By John Marsh, Editor & Publisher
Cost: $299.99 MSRP
Colors: White/Black; Black/Yellow Fluor; Black/Red; Black/Blue
Sizes: 6.5 – 12 U.S. (39-47 European)
Features: Clarino microfiber uppers; IP1 BOA closures; graphene-infused carbon fiber soles
Obtained: test sample from company
RBR Sponsor: no
Available: direct through Catlike.us website, retail stores
Tested: 2 months
High Quality, Unique Features, Looks Make for Super U.S. Debut
Catlike, the Spanish company long known primarily for its distinctive helmets, has for the first time launched its entire shoe line in North America. I tested the top-line Whisper Road model white/black shoes shown in the photos throughout this review and found them to be chock full of quality, unique features and good looks that make them a welcome addition in my closet.
I’ll get to all those features in a moment, but what initially caught my eye upon first seeing the shoes were the design cues from Catlike’s helmets that helped make the shoes distinctive and – to me, at least – sharp looking. Namely, the 11 nylon-covered vents on the upper of each shoe, in addition to the toe-box perforations, borrow the same “ovaloid” shape as the helmets’ air vents. Along with the prominent black wrap-around toe cover (it’s actually rubber on the front of the toe) and heel marking (which features a large gray reflective element) these shoes definitely are eye-catching.
But the other features combine with the looks to make them extemely strong performers, as well.
Solid First Impressions on Fit and Comfort
Slipping the shoes on for the first time, I immediately noticed two noteworthy features: First, these shoes feature a non-standard tongue design that envelops the foot and doesn’t slide to one side or the other over time (a pet peeve I have with other shoes). That’s because the “tongue” is actually just a continuation of the shoe’s upper from the outside portion of the shoe (see photo – the upper where the BOA dial closures are located wraps under the other side of the upper to form the tongue). My foot immediately felt comfortably ensconced in the shoe. Furthering this feeling was the non-slip material inside the heel area that lightly grips your heel to hold it in place.
The two IP1 BOA closures and a Velcro strap on each shoe help dial in the exact snugness you want. And the slightly wider than typical toe box was a welcome feature for me, for whom many European-fitting shoes tend to be a little too tight through that area – so that even slightly thicker socks make for an uncomfortable fit.
In fact, Catlike says the toe box “can actually expand a few millimeters extra due to a small overlap near the base of the tongue.” That surely will come in handy during the fall and winter when it’s time to don those thicker socks.
Uppers and Soles Also Packed with Features
The uppers are made of Clarino microfiber, claimed to be three times stronger than real leather, while maintaining breathability. Because of the strength, the thickness of the Clarino is kept to a minimum, adding to the lightness of the shoes. The look and feel is akin to patent leather, and the material cleans up easily with a damp cloth.
Combined, the previously mentioned 11 nylon-covered vents on the upper and the toe-box perforations, along with two mesh vents in the sole, help regulate the temperature in the shoe. I’m not a notorious hotfoot, but over two months of scorching summer riding – much of it in the wet-blanket humidity of Atlanta and wearing socks of varying thickness, some merino – my feet remained comfortably cool.
And I tend to think the wider toe box will actually help my feet stay warmer in cold weather riding, too, as tighter shoes tend not to allow a layer of heat to form around the foot. The Clarino material is also said to help retain heat in cooler weather.
The soles, likewise, feature some high-tech materials. Whisper Road is the first cycling shoe that incorporates a sole infused with Graphene, which Catlike claims is “200 times more resistant than steel, and is extremely light.” That boosts strength without adding weight. The sole is also said to be ergonomically curved to match the shape of your foot.
One final nice detail on the sole are the significant rubber toe and heel plates help protect the sole while walking. It’s a feature that is surprisingly missing (or minimalist) on other carbon-soled shoes I’ve worn. However, about the only shortcoming I found with the shoe was that those toe and heel plates could be made of more durable rubber.
My test period included the weeklong Tour of Wyoming, with several rest stops on each day’s ride necessitating a lot of walking that week over all types of surfaces, including gravel, pavement, grass, dirt and concrete. The rubber toe and heel plates show a bit of wear from all that hoofing it. To be fair, that was probably about a year’s worth of walking for me in the shoes compressed into one week.
The Last Word: This Shoe Achieves its Design Goal
The goal behind the overall design of the Whisper line – including the wider toe box, anti-slip heel, BOA/Velco closure system, Graphene-infused sole, Clarino upper and a metatarsal button in the footbed to help prevent hotfoot (surprising overlooked in all of Catlike’s marketing, but quite a nice addition) – was a shoe that would “maximize comfort without sacrificing performance.”
I tested the shoes over two months that included some super hot weather, long, long days on the bike and rides through all types of terrain. The test period included the six-day Tour of Wyoming, featuring pretty well all of that in one 400-mile burst, including a near-century through the Badlands (basically desert-like) and 131 miles of climbing.
These shoes proved their mettle on that ride, staying comfortable and cool, providing excellent power transfer through those fancy soles, and stayed looking cool, too, despite collecting some serious dust and dirt along the way (easily wiped off).
Catlike’s Whisper Road shoes really are the sum of their parts – and they definitely achieved what Catlike’s designers set out as their goal. They maximize comfort without sacrificing performance. These are some nice shoes, and compared to the prices of some other high-end shoes on the market, they’re a relative bargain.
If you’re looking to try something new and different as Catlike looks for foothold in North America, keep these shoes in mind.
John Marsh is the editor and publisher of RBR Newsletter and RoadBikeRider.com. A rider of “less than podium” talent, he sees himself as RBR’s Ringmaster, guiding the real talent (RBR’s great coaches, contributors and authors) in bringing our readers consistently useful, informative, entertaining info that helps make them better road cyclists. That’s what we’re all about here—always have been, always will be. Click to read John’s full bio.
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