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Specialized 2FO Cliplite MTB shoe review: an update of one of the best trail shoes around

With a fresh update, how well does the Specialized’s new 2FO Cliplite MTB shoe fare?

Specialized 2FO Cliplite MTB shoe
(Image: © Guy Kesteven)

Bike Perfect Verdict

Superb balance of trail control and downcountry power delivery in a super comfortable, durable shoe that’s worth the high cost

Pros

  • +

    Stiff power kick

  • +

    Clear trail feedback

  • +

    Ultra solid foot security

  • +

    Improved wet/cold protection

  • +

    Good unclipped grip

Cons

  • -

    Expensive

  • -

    Hotter than before

  • -

    Conventional cleat slot

Specialized’s previous 2FO Cliplite has been my benchmark aggro trail, clipless shoe for several years so I was excited but also nervous when the brand announced a new version. I still know people who hunt round shops for the Mk5 S-Works road shoes and I didn’t want to become one of those types if the Cliplites been tweaked the wrong way. 

In order to find out whether the revamp was successful or not, I’ve been giving the new version of the 2FO Cliplite shoes a run for their money, to see if they still hold up as well as they did against the best mountain bike shoes. What I can say is that it's a very useful evolution rather than revolution, and that’s great as far as I’m concerned. Read on for the details.

Specialized 2FO Cliplite shoe

The updated version of the Specialized 2FO ClipLite MTB shoe was a useful evolution rather than revolution  (Image credit: Guy Kesteven)

Design and aesthetics

Looking at the upper of the 2FO shoes it’s easy to notice some differences. They lose the lower wrapover strap that didn’t really do anything, in favor of a reinforcing rib from mid-foot over the forefoot and back. That means tensioning is done entirely via the two Boa dials, but they’re now the dual-directional, micro-adjust Li2 version. 

The tough, reinforced and roomy toe-box also loses its mesh section for much better splash-proofing, although that does make the shoes hotter on summer days. You’ve still got perforated sides backed with extra-breathable mesh on the inside where the shoe is sheltered from weather. You get the same open mesh behind the center of the tough, stiff tongue, but then really generous padding around the top of the tongue and the whole heel. 

The outer heel cup is asymmetric too, with a diagonal seam, inside and outside reinforcing panels and a flex rib just below the cuff to stop your Achilles from getting chewed up when walking. Between the upper and sole you get Specialized’s orthotically lumpy Body Geometry to spread the bones in your feet and support your arches for a more comfortable, less knee-stressful and power efficient foot plant.

There’s a ‘Lollipop’ nylon shank in the EVA padded midsole, while the ‘Landing Strip’ cleat pocket has been reshaped for easier entry. The polygonal tread pattern is slightly deeper and more aggressive too, and you get the latest ‘SlipNot’ soft compound gum-coloured rubber.

Specialized 2FO Cliplite shoe

The closure system is made up of two two-way Boa dials. (Image credit: Guy Kesteven)

Performance

Despite losing the forefoot strap, the ClipLite character is still one of immediate and firmly supported security from cleat to heel. The new two-way dial adjustment makes them a lot more tuneable as feet heat and swell on big days out, or you need to click some extra kick into the next attack. 

They’re noticeably stiffer than most shoes when you put the power through the pedals too, so they’re a great choice if hammering climbs, or hustling trails hard is on the agenda. They’re not so stiff you’re going to get rattled around or numbed on rocky descents, or relentlessly technical trails like an XC shoe though, and the new SlipNot rubber gives you decent grip on a broader format pedal if you decide to unclip. The reshaped ‘Landing Strip’ is faster and cleaner to get into even in filthy conditions, too. 

The cleat slots are relatively short and conventionally positioned though, so the ClipLites aren’t for you if you like a really midfoot pedal position. The sole still drags on some more aggressive, pinned platform style pedals too. There are now two other, longer slotted, slightly softer-soled and flat pedal-friendly 2FO Roost and DH options if you want max grip and foot feel. 

Specialized 2FO Cliplite shoe

The 'Landing Strip' cleat recess has been reshaped. (Image credit: Future)

While off-bike grip is better than before on rocks and roots, thanks to the new rubber and tread, there’s still not much bite from the flat sole on slop, mud and grass, so if you’re regularly hike-a-biking in those sorts of conditions, have a look at Specialized's S-Works Recon shoes.

Despite the overall power play feel and locked down center and heel of the ClipLites, there's still plenty of toe wiggle room and the new toe box makes them a lot more comfortable than before in cold and wet weather. That makes them awesome for me in the UK, but I can see they might be steamier in Arizona or Singapore as a result. The XPEL lining is hydrophobic to stop the shoe holding onto excess moisture though, so they dry fast whether it’s been a wet or sweaty ride.

While Specialized has actually removed a couple of the bulkier bumpers from the old shoe, there’s still enough outsole projection and heel padding to fend off sniper rock attacks when you’re threading the needle on rock gardens and overgrown singletrack. So far they’re holding up as well as the seemingly indestructible previous versions did too, which helps offset the high price.

Specialized 2FO Cliplite MTB shoe

There’s still plenty of outsole projection and heel padding (Image credit: Guy Kesteven)

Verdict

Specialized has improved its already excellent hard kicking trail shoe with better off-bike and unclipped grip, and an even more secure, finely adjusted foot grasp for putting the power down. The more sealed forefoot adds comfort in wetter and colder climates too, though that will make them hotter in the tropics. They’re still bomber tough too, which makes the high price easier to stomach in investment terms.

Tech Specs: Specialized 2FO Cliplite MTB shoes

  • Price: $200 / £175
  • Weight: 942g (size 44 with SPD cleats)
  • Sizes: 36 - 49 (black) 39-49 (oak)

Guy Kesteven is Bike Perfect and Cyclingnews’ contributing tech editor. Hatched in Yorkshire he's been hardened by riding round it in all weathers since he was a kid. He spent a few years working in bike shops and warehouses before starting writing and testing for bike mags in 1996. Since then he’s written several million words about several thousand test bikes and a ridiculous amount of riding gear. To make sure he rarely sleeps and to fund his custom tandem habit, he’s also penned a handful of bike-related books and talks to a GoPro for YouTube, too.


Rides: Pace RC295, Cotic FlareMax, Specialized Chisel, Vielo V+1 gravel bike, Nicolai FS Enduro, Landescape custom gravel tandem

Height: 180cm

Weight: 69kg