I’ve had a front-row seat to an interesting product trend over the past couple of years: mountain bike shoes that are marketed for “enduro” mountain biking that simply don’t endure. Rather, I’ve used no less than 6 pairs of shoes from 4 different brands that either failed on me completely or wore out rapidly during testing. This is one of the most recent examples.
This lack of endurance from so-called “enduro” products has prompted a quest to find a pair of robust shoes I can put my confidence in. The first shoe I’ve discovered in that vein is the Northwave Outcross Plus.
On their website Northwave uses a lot of fancy words to basically say that the Outcross pedals great but is also very comfortable to walk in. When on foot, the sole of the Outcross is covered in Michelin rubber tread for excellent grip, which is also “28% more abrasion-resistant than TPU,” according to Northwave.
The closure system on the Outcross Plus features an SLW2 dial, with a step-by-step ratchet system and an easy release button. Two asymmetrical straps lower down the shoe round out the closure system. If you want to save a little extra money, the standard Outcross skips the dial up top and substitutes a third velcro strap.
The Outcross Plus weighs in at ~440g per shoe, without cleats attached.
Out of the Box
Right out of the box the Outcross Plus (subsequently “Outcross” for short) features a more classic shape and style than many enduro shoes I’ve been wearing lately. In fact, Northwave categorizes the Outcross in their XC/Trail grouping–obviously, it falls on the “trail” end of the spectrum. However, Northwave also sells “All Mountain” shoes, and some of those are extremely robust! Take a look at the Enduro Mid, which Northwave initially sent me (unfortunately one size too large):
Aside from the SPD cleat plate, the Enduro has more in common with a hiking boot than most mountain biking shoes. If there was ever an enduro shoe that was worthy of the name, this is it! But personally, when I pulled the Outcross shoes out of the box I instantly found it to be more my style.
Out on the Trail
Slipping the Outcrosses on and putting the hammer down on the pedals immediately felt natural, as if I’d been wearing these shoes for years. I did note that the insole felt very flat with my high-arched feet, but thankfully I found the uppers of the Outcross to be very roomy, providing plenty of space to add a supportive insole. Not all shoes feature ample vertical room, so I found this to be a big benefit.
While the ratchet and the straps offer plenty of height for the foot, tightening them down provides a secure fit with no slop. I found the action of the dial to be very intuitive, easy to use, and secure throughout the course of my ride.
Compared to a Boa dial, the SLW2 doesn’t take up or release very much cable. This means the entire top of the shoe doesn’t open up, so the opening that you have to slip your foot into may feel a bit narrow compared to other shoes. However, I never had an issue getting the shoes on, and the upshot of having less cable to release means that there’s less cable to take back in. I’ve found some Boa dials to take forever to twist shut due to the long length of cable released. With the SLW2, just a couple of cranks provides a secure fit, and you’re off to the races!
While the material on the outside of the Outcross shoes looks very solid, both wind and water proof, I found that appearance to be deceiving. Rather, the finish of the uppers hides carefully-disguised mesh that provides excellent breathability and water draining properties.
Pedaling felt natural and the fit was great, so the only question that remains is: “How did the soles perform for hiking?”
Northwave partnered with Michelin to provide a high quality, rubber outsole. I did my best to punish and brutalize these massive rubber lugs. The Outcrosses have been my constant traveling companions as I tackled sketchy rock scrambles bordering on class five terrain, up boulders and small cliffs in Moab. Together we conquered pushes up loose, dusty desert trails at low elevation in Colorado, along with extended hour-plus hike-a-bikes up steep mountainsides, in an attempt to find out just how high we could ride before we reached snow. The one obstacle that I haven’t been able to attempt yet is a 14er scree field scramble–that will have to wait for mid-summer.
Through it all, I found the purchase of the Michelin rubber to be absolutely excellent! Smearing on slabby slickrock, 10 feet off the deck, was no problem. Digging the toes into loose, sliding scree provided traction. And despite bashing the toes and sides of my foot on rolling boulders, my feet came away unscathed.
But what has most impressed me about the soles of the Outcrosses is the slow rate of wear. Despite months of testing over hundreds of miles of riding, the rubber soles still have an incredible amount of life left! While yes, there is some scuffing up around the toe box, all of the lugs are fully intact and are barely rounded. No rubber sections are delaminating or falling apart, and nothing has failed outright.
I am thoroughly impressed by the Northwave Outcross Plus shoes. They’re comfortable to pedal and walk in, the closure system works great, and the rubber soles provide tons of purchase while hiking. And perhaps most importantly of all: the durability of these shoes is top-notch. While I would have loved to have tested them on a scree field scramble, based on my experience thus far, I am confident using them in the most rugged of terrain.
MSRP: $140, but for sale online for as little as $106.
Update August 9, 2017:
After a couple more weeks of use, the glue on the rubber outsole has begun to give way, with the rubber detaching from the shoe. The rubber itself is still in good shape, but the glue appears to have failed. According to Northwave, “this is the first time that [we] have heard of this happening.”
I have another pair of the Outcross Plus shoes in my possession, and will be sure to put them to the test.
Thanks to Northwave for providing the Outcross Plus shoes for review.