Review: Northwave Extreme XC mountain bike shoes are light, fast & perfect for cyclocross

A few years back, I tested the Northwave Extreme road bike shoes and liked them…still ride ’em, in fact. So when the chance to test their lightweight, racy Extreme XC shoes came up, I stepped up. Like the road shoes, the 2014 model (tested…long term review, here) came in a really bright color alongside the standard black. For 2015, the green carries over and they added a sweet angular gray urban camo with bright orange highlights. The Extreme XC model also gained a Velcro strap near the toe and a partnership with Michelin to develop grippier outsole traction pads. Otherwise, the shoes are similar in materials and design, enough so that this review bodes well for the current version, too…

Northwave Extreme XC mountain bike shoes review and actual weights

The uppers are a lightweight microfiber. The test models had larger perforations across the toe, the 2015 model gets small pinhole perfs across the sides instead. Both have the small mesh vent on top of the toes.

Northwave Extreme XC mountain bike shoes review and actual weights

Despite the narrow Italian look, the shoes are comfortable without constricting the foot. They’re snug, like a racing shoe should be, but not uncomfortably so. A few small mesh vents on the toe and instep combine with a perforated foam tongue to help the feet breathe. During the summer, they never felt hot, probably helped by the light color and thin upper material. In winter, they’re good with thin wool socks to a point, after which there’s not much room inside them for thicker socks so it’s best to switch to a dedicated winter shoe.

Northwave Extreme XC mountain bike shoes review and actual weights

Scuff guards on the toe and bottom instep help protect high abrasion areas. They’re thermowelded to the upper, creating a seamless one-piece upper.

Northwave Extreme XC mountain bike shoes review and actual weights

The heel cup has a reinforced shape inside the bottom 2/3, then sits high on the achilles tendon with a non-slip fabric to keep your foot firmly planted inside the shoe.

Northwave Extreme XC mountain bike shoes review and actual weights

In more than a year of riding, I’ve never had my feet feel like they were going to lift out.

Northwave Extreme XC mountain bike shoes review and actual weights

One of the key features unique to their Extreme mountain bike shoes is the narrow, minimalist carbon sole. For 2014 they used Vibram rubber pads in the center section, which saves you when you can’t quite get clipped in and need some traction on the pedals. It also adds a bit of purchase when hiking unrideable sections. For 2015, they switched to a special rubber from Michelin.

Even with a very stiff sole, these shoes are decently walkable, and they run great over barriers and up steep hills for cyclocross.

Northwave Extreme XC mountain bike shoes review and actual weights

Both model years use a dual ratchet with a release lever. The ratcheting is smooth, even when covered with mud, but the release lever leaves a lot to be desired. Often, I’d have to tighten them a click while holding then pulling the lever, fiddle with it a bit, and then simultaneously pull the cable out while jiggling it. I didn’t have the same issue with this system on the road shoes, so it’s likely just gummed up, but it does mean it takes an extra 20-30 seconds to get the shoes off. To its credit, the system does keep the foot secure and never accidentally loosened.

Northwave Extreme XC mountain bike shoes review and actual weights

Speaking of gumming up, the continuous strip of tread adjacent to the cleats provides a big area for mud to collect. It didn’t seem to prevent cleat/pedal engagement, but it does mean more rotating mass on each pedal stroke.

The upside is that the tread strips also provide a small platform to rest on the pedals, which helps with minimalist pedals like the Ritchey WCS (cleats shown above) and Crank Brothers Eggbeaters (below).

Northwave Extreme XC mountain bike shoes review and actual weights

Tow spike mounts come standard, which I should probably install for ‘cross, but the shoes seem to do fine without them.

Northwave Extreme XC mountain bike shoes review and actual weights

Actual weight for size 47EU (~13US) is 645g for the pair. These came with two sets of insoles, but the 2015 models get a single, newer Extreme Air Evo footbed that gains a little arch support.

Northwave-Extreme-XC-2014-mountain-bike-shoe-review15

Long term, these things have held up very well through more than a year of wet, dry, hot and cold riding on mountain bikes and cyclocross bikes. They clean up easily, are light and surprisingly comfortable…and not just for a race shoe. They’re comfortable compared to any of my cycling shoes. Northwave’s BioMap design claims to put your foot in a powerful position for efficient pedaling, and it seems to work well without causing the fatigue some too-stiff shoes can. They’re stiff, but they don’t beat up my feet. And the carbon sole and treads have held up exceptionally well to the abuse mountain bike shoes usually see.

Northwave.com

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Matt D
Matt D
6 years ago

If these are anything like the road version they are NARROW! I love the fit of older style Northwaves but I guess no mas.

Kristi Benedict
Admin
Kristi Benedict(@kristibee)
6 years ago
Reply to  Matt D

All – I’ve found some of Giro’s shoes to feel narrower than these (especially the first round when they initially launched shoes, but I’ve got a few pair from that brand that I really like, too). The Northwaves never felt too narrow for me, and my pair has held up really well except for the difficulty releasing the ratchet.

Mark Nesline
Mark Nesline
6 years ago

Matt D- I agree! These are very narrow compared to the fit of older NW shoes. I switched to Giro from the older NW and it’s been great. The Giro VR90s are sweet, and worth checking into.

zett
zett
6 years ago

Used this shoes for one year, parts of the sole on both shoes broke off.
I complaining the shoes and got my money back .

Tiago Silva
Tiago Silva
6 years ago

Used the shoes for 2 weeks, had to walk like 400m in an mtb race and the sole was completly destroyed on both shoes!
The open/close mechanism was starting to get really hard to open…
Got my money back, worse shoe I ever had!

yot
yot
6 years ago

as a owner of NW’s shoes for the past 5 years, and these shoes for the past year, i can tell that they are a bit narrower but not narrow as the LG or Sidi.
i got a 46 EU size shoes and 2E in width in my regular shoes and those are sitting great. the only problem like Tiago said is that in technical terrain where you need to walk, the tread strips wear off. other than that i’m very pleased with the shoes.

John A
John A
6 years ago

How did the Northwaves feel compared to the Lake shoes you reviewed?