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Specialized makes a $425 mountain bike shoe, the S-Works Recon. The uppers are constructed using Dyneema fabric, which claims to be the strongest fiber in the world. The closure is handled by two alloy BOA S3 Snap Dials, the sole is Specialized’s own FACT carbon, and the threaded cleat plate is titanium. And as of today, Specialized also makes these shoes. The Specialized 2FO DH Clip and 2FO DH Flat. This is clearly where a tech-focused brand like Specialized can kinda just phone it in, right? The 2FOs are lace-ups with soft, flat soles. Give the rubber a fancy name and a trademark, put them on the feet of some stylish pros, and you’ve checked the gravity box.
Nope. Not that simple. If you’ve ridden Specialized shoes, you know, but they’re never just another product to line the shelves of their concept stores. Every shoe they make, from the $425 S-Works models to these $160 and $170 2FO Flats and 2FO Clips, are engineered for function, not fashion. So, let’s dig in.
The foam that would normally make up the structural and protective elements that line the entire inside of the shoe is instead a moisture-wicking three-dimensional mesh Specialized calls XPEL. It dries quicker and is far lighter than foam, while still being just as protective under impact. But beyond the material itself, the structure around the XPEL mesh leaves room for moisture to actually go somewhere once it’s wicked away from your foot. That doesn’t just lead to faster drying, but keeps them from taking on much water weight.
The other cleverly named material in Specialized’s cauldron is its SlipNot rubber compound. Third-generation SlipNot is being used in the 2FO DH, and it’s not just about grip, but about achieving the sort of slow rebound to keep you on your pedals during impacts. And impact is kinda what it’s all about. These aren’t aimed at the flat-curious trail rider, but at park and DH riders looking for something between Specialized’s recently released 2FO Roost shoes and other, more over-the-top hucking boots like the Five Ten Impacts. There’s a beefed-up molded toebox and an abrasion-resistant treatment in high-wear areas of the uppers like around the heel and on the sides of the forefoot. And to help keep all this extra durability from feeling like overkill on the trail, the 2FO DH–both clip and flat–builds more support in the pedal-contact area, but leaves flex fore and aft of it. Easier walking, easier pedaling.
The 2FO DH Clip shoes extend the cleatbed generously towards the rear of the shoe. You can still get them in a more traditional, ball-of-the-foot zone, but but for those spending long days descending, it’s easier on the calves to slide ’em back a bit. And the outsole has a little extra material around the cleatbed to keep you flat on your pedals, though “flat” is kinda oversimplifying it.
Specialized soles are structured with a couple features that may seem like they’d take some getting used to, but are actually subtle until you start to see the benefits. The “varus wedge” is something Specialized shoes have been boasting about for over a decade, and it’s essentially an outward wedge that helps align the knee and ankle while on the pedals. It makes a difference, especially on long days. The just-as-techy-sounding “metatarsal button” is a bump that elevates the center of the forefoot to prevent the foot’s natural tendency to collapse in on itself under impacts and pedaling load, helping to limit hotspots.
So, no, there’s no carbon or titanium or $100 worth of shoelaces in the Specialized 2FO DH shoes, but they reflect the level of thought that Specialized puts into all their shoes. Including one thought that is all too rare these days: Both the 2FO DH Clip and 2FO DH Flat are actually available right now. Things are lookin’ up, 2021!