As the name implies, this is a shoe aimed at that growing breed of cyclists who participate in endurance events, or at the very least, would think little of heading out in the morning for a couple of hundred kilometres before breakfast.
Don’t, however, disregard this shoe if your idea of a long ride is 50km with a leisurely café stop! This is a versatile, stylish road shoe that would sit just as happily on a feisty club ride, a leisurely pootle or, of course, the ultimate audax events like Paris-Brest-Paris or Raid Pyrenees!
The principal objective of the Audax shoe is to deliver all-day comfort and, to that end, it offers an accommodating, comfortable fit – a little wider in comparison to narrower race-orientated shoes favoured by some Continental brands. As a benchmark, I tested a Size 10 – a snug fit, but for a brand such as Sidi, I have to jump up a size to accommodate the width of my foot.
The heel area has a good level of padding, which not only reduces the risk of undue rubbing, but also has the dual role of helping to keep your heel securely cupped and snug – especially noticeable when pulling up on the pedals when sprinting or climbing.
The Audax, like all Specialized road shoes, has the ergonomically designed Body Geometry sole, which the US brand claims will ‘boost power, increase efficiency, and reduce chance of injury by optimizing hip, knee, and foot alignment.’ So despite being conceived as an all-day cycling shoe, performance has not been compromised. In fact, the opposite is the case - performance remains at the forefront of the overall design.
The Audax uses a securing system comprised of two velcro straps and a single Boa S2 dial for easy tightening/loosening when stationary or riding. If you have shoes fitted with a dual Boa dial system then you may find the single dial a little inadequate and the fact that the wire has to be looped over the securing bracket each time a little fussy. Personally, I had no major issues and the velcro/Boa combination allowed for easy and incremental adjustment and it’s hard to fault the quality of the Boa system – it’s no surprise why the majority of road shoe manufacturers all use this system, which is both durable and efficient.
It’s not all about the comfort though and the use of the Boa system suggests that there is more to the Audax than its name might suggest. For a shoe aimed at all- day cycling comfort, the carbon composite sole provides a level of power transfer that will appeal to more performance orientated cyclists, looking for a bit of punch. OK, the Audax is not as stiff as Specialized’s top of the range S-Works 6 shoe, but compare it to their more affordable (RRP: £180) Road Expert shoe, which occupies a similar price bracket and the Audax provides a greater level of stiffness.
Despite the quality of the carbon sole – and no doubt in part due to the comfort features factored into the design - the stiffness has not caused any undue harshness over long distances and after a couple of 100+ mile rides, I’ve felt no more discomfort than one would expect over this sort of mileage. It’s also reassuring to know that the sole will provide maximum efficiency on longer rides.
It’s also a shoe that will not disappoint the weight-weenies too. At 684g for a pair in Size 10, they are relatively lightweight and tip the scales a fraction above the weight of the Road Expert shoe. Unless you are looking for those barely perceptible marginal gains, then the weight of the Audax is not going to be a major concern
Comfort is again a consideration in the amount of aeration provided, which is supplied though two large mesh sections in the toe, a smaller, single section in the sole. In addition to this, the main body of the shoe and the tongue are both perforated, which coupled with the venting, provides maximum breathability for your feet. On longer rides in sustained heat the aeration has been adequate – bear in mind that the upper part of the Audax is synthetic leather, so potentially prone to making your feet uncomfortably hot on warmer days. Paired with a light summer sock, I’ve yet to experience any discomfort or heat rash having worn the shoes.
As for overall durability of the Audax shoes, the synthetic upper is a little susceptible to mild scuffing, despite the fact that the Micromatrix material is the most durable that Specialized use on their range of shoes. It easy to clean, however, and as the version on test were as white and pristine as the upper molars of an Osmond, one can get a little OCD when it comes to keeping them pearly white!
And finally, there is the look. The Audax is a very stylish and classic looking road cycling shoe. It will not appeal to those who favour a kaleidoscopic and branded out-and-out racing shoe – the sort that predominates the pro peloton and the retail market. This is very much in keeping with the entire Specialized range of shoes, which eschew overt branding and brash detailing. The Audax is definitely going to appeal to those who hanker for a minimalist, paired down look.
Overall, the Audax shoes is a versatile, stylish and well-constructed road cycling shoe which uses high quality components and materials. Comfort may be at the core of its genesis, but the level of performance they deliver thanks to the stiffness of the sole, lies at the forefront of the design and the features it provides.
The cost may deter some, but this is a shoe that provides stiffness that will keep the racers out there happy and comfort for the randonneurs and sportive aficionados. Not many shoes have such a wide appeal and you’ll be hard pressed to find a cycling shoe with such understated good looks!
The Specialized Audax comes in black and white version (though other colours have been available in the past and can still be found on some online retail outlets, including Evans Cycles) and retail at £220. The three bolt cleat pattern will accommodate the all the major road cycling pedals, including Look, Shimano and Speedplay.
Review by Dave Nash (miles ridden: 800)
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