Joining VeloClub not only supports the work we do, there are some fantastic benefits:
by Dave Rome
November 3, 2016
Photography by David Rome
With its name on cycling shoes and nothing else, Suplest remains a relatively small brand in the cycling shoe market nearly a decade after its inception. The Edge/3 Pro is the brand’s latest top-tier road offering, a shoe that boasts a number of unique features – and some less unique – that help place it on equal footing among other premium cycling shoe options.
Premium race shoes these days are all extremely stiff underfoot and create an efficient connection to the pedals. Similarities in retention systems give even less to discuss, and with fit being so subjective, it can be difficult to articulate why one shoe is better than another. Still, David Rome found plenty to say about these Swiss-designed (Vietnamese-made) kicks.
The supple microfibre upper plays host to Suplest’s unique Carbon Shield construction with a woven aesthetic flowing on from the carbon sole. That Carbon Shield beneath the Boa wires helps to spread the tension load with a slippery, wear-resistant, and consistent surface, while also protecting the top of your foot from any uneven pressure. It’s a clever concept that should keep the shoe looking fresh for years to come.
Packed to the brim with modern features, the Suplest Ergo/3 Pro road shoes offer a wrap-around upper for a supportive fit.
Suplest integrates that feature into a wrap-around upper that does away with a conventional tongue. This sort of construction supposedly offers greater foot support while also offering a more precise fit. As an added bonus, the simplified layout makes for a shoe that’s also easier to get into.
The microfiber upper is perforated down the outside face, with mesh panels running the height of the foot on the inside. Another mesh panel appears above the toes, all of which should make for a well ventilated shoe. However, the Carbon Shield design does not breathe and so the tops of my socks did get sweaty on hot days, even with functional ventilation holes in the carbon sole.
Boa IP1 dials are certainly the most popular retention choice amongst premium shoes. They’re hard to fault.
While the Carbon Shield is somewhat novel, Suplest’s choice in closure systems is anything but with two well-proven Boa IP1 dials per shoe. Given the IP1’s feature set, though, it’s easy to see why Suplest – and so many others – have opted to go this way. Boa’s top-end dials offer precise 1mm on-the-fly adjustments in both directions, along with an instant pull-to-release mechanism.
I have relatively average, if not slightly narrow feet. With that, I generally find comfortable the standard shoes from Shimano, Giro, Specialized, and Bontrager with some wiggle room in the toebox to spare. Like many European brands, Suplest equips the Edge/3 with a more aggressively tapered shape up front that lightly pinched my little toes inward.
Straight from innersole specialists Solestar, the footbeds are perhaps the nicest quality I’ve seen included as stock. The dual-material construction provides a relatively rigid arch support with just enough padding over the top. Combined with the wrap-around upper, foot stability is impressive and there’s little risk of the foot or ankle collapsing inward under pressure.
Unfortunately, the support was a little too rearward/aggressive for my feet as I quickly got arch pain; swapping out the innersoles fixed the issue.
Solestar foot beds are typically an aftermarket upgrade, but Suplest provide them as the stock choice.
This secure stability is backed up with a traction-filled heel cup. The deep heel cup shape is generously padded and then covered in a Velcro-like material that’s quite similar to what Shimano uses. Additionally, there are small silicone grip dots covering the length of the heel. Those dots have proven quite durable, and so far they haven’t caused any wear issues with socks. A large reflective logo at the back of the heel is another neat touch.
Your heel is locked in with a combination of a deep heel cup, padding, silicon grippers and a velcro-like material.
Suplest’s upper construction may be slightly off the beaten path, but the carbon fibre sole follows a very tried-and-true formula. The shape is somewhat similar to Shimano’s Dynalast sole design, with a more subtle toespring – that upward bend at the front of the sole – and a generally flatter profile from toe to heel. While Suplest make no such claim, Shimano state that the more natural foot position reduces tension on the foot, Achilles tendon, and calves. It’s a fit element I quite like.
Cleats are unusually adjustable laterally, but not fore-aft.
Similarly, Suplest sticks to the straight-and-narrow with cleat holes that are drilled centrally beneath the ball of the foot. Somewhat unusually, Suplest offers a generous range of side-to-side adjustment, but not fore-aft, so those who prefer a particularly forward or rearward cleat position may have trouble getting things placed just so.
The replaceable heel gripper is a nice touch, but ideally it would be a little grippier.
Both ends of the sole are fitted with generously sized treads that, while firmer and a bit less grippy than many big-brand models, still provide decent grip even on troublesome tiles and provide plenty of protection for the underlaying carbon fibre. That firmness bodes well for long-term durability, though, and when necessary, the heel tread is replaceable via hidden hardware.
Shoe stiffness is difficult to gauge from the saddle at this end of the shoe market, and given the personal nature of fit, weight is one of the few objective matters left to compare – even if it isn’t a factor that should decide your footwear.
My size 42.5 samples weighed 553g for the pair, with the Solestar innersoles accounting for 86g of that.
The premium shoe market is certainly hotly contested, and innovations in sole and upper materials mean the benchmark is a continually moving target. The weight watchers will probably scoff at the approximate 100g penalty compared to ultralight lace-up shoes like the Specialized S-Works Sub6 or Giro Empire SLX. Regardless of what the scale says, these are still at least worth a closer look.
RRP: US$TBC / AU$495 / €349
www.suplest.ch / www.suplest.com.au (Australia)
Even the black shoes feature a checkered and carbon-like aesthetic.
Mesh panels run the length of the inside.
The front toe guard helps to protect the smooth synthetic toe.
The black material is resistant to flex and is therefore extremely supportive. Unfortunately, I found the arch support to be placed too far rearward.
One side of the upper is reinforced with Suplest’s Carbon Shield that provides a slippery and strong surface for the Boa wires to run over.
Transport bag included.