Designed to be a lighter, more comfortable version of their S-Works 7 shoes, the new Specialized S-Works Torch road bike shoes are “engineered to disappear”.
While the SW7 shoes are light, and stiff, and a mostly comfortable shoe, some riders found that a few of the touch points or fitment could be a bit too rigid or narrow. Or could pinch in areas once it was cinched down. After getting a lot of feedback from their sponsored riders and testers, they made a long list of ways it could be improved.
And they had some time to do it. The current SW7 debuted in 2018. An SW7 Lace version dropped this past spring and addressed some of the comfort issues by removing the dials and extra hardware, but they still thought they could do better.
The goal was to make it less of a container for the foot and more of a well fitting piece of apparel. Here’s how they did it…
The Torch is an all-new-from-the-ground-up shoe design, and starts with the last.
The SW7 achieved its fit by being tall and narrow, which meant it compressed the foot to create a tight fit. And the “wide” version simply added more material to the upper, keeping the same plate width for the sole on both versions.
The Torch starts with a carbon sole that’s almost 6mm wider (at the forefoot) for the Regular version, and then adds 4mm for the Wide version. The result is an upper that’s better mapped to the shape of your foot, and allowed them to reroute the BOA wires such that it actually presses your foot down onto the sole rather than squeeze it form the sides.
The upper uses a new layering of materials, with a bit of stretch in spots, and a bit of padding in others. They say this means virtually no break-in period.
Reinforced non-stretch sections add structure and direct the dial’s forces directly down into the plate, is what pulls the foot down to the plate while still allowing some expansion spots between them.
They ditched the Velcro strap on the front, too, which allows for more uniform compression without the bunching that could occur with a strap. In fact, the S3 dials are set high on the top of the foot, with nothing over the toe section to squeeze your foot at the front…which is one of the key differences from the Ares which is designed to lock down your forefoot.
Cable guides on the tongue keep it centered, and padding under them prevents any hot spots or pressure points. And the materials are less absorbent, so they’ll dry faster and stay fresher much longer.
About those dials, they used the S3 BOA dials with custom all-metal knobs because they offered the best durability and classic looks. The dials ratchet in both directions, so there’s no “pop dial” for quick release, but it’s easy to make micro adjustments during riding.
The wire guides on the opposite side of the dial are open, so you can easily pull the wire out for maximum opening volume and easy foot removal.
The carbon sole is 20g lighter than the SW7 thanks to a new I-beam construction that’s just as stiff as the thicker truss-like structure used before, even with a much narrower heel.
The edge that better follow the shape of the upper, creating a cleaner look and also removing excess material and resin.
One one extreme, they created the minimalist Exos shoe, which has a completely unstructured heel cup. With the SW7, they had much more structure to better capture the heel and keep your foot planted in the shoe, but it was a bit narrow for some riders.
For the Torch, they found that most riders really only need the support on the inside of the foot. So they angled the heel cup to allow for expansion on the outside without giving up security, using an asymmetrical shape to deliver the best of both worlds.
Despite being all-new, the Torch has some familiar Body Geometry features in play, too:
- Varus Wedge tilts the foot slightly to improve knee alignment.
- Arch Support is molded into the outsole to prevent foot collapse on long rides.
- Metatarsal Button splays the foot bones slightly to prevent hot spots or numbness
The Torch sits alongside the Ares as a top-level model now, with the Ares being more for sprinters and explosive riders who need ultimate security for pulling through the pedal stroke. The Torch is for everyone else, offering a high performance shoe that’s also incredibly comfortable.
Claimed weight is 225g (size 42), available in white, black, and Oak (faded black and olive green). A team edition and other colors will follow later this year for those wanting something flashier.
Retail price is $450 (€440 / £385 / $650 AUD), available in sizes 36-49, half sizes from 38-46. On sale now.