By Ed Pavelka
Heel and toe pads wear quickly
We’ve been riding in Specialized’s Body Geometry road shoes for three seasons. A month ago, we received samples of the latest version, the 03 Pro. Like the former BG model, it’s designed by Andy Pruitt, Ed.D., of the Boulder (CO) Center for Sports Medicine.
Full disclosure: We’ve been friends with and done rides with Andy for more than 20 years. And we published Andy Pruitt’s Medical Guide for Cyclists with Coach Fred Matheny as co-author.
That said, We’d wear these shoes no matter who designed them. They work for us and we have feet as touchy as those on any two roadies out there, prone to numbness and toe irritation, especially on long rides.
In fact, Ed liked his sample shoes so much that he promptly bought a second pair. This isn’t to say that he’s found them to be as comfortable as a barefoot walk in warm sand, as you’llread.
Pruitt’s shoe design is unique in several ways. First, he incorporates a bit of varus. This means the sole tilts outward slightly when looked at from the rear to accommodate the way the foot contacts the pedal. Also, the shoe’s removable insole (also called the sock liner) has a “metatarsal button” in the middle third as well as a cycling-specific arch support.
You may initially notice the small dome just behind the ball of your foot, but it’ll soon seem to disappear. Even so, it continues to spread the metatarsal bones of your forefoot, thus relieving pressure on the nerves that pass between them. That pressure is what causes tingly toes, numbness and the burning sensation known as “hot foot.”
Ten years ago at the Boulder Center, Pruitt made each of us a custom pair of rigid plastic orthotics to combat the severe case of hot foot Fred had acquired on a 3,400-mile transcontinental ride and Ed had developed during ultramarathon events. We still use these orthotics, but we might not have needed them had the exclusive BG insole been available back then.
The 03 Pro has one big improvement over Pruitt’s original Body Geometry design. It replaces the top Velcro strap with a ratchet buckle. (The middle and bottom straps are still Velcro.) Neither of us had worn buckled shoes but we immediately liked them better. The micro-adjust ratchet is easy to reach and toggle upwards for progressive tightness. It releases quickly with a small red tab. The buckle and ratchet strap are replaceable if necessary due to wear or damage.
For Ed, the buckle is the solution to a problem he’s had in every shoe he’s owned — a top Velcro strap that wears and won’t hold adjustment after a few months. He intended to make his next shoes the ratchet style. The 03 Pro came along right on time.
Pruitt’s first BG model had plenty of room in the toe box, a boon for riders like us who use orthotics (which take up space) or who do long rides that invite swelling and hot foot. The 03 Pro has ample forefoot room, too, but it feels a bit snugger over the ball of the foot and the top of the instep. This probably wouldn’t be noticeable by riders who simply use the stock insoles.
During his 77 hours in the 03 Pro, including a long ride of 15 hours, Ed has experienced the gamut between wide-grin comfort and pain so bad he couldn’t put pressure on the pedals. He wishes Specialized (or some company) would produce road shoes that allow the most effective remedy for hot foot — moving the cleats far enough to the rear to remove direct pressure from the ball of the foot.
New shoes require a get-acquainted period and even some trial and error. Ed doesn’t think the 03 Pro would have caused foot discomfort if he”d worn them differently. He’s been experimenting with the tightness of the buckle and Velcro straps, and with what he wears in the shoes besides his orthotics. For example, before a recent 10-hour ride, he took out everything but the orthotics and that worked well. He had only a couple of brief bouts of discomfort. The footbed is smooth enough to allow this with no risk of irritation.
Fred, whose longest ride in the 03 Pro has been four hours, has had no discomfort when using the stock insole or his orthotics.
The shoes have one more nice feature. They’re arguably the most walkable road shoes ever, thanks to large, soft, non-slip red rubber pads on toe and heel. Combined with Look cleats and Kool Kovers (Ed), or Shimano SM-SH11 cleats with a walkable insert (Fred), we can stroll into the convenience store or Waffle House without any embarrassing skids or clicks.
The material does wear quickly, however. To keep the heels from possibly taking on a permanent cant from walking, you can do like us and apply a layer of Shoe Goo or hot glue to the material’s contact points. That”ll help keep these well-made shoes going strong for several seasons.