By Paul Smith
“A Shoe that feels tailored to my foot”
This was a tricky review for me to write. The inital fit of the Lake CX 331 shoes out of the box was less than ideal. However, with careful set up and adjustment, they earn a high rating. More below on why these shoes grew on me over time and why I recommend them as worthy of consideration.
Out of the box
The Lake CX331 shoes impress on first sight. White with silver mesh accents on the vents, the shoes have a very attractive look. Lake uses kangaroo leather for the uppers, which it claims to be supple from the first use.
One feature of the shoe that I’d not used before is the BOA closure system. An easy few twists of the dial and the wire tightens across the top of the foot from top to bottom, resulting in a snug fit all around. This actually became one of my favorite features of the shoe, so much so that switching back and forth to my Sidi Genius 6.6 shoes felt like a compromised fit.
The Lakes have a well-placed series of vents at the front, side and under the front sole, resulting in great airflow and increased comfort. Lake is also one of the few manufacturers I’ve come across that offer a wide shoe, which my feet demand.
The very first ride is where I found difficulties with the CX331s. I installed my cleats to match the setup on my Sidi’s and rode around the block a couple of times. It felt a close enough, if a little bit compromised — not enough to notice on a short ride but something that I felt like I would have to tweak slightly.
The next day I commuted to work in the shoes and found the cleat position was more than a little off, with my left knee starting to ache after just a few miles. Changes were clearly required. I found that my usual position of setting the cleats to the rear didn’t work at all with the Lake CX331s. Instead, I had to move them much further forward and positioned nearer to the inside of the foot. It took a number of rides to dial in the correct position.
Heat-moldable changes everything
These shoes offer a heat-moldable heel. In order to test how effective this was, I used the shoes as they were shipped for around 150 miles. They demonstrated reasonable comfort but not to the level of my Sidis. I could feel my heel lifting a little bit in the shoe. Most noitceable was the fact that the shoes sit higher around the ankle than I am used to. This resulted in some rubbing, and after 30 or so miles led to some minor irritation.
The real promise of the Lake shoes is the fit adjustment enabled by the heat-molding. By heating the shoes for four minutes in a 200F (93C) oven, the heel cups can be fitted to the shape of your heel. The directions require you to wear your regular cycling socks and put on the shoes as they are removed from the oven, pushing the shoe snug against your foot. Lake recommends ideally doing this while on the bike — setting up the bike on a trainer and slipping on the warm shoe fresh from the oven.
This can be done either with help, or on your own. Since I was setting the shoes up solo, I managed the fit alone at the kitchen table, feet all cozy with the nice warm feeling as they came out of the oven. After 15 minutes, the shoes had cooled and formed in place. Lake claims this process can be repeated as many times as necessary.
Back on the bike, the fit now felt noticeably better. The previous looseness was gone, and the fit was dialed in and snug, with the exceptional Boa closure system wrapping the leather around my foot. On the road, the ankle rub had been reduced although not eliminated. That required one more trip to the oven, and further molding. The final result is a shoe that feels tailored to my foot. It’s a more involved process than expected, but worth the effort.
These shoes have somewhat of a Jekyll and Hyde character. The fit after correct cleat and molding adjustments felt like a major transformation compared to wearing them right out of the box. Power transfer improved, too, with the dialed-in fit. Switching back and forth between my Sidi 6.6’s and the Lakes demonstrated the difference between a great out-of-the-box fit (the Sidi???s) and a more custom fit with the Lake shoes.
I’ve now ridden the Lakes for around 1,000 miles, from short commutes to five-hour-plus rides. Once correctly fitted, they have proven to be a comfortable and effective all-day shoe. My feet have remained free of any hotspots and numbness, even on day-long mountain rides.
Lake CX331s shoes have excellent power transfer from the rigid carbon fiber soles mated to the dialed-in fit allowed by the heat molding and the Boa closure system. The shoes are well-vented and resulted in even temperature control even on the hottest days.
However, this recommendation comes with a caveat. It’s essential to spend time geting the fit dialed in exactly, which requires careful cleat and heel adjustment. I found the molding of the shoes to my feet not just a nice option, but rather a necessity to guarantee comfort and an exact fit. Once setup has been completed, these shoes get high marks.
Paul Smith regularly reviews products for RBR. He’s an avid recreational roadie who lives in thePiedmont area of North Carolina. He commutes often, and his car is worth less than any of his bikes. Click to read Paul’s full bio.