - check. Comfortable fit - check.Construction Features
Lake's MX 332 uses a combination of synthetic and natural leather upper (called Helcor), sewn in an asymmetric pattern that eliminates pressure points. The toe is reinforced, so you won't feel the brunt of rock strikes, and the tongue is padded. As mentioned, Lake uses a twin BOA lacing system with a simple pop-up release. Ventilation holes throughout the upper help ward off heat, and its carbon fiber heel cup can be custom contoured by heating it at home to ensure the most direct power transfer. A removable insole affords some padding from its contoured carbon fiber sole.
There is no hiding this shoe's racing heritage - its stiff, curved sole will make you walk a bit like Donald Duck. That said, the front of the sole has a well designed "rocker" that makes walking feel much more natural that most XC racing shoes do, and well-placed lugs made from tacky rubber ensure that you can scale rocks and slippery slopes with far more dexterity than most flat shoes can muster. Also to Lake's credit, the hard carbon sole is coated with rubber that's placed to grip the pedal should you need to get a dozen pedal strokes in while unclipped. Both the front and rear traction patches are replaceable too. Riding Impressions
Disclosure: Lake makes a roomier more trail friendly shoe called the MX 168 Enduro, but I chose the racier MX 332 because it featured an equally aggressive sole and a tough upper, with the additional benefits of lighter weight and the promise of better efficiency. "Enduro" usually means "heavier" when it comes to shoes. On that subject, my size 42.5 Specialized 2FO flat shoes weigh 900 grams, my size 42 Sidi Defenders weigh 800 grams, and the size 42 MX 332 weigh 740 grams for the pair.
Three good rides were required before Lake's MX 332 shoes relaxed and completely conformed to my feet. After that, they were (are) quite comfortable. I did not need to re-form the heel cups, as my feet fit the original shape. I did not get much heel lifting at all while pushing up steeps, and there were no pressure points or hot spots while pedaling. There is some give to the shoe while walking, and just enough spring in the reinforced sole to eliminate the dead "road bike shoe" feel that some racing-only footwear exhibit over rough terrain. In short, the MX 332s were easy to like.
Some built-in flex in the front of the sole and a curved "rocker" profile make walking easier.
If you like your cleats slammed way back, Lake's SPD-type cleat slots are set back to accommodate the contemporary mountain bike pedaling position, but fall about six millimeters shy of the rearward positions that Five Tens and my Specialized 2FO flat-soled shoes allow. I had no issues locating my cleats, and there was room to move them farther back. Some like their cleats slammed as far back as possible, so heads up.
I used my MX 332 shoes with both Shimano SPD and Time pedals and found them to be easy to engage and disengage in both dry and muddy conditions. There appears to be plenty of lateral wiggle room in the sole's channel design. Vertically, the MX 332 comes with a warning that at Crankbrothers cleats require at lease one spacer to release properly. This is typical for other shoe-makers as well. I did not need nor try shims using Time or Shimano cleats.
Of course, the big question is, "How much better do your $400 shoes pedal compared to my $150 dogs?" A little bit better is the honest answer. I can say without a doubt that there is a better feel under power and that acceleration feels sharper and more energetic than any flat-pedal shoe I've used - which is why many prefer racing-style contoured shoes. For a back-to-back comparison to a heat-molded Shimano racing shoe or a comparably priced Sidi racing model, I'd rate the Lake a notch lower in absolute comfort to the Sidi, on par with the fit of both, better than both for durability, and a couple of notches above each for walking traction and off-the bike shenanigans.Pinkbike's Take: