Specialized’s 198g EXOS shoes: Lightest production shoes, ever

by Dave Rome


Are you obsessed with counting grams? Specialized’s new S-Works EXOS shoes will likely have you questioning your current footwear choice.

First spotted in use at the Santos Tour Down Under, Specialized’s new superlight racing shoe is now official. There are two versions available, each impressively light and neither are cheap.

S-Works EXOS

Said to be the lightest (production) Boa-equipped cycling shoe, the new S-Works EXOS tips the scales at just 300g (EU42, per pair). That’s an impressive 148g saving over the respectively light and race-proven S-Works 7.

Specialized S-Works EXOS shoes
The Specialized S-Works EXOS is available in a choice of this white colourway or a simpler black.

The dual aluminium Boa dials and injection-molded heel cup of the S-Works 7s are gone, replaced with an even lighter four-way, non-stretch Dyneema mesh upper material and a single Boa IP1 dial placed above the tongue. Similarly, the reinforced toe box is gone, replaced with a stretchy material similar to what the discontinued Sub6’s offered.

Specialized S-Works EXOS shoes

A new carbon fibre sole features cut-outs in less critical areas and is a big part of the weight reduction story. The cut-away sole isn’t as stiff as the S-Works 7, rating a 13 instead of 15 on Specialized’s sole stiffness index. In real numbers, the EXOS sole deflects between 1.32-2.11mm under a 40kg load, compared to 0-.61mm of the S-Works 7’s. Worth noting, the S-Works 6’s sole was also rated at 13 and certainly felt rock solid underfoot.

As an added bonus, the combination of that minimal upper and cut-away sole should make the EXOS extremely breezy to wear, too.

Said to fit similarly to the S-Works 7, the EXOS shoes retain Specialized Body Geometry features, including full comparability with existing footbeds and forefoot wedges. Specialized does note that the lack of a heel counter and toe box means the shoes offer less structure but a more conforming fit.

The S-Works EXOS features the same replaceable heel gripper as the S-Works 7, which is great because at US$500 / AU$600 you’ll want to get plenty of use from them. The S-Works EXOS is available in sizes EU36-49, with half sizes available between EU38-47.

S-Works EXOS 99

Specialized S-Works EXOS 99 shoe
Also pictured at the top of the article, the EXOS 99 is a limited edition version that truly pushes the limits.

Want lighter again? At just 198g (EU42, per pair), the EXOS 99 (…it’s 99g per shoe) will be limited to just 500 pairs, each costing US$700 / AU$1,050. That 198g figure is a maximum allowed manufacturing weight for that specific size, with Specialized stating the EU40-48 size options will respectively range from 184-264g, and never more.

It’s a figure that bests the likes of Giro’s Prolight Techlace by some 98g, and only rivaled by a small handful of custom shoes that are either difficult or simply impossible to source (Adam Hansen’s Hanseeno shoes being such an example).

Specialized S-Works EXOS 99 shoe
Like the upper, the 99’s tongue is made from the most minimalist material possible.

Taking a few lessons learned from Specialized’s previously lightest shoe, the Sub6, the EXOS 99 offers laced retention and a carbon outer sole that’s a further 20% lighter than that of the standard EXOS. It also ditches the small sections of thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) and uses a different (replaceable) heel gripper.

That lighter sole retains the same level of stiffness as the EXOS’, but is said to be far more challenging and time-consuming to produce – it’s one of the key reasons stated for the shoe’s limited availability.

What’s next?

The new EXOS range, especially the 99, proves that Specialized is not afraid to go after a niche market, no matter the price. The limited production run of the EXOS 99s isn’t a first for the Californian bike company, with a similar tactic seen most recently with its new Shiv Disc triathlon superbike.

It’ll be interesting to see where Specialized takes the EXOS name next; no doubt the weight weenie market is in for a shake-up.

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