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Last month, Italian shoemaker and saddlesmith, fi’zi:k (fuh-ZEEK), released the Terra Ergolace Flats. Despite being the brand’s first modern flat-pedal shoe, the Ergolace Flats fit right into fi’zi:k’s very sleek, very European catalog. But we’re here to talk about something that seemed a little more conventional, or at least until we tried them. The Gravita Versor and Gravita Tensor look, from a distance, a lot like the rest of the footwear piling up on the gravity-oriented bandwagon. The outsoles are a grid of dots. Not circular dots, of course. That’d clearly be copying Five.Ten. These dots are kinda square-ish. Both the Versor and Tensor come in a clip- and flat-specific version, but every Gravita variation has a familiar styling. Styling that is now established enough in mountain biking that we can probably stop calling “skate-inspired.”
Look at them a little closer, though, and it’s clear that the Gravita shoes were inspired by more than just style. First, there’s the fact that the laces are offset slightly outboard from the center of the shoe. Neat. Maybe doesn’t seem immediately useful, but it shows someone was making deliberate choices when they designed these things. Then, there’s the ripstop material that composes the uppers. It looks like it was skinned off an expensive, lightweight trekking pack. And it’s that lightweight part that really makes the Gravita series stand out. So, I spent some time on the Gravita Tensor clip shoe while Beta contributing editor, Samuel McMain, spent some time on the Gravita Versor Flat. Turns out there’s something pretty unique going on in each case.
Like the Versor, the Tensor is available in both flat and clip, but it’s got a few distinctly mountain-bike-shoe-y features that make it seem like the more traditional choice for clip-ins, starting with the Velcro strap. Made of the same rip-stop fabric as the rest of the shoe, it’s light and thin. Holding it in my hands did not inspire confidence, but then again, I’ve never held a shoe strap like this in my hands. Anyway, I tend to see more bonded seams at toes and heels come unbound, and rarely do I ever straight-up rip through fabric. The construction looks sound, and the wide, supple strap didn’t put a pressure point across my foot when I got it nice and snug. Calling this a plus.
Above the ankle is the other techy feature the Tensor has over the Versor. There is a Neoprene sleeve that curls, quite subtly at first, from the outside edge of the shoe and up towards the inner ankle where it hides a large slow-rebound rubber pad to protect ankle from crank. It then continues to curl around and integrate with the shoe’s “tongue,” revealing a pretty impressive design feature in the Tensor. Beneath the rip-stop material that makes up the shoes’ upper is an essentially seamless “sock” of Neoprene that hugged my feet. It encloses the tongue on either side of the laces , helping keep debris out of the shoe, but it leaves a little secret chamber between the shoe’s outer layers that I had to empty out once or twice.
Speaking of the laces, that off-center design actually makes sense. The tops of our feet include a mild bump (the medial cuneiform) leading down to the big toe, while the rest of the foot slopes outboard, straight across the other metatarsals. Putting the laces there keeps any seams or knots off that bump and allows the laces to pull the sides of the shoe together, not pull down on the foot. Neat.
The toebox shows probably the best toe reinforcement that I’ve ever seen. It’s like a battleship, and its base is sandwiched in the shoe’s layers, unlikely to ever come unbound and even less likely to ever allow your toes to come to harm. It covers more space and wraps higher over the toes than any toebox reinforcement on any of the way-too-many shoes I have right now. There’s also reinforcement around the heel, where a rubberizing further helps stop the rips that the rip-stop can’t stop.
The Vibram outsole is trustworthy when walking. Despite the two-tone color, it’s a single density throughout. The cleatbed is shifted more rearward than some less gravity-focused shoes. I had at least 12 millimeters more to go before I bottomed them out towards the midsole. Side to side positioning, though, was less optimal for me. I’m a size 48, and the wide outsole (wider than any in the above mentioned glut of shoes) forced the cleat far inboard for crank clearance. But I think they overdid it. Even sliding the cleat all the way towards the middle of the shoe, it was 3 millimeters further inboard from the shoe’s centerline than on my go-to Giro Terraduro Mids. Less freakishly huge feet will not have this problem.
Speaking of freakish, most of my loops lately have involved a 20-minute hike-a-bike, a 30-minute hike-a-bike, a 45-minute hike-a-bike, or all three. Although it is comfortable to walk short distances in the Tensors, I doubt I’ll ever be able to walk long distances if they’re on steep climbs. The sole on the Tensors is stiff, though that alone isn’t a deal-breaker. I really like that when on the bike, but steep hike-a-bikes force my heel to rub on the back of the shoe, which aside from a thin lip around its upper rim, is almost entirely unpadded. If there were more generous padding, the friction would be spread out instead of localized to a single point when rigid heel meets rigid heel cup.
But the thing is, that’s not what these are for. I have a set of XC shoes that are even worse at hiking, and they don’t offer near the support, protection, or even the walkability that the Tensors do. But they both have the same economy of design. They’re not stuffed with extra padding, extra panels or extra layers. They take a high-tech, minimalist approach to a shoe category that, not too long ago, was primarily about style.
There’s also a flat-pedal version with the same supple Velcro strap, overbuilt toebox, and clever ankle protection. That Tensor model goes for $170 versus the $180 Tensor Clip I tested. Or, if you want a simpler, more classic flat-pedal shoe, there’s the Versor, which I’ll let Samuel talk about below.
Gravita Versor Flat
These are aimed at a market crowded with other gravity-/heavy-trail-focused sets of kicks, but in true fi’zi:k fashion, they boast some features you won’t find on other shoes. The first thing you’ll notice about the Gravita is that lacing. The goal is to increase comfort and relieve pressure on top of the foot. I’ve taken the lace-up Gravitas out for a few rips so far, but even just wearing them around the shop they’ve been noticeably comfortable, as in the “wow, these things are like slippers” kind of noticeable.
That’s thanks to more than just the offset lacing. fi’zi:k focused on slimming down the Gravita, resulting in a minimally, but adequately, padded shoe that’s light and nimble feeling. The ripstop uppers are breathable but feel tough. They’re far more substantial than you’d think once you hold them in your hands. At the same time, they’re naturally very flexible and comfortable. The Versor Flat still has a PU-laminated and reinforced toe cap, but it’s not the giant black monolith that is the toecap on the Tensor. There’s also a slightly raised inner ankle for additional protection, though it’s not its own sewn-in structural component like the ankle pad on the Tensor. It also doesn’t mean the Versor has quite the same level of padding as a shoe like the Five Ten Impact Pro. The Impact Pros are bricks compared to the Gravita. That is the first thing you’ll notice when lacing up a set of Versors. These lean gently towards the feel-for-the-pedal end of the flat-shoe spectrum.
Of course, you’re all here for the sole of the shoe, which in this case is Vibram’s Megagrip compound on top of (or, below, I suppose) an EVA midsole. fi’zi:k focused on making the Gravita’s profile flat for maximum grip. To use a ski term, it has as little “reverse camber” as possible, with very little natural upward bend towards the toes. And the dot tread pattern, tried and true, aims to stay consistent through shoe sizes, anchoring the same layout of the same size dots front and center on the business end of the tread. That tread transitions from hiking-traction oriented at the toe and heel to pedal pin locking in the middle/ The rubber that makes up that tread is pretty dang sticky too. From first impressions, the Gravitas feel to have about 90 percent of the grip of a Five Ten Freerider Pro, a shoe that is the main rival of the Gravitas and, for that matter, every other flat-pedal shoe on the market.
On that note, the Gravita Versor Flat retails for $140, which puts it right in line with most other offerings out there. The clip version of the Versor goes for $150, but I’ve got to be free. In my short time on them, the Versor Flats, they’ve impressed me enough to keep them on my feet, as well as on my mind for a longer-term test down the road.
But for now, you can get the full deets and specs at fizik.com/gravita