Specialized has broadened its shoe offering by bringing out a new DH-specific shoe that they have developed with the help of the Specialized Gravity Team and including three-time World Champion downhiller Loïc Bruni.
The 2FO (Foot Out, Flat Out) DH shoes come in clipless and flat options and use Specialized’s new stickier SlipNot ST rubber to keep you planted on the pedals, we have been riding the flat-soled version of the shoe to see how it shapes up against the best mountain bike shoes.
Construction and fit
Specialized has used a stout PU leather for durability and reinforced the shoe around the toe box should you decide to play football with any trail furniture. The inner cuff is also raised to keep your ankles from battering off the cranks and offer a little more support to the foot. Being a DH shoe the 2FO DH flat is designed for protection first and ventilation second so they do run a little hot if you are required some extended pedal time although there are some perforations at the sides and front of the foot for cooling. Inside there is an Xpeltm hydrophobic mesh construction which helps disperse heat build-up and should reduce water absorption and dramatically improve drying time which can be a problem with overbuilt DH shoes.
Both the flat and clipped versions use Specialized’s new Slipnot ST compound, this is the third generation of Slipnot and the low rebounding rubber does what it says on the tin. The sole has a cushioned EVA foam midsole which is paired with an impact-absorbing shank. Stiffness is key to pedaling efficiency and stability but not for walking so Specialized has left the toe and heel sections flexible to make track walks more comfortable. The clip version Specialized has extended the length of the cleat slot by 4mm that can facilitate a more rearward cleat set up to mimic flat pedals. The cleat recess is also elongated providing a runway to aid engagement with the pedal.
Despite all the extra armory the 2FO DH shoe is still relatively slimline and tips our scales at an impressive 436g per shoe which is surprisingly close to the more trail orientated Specialized 2FO Roost shoes we recently tested which also has the new SlipNot ST sole. The straight shape of the shoe makes it look a little like you're wearing your shoes on the wrong feet but otherwise, the understated aesthetic has a more casual feel than the previous 2FO 2.0 or other optimized race boots which definitely appeals to me.
Specialized’s Body Geometry approach to riding gear is infamous for quality ergonomics and Specialized has focused on the Longitudinal Arch, Metatarsal Button, and Varus Wedge to improve efficiency and optimize hip, knee, and foot alignment. Pedaling dynamics and alignment might seem like a secondary requirement but it also translates to better endurance and control for back-to-back days riding rough DH tracks.
The fit has a relaxed casual shoe fit but you can feel that body geometry work gently influence the foot into a comfortable position. They have a roomy toe box and there a decent amount of width. The throat of the shoe is narrow and short so there isn’t much scope for forefoot tightening and if you have narrower feet you might find the scope of tightening a touch limited. The heel box is fairly malleable and shapes snugly around the Achilles to stop any lifting or squirming of the foot when riding.
My feet are on the narrow side however they still meshed well with the shape of the shoe with no signs of hot spots, fatigue or discomfort despite some long days on the bike. The 2FO DH’s feel accurately sized but if needed Specialized offers half sizes, between 38 and 47, so it’s possible to up or downsize to find the perfect fit.
Specialized's new SlipNot ST rubber results in an extremely grippy sole with a locked-in connection as soon as the foot is placed onto the pedal. If you're the type of rider that likes a little slipping underfoot then this not the shoe for you. The cushioning in the sole and slow rebound rubber help take the sting out of the trail without losing any feedback from what is happening underfoot. Stamping on the pedals doesn’t feel mushy either with pedal strokes being delivered directly and efficiently when needed. The sole is fairly stiff which stops any bending around the pedal that can cause fatigue on longer descents, there is some flexibility although not enough if you are a rider who prefers the molded feel and nuanced feedback from the pedals.
The added flexibility around the heels and toes means they aren’t bad to walk in either if you fancy sessioning a section of trail although the high inside ankle protection can rub a little when hiking off-camber pitches. Otherwise, the hexagonal grips manage to provide ground traction well as long as it isn’t too muddy and are noticeably better on dirt than other popular dotted-soled riding kicks.
It’s not just the sole that feels locked into the pedal, the last and upper work together to create a real connection with the foot and offer the support that’s needed when ripping over chunder. On taking hard impacts or carving through g-out corners the shoe supports the foot to reducing unwanted folding in the ankles.
A blessing of some mild weather has limited wet testing however the shoes have so far fended of the odd river crossing and some portaging over lingering snowdrifts. While we haven’t had a long time in the shoes they are still cleaning up well and aren’t showing any signs of wear.
Specialized’s new SlipNot ST sole is superbly grippy, gluing feet to the pedals and allowing you to really work the bike from the pedals. What's more impressive is the dampening and fatigue-reducing quality of the sole. Impacts and trail chatter is muted without ignoring the important communications from the bike and giving a clear story to what is happening underfoot.
While I would like to see a wider throat to offer a little more adjustability with the laces I never found myself clawing the insole with my toes which is a telltale sign your shoes aren't supporting your foot as they should.
Overall the 2FO DH shoes are a superbly comfortable downhill orientated shoe that, thanks to the low weight and excellent fit, are actually more than capable taking on a full day of enduro or radical trail riding should you want a little more protection for your feet.
Tech Specs: Specialized 2FO DH Flat
- Colors: 2FO DH Clip: Black Redwood & Cool Grey, 2FO DH Flat: Black/Cool Grey & Cool Grey
- Weight: 436g (2FO DH Flat EU43, actual)
- Price: 2FO DH Clip: $170.00/£TBC, 2FO DH Flat: $160.00/£140.00