Northwave know a thing or two about cycling shoes and apparel. The company was originally founded in the mid 1990’s by Giovanni Piva when he developed the Integral MTB shoes. Famously putting an end to the traditional black cycling shoes. Since then, Northwave have gone on to be one of the leaders in cutting edge cycle shoe technology.
The Northwave Sonic SRS road shoes offer some impressive technical features on paper but just how good are they when you are in the saddle? We have put them to the test on a variety of rides including short commutes, longer club rides and on the indoor trainer. The Fluro-Black version we tested look great (in our opinion) and are part of Northwave’s ‘Be Visible. Be Safe’ range of products. They are super-bright and ideal for commuting or general riding. As big fans of hi-viz clothing and products, the first sight of these shoes didn’t disappoint. If however you are a little less ‘look at me and my shoes’ then you will be pleased to know that these are also available in Black-white, white-red and white-black.
Once you are passed the brightness of these shoes, the fist thing that stands out is the unique mesh-like design. The uppers are made from a Polyurethane microfibre which is Thermowelded to mesh vents around the shoe. This keeps the overall weight of the shoe down compared to that of leather or synthetic shoes. The result is the Northwave Airflow System which allows more air circulation around the foot. It is a fantastic concept, especially for Spring and Summer cycling but may cause you some issues in the colder months.
Northwave use their S.R.S ratchet system on this version of the Sonic (the Sonic 3S using 3 asymmetric Velcro straps). The S.R.S stands for Slim Ratchet System. And in comparison to some of the other manufactures systems it is slim. Northwave claim that this is to ” Maximum closing precision, minimized size and weight”. They also suggest that the positioning of the mechanism follows the anatomic shape of the foot. I guess this depends on the shape of your foot but we found the S.R.S system to be secure, precise and easy to use, even mid-ride. Something we also liked is the fact that you can un-Velcro the ratchet strap altogether. This means that riders with a high instep and bridge can ensure an exact fit without losing the security of the ratchet system. The S.R.S system is supported by 2 asymmetric Velcro straps. The middle on strap is positioned in the centre to even out and reduce the pressure on the upper foot. Like the ratchet system these straps proved to be very secure too.
The heel retention system is integrated into the body of the Sonic SRS. This means that the single piece of molded plastic reinforcement is sandwiched between the outer layer and the inner fabric of the shoe. The reinforcement cups nicely around the heel of the cycling shoes and offers a good level of support without too much flex. However, some may find the heel supports a little high and this can rub when riding over a distance if the shoe isn’t the correct fit.
Moving to the all important sole, Northwave have built the Sonic SRS on top of their NRG base. This is a feather in their technology cap as it is a blend of nylon and fibreglass which is infused with carbon for added strength. The result is a pretty impressively stiff sole. This is also helped by the thick ridge which runs diagonally across the arch on the foot. Okay so you may not find that the NRG sole offers the same rigidity of a full carbon sole but this shoe sits in the middle of Northwave’s range. As a larger rider I found there was a little flex when I was stood on the pedals on a fast climb. After a 1.5 hour turbo trainer session I also experienced a hotspot in the ball of my left foot but I think this was more down to the positioning of the cleat. For the ‘footbed’, the Sonic SRS uses the Performance Advanced insole. This offers a nice amount of cushioning but is nothing really to shout about. It does its job ‘fine’. We found the sole to be quite narrow towards the centre and rear which some may find an issue but with a forgiving upper, we think you will find it comfortable unless you have a very wide foot. The NRG sole incorporates 5 vents for increased air flow and both toe and heel pads to help reduce scuffing the sole on when walking although sadly these are not replaceable. Made for a 3 bolt cleat as standard, the Northwave NRG can be switched to an SPD cleat by changing the cleat plate (sold separately) should you so wish. This involves removing the insole, then removing the blanking plate and replacing with the SPD plate. The Northwave website does show you how to do this in an instructional video. For the Speedplay obsessive, there is also an adapter kit available from most Northwave retailers including Wiggle and Evans Cycles.
Northwave Sonic SRS Road Shoe Review Conclusion
The Northwave Sonic SRS is a mid range performance shoe. But we found it performs at a high level. Without a doubt we think they are a good looking shoe (especially in the Fluro yellow) and feel like they have been carefully thought about. Northwave’s unique Airflow mesh upper works brilliantly for making the whole shoe more breathable and cooling the foot. Although you will want a good set of overshoes or toe covers if you are going to wear the Northwave Sonic SRS in the colder months of Autumn and Winter. The SRS system combined with the asymmetric Velcro straps provide secure fastenings for your feet and allow for easy adjustment on the move. The NRG sole offers a good degree of stiffness and should stand up to most levels of road riding from the casual or commuters to the weekend 150 km road warriors. It would be nice to have the option of replaceable heel pads (it is rare that the toe pad will get lost or damages due to walking on the cleats) but this isn’t a major drawback as they are well fitted. In terms of the pricing – the Northwave Sonic SRS rrp at £99.99 which for a shoe deemed as a ‘recreational’ or training shoe, some will feel is a little high. But as always we try to give you the best price at the time of the review and Chain Reaction Cycles have 30% and Wiggle 35% off currently. Sizing ranges from 39-48 in adult sizes and is about accurate (as it can be). Usually wearing an 10.5-11 in a standard shoe, I tested a 45 (UK11) and found them to be a good fit.
All in all, these shoes get a big thumbs up for comfort and performance but shop around for the best deal.