By Joshua Cohen
Lake has been making cycling shoes since 1982. Based in Evanston, Illinois, the company has developed a reputation for reliable, economical models. However, recent additions to the Lake line have brought it into competition with high-end, pro-level shoe manufacturers. Its CX400, for example, retails for $480.
For the $280 CX330 C, Lake has incorporated advanced technology into a race-worthy road shoe. This model addresses each requirement with innovation and style. Let’s go through the checklist.
The CX330 C features one-piece carbon fiber soles. Those on the size 44 shoes I received have an opaque white color. The black sole version uses a clear resin to expose the weave. The sole is drilled in the standard three-hole pattern. (The next model up in the Lake line, the CX 400 Speedplay, is one of the few shoes offering the four-hole Speedplay pattern.)
The sole is plenty stiff and compares favorably to other carbon-sole shoes I’ve tried. It’s relatively thin, which puts the foot close to the pedal axle. What appear to be two small vents do not actually pass through the sole, nor are there cutouts in the liner for air flow.
Toe and heel tabs made from TPU (a type of plastic) protect the sole during walking. Unfortunately, the tabs are bonded on and not replaceable when worn down. Because they are painted with the same top coat as the carbon, they may initially seem slick to walk on. But as the coating wears off, more rubber is exposed and they grip better.
I use the Speedplay pedal system and found that the curvature of the cleat mounting area requires more leveling shims than Speedplay provides. After a bit of trial and error, I was able to closely approximate a flat mounting surface.
Secure Retention System
The CX330 C replaces straps and buckles with a unique lacing method. It’s a proprietary system made by Boa Technology, Inc., in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. The system is licensed to several shoe manufacturers, so you may see it used in ski boots, running shoes and other footwear.
Boa has stainless steel cables laced through plastic eyelets and wound around a ratchet wheel behind the heel. The cables are tightened by turning the wheel clockwise (same for left and right shoes) and loosened by pulling the knob outward.
Boa works. The system evenly disperses pressure over the top of the foot. Once you tighten the cables, they don’t loosen the way strips or laces can during a ride. Hot spots and numbness from those traditional systems are eliminated with Boa.
Because I often tighten my shoes to the extreme for time trials and sprints, I had to get used to the feeling of evenly distributed pressure. The heel-mounted knob’s small size limits the ability to crank down and get the amount of pressure you can with buckles (and the company warns against over-tightening). However, the rest of the shoe held my feet so well that I didn’t experience any heel slippage or foot movement during hard pedaling efforts — which made me rethink how tight shoes need to be in the first place.
For riders seeking relief from tourniquet-like buckles and straps that can be difficult to adjust and can wear out, Boa might be the answer. If any part of the system breaks, customers can contact Lake or Boa for replacement parts that are easy to install.
(Note: For 2008, Lake says it will be changing the Boa cable pattern to provide more tightness in the forefoot.)
Lightness, Style, Durability
Thanks in part to the lack of straps and buckles, the CX330 C shoes are light at around 540 grams (19.3 oz) per pair. The Boa lacing system gives them a sleek aero look.
The upper is made of mesh and K-Lite — kangaroo leather, which is lighter and more resistant to abrasion than cowhide. If you want to wow your friends with science, this is because kangaroo leather has greater uniformity and alignment of collagen fibers as compared to cow leather.
K-leather also does not contain sweat glands or erector pili muscles. Thus, it’s more consistent in composition and resistant to tears.
Fit & Comfort
Inside the shoe, the tongue and heel are lined with Outlast, another fancy bit of technology that is used for various applications. Outlast is what the company calls a “phase change” material. Here’s a bit more science: Very small microcapsules (or Thermocules) are impregnated into the fabric. These microcapsules are made of a substance that changes from solid to liquid as energy/heat is added. They absorb and release heat to control your skin temperature.
Although I didn’t get a chance to try Outlast in cold temperatures, I did ride in 110F-degree summer heat. The shoes performed well even on rides longer than two hours in hot conditions, feeling breathable and comfortable.
Fit is obviously a very personal element of footwear. After the usual break-in period (about 12 rides), these shoes were forming to my feet and initial, minor points of irritation began to disappear.
The CX330 C ankle felt a bit taller than on other shoes. The vamp accommodated my average/narrow feet, and the heel cup retained my feet well. The toe box was plenty wide, with a tad less height than some other brands. The Outlast padding was comfortable and molded to my feet the more I wore the shoes.
With sleek looks and innovative technologies, the Lake CX 330 C is a serious contender among the upper tier of road cycling footwear. If you like shoes that you can make very tight, these might not be for you. However, if you are searching for a light, stiff, durable shoe with even pressure distribution, these Lakes should be on your short list.
Joshua Cohen is a physical therapist and designer of the Kontact Saddle. He wrote his graduate thesis on male ergonomic bicycle seat design. Then, distilling his voluminous scholarly research, he wrote Finding the Perfect Bicycle Seat and, more recently, The Illustrated Guide to Bicycle Seats. Both eBooks are available in the RBR eBookstore.