At first glance, the Northwave Ghost Pro XC shoes look a little too delicate to take mountain biking. Yes, it’s an XC race shoe (and a racy race shoe at that) which means it’s skinny and lightweight, but look closely and you’ll see this is actually one of the more durable mountain bike shoes around.
Before diving into the review, let’s talk about the elephant in the room: these mountain bike shoes are white. Northwave also offers the Ghost Pro shoes in black, and for most folks that is probably the better choice.
It might surprise some readers to learn that Northwave is an Italian company, and the Ghost Pro shoes are proudly made in Italy. Starting at the top of the shoe, the uppers are made from a synthetic material that is designed to shed water and mud while offering stout abrasion resistance. Not only that, the tough uppers provide a tight and snug fit.
Northwave added just two tiny mesh panels at the toe for ventilation, opting to use laser cut holes throughout the rest of the uppers for air flow. In my experience, this does limit the breathability of the shoe a bit, but the upshot is a much more durable and secure mountain bike shoe. Another benefit is that the shoes don’t fill up with water immediately after creek crossings or on rainy rides.
The closure system on the Ghost Pro shoes uses a dual cable dial system Northwave calls SLW2. Like other dials, there are controls for macro and micro adjustments. By including two dials, riders are able to get the perfect fit based on their foot shape. My feet are wide-ish so I cinch in the lower toe dial less than the upper dial which I make nice and tight to lock my heel in. Unlike some other dial closures, Northwave uses Dyneema wire (rather than steel) which is said to be softer for added comfort.
Around the lower portion of the uppers, Northwave wraps the shoe in a thin, rough material (the black panels seen above) that feels like fine-grit sandpaper. This seems to have the benefit of additional abrasion protection from rocks and adds traction when walking on uneven ground.
Michelin rubber lugs dot the bottom the shoe in key spots, most notably wrapping upward from the toe spikes to the front of the shoe. Hike-a-bike toe stubs tend to wear out the front of any mountain bike shoe, and the Ghost Pros are protected much better than many I’ve tested. There’s more thick, Michelin rubber under the fore-foot, mid-foot, and heel.
Underneath the lugs, a full carbon shank runs the length of the shoe for super stiff and efficient power transfer. This is a key feature in any XC-oriented race shoe. The incredible efficiency is immediately apparent, I was surprised at how quickly I was able to sprint up steep climbs and rocket out of corners.
While mountain bikers tend to avoid getting off the bike, a little bit of scrambling is inevitable. In my testing, the Ghost Pro outsoles proved great at digging their claws into greasy clay slopes. The skinny mid-foot, however, tends to rock side to side over uneven ground that’s peppered with rocks and roots, in an ankle-twisting motion. A stiff-soled shoe obviously won’t be as comfortable for walking as one with more flex, but that’s a tradeoff mountain bikers are often willing to make.
Moving inside the shoe, a cat-tongue-like material in the heel makes it easy to slip the shoes on, but then locks the heel in place and prevents upward slippage. There’s a bit of added padding around the ankle and the inner fabric is soft enough to go sockless, which Xterra racers might appreciate. Perforations in the insole allow the shoe to drain quickly should water make its way inside.
It’s not an exaggeration to say riders will be hard pressed to find a stitch out of place, or even a single hanging thread. This level of craftsmanship doesn’t come cheap however; the Northwave Ghost Pro mountain bike shoes retail for $399USD / 311€ (compare prices). My size 45 shoes weigh 720g for the pair.
Based on my wide feet and preference for comfortable mountain bike shoes, I dismissed the Northwave Ghost Pro shoes at first glance. All of that changed the first time I slipped these shoes on. With a glove-like fit, premium materials and construction, and a highly customizable dial closure system, the Ghost Pros offer impressive comfort and performance.
Thanks to Northwave for providing the Ghost Pro shoes for review.