Time for another review… Since I’ve clicked over about 900 miles so far on my Specialized Ember Road Shoes, I decided I’ve had more than enough time to form a solid opinion and offer my review!
I have the 2012 model version of this shoe, but I believe the changes to the 2013 lineup were the color schemes, sole stiffness, and only accepting 3-bolt cleat designs. I chose white/red, which is amusingly strange as I am not the biggest fan of red and it clashes with my road bike. Go figure! Black versions are offered for both 2012 and 2013.
To start, the details straight from Specialized:
This women’s design is inspired by our S-Works model and offers performance-enhancing Body Geometry technology, Boa® dial adjustability, and our proven injection composite sole for the value-minded road rider.
- Women’s-specific contoured fit
- Stiff, injection-molded and glass-reinforced sole with generous vent ports at the front and rear: 5.0 stiffness index (2012) version) 6.0 stiffness index (2013 version)
- Performance-enhancing BG features in the outsole and footbed
- Lightweight Boa® L4 rotary closure and forefoot Velcro strap for on-the-fly tunability and dynamic fit; features a quick-release lace pull
- Synthetic upper with mesh venting for supple fit
- Fits both 2-bolt SPD (2012 versions only) and 3-bolt cleat systems (2012 and 2013 versions)
- Approximate weight: 265g (1/2 pair #39, 2012 version), 250g (1/2 pair #39 2013 version)
Retail Price: $160 US for 2013 models, $150 US for 2012 models (available on the Specialized website under the outlet category)
- Love love love love the Boa system: I hate velcro, I always have. So I fell instantly in love with the Boa system, and my views haven’t changed. I love how easy it is to throw on these shoes, spin the dial, and go. The Boa lacing holds constant pressure/tightness, so I rarely have to adjust. Removing the shoes is just as easy; pop the dial and pull the quick release lace pull and that’s all! To boot, these are the only women’s specific road shoes that Specialized offers with the Boa system aside from their $400 S-Works model. The Boa system is offered with a lifetime warranty, and from what I have read on the internet, they are really good about warranty claims and sending in replacement parts if needed. I haven’t had any issues with this lacing system since getting the shoes last July and riding all these miles in them.
- Sizing/Fit: I wear a size 41, which I think roughly translates into a US sizing of 9.5. That means they’re pretty true to size. There’s not a single part of this shoe that isn’t comfortable! Now I must disclose that due to my funky varus issues with my feet and high arches, I do use the BG Green Footbeds in the shoes. But even when I added those footbeds the shoe did not fit smaller and I had the same amount of toe wiggle room. I’m weird about my toes, and freak out a bit if they are squished or don’t have enough wiggle room, so this factor was important to me. These are just about the comfiest shoes I own, with only my Specialized Motodiva mountain bike shoes eeking them out (and that’s only do to the fact I can wear the MTB shoes normally and not worry about slipping and falling on my butt).
- Ventilation: This is a double edged sword. It is great in warm/hot weather and during the summer. I like feeling the breeze and knowing my feet aren’t overheating. In cooler temperatures and in cold winds, however, this changes and these shoes are definitely NOT warm! Shoe covers and nice wool riding socks become a necessity. These shoes become a little too breezy around 50 degrees and colder. I have worn them in 35 degree weather with no shoe covers before, and quickly lost all feeling in my toes.
- Cleaning them up: White shoes never stay white. I was pleasantly surprised how easy these shoes cleaned up with a bit of leather cleaner. I had all the chain grease, road dirt, and even grass stains (not sure how those got there??) off the shoes in no time.
- Off the bike: They’re road shoes, therefore that automatically equates to clacking around when off the bike. I use Look pedals, so I have the very large triangular plastic cleat mounted to mine. I clack. I don’t mind, honestly. Comfy shoes are comfy! Just watch the surface you walk on carefully… smooth painted concrete, tile floors = slipping hazard. The day I bought my road bike I stepped off the trainer during my fit and swiftly did a cartoon slip flat onto my back in the middle of the bike shop because I didn’t realize the shoes have no grip. You’ve been warned.
- Pricing: I think you get a hell of a lot of shoe for $150/$160! They’re like baby S-Works shoes, without the price tag. I’ve looked at other brands of shoes in this price range, and just do not feel you get the same amount of features or quality.
- Overall: I’m enough of a newbie that I don’t really know the intricate nuances of sole stiffness and details like that. What I do know is I love these shoes and how they fit. They keep me pedaling, which in turn keeps me happy. I foresee a lot more miles with these shoes (when do road bike shoes “expire” anyway? See, still a newbie…). Because I am such a fan of the Boa system, I foresee myself staying in the Ember line in future purchases, as $400 S-Works shoes are way out of my shoe budget (pending future lottery winnings, of course!).
The styling on the 2013 models is a bit more sleek. I like the white/lavender scheme, and have to really try hard not to just jump and buy a pair because of that (they also offer a black/teal). I also like how there isn’t all the mesh that made it look more of a gym shoe.
Disclaimer: I purchased this item at full retail price for my own personal use. All comments and opinions are my own and I was in no way compensated for the review.