As a not-so-proud owner of awkward feet, cycling shoes have been a constant battle. Having not only wide feet with but also a high instep and a tendency to pronate, results in a heady mix that writes off many options; and of the manufacturers who do produce a wide option shoe, these are often only offered in limited models from their range.
A few years ago, Lake offered the CX402 as a replacement to their previous flagship shoe. Like the CX401 before it, they continued to offer a wide version. I found the previous CX401 to be far too roomy in the toe box but as soon as I tried on the new 402 I was sold. The shoe only got better after utilizing its moldable sole and spending some time riding in them, allowing the Kangaroo leather to conform to my foot.
Over three years on, those CX402s are still my go-to shoe; but my attention was piqued by Lake releasing two new models in 2016. I was lucky enough to receive a pair of each of the new CX301 and CX332 shoes from the Australian distributor – FRF Sports – to review.
The CX301 is billed as Lake’s light weight climbing road shoe – and it stands alone in their range on this basis. This review pair tipped the scales at a scant 380g, which is a whole 242g lighter than my own 402s (622g) and 201g lighter than the 332s (581g). They feel light on the foot too, exhibiting a ‘barely there’ sensation. The small holes covering the Clarino microfibre upper of the shoe no doubt help keep the weight down, but they also make for an airy shoe as a consequence; which has been most welcome in the recent steamy Sydney summer.
Conversely, the CX332 slots into the Lake range between the cheaper CX237 and the top tier CX402, replacing the previous CX331. It is essentially their best shoe that doesn’t have a moldable sole. Similarly to my experience with the 402s, these are beautifully made, supportive and robust, yet without feeling heavy or cumbersome. FRF sent me the black version of these which – regardless of where you stand on ‘The Rules’ – makes for a very classy looking shoe.
Both shoes utilize the latest L6 version of the Boa closure – a single one on the CX301s and a pair on the CX332s – and both shoes use the same carbon sole. They are both available in black or white and are supplied with the same Lake insole; which isn’t the most technologically advanced, fancy or adjustable insole, but is perfectly comfortable all the same.
On the bike, the CX301 is an incredibly comfortable shoe straight out of the box; and oddly, much more so than they seemed pre-ride. The uppers on the 301s are so supple that they instantly conform to your foot making them feel like you’re riding in your favorite pair of slippers rather than a new pair of cycling shoes.
The offset of this is that at times they almost felt too supple and bordering on unsupportive (though probably more pronounced for me on account of my tendency to pronate). This is perhaps most notable when you unclip – the 301 seems to require more force to unclip as the upper flexes with the foot rather than rotating the sole to initiate the unclipping motion.
My only real gripe with the 301s is that the single boa requires persistent tightening as the shoe and foot settle into each other. Again, I feel this is symptomatic of the more pliable upper as it seems to give more as you ride, resulting in the boa needing a few more clicks to feel tight again. As the shoes age and reach their stretch limits this may well settle down, though, so take it with a pinch of salt – and it’s a minor issue when you contrast it with the comfort of the shoe.
The first ride in the 332s felt more restricted as the sturdier uppers had yet to have a chance to form to my foot. It was far from being an uncomfortable first outing but was counter to what I had expected, as off the bike the 332s seemed more comfortable than the 301s. Fast-forward a few rides and the gradual softening of the Kangaroo leather of the 332s made them more and more comfortable, quashing any fears in this regard.
Having fewer holes around the upper does make the 332 a warmer shoe than the 301 – but that’s more indicative of the 301s allowing significantly more airflow than it is the 332s being less airy than other shoes on the market, no doubt helped by the tongue and heel counter being lined with Lake’s ‘Outlast’ material which helps regulate the temperature of the foot. The 332s are no warmer than the 402s, by way of reassurance.
The sole on both shoes is probably the thing I noticed least about them, which I consider to be a very good thing. To my mind this means it strikes a perfect balance between being plenty stiff enough yet not too stiff – two factors which, if present, would show themselves up in flex or excessive feedback; and both of which can lead to discomfort and aching feet.
Throughout the review period, I ran both of the new shoes alongside my own CX402s and tested all of them, with both the standard Lake insole and with the G8 Performance insoles that I prefer to use. With my own insoles the volume of the inside of the 301 and 332 seemed to change quite a lot – mainly because I run a high arch on the insoles.
What this also highlighted is that the 301s and 332s seem to size up very slightly differently to the 402s, as those don’t suffer from this tightening of the shoe volume with the non-standard insole. This could be down to tolerances built into the 402 to account for changes brought about through molding, or it could simply be that Lake have changed their sizing since I bought my 402s over three years ago.
If you’re moving from a previous Lake shoe – and particularly from 402s – be sure to check if this impacts your size choice before diving straight in.
The sole on the 301 and 332 has a minor update over the 402 in that the cleat mounting holes are now slightly slotted, giving you a better range of mounting positions. I already run my cleats quite far back but I could have moved them back slightly more if I needed to, which is a rare luxury. There are also markings on the sole for cleat placement – although these are only really beneficial if you are setting up cleats from other shoes with the exact same markings, or replacing worn cleats on the same shoe.
The CX301s are a fantastic option if light weight, immediate comfort and aeration are paramount to you, or if you need to save a bit of money (they are $100 AUD cheaper than the 332s at the time of writing).
They do feel like they may not last as long as the 332s, but this is only an assumption based on how pliable that Clarino microfibre upper is – and this may be completely unfounded given how well made they appear to be, and especially if you treat them well. The sole is up there with the best on the market and they’re a great looking shoe. At the same price ($299 AUD) I would pick them over many others, and probably even over some more expensive competitors.
In the CX332, Lake has produced a fantastic shoe. The quality is top notch and, despite them not being Lake’s flagship shoe, you feel like you are wearing some of the nicest cycling shoes available. Classy looks, great comfort, top class sole and superb construction combine in a package that I believe many flagship shoes from other brands would struggle to match.
This review isn’t about the 402s but I will say that, despite how good the 332s are, the CX402 still rightfully holds its own as the top tier shoe in Lake’s range. The ability to make an already incredibly comfortable shoe even more well-fitting through custom molding — which can be done repeatedly, in case you change your insole or even your regular sock thickness – is an important benefit; and the fact that the 402s have a tongue and strap closure for the top portion of the shoe gives them an even higher level of comfort over the 332s.
Whether you struggle with finding shoes to fit wide feet or have no issues with cycling shoes at all, I highly recommend checking out the Lake range. They have saved me from the hassle and expense of full custom shoes and I know of many others who have tried them and never looked back.