This article first ran earlier this year but is an interesting read and is certainly worth another look, especially with the holiday gift season approaching – hint, hint loving wife!
No other piece of cycling kit comes close to suffering the insane, multi directional loads as your footwear. Nothing. Nic. Nada. Nichts. Niente. Nimic. Niets. Tsis muaj dab tsi comes close…
Sure your private parts are important and bike fit is extremely important to performance, but your jersey, shorts, gloves etc. are pieces of kit that are basically just along for the ride. They’re not faced with the task of taking all of the power from your legs and delivering it to the bicycle as is the case with your shoes…
D2 Shoes have been able to stay in the game while a few other notables have come and gone and that’s due in no small part to a very good base design and additional step by step (or stroke by stroke as it were) updates and modification. Over the past several years, I’ve been lucky enough to afford a few pairs along the way and still regularly use a nearly 8 year old pair that has seen many thousands of miles and function today as well as they did when I first acquired them.
That ability to stand up to years of abuse is heavily tied the use of exceptional materials but materials alone won’t do it. The custom fitting is a big part of a pair of shoes staying together and performing well over a length of time that would have seen off multiple pairs of stock shoes.
Simply put, a shoe that conforms very well to your foot, top to bottom, will spread stress over the majority of the structure rather than pulling harder on a few spots.
D2 Shoes are hand made in Eagle Colorado by Don Lamson and a couple of well qualified helpers. You can count D2 Shoes staff on one hand.
There are a few ways to get fit for a pair of D2 shoe; you can go directly to D2 and have them fit you right at their work shop, there are a few Fit Centers around the country and the last and by far the most common way is to have them send you a fitting kit.
The kit itself has simple instructions and will take you and a helper 15 minutes +/-, with a few measurements and two separate crush foam parts to complete…
From there, your measurements will go to D2 and in most cases they’ll match your foot width and general shape to one of something nearing 400 existing lasts in house…
Ah and that’s times 2 by the way, as they have all of these forms for both left and right feet.
In the extreme case that your feet are so jacked up/odd that they don’t work in just shy of 800 existing forms, it’s no sweat… D2 can work with you directly and or work with full foot castings from your podiatrist and take a laser scan form and load it to their own custom lathe…
And presto, your WONDER-foot is now ready for crafting…
Once the form is chosen for each foot (different sized feet are very common by the way), D2 hand craft individual uppers and insoles.
They then mold individual carbon fiber sole plates to match the shoes.
Your pedal / cleat choice is needed as they will make the drillings specific to your request. They will also custom orient the drilling position in the case that you have any special fitting needs.
The custom upper is then bonded to the custom sized and drilled sole plate…
Of course there are a lot of steps to hand stitching the uppers that we don’t have time or space to include here (and then there’s the fact that D2 don’t really want folks to see the entire process).
Having seen a few custom shoe makers (though they were making dress shoes) at work in the past, I can tell you that the craftsmanship at D2 is absolutely top notch.
Both the care in manufacturing and the total time required to fabricate these to specification are exceptional and multiple times that of any production shoe (though in fairness, when the professionals get custom tailored kicks that look like the retail versions, there are some very good craftsmen at work in a couple of the Italian shops still making kicks).
That’s the uppers handled but do they have SOLE?
Custom lasts / uppers are part of the equation but they’re easily rivaled (and or exceeded) in importance by your insoles / foot beds (and remember there are TWO sides to every foot bed that matter).
D2 used to take your crush box forms and make plaster impressions and then use your foot shape to hand craft a custom orthotic. It worked very well and the foot beds from my first pair of D2 were actually better than the custom insoles I got from my doctor. But now they’ve created a process that still produces extremely accurate insoles, but with a bit less hand work.
D2 now have a system in house that laser scans the crush box without need for a casting negative. The laser scan info uploads to a machining platform that custom mills each insole automatically. Still the same great detail work, just a bit quicker and with computer / laser consistency and accuracy.
One of the Key design features to D2 shoes that sets them apart from a few of their failed competitors is their used of a very flat base inside the shoe.
That’s absolutely NOT to say that more fully formed shoe bases can’t work. They can and do work well. But one of the things that custom shoe makers have to acknowledge is that with work this detailed, there very simply can and will be mistakes.
Sometimes those mistakes are in manufacturing. More often it’s down to a bad measurement or crush box effort from the customer. D2 have refined their fitting system very well and have some fail safes now in place that eliminate a lot of fitting / crush box problems, but when something does go wrong, they can make the vast majority of corrections simply by adjusting the foot bed.
That makes adjustments both very quick and far less expensive than many brands that are molding a greater portion of the base of the shoe to your foot and require a complete shoe rebuild if there is a bit of a fit issue…
Milling their own custom insoles also allows D2 to produce a FANTASTIC optional product for you stock shoe advocates (and sponsored riders with no choice in footwear but not enough juice to have custom kicks made by your sponsor).
D2 can make custom insoles AND FORM THEM TO THE SOLE BENDS OF YOUR STOCK SHOES.
Easily the biggest mistake made by the general public who go for custom insoles is that they’re spending $300-400-500 on custom orthotics to fit inside their performance footwear. But especially in the case of cycling shoes, once you take that custom form and push it inside a shoe, the form takes on a portion of the shoe’s shape… There goes a good percentage of your custom fit and money down the drain…
D2 will send you a fitting kit and you’ll send back the kit and your shoes… D2 will then custom form your orthotic specifically to your shoes so you keep all of the benefit.
Of course I went full hog on their latest pair
The SuperFly are D2’s newest model and boast updated fabric patterns and placement of an already fantastic material selection.
I would guess the most obvious of D2’s materials is their very early adoption of fiber reinforced sail cloth as a material. There are many types of this material but D2 Shoe want a specific concentration and direction and go specifically for carbon fiber.
This material has fantastic properties when used correctly as it’s very light weight and fairly supple while having almost no stretch what so ever in specified direction. It’s very much like carbon is used in frame building in that orientation is the key to allow for some suppleness but virtually no stretch in a specific direction.
“When used correctly” becomes an important term as it relates to shoes because with no stretch, you’d better have virtually perfect material placement and cut / shape that one would expect with a fully custom upper. No stretch is fantastic when the material conforms perfectly but it’s the opposite of fantastic when it’s not done right.
Most stock shoes use materials with some stretch as well as enough padding to match with as many feet as possible, but as that padding breaks down and the material continues to stretch, you get hot spots from rubbing, pinching from where the stitching remains tight but is no longer padded and overall you lose performance.
And I’ll venture that the SuperFly’s not only hold on to their performance longer, but likely start with a higher level of performance than most shoes.
An upper that starts out perfectly formed has max comfort and no give, meaning more energy is transferred to the pedals on the upstroke and over the top. D2 had to get the placement of the materials as well as the orientation correct, but after testing, it’s dialed in and by far the most secure fit of any shoe I’ve ever tried.
The SuperFly’s do an even better job than past models by adding the sailcloth material to the straps and heel, where past models only benefited from the materials at the sides of the shoe.
And while the closure system is just Velcro, that is very simply all that’s needed – when the material it is fastened to will not deform and is custom aligned.
Of course it’s not just the sail cloth that matters. The craftsmanship combining all of the materials is tip top…
And then there’s the flexibility of additional customized pieces. Say for instance you have a leg length difference (slight diffs can be addressed with the insoles). D2 will mill a custom spacer that will prevent the nasty stack-o-shims that you might otherwise have…
And you also have the option of standard ventilation or something a bit more breezy…
Bottom Line Performance?
D2’s SuperFly is the best combination of secure fit, comfort, low weight and power transfer of any shoe I have ever worn.
Their last model held that benchmark ahead of the new model, but after going through a couple of editions of heel design…
…And with the addition of sailcloth to the straps as well as to complete the heel cup, these are better in every way.
The only hope of using materials that have so little stretch or movement is by custom forming the upper to match a foot shape. No wire closure system or padding backed buckles will be this secure as they need to stretch / give / conform / move to work well with multiple foot shapes.
There are some GREAT stock shoes out there right now and they’re getting better every year it seems, but they’re very simply not quite as good as these.
One of the notable things in getting into a pair of D2’s is that there is virtually no break in period. Mine fit and felt exactly the same on mile 1 as mile 1000 (and with older pairs that numbers is a few thousand). And that lack of movement is one of the keys to these being the most durable shoes I’ve ever used. About the only change out requires is with the large (and also pretty dang durable heel and toe pads)
You’ll note a slight change to the carbon soles above…
This is down to a bit more testing and better carbon understanding. The new sole plates (above-right) are just as stiff now as the older model but shave a few grams. I didn’t ask, but I’m guessing they didn’t need as much material and also didn’t need the sole shaping to be as deep and or extend as far back to maintain the stiffness.
These soles are among the stiffest I’ve felt and while too much sole stiffness in some shoes can be a bad thing, it’s another good thing for D2. Sole flex is a plus for some shoes because they’re not as well formed to the foot and need some movement and flexibility to maintain comfort over longer miles / hours.
With D2’s fit, you simply don’t need the sole movement for comfort and you’ll also appreciate the better power transfer that comes with a stiff sole-cleat-pedal interface.
As for the orthotic inserts, they’re fantastic either as part of the full custom package or as an exceptional upgrade to your existing shoes.
Custom orthotics are a VERY big upgrade but they’re definitely not all equal and can even make riding worse if the shoe shape isn’t considered.
While aftermarket insoles are generally better than the useless POS inserts for most shoes, there is no store-bought foot bed that you can buy that gives you the same comfort and performance as a custom orthotic. Be they heat-at-home types or inserts with interchangeable arches, they all amount to half measures relative to a properly fitted firm, custom milled orthotic.
In the case I couldn’t spend the money on a full set of D2’s I would strongly recommend the shoe-fitted orthotic option.
That said, I wanted the SuperFly’s…
Crush down on the pedals with all your force and your foot is comfortable and secure, cradled front to back and side to side so well that you almost don’t notice that there is a super stiff sole that’s dishing out virtually all of your power to the pedal. As your pedal stroke pulls your foot back up and over the top and the custom formed upper cradles the top of your foot without stretching and again the power is transfered. It’s not all about a mad sprint or all out climbing though, cruise for hours at any pace and the comfort is fantastic mile after mile.
To sum it up, there’s no question in my mind that along with proper bike fitting, custom foot love is the best/smartest money spent on cycling. On every ride, in all conditions, custom fitted footwear make every pedal stroke better.
• Get more info: D2Shoe.com