The Italian brand Nothwave has achieved a very difficult task; it has consolidated a wide range of cycling shoes for different surfaces and disciplines with a very solid and authentic style. We have had access to three different models for road and gravel with totally complementary features and which share an outstanding quality level and a long list of technical improvements. This has been a long overdue to do for the shoemakers, as not all of them provide a harmonized portfolio that allows customers to feel like they are riding the same shoe, with the same style, quality, and comfort but fit for each discipline’s purpose.
Northwave history is connected with the mountains and this has always been an element that has driven their product development. It is of course a brand with a consolidated footprint in the cycling shoe & apparel industry, but also in other outdoor sports, including niche ones such as Splitboarding. This is extremely relevant to their product and brand philosophy, based on exploring new concepts and developing their own technology to provide functional improvements.
Multi-discipline, shared vision
The three different models that we have tested share the same DNA: a look & feel that stands out, high-quality standards, and improved details to offer better functionality and performance. This shared DNA, combined with a well-designed upper, is what allows the rider to switch from one discipline to another and have a very similar feeling on the feet.
In more detail, the high-performance shoes, the Extreme Pro 3 for asphalt and the Extreme XCM 4 for fast gravel races or long mountain bike marathons, stand out because of their very high-end materials, patented lacing technology, and overall very neat finish. However, the Rockster with a more comfortable focus, is a truly well-crafted all-rounder that you can take on for endless adventure rides or those Sunday coffee rides in which riding your bike is only an excuse to socialize.
Performance for tarmac: Extreme Pro 3
The Extreme Pro is a high-performance racing shoe with a full carbon sole and a design that suggests speed. These are the stiffest shoes in the product line of Northwave and offer a tight fit thanks to a very ingenious inner structure that supports the lacing system, ensuring maximum power transfer capacity.
The upper is quite generous in width, making it not really suitable for riders with extremely narrow feet. However, Northwave supplies these shoes with two different insoles so that they become more adaptable already out of the box. This is an example of how much details matter for Northwave, as the insoles are of much better quality than the average high-end shoes and they provide two pairs to choose from.
Finally, the lacing system is very well made and provides a very homogeneous fit around the feet. After riding these shoes for more than 1.000km, the lacing rarely got looser and the precision of the dials is as good as any high-end Boa. In addition, the Northwave system provides a micro adjustment both to tighten and to loosen the lacing very easily, which is especially comfortable to adapt the fit depending on the circumstances.
Fast gravel & XC: Extreme XCM 4
The Extreme XCM 4 is in essence a Cross Country and Mountain Bike Marathon shoe. However, given the current popularity of gravel races in which high performance and high speed are required, we found that this pair of shoes meets all the requirements to become the perfect choice for this kind of riding too.
In terms of upper shape, the lacing system and internal construction are almost identical to the road version described above, which brings almost the same feeling to the feet when riding them. In terms of stiffness, although full carbon as well, they are slightly more flexible than the road version – with a stiffness index of 12, compared to 15 of the road model- which is why makes it perfect for a fast and long ride on a gravel bike.
Besides, the overall look & feel is neat and minimalist, far away from other mountain bike shoes which usually seem too overloaded to meet the style of a gravel bike. All in all, a very appealing shoe for those who are into gravel and measuring watts.
Comfortable gravel: Rockster
Finally, we get to a pair of shoes that can be ridden in any kind of situation and will always deliver. The Rockster is a model with classic laces providing a very uncomplicated, adjustable, and comfortable fit which is especially what is needed for a friendly gravel ride or any adventure.
The sole is a composite – it is not total carbon – and that is precisely its strong point. This makes for a pair of shoes that are more flexible, more forgiving, and less heat-retaining, all the features that any rider should seek whenever delivering high performance are not in the equation, and enjoying the ride is the primary objective.
The quality of the materials is very high for mid-level products and Northwave has taken care of the details as well. The shape of the upper is highly similar to the other models and they feature a system to enclose the laces so that they do not get in the way of your chain or chainring while riding. These are your perfect rest day, long day, coffee day, and commute day cycling shoes.
A product family
The Northwave products are high quality, with a careful design, and full of small details that make them highly functional and performing. This formula is applied to high-end and mid-level products, which makes the whole product range extremely compatible.
With this high compatibility of products, Northwave has beautifully resolved one of the main pain points of many riders, which is the endless search for comparable shoes for different riding purposes. There is no one shoe for all disciplines, however, Northwave provides even an already satisfied rider with a very valid shoe whenever a new cycling purpose is found.