Review: Northwave Corsair Trail Shoes

Mar 15, 2023
by Henry Quinney  

Northwave, as a brand, can sometimes feel like a sleeping giant. They have a large presence, going between bike, snow, and lifestyle items, but it sometimes feels like their presence isn't that pronounced on the mountain biking scene despite them sponsoring some top pros over the years, most notably some of the fastest enduro racers.
Northwave CorsairDetails
• Lightweight and trail orientated
• Five colorways available
• Sizes: US 4.5-15
• MSRP: $150 USD
www.northwave.com

Their high-end road shoes are a common site in the pro-peloton, though, and the size of their range truly does dwarf most brands with options covering gaiter-equipped snow boots to lightweight XC race shoes. In recent years, it seems the brand has been trying to branch out into more aggressive forms of off-road riding and even released a range of flat pedal shoes several years ago which reviewed fairly well. Making a decent flat pedal shoe is something that eludes most brands that have their roots in different areas of cycling, but Northwave managed to make a sole that was sticky enough to be ridden hard. Maybe not Five Ten levels of grip, but probably close enough to be considered a good effort.

On test, we have their Corsair model, which is meant to be a mid-level clipless trail shoe that aims to blend lightweight, breathability, and comfort for those that aren't looking for the stiffest and lightest shoe, nor the most robust and armored.

The shoe use a natural rubber sole and an upper that features large mesh inserts. To secure your foot in place there is a velcro strap, which works very similar to a power strap on a ski boot, and then an SLW3 dial for you to index the fit. And index is the right word, as this dial can do click-by-click or full releases to make sure you get the fit just so.


Comfort & Fit

The shoes are very comfortable to wear. They're very light, and forgo a lot of the compromises of a more gravity-focused shoe. They breathe well, fit securely and go without a lot of the bulk and padding that you can find on some shoes - all while remaining pleasant and flexible to wear. This isn't a brittle or near-rigid upper like you might find with some mesh-paneled or vinyl-like lightweight shoes. There is a fair amount of give in the upper, which makes it very accommodating. There are also mesh panels on the shoe to help get some air to your feet on hot days.

It is worth using Northwave's size guide, though, including measuring your foot. I sized down after using the guide and the fit is pretty decent. It does feel as if the padding around the heel fits a little low. In a size down, my relatively narrow feet didn't find them too boxy, and the length was good too. I think if I had gone for my normal size, the toe room would have probably been passable but the toebox would have been far too large. As it stands, apart from a word of caution to potentially think about downsizing, the fit seems relatively middle of the road.

The shoe upper is outfitted with subtle mesh panels.
Northwave's Boa-like X-dial is fantastic and helps you index the fit very precisely.

Performance

So, this isn't an ultra-stiff shoe nor is it meant for park laps on the downhill bike. What is it then? Well, I think it's a shoe for the casual rider. Normally, while I would comment on the stiffness of a clipless shoe when reviewing it, it isn't something that bothers me massively. The Northwave is a departure from that, though. This shoe is very flexible and, while great for walking, it doesn't offer enough support for even moderately aggressive cornering. Your foot bends around the edge of the pedal creating quite a significant hot spot.

Another nod to the casual rider would be the cleat depth. Even with no shims under the cleat, and the thicker traction pads in my chosen Mallet E pedals, I never felt that secure in the pedals and would often feel myself rotating and pivoting on the cleat itself as I tried to drive through the bike. This does make unclipping very easy though - for the good and the bad. It was a similar story with Shimano's trail pedals.

The shoe is too flexy for aggressive riding.

The fit of the shoe is great though, and I love the low weight and high breathability. The looks have also grown on me. Initially, I wasn't so sure of the European-backpacking-through-Australia aesthetics, but in the flesh their goofy looks lessen and I actually think it's quite a good-looking shoe. They certainly manage to combine a lot of function and fit into their tech upper.



Pros

+ Light
+ Breathable
+ Comfortable and secure
+ Easy unclips
Cons

- Not enough contact with pedal interface
- Not particularly armoured
- A very flexy sole




Pinkbike's Take

bigquotesI'm not sure we'll ever be in the realm of snow-sports, where shoe stiffness and style are recommended based on an individual's skill or experience, and I don't think we ever want to get there, but the Corsair is a good shoe for beginners. It's comfortable, casual, and lightweight, plus its lack of contact on the pedal makes it very easy to get your foot and out away from the bike. For more experienced riders though, even those on XC or light trail bikes, it ultimately doesn't have the stiffness that they will demand. Henry Quinney



66 Comments

  • 35 3
 Ebike shoe. When you only need to put out 50 watts you don’t need a stiff shoe…..
  • 44 0
 Asics
  • 17 0
 So between these and and the Asics jazzersize shoes, which would be best for general trail riding AND proper ankle support lifting my steed onto the back of a Q8 before a little parking lot après? Asking for a friend.
  • 3 1
 @DuelingBanjos: Hey that reminds me of a new bike ad I saw on here recently for an Audi ebike Razz .
  • 3 0
 @DuelingBanjos: SPD crocs
  • 1 8
flag noplacelikeloam (Mar 15, 2023 at 13:46) (Below Threshold)
 Funny thing is, I was on my Levo the other day and looked down and I was literally putting down about 50 watts and climbing a fireroad. Humbling to say the least.

With that said, usually my number is a consistent 200watts rider input . . . promise. :-)
  • 1 0
 @VtVolk: *Jazzercise™️
  • 1 2
 As dad walks slowly & inevitably toward the shoe section of the bike shop...he feels a draw, an urge...nay...a compulsion. He finds himself lustily staring down at these dark, angry, task specific slippers born of functional need.
Desire, passion & an absolute worth of heart & soul fills every fiber of his being as the box on top is indeed a size 10 1/2 US. Tears well in his eyes as he is stunned to see that even these works of soled art are indeed available in a Wide. Toe. Box!

Wheeling upon heel like an Olympic skater carving that final turn pushed onward by the roars of adulation of the crowd...this dad surges to the counter, purchasing power enabled VISA debit card clinched deftly betwixt his fingers like a dart meant to win the match. Strolling confidently toward the door, he calls out - "Come boy. To the trails!"

Son, humiliated, embarrassed & disgusted to see what this once prideful man had become slumps shoulders, turns toward the door desperate to escape this embarrassing event. He's greeted by a proud parent punching the "Handicap Access Automated Door" button, chest puffed out, paunchy gut tucked into his dress khakis.

Muddled, dark, down trodden & disgusted, we but hear the child grunt under his breath "Gross shoes dad! Not cool!"
...as the automated door slowly whooses closed upon the now emboldened father & poor son as they embark on yet another Wednesday night group ride.
  • 1 0
 @blowmyfuse: I’m sorry but huh?
  • 2 1
 @generictrailrider: they're butt ass ugly and your kid will never want to ride with you again if you buy them.
It was very obvious.
  • 1 0
 @blowmyfuse: perhaps if I read it all. Got a few sentences in and moved on.
  • 60 35
 way to go with absolutely worthless product images.
  • 18 4
 But the black background is so cool... It makes them look like old, worn out shoes jammed in the back of my closet that I've been too lazy to throw in the garbage.
  • 22 6
 It would be so cool if you could be a bit nicer Smile
  • 21 12
 its a pair of black riding shoes, what would you have changed? they have close ups of the materials, uppers, and lowers. Someone aughta call the WAAAMbulance for you.
  • 12 5
 How do these inept comments make it to the top? You can see the entire product aside from the inner/sole. Did everyone skip to the comment section and upvote this before even looking? It makes no sense.
  • 2 0
 is that smoke or stink in the photos?
  • 1 1
 and shoes don't sound much better, why can't he just say it, rubbish
  • 16 0
 Flashbacks to when Northwave and Drake where the go to snowboard boot and binding combo in the 90's.
  • 4 0
 Simple Pleasures
  • 1 0
 Event though they were never that great.
  • 15 0
 Why is the product description section titled for the CB Fabio shoe, Henry?
  • 11 0
 Because I'm lazy and incompetent. I'll fix it now. Thanks!
  • 10 0
 "Even those on xc or light trail bikes"... I want my XC shoes with essentially no flex whatsoever. Tryna get max wattage bro
  • 6 0
 From the Clan review linked:
"On the pedals, the Clan is extremely grippy and offers all of the traction I could ask for, as much as any of the other leading shoes."
From this article:
"Maybe not Five Ten levels of grip, but probably close enough to be considered a good effort."

Yes, I bought a pair of Clans based on that review. Yes, I have learnt my lesson..
  • 2 0
 i really like my Clan's, but am always jealous of my friends levels of grip! Smile
  • 7 1
 Different editors have different takes - and we're confident in them and aren't worried about sometimes disagreeing with each other. That was Dan's impression, and I've included mine in this article. Editorial freedom certainly cuts both ways - for the good and the bad.
  • 8 1
 As a proud dad why would I ever need another shoe besides my Trusty New Balances.........exits chat to yell at kid on lawn.....
  • 4 0
 I go through a pair of shoes yearly. Ive been wearing BOA shoes and boots for a long time. The BOA needs to be top center of the shoe tongue or it gets hit and broken. Terrible design IMO.
  • 3 0
 I've had a pair of Northwave shoes in my stable for many years. Summer, winter, road, MTB...I've had many of them. I think the lack of presence comment is only accurate as an indication of their advertising dollars on PB.
  • 1 0
 I got a pair for 50 bucks. The pink color scheme isnt my favorite, but probably why they were cheap. But I think it is a pretty decent shoe for that much. They aren't super stiff, but I use them for 1 km vertical rides no issue... I am not hell bent on efficiency or anything, but I wouldn't say I have ever felt held back in the least by them. Maybe I am not picky enough...
  • 1 0
 Nope, never again. Bought some NW shoes after a few bad experiences with (every more expensive) 5-10s, and the sole degraded in less than a week at the pedal contact area. Now, about a month in it's completely through the rubber to the foot bed. Really too bad as the style, price and Michelin rubber looked so good on paper. I'm back to 5-10s on super sale or Ride Concepts.
  • 6 3
 "trail orientated" - pretty sure you used "orientated" instead of "oriented" to annoy people. You succeeded.
  • 5 0
 Only Americans are annoyed by orientated. In the UK, where I believe Henry is from, things are orientated. In the US, they're oriented. Same meaning. I went to college in the UK for a couple of years - took me a while to get orientated to this word when oriented seems and sounds simpler.
  • 1 0
 The price of this with a BOA-like dial is great. Unfortunately their website mentions nothing about sole stiffness in their product descriptions.
  • 1 0
 I bought some of their winter ones(raptor arctic?) with those dials and one of them fell off in the first 20 mins of the first ride. The screw had just come loose and dropped out ffs
  • 3 1
 soft and flexy soles is a big NO from me. I feel like they missed something.
  • 4 0
 These shoes are cops
  • 1 0
 Northwaves are the most comfortable shoes I have worn but they just sat way too high off the pedal as mentioned in the review. Bummed, wanted to like them.
  • 1 0
 Stamp Street Fabio??? It would look like someone cut and pasted from a CB stamp review and forgot to edit it….. the Corsair’s are $150, 2 colors and EU sizes…
  • 2 0
 Hello there - yes, I copied a template that I had previously edited - which is definitely my bad. It was just the same titling though, the information was edited and was correct at the time of writing. There are five colours, but two of them have since been moved to the outlet section of their website. The website also gives different RRPs depending where you're from, even though it still gives it in US dollars. If I go through a VPN, I get pricing of $150 from the US website, and you are correct, so I will update that now.

Thanks!
  • 1 0
 I have the flat type with vibram soles Much better than any five ten owned, the quality, the fit, the grip is quite like famous five.
  • 1 0
 Can someone post some pictures so I can actually get a good look at these?

Feel like a movie set for a thriller or sci-fi movie
  • 1 0
 So too flexy for XC, and not enough contact and protection for gravity riding. So just shoes with an MTB look then? Maybe for the riders' pub when you skip the actual ride?
  • 1 0
 Why we don't get offered proper soles for pedaling 16Kg rigs?... It's not hard enough?...
  • 1 0
 I have never really understood why certain bike shoe companies even stay in business.
  • 2 0
 Northwave shoes are generally excellent in my experience though. Just seems that this specific one isn't.
  • 2 0
 Pros:
- Easily unclips

Cons:
- Easily unclips
  • 2 0
 Fix the hole in the sole and it'd be a nice flat pedal shoe Smile
  • 1 0
 Pros

+ Light
+ Breathable
+ Comfortable and secure
+ Easy unclips

Just like my waist fastened boxer shorts
  • 2 0
 Northwave is an Italian brand.
  • 1 0
 I thought "they" weren't calling it "clipless" anymore lol
  • 3 2
 so these are like the 'dad shoe' version of a clipless mtb shoe?
  • 2 0
 As a dad who got a dadcountry bike I would never on these. Dads and newbies aren’t the same. The ‘definition’ is more less sendy but not inexperienced. I changed up to an enduro shoe after generally thrashing the uppers and eventually breaking a toe on an uprooted stump, but before still wanted a high performing shoe.
  • 1 0
 Oh, maybe you just mean dad shoe like those chunky walking shoes. Anyway.
  • 1 0
 @pbandjam: yeah. Dumb joke. Didn’t land haha
  • 1 0
 Surprised it's so limp. their flats are so stiff there's no pedal feel
  • 1 0
 When will there be a wide toe box flat pedal shoe Frown my bunions hurt
  • 1 0
 “A common sight” > “a common site”
  • 1 1
 I'm sold on the Boa on mtb shoes. You can dial in the fit much more precise than with laces, straps, or buckles.
  • 1 0
 These look like they'll need replaced every time I change my back tire. Smile
  • 1 0
 They look like senior shoes. But Marco Aurelio makes them look cool LOL
  • 1 0
 Stamp street Fabio?
  • 5 6
 As soon as I see a boa I am out.





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