Why don’t I just get a pair of road cycling shoes? Seriously, what’s my deal? I don’t want to admit I ride a road bike? Well, I do, for fitness purposes, and this year I even have it inside on the (shudder) trainer because of a spate of poor conditions for my snow bike. Still, every pair of cycling shoes I have are made for mountain biking. Even when testing road shoes, I couldn’t stomach it – when Vittoria and I discussed what shoes I should review for them, I kind of whined about how the pair I wanted to try weren’t available in a MTB version yet (they were out of production temporarily so that product engineers could make improvements). Patient, accommodating Vittoria put together a custom pair of shoes; the upper from the Hora road shoe with an MTB sole. Evidently this is something they do fairly regularly for picky people like me, so if you’re OK with ordering them, you can get this same pair of shoes.

And I recommend that you do, because they are great shoes. I loved them immediately, and so did everyone else – I had trouble getting cleats because the bike shop people kept spending too much time admiring the shoes instead of selling me cleats. I must say they do look quite sharp in the gloss black, white and red.

There’s not a single hook of velcro to be found on these shoes, which is one of the reasons I was so interested in trying them. While velcro closures work OK (I guess), they never seemed ideal to me so I wanted to try a different system. Well, the proprietary cable closure from Vittoria is just awesome. It’s super micro-adjustable, and creates an even tension throughout the foot so you don’t get any pressure points; something that’s a real problem for me with my high arches. The ratchet strap at the top of the closure anchors the shoes really well and I wonder if that’s one of the reasons I like them so much. Other shoes shift on my foot; this is the first shoe I’ve tried that really holds tight to my heel and doesn’t let it move up and down. Best of all, though the shoe anchored my heel, the toe box was roomy enough that I didn’t feel like I was wearing pointe shoes like a ballet dancer. The Horas really hit the mark between snug enough to efficiently transfer power and roomy enough to prevent pressure points. Of course, being winter, I haven’t yet hiked these shoes to the top of a mountain pass which is bound to happen at some point this summer, so I can’t report on the walking comfort at this point. Walking’s not the point, though, is it?

Even with the MTB sole, I had no trouble clipping in and out to my road pedals. I actually somewhat enjoyed riding the trainer because of the novel sensation of a great pair of shoes – yes, that’s weird, but what can I say. While I’m a proponent of clipless pedals (winter season, with its below-zero temperatures forcing me back onto flat pedals, is the source of much teeth-grinding and dissatisfaction in my house) and have several pairs of good shoes, I’ve never before felt such a difference in power transfer to the pedals. I’m really looking forward to MTB season, except that I’ll be sad to get these beautiful shoes dirty, though I suspect they’ll wipe off readily and look nearly as good as new.

The shoes that were built for me have a sort of combination carbon/composite sole called the CNS Carbon Heart. Vittoria tells me it’s “stiffer than a nylon composite, but not as stiff as full carbon,” meant for people who need to walk or run. I think they mean racers, but on those long mountain rides we have here in Alaska it’s virtually a guarantee that you’ll have to walk sometime as I mentioned above, so a little flex certainly won’t hurt and I haven’t even noticed it on the road bike yet. The shoes are so much stiffer (or, like I said above, perhaps they fit better and are therefore more efficient) than my other high-end shoes that there is a noticeable difference while pedaling.

Every single shoe in the Vittoria line is offered in a women’s-specific version; meaning that they are built on a women’s last (the key point) to be sure the shoe has the correct shape for a woman’s foot. I’ve learned over my years of gear evaluating that having a women’s last on a shoe makes a huge difference. Without it, the shoe won’t fit properly. So it’s quite exciting for a cycling shoe company to offer shoes built on a women’s last, with four different widths, three volumes, and multi-length (for people with two different size feet) size options. The upper of the shoe is the same in both women’s and men’s models, but once the last is inserted into the upper, the upper takes the shape of the last. I wouldn’t necessarily have believed that without trying the shoes, but I’m a believer now; it really seems to work. Most companies shirk on the women’s sizing, offering fewer sizing options for women (or none, think the odious “unisex” label), but not Vittoria – you’ll find the shoe that fits with this company.

You’re probably getting the clue that I really like these shoes and am gratified that the company takes its female customers as seriously as the men’s. Cost: not cheap, but likely worth it; they run about $450 in the US. Shoes are one of those things that it’s worthwhile to spend some money on and if you’re serious about cycling you know that $450 is a normal price for a truly good pair of cycling shoes. Also, see Michael’s comment below for other Vittoria options that aren’t quite as spendy. They’re oddly hard to find in the US according to the Internet though; your best bet is to go the Vittoria site to find a dealer. You may have to click through the menus to find “world dealer” then select “United States,” you’ll then see a map of dealers. There are none in Alaska, by the way (ahem, Alaska bike shops…clue in).

One last note – the Vittoria shoe company is not at all related to the tire company, which I didn’t know before. One makes shoes for you and the other makes shoes for your bike – but they’re not connected in any way.

A special thank you to Michael Musil from Vittoria for helping me suss out the technical details!