Pulling a set of Fizik shoes from the box is a dramatic affair. Not because of any legendary escapades executed on European mountain passes or long history of success that raise the pulse. These are a new product. While Fizik has a history of saddle innovation and success, they are new to footwear. No, opening a box of Fizik shoes is dramatic because of the box itself. As the box slides out of a full-length sleeve it opens like a flower blooming, a shoe carried within each expanding petal. It’s an apt metaphor for a product line expected to grow into a major player in the cycling shoe market. But it begs another question. How much of this launch is style over substance, marketing over engineering?
The shoes within our box were the R3, Fizik’s entry–level shoe. Well, entry level may be the wrong term, the R3 retails for $299.00 with the top end R1 at $399.00. Both shoes in Fizik’s line are premium. If first impressions are the most lasting, Fizik is going for a classy, understated, timeless look. In a world were more logos are better and every little piece of technology needs to be called out with its own graphic, Fizik has taken a completely different approach. On our white and black R3’s there is one black-on-black “Fizik” at the toe and few understated “:k’s”. These shoes are not screaming about their features and technology, they are playing on their good looks and performance.
Kangaroos, Sails and Mobius Rails
This isn’t to say Fizik hasn’t spent the last two years developing the materials and technology applied to these shoes, they just aren’t wearing it on their sleeves. Our R3’s had black kangaroo leather at the toe and heel, the strongest, thinnest leather available. The rest of the upper is made of white micro fiber. There are three closures, two Velcro and one ratchet. The ratchet, the only real visual flourish on the shoes, is aluminum and plastic. The Velcro straps utilize sailcloth with zinc pull-tabs. Made for the ocean environment they won’t ever stretch, fade, or breakdown.
The carbon fiber outsole is sculpted for stiffness then trends up and around the foot itself in what’s called the Mobius Rail. To ensure your heel stays where it can produce power efficiently a Tepex insert cradles the back of the shoe.
Inside the shoe Fizik spent just as much time and energy on design. The insole is a traditional EVA foam, but with different densities and thicknesses in strategic areas. Over the pedal spindle itself is a higher density, thicker insert protecting you from all the pressure at the area of power transfer. The shoe's tongue has a subtle but very powerful tool for keeping the power transfer smooth and comfortable. A pocket for different size inserts helps increase or decrease the shoes volume depending on your foot’s unique size.
Overall fit and finish of the shoe is exceptional and honors the tradition of handmade Italian shoes. The R3 would be as at home in a window on Milan’s Via Spiga as it is at your local bike shop. Perfect stitching without a thread out of place attaches the kangaroo leather and micro fiber, while flawless blind stitching mates the outer to the interior fabric.
Wide Toes, Tall Arches and Long Hours
A shoe’s last, the form it is created around, is the first and most important step in creating a good fit. The R3’s last is fairly high volume, especially in the world of handmade Italian cycling shoes, and on the road it worked magically. While some brands still seem determined to make shoes that fit like a ballet slipper to ensure power transfer, Fizik has designed a comfortable fit and lets the stiff, sculpted outsole, strategic insole, and rest of the shoe's features to deliver that power.
This allows for a high, thin arch, thanks to the removable insert in the tongue and a wider toe box that allows your toes some room to breathe giving the sensitive nerves that cause hot foot some relief. Riders that use a wedged insert inside the shoe will find plenty of room for it.
The other benefit of this is something riders that pedal overly toe down will truly appreciate. Yes, we should not pedal toe down, but it’s very common and a shoe that accounts for it is a very good thing. With the tepex heel cradle, the three closures, the expandable volume and wide toe box your toes don’t end up wedged in the front of the shoe after a few hours. The result is more comfort after long hours in the saddle and we all know being on the bike for 100 miles is tough enough without your feet being an issue. The Fizik R3 is an incredibly comfortable shoe for long miles.
The one long mile concern is ventilation, With only small perforations at the toe and on the inside of the micro fiber exterior, and fairly thick inner lining, the R3 is by no means the best ventilated shoe we have ridden. The tongue, with its insert also provides quite a bit of insulation. Be prepared for a warmer feel on very hot days while in the R3.
But how about short miles? 90 minute criteriums and 2 hour club rides? No one wants a foot that can squirm inside a high volume shoe when an attack comes a few K before the top of the climb or you need to spend a few laps on the front closing the gap to a late race breakaway. The R3 has the goods. The three closures keep your foot securely in place, but that in itself is not news. Velcro and ratchets work. What is impressive is how tight you can crank them down without creating discomfort. Again, it’s the unique high volume last, adjustable insert and sculpted outsole that makes this possible. If your frame, or wheels aren’t very stiff, the R3’s just might reveal that fact.
The Fizik R3 weighs 258 grams, actually lighter than the more costly R1. Despite the R1’s carbon ratchet it weighs 270 grams, due mainly to the included SIDAS moldable insert, an extra option with the R3. The R3 is available in the tested black and white, as well as a racing red, and retails for $299. As stated before this is no bargain shoe, but it matches up extremely well with shoes that cost hundreds more and exceeds the performance and aesthetics of shoes in the same price range. The R3 is more than a worthy addition to the shoe market, it has brought new ideas, advanced materials, and true appreciation for the qualities that are necessary to make any Italian shoe great, fit and a commitment to hand make each and every pair.