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Fizik’s first attempt at road shoes made of non-traditional materials, the Infinito R1 Knit, was a decidedly halfhearted attempt; it was basically just a mildly adapted version of its more conventional synthetic leather cousin. The Vento Powerstrap R2 Aeroweave, however, is an entirely new shoe designed from the ground up with cutting-edge textiles and a vastly different feel. It’s also light, exceptionally airy, and features a brand new sole that finally fixes longstanding ergonomic issues, making it a prime choice for those ultra-hot days.
A cycling shoe unlike any other
The Vento Powerstrap R2 Aeroweave is unusual for a number of reasons.
First and foremost, there’s that crazy-looking upper material. For ages, cycling shoe brands have worked hard to emulate the appearance and feel of leather, but with a synthetic that was less prone to less desirable traits like excessive stretching and water damage. And companies have gotten awfully good at it over time, too.
But Fizik is tossing all of that out the window here, with a woven synthetic material that could hardly feel less natural. It’s not trying to be leather, or some other article of clothing. Rather, the Aeroweave material is surprisingly similar to the mesh portion of a trucker-style baseball cap — at least in terms of its basic construction and appearance — using a mix of nylon and “thermoplastic polymer” fibers whose direction and density are carefully chosen to create a tailored mix of support and stretchiness.
It’s shiny in sunlight, and in many areas of the shoe, the weave is so airy that there’s seemingly more holes than upper.
Internal support is added at the toe box and heel area to give the Vento Powerstrap R2 Aeroweave some necessary shape, while the interior of the heel cup is also lined with some softer materials and a bit of padding around the upper edge. A small patch of rubber dots adds a bit of extra hold around your Achilles tendon, too. Meanwhile, the edges of the eye stay (the open part of the upper where the tongue is located) are reinforced with layers of thermally welded TPU to support the strap eyelets.
Now, about those straps.
The Vento Powerstrap R2 Aeroweave’s other major departure from the norm is its use of two broad Velcro straps per shoe, instead of more conventional (and more fashionable) closure systems like laces or Boa. Fizik has been testing the market’s acceptance of its Powerstrap design on lower-priced shoes over the past couple seasons, and apparently the reception has been warm enough that the company feels comfortable using it on this latest flagship.
The straps themselves are similar to automotive seatbelts: broad, flexible, non-stretch. The main strap just pulls back on itself in typical fashion, while the secondary one criss-crosses over the top of your foot to secure that entire area. According to Fizik, the Powerstrap design holds just as stoutly as other closure systems, but distributes pressure more evenly than Boa wires and is more easily adjustable than laces. Needless to say, it’s also quite light.
Fizik has made some concessions to its long-standing shoe shape, too.
Up front, the toe box is less aggressively tapered, which, in combination with the stretchier Aeroweave material, should make for a more accommodating fit overall. Down below, the brand-new vented carbon plate is notably flatter than anything Fizik has created in the past. It’s now more inline with what you find from other brands, such as Giro and Shimano. And finally — finally! — Fizik has addressed its longstanding issue with cleat hole placement, adding sliding plates with about 10 mm of additional rearward movement than before.
Actual weight for my size 42.5 samples is 458 g per pair (with insoles). Retail price is a heady US$400 / AU$TBC / £335 / €350.
The good kind of surprise
Let me get this out of the way straight away: in some ways, these shoes feel exactly like I expected, however in others, they’re anything but.
First, the expected.
I’ve had mixed results with the fit of Fizik shoes over the years, often finding them too narrow, too pointy up front, and with way too pronounced a curvature in the sole for me to be comfortable in them long-term. Well, for those of you that really want to like Fizik shoes but just haven’t managed to squeeze your feet into them, the Vento Powerstrap R2 Aeroweave might be what you’ve been waiting for.
The more squared-off toe box is absolutely more accommodating than ever before, especially when combined with the more pliable Aeroweave material around the periphery of the shoe. The material has no problems adjusting to small local variations in foot shape, but yet the non-stretch fibers that wrap up and over from one side to the other keep the shoe from feeling floppy and unsupportive.
The new plate shape is a big win for me, too. Although my feet are quite flat, I generally have no issues getting shoes to work well (especially if I have room to swap insoles). But with earlier Fizik shoes, that strange sole curvature just never let my feet relax during a ride. On the Vento Powerstrap R2 Aeroweave, however, it’s a much more natural feel, and one that I found far more comfortable on longer rides.
I’d like to see some more arch support built into the shape of the carbon plate itself, though (and it’s worth noting that this is different from the overall curvature issue on older models I mentioned earlier). Flat-footed riders will certainly want to look into an aftermarket insole, preferably with some form of rigid, or semi-rigid, arch support, such as the new Retul custom-molded models, Solestar, or the modular ones from G8 Performance.
That open-mesh construction makes for insanely good ventilation, too — so much so that I’d recommend against wearing the Vento Powerstrap R2 Aeroweave shoes in temperatures even remotely approaching “cool”. No conventional cycling shoe I’ve worn can match it, and the closest competitor I’ve sampled is the Specialized S-Works Exos (which is also downright chilly in anything other than warm spring and summer-like conditions).
And man, I can’t say enough about the newly slotted cleat holes. Whereas earlier Fizik shoes forced me to run my cleats several millimeters further forward than I prefer (and I run my cleats pretty neutral), I had no issues at all replicating my usual position here, with plenty of room to spare — and if you liked the old position, you still have the freedom to do that, too.
The return of Velcro?
And now, the unexpected.
Despite the shoes feeling oddly floppy out of the box, they’re surprisingly supportive once you’ve got them on. I’d imagine that the non-stretch fibers in the upper help a lot here, but much of the credit seems to go to the Powerstrap layout itself. The straps are notably resistant to stretch, and just like the old Velcro shoes I grew up with decades ago, it’s no problem getting these as tight as you’d like, nor making small adjustments on the fly.
The extra-generous width of these also allow you to really lock your foot down without creating any hotspots, and yet their pliable nature also makes them practically disappear on your feet once you’ve been wearing them for a little while.
As a nice bonus, it’s not quite as easy to overtighten them initially like it is with Boa dials.
Overall, I was very pleased with how well the straps work, and given how committed Fizik clearly is to this return-to-roots concept, I can’t help but wonder if we’ll see more of this sort of thing from other brands moving forward.
My opinions were a little more mixed on the Aeroweave’s texture, though. I wasn’t sure initially how the minimalist textile would feel given its plasticky feel and open mesh, and unfortunately, I’d describe it as good, but not great. This may perhaps be a case of my feet being more sensitive than most, but especially with thinner socks, it’s hard not to notice that the shoes are made of a very open mesh that’s partially built with large-diameter synthetic fibers.
Those of you that cherish that buttery, leather-like feel you get from the likes of Sidi, for example, might very well be put off here. Whereas more traditional shoes can feel downright luxurious, these can seem – well, for lack of a better descriptor – kind of cheap, despite the fact that these are anything but.
And finally, one word about the sizing: as I’ve found previously with Fizik shoes, these run about half a size large, so either size up accordingly, or – better yet – find a stocking brick-and-mortar store where you can try them on.
I’ve been wearing these shoes fairly regularly for the past couple of months, but that obviously doesn’t constitute a true long-term review of wear and durability. That said, there are a few areas that give me some pause.
I’m happy with how generous the heel and toe treads are on the Vento Powerstrap R2 Aeroweave shoes, and also that the heel portion is replaceable. All of those areas have been wearing well, and I have no reason to believe that they’ll degrade prematurely under regular use.
Velcro has a tendency to lose its grip with repeated use though, and the straps on these shoes aren’t replaceable. Technically, you could certainly replace the actual hook and loop portions if you’re handy with a sewing machine, but it’s a far cry from how easily many worn-out (or broken) Boa dials can be replaced, or how lace-up shoes might just need a new (and cheap) shoelace. And if you’re still using shoes with matching buckles, you can often still get parts for those, too, and replace them in a few minutes.
More concerning is the Aeroweave material itself. I haven’t crashed in these shoes (there are limits to how far I’ll voluntarily go for this job, after all), but it’s unclear how well it’d hold up in a wreck as you’re sliding across the tarmac.
Finally, it’s perhaps telling that Fizik is currently only offering these shoes in an all-black color scheme as the material looks like it’d be a bear to keep clean. My test shoes started out black, and stayed that way, but that said, I’d like to see some other options available.
A step forward
I’ve always considered Fizik’s shoes to be beautiful in design, elegantly understated, and somehow just so … Italian (despite the fact that they’re actually manufactured in China). The problem is that they were also quintessentially old-school Italian in terms of how they fit, and that’s becoming an increasingly unpopular shape as more people discover how much that form fails to resemble the shape of our real-world feet.
Big kudos to Fizik, then, for finally updating their fit after years of stubbornness, and in a wrapper that’s decidedly cutting-edge despite its use of traditional Velcro straps. It’s a wonderful juxtaposition of old and new, and despite my qualms about a few areas, this is a big step forward for the brand, and one that will very likely find a lot more happy feet.