Not that long ago, I saw a picture of a guy getting pushed over while wearing bike shoes. The photo was mid-fall and the shoes were up in the air… Rather than noting the guy was about to crack his bean (made more funny because he was a pro that was “too cool to wear a helmet”) the tech geek in me noticed the checkered-flag feet. Then I noticed that the soles were a little special looking… Then I noticed the funky slide stoppers. A little investigation through a couple of pros that roll around Colorado revealed that the person falling wore “those custom D shoes from the Ski guy”. Nine more phone calls (as nobody wants to give away an advantage…) I found my way to D2 Custom Footwear.
“D Squared” gets its name from Don (Lamson) and Dan (Kurtanich) and is located in Eagle, Colorado. The roots of this company actually rest in competitive skiing, as Don started making orthotics about 30 years ago back in the flowerpower and funk era of the mid 70’s (and hell yes I wish I had an embarrassing picture of them from back then…). Don had a ski boot shop in the 80’s and has been tooling boots and shoes ever since. They got into bike shoes because, back then, nobody was making a bike shoe that held a proper orthotic insert very well.
Today they make custom shoes for cycling (mountain and road) and have a really nice Tri shoe almost ready (they only made ‘em for special folks till now). They also do a dress shoe and golf shoes and will still mess with a ski boot now and again, just for old time’s sake.
Our test shoe (“our” meaning my) is the “best” fit Pro Elite model that features the sweetest, most solid sole on the market.
Velonews ran a shoe sole story a while back (great stuff as usual from Neal Rogers) that made it clear that not all “carbon soles” are what you might think (in thickness or in content). Not so the D2 Elite’s sole. This thing is simply the thickest carbon sole I have seen to date and it’s all carbon, rather than a sprinkling of carbon dust in black plastic, or a fiberglass sole with a layer of carbon (half as thick as paper) wrapped round the outside.
The molded and replaceable skid stoppers are also substantial enough to be more effective than most.
The skid stoppers are nice because falling down sucks, but sucks even more at the coffee shop where everyone thinks you look like a dork in tights to begin with… I think some companies are afraid to add weight with proper stoppers, but as this shoe is made with 100% carbon, rather than a “composite matrix” (matrix meaning carbon mixed with cheaper, more flexible and heavier crap), D2 didn’t have to scrimp on the pads…
D2 also made a special, one off shim for my short leg… Again, out of solid carbon fiber.
And once installed, it definitely helped pimp my gimp limp by looking slick. The cleat placement on their shoes is also custom, and yeah, they can help you attach just about anyone’s pedal system…
The uppers on the Elite are very-very thin. Far thinner than any non-custom shoe I have seen at any retailer at any price…
To pull this off, you again need to use the best materials possible and D2 use carbon and Kevlar reinforced sail cloth (yeah, the expensive America’s Cup type stuff that costs a gazillion bucks a yard). Not only is it insanely strong, but the bling factor is huge…
Note the yellow and black lines, that’s the carbon and Kevlar…
They couple the sailcloth with a few more synthetics for the upper like the very soft, strong and thin Majilite interior.
And they use a breathable Panatex mesh (the product is actually called “bike”) that has virtually no stretch to it despite the loose weave. It’s also very durable.
Something more of note is the stitching of these shoes. It is slight and the detail is great.
Again, quality is king, as you have to use strong, pretty expensive materials to be able to run some of the single needle lines that D2 pull off. You also have to be damn certain of your design because all the right materials can still stink if you use ‘em in the wrong place or direction…
From the front to the perfect heel cups…
The shoes seem like they were made exactly as they are, one at a time by hand.
Fit. First priority for bike AND shoe…?
With material use in mind, you’ll need to make sure you’re fit correctly (duh…) and that brings us to the first step in getting a set of magic slippers. D2 can have you come into the shop and measure and scan your foot as well as look at you on a bike, which is the best of the best way. They can also allow you (and an assistant) to measure your own feet using their fit kit – and as this is how most of you will order this product, that’s what we decided to do.
First things first you get a box with the tools you’ll need. Using the tools is not hard, it’s just awkward on your own. Using a helper makes it relatively easy though.
You’ll need to mark up your feet and then press them evenly into the pink stuff. Your assistant can tell how even things are as you’ll make a level line on your foot…
The foam is extremely soft and brittle, and there’s no second chance here, so make sure you go slow and careful, following the directions and letting your assistant help keep your foot level (there is a tool to help you put the level line on your foot).
Once done, you’ll stand on paper and have your assistant trace your feet individually and also make measurements all the way around several spots on the forefoot and around the heel. The combination of measurements lets D2 produce a 3 dimensional picture of your foot and select an appropriate last from the 40 (each with 9 different widths) stock sizes. That’s 360 variations. And that’s EACH FOOT.
If 720 sizes are not enough, they can make a custom toe box for an extra 50 bucks. And if you are truly screwed up (and I mean serious foot problems) or just plain wealthy, they can make a full custom last (for a one time, $300 charge) that will require a visit to their office. The sizes on hand range from teeny to Tony (Robbins, the motivational guy who is also a big sonofabitch taking a 17.5) stopping at an in house 18. VERY few people need the full custom treatment…
Once measured up, everything is hand fabricated specifically for you. In my case, they made the special shim for my slightly short leg, fabricated the two different uppers (one of my feet is ѕ of a size larger than the other) and the soles to match. They also mill cream-of-the-crop foot beds that mate specifically within your shoe last for each foot.
The foot bed is a dual density material that is far more solid than off the shelf crap (even the heated sole stuff).
Unlike most retail shoes (and some other custom shoes), D2’s shoe lasts are made completely level inside. The sole is shaped of course, but side to side, across the inside bottom of the shoe (the part your foot bed rests on) is level so that the insert fits perfectly and the rise and fall of the shape is only what your foot requires and is not affected by the sole or last as some inserts are. As fits can change over time, this allows simple adjustments to be made with the foot bed when something needs to change.
It took about 25 minutes to get through the tracing measuring and pressing process (DO NOT JUST STEP INTO THE FOAM, AS IT’S SO SENSITIVE YOUR FOOT WILL FLATTEN OUT ON THE BOTTOM…!), and when done, we just resealed it and shipped it back.
It took a few weeks for the shoes to show, and when they did, I was immediately satisfied…
There was no break in needed with these shoes. None.
Some shoes need to have some break in time. The materials used by D2 are chosen to be extremely strong, very light, and to hold their shape, rather than give a bit too eventually fit. You can use these higher end materials when you do a custom upper, because everything fits from the word go. And that means you don’t want anything to “give” or settle or anything else, as starting with a perfect fit means jack if it doesn’t stay that way.
There were no hot spots with these shoes. None. (Note that I am well fit on my bike and have had my feet properly set too.)
The fit is so uniform across the top that your entire foot bears the load. You don’t feel pull from any strap or part of the shoe; the entire upper cradles your foot as you come over the top. Also note that these shoes can get away with very thin very light material because of the fit. No mushy, bulky padding is needed with these, so when we say they “Knocked Our Socks Off” I mean it. I can run these without socks no problem and that is TOO SWEET in Arizona…
Getting Down to Business.
Press down and you’re pedaling with your entire foot. You don’t have the movement inside these shoes that you have in stock shoes… There is no flattening out inside, no drift outward, nothing rubs… Instead, everything stays supported and your entire foot applies the down stroke power. And it’s in the down stroke that the shoe is particularly important.
Proper foot bed support is the most critical aspect as it will effect how your knee tracks and how you apply the vast majority of power (regardless of how much of a perfect circle you think you’re making). If the contact surface for your foot, on the down stroke is large and well supported, your knees only have to worry about applying power rather than holding things in line.
BIKE FIT IS ALSO A CRITICAL ELEMENT THAT HAS A HUGE EFFECT on your spin and knee tracking etc… But a shoe like this brings it all together and maximizes your power utilization to a very large degree. Having a cream of the crop custom bike and stock shoes is like having a Ferrari Enzo with wheels and tires from Costco…
As you can imagine, most of the standard shoe review bullshit flies out the window with a product like this…
No point in commenting on these shoes relative to anything off the shelf. No need to talk about whether these are good for someone with a wide foot or narrow. No need to comment on how the insert might work for you. No need to go any further on the closure system.
D2 make a shoe that is right for wide or narrow feet. The shoe’s foot bed conforms perfectly and is made from a solid material that supports its shape even under heavy load and will work for you if you have a high arch, low arch, club foot, extra toe, are missing toes or have special medical condition (they’ve made shoes for people with Neurofibromatosis or “Elephant Man’s disease”). The three strap velcro closure is all anyone needs when the upper hugs your foot like this…
Usually shoe manufacturers (or pretty much any bicycle related manufacturer) trade weight for comfort, stiffness or durability.
The Elite are as light on you feet as any super high end retail shoe and the ventilation is very good. What is not typical at this low weight is the exceptional stiffness of the sole. I noticed no flex at all under load. You may feel like total stiffness is sometimes a bad thing, and in the case of shoes where the foot bed isn’t perfectly molded to your foot, you would be right. But in this case, with a fit like this, it’s very right indeed…
The overall comfort at this weight is also exceptional. Generally speaking, when shoes are made to be light, it allows for thin (but less expensive and certainly less well fitted) materials to be used and you feel the shoe in the areas where it is more supported (a buckle or metal loop where a strap doubles back. Don’t get me wrong, there are GREAT shoes available off the shelf. But a direct comparison is not fair here, as there is so much more that go into something like this.
Durability is also very good despite the thin nature of things, as all the materials are stressed evenly and they are all high end materials. D and D have guys that have been rolling round in these shoes for a decade. As the first hand goes, I have tried to rip the bottoms off of the test pair and there’s no visible wear and still zero flex.
To sum it up, I would say that if you shop in the high end of the shoe world (and you should, weather it be for sport, business or leisure, because your feet are that important) where off the shelf shoes can cost the better part of 3-4 hundred bucks, you should certainly consider these.
Shoes like these have been the exclusive territory of the Top of the Pro ranks, as well as the exceptionally serious and well connected. At $595 for “best” fit, $50 bucks more for a custom Toe Box and $895 for Shaq O’Neil and the Elephant Man, These are not for everyone. But if you’re in the right tax bracket or simply want the best gear for where your power meets the bike, I would not hesitate to get in line for a set…
Where To Get ‘Em
Hit up their site here @ D2CustomFootwear.com or jingle WiseCyclebuys
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