Aside from the highly tapered toe box, the fit of the Extreme RR is a little higher-volume than most Italian road shoes — typical of Northwave shoes, in my experience. Most riders with average-width and average-volume feet should find these pretty accommodating, and the included thicker footbed option makes a very noticeable difference in the overall feel.
Preferences vary in terms of how much structure and support riders like from their shoes, and between the flexible cable closure, fabric cable loops, and supple upper material, the Extreme RR gravitates toward the softer end of the spectrum. The embedded non-stretch strips — the heart of Northwave’s so-called Xframe construction — keep the shoe from feeling sloppy, or stretching over the course of a long ride.
The carbon fiber is extremely stiff, and the vent holes actually go completely through the footbed. The traction pads at the heel and toe aren’t replaceable, though, and they’re very slippery. Photo: David Rome.
Nevertheless, they still don’t provide the same rock-solid feel of something like a Specialized’s S-Works 6 or Bont Vaypor S. Likewise, arch support on the Extreme RR comes only from the foam insole, and not from the carbon plate itself, which is notably flat and devoid of any built-in shaping. As usual with cycling footwear, whether that’s a good or bad thing will depend on your preferences, but it’s important to note regardless.
Many alternative cable-and-dial closure systems have come (and gone) to challenge Boa, and while there’s no reason to expect Northwave’s SLW2 design to expand outside of the company, it does work well. The cable release functions aren’t quite as easy to use, mind you, but they’re good to have nonetheless and held up well throughout testing.
Northwave includes two sets of footbeds with the Extreme RR shoes: a standard set, plus one made of thicker foam for lower-volume feet. Photo: David Rome.
The bigger issue I have is how Northwave has utilized the SLW2 dial on the Extreme RR. With just a single dial per shoe, there’s no way to independently adjust the tightness of specific regions of the shoe, and whereas Northwave aims for an even fit throughout, that’s not how everyone will want it. For example, I prefer a tighter fit around the ankle, but a slightly more relaxed fit around the toebox. Here, the end result is the exact opposite of my usual setup, and heel fit seemed to suffer as a result with some noticeable slipping out back, even with that cat’s-tongue material inside the heel cup.
Speaking of slipping, the traction pads on the underside of the carbon sole are too hard and slick to provide much grip on hard surfaces — which is perhaps for the best since they’re non-replaceable and need to last as long as possible. In addition, ventilation is only so-so, despite the numerous perforations up top and vent holes in the sole.