By Hutch and Robert
3 Elements of a cycling shoe design
When designing a range of cycling shoes, there are some key aspects to bring to the process. We sat down with our chief designer, Hutch, to learn about these and help to inform you guys about what makes a Lake cycling shoe so special. There’s an obvious rationale as to why we have such a wide range of shoes and sizes – pardon the pun, and it’s to do with the uniqueness of your own feet, which we’ve written about extensively in previous blogs. Time then to break things down and examine the details.
There are 3 main elements to consider, and it has a lot to do with the variations in the shape of the ‘Last’, the pattern and design of the shoe, and of course, the materials used. Let’s examine these elements a little bit more.
3 Elements of Fit
Okay then, here’s the 3 main elements:
- Last Shape
Change any one of these elements and the fit of the shoe will change, and it will have a dramatic effect, either positive or negative on your feet. It’s not about style, and in truth, that should be the last consideration – it's cycling, not a catwalk, and comfort should be married with performance. This is why form and fit is so central to all that we do here at Lake. Let’s break it down further for you:
- Same Last, Same Pattern, Different Materials = Different Fit
- Same Last, Different Pattern, Same Materials = Different Fit
- Different Last, Same Pattern, Same Materials = Different Fit
These are the basic FIT principals that we utilize to make the shoes fit in specific ways, while being able to maximize the resources and tools to offer such a wide variety of fits for the variations across the global cycling community. It’s what makes our shoes so special.
Living in a Material World
Taking into account the properties and behavior of each material we can specifically design a shoe to meet the riders' individual requirements for comfort.
Out Lake CX238 road cycling shoe is a good example of the versatility of this principal of changing material for a different fit. It’s one of our most popular shoes across the world, and we produce it in different materials for a reason. When we compare this same model in Leather vs Microfiber the feel and the end results are significantly different, and the rider’s preference can dictate which material they choose to get the shoe in. It’s all about the uniqueness of you – something that we have to keep emphasizing, and why a personal shoe fitting is so important.
Leather - it’s soft, pliable and has stretch properties. The leather upper will change shape to accommodate the rider foot shape over time. There are pros and cons to this depending on what your preference is, as the shoe upper will basically become invisible if you are a rider that maintains a steady cadence and value long comfort for long rides. During a 2+ hour ride your foot will change shape and the upper will adjust to accommodate that foot change without restricting the feet. However, this invisibleness can sometimes be considered by some riders a feeling of less support or less connection to the bike.
Microfiber is firm, supportive, but with limited stretch. During the shoe making process a substantial portion of the stretch and pliability in microfiber is spent when the material is stretched over the shoe Last. In most instances, the Microfiber may be working to go back to its original resting shape, making the shoe fit a little tighter right out of the toe box. There will be some limited give in the microfiber to stretch out, but the memory of the material is so strong that it will be always working to stretch back to its original shape. The pros and cons to this is that for some riders it gives a sense of support and a tight feel that often equates to a closer connection to the bike and a snappier response when putting a burst of power to the pedal. However, as the foot changes shape the restrictiveness of the materials can lead to discomfort for some riders.
These kinds of changes made in something as simple as a material change has quite an impact and different feel for each individual rider.
Designs for Life and Action
Real life on a bike is all about action and movement, which is why design has to prioritize this over simple static aesthetics. When we move into things like different Shoe Patterns/Shoe Models, this type of engineering is how we can take pretty much any 2D upper material and manipulate it to fit over unique 3D shapes. Imagine having to take a piece of A4 paper and shape it onto a sphere; besides wadding it up into a ball, it’s not an easy task without cutting a specific pattern into that sheet. This in its most basic sense is pattern making, and it’s no easy task. However, it’s critical to ensuring that the finished Lake cycling shoe is the very best in the world. How well we make a pattern greatly effects how well a shoe takes the shape of the Last. We can control how much support, stretch, adjustability and volume are in the shoe based on the pattern work.
Last... but not Least
The last factor to look at is the ‘Last’ Shape itself, and it usually has the most visual impact, on the cyclist being able to see the difference without having to wear the shoe. By having multiple Last shapes and width we can accommodate more foot shapes and sizes. Something as simple as offering half sizes to something as extreme as offering an entirely different last width/shape set in a shoe model can open one model to over 30-60% more foot shapes. And, when you consider that here at Lake, we also offer shoes in 2 sizes – a different size shoe for each foot if it’s needed. Nobody else does that, but we do; and we spend a whole lot of time researching your feet, so that when we bring the 3 elements together – Last, Pattern, Material – you can be sure to be wearing the best cycling shoes in the world, by Lake.
If you want to know what drives the evolution of the cycling shoe, it’s simply you and your feet. Ultimately, the more we look at your feet and cycling style and variations in body mechanics, the more ways we find to bring you comfort and performance in perfect harmony. So, the next time you’re looking for a new pair of cycling shoes, take a pause and think about these 3 elements – your feet will thank you ;)