The return of laced cycling shoes to the pro peloton a few years ago was met with equal amounts of derision and giddy excitement amongst the gear junkies and vélo fashionistas. Sir Bradley Wiggins and Taylor Phinney both sported Giro Empires in interesting color ways at various times.
Other brands have since followed Giro’s lead or re-emerged from dusty product ranges. Perhaps the most recent to market is the Night performance shoe from QUOC — launched later than intended to ensure the product they put to market was right. But were they worth the wait? They sent us a set to spend some time with them and find out…
Anyone who has read a shoe review of mine before will know that I am blessed (cursed) with wide feet. I am always very clear with manufacturers about it as I want to give their product the best chance to shine despite this, and getting the size choice right without being able to try them on is paramount. Having gambled on a 43 when I first tried a pre-production Night shoe it was clear that the guidance on their website is fairly spot-on and I should be in a 44, so that is what we settled on for the final production shoe. We also decided that going with the leather version would give the shoes a better chance of adapting to my feet in the hope that the width wouldn’t be a problem.
The shoes arrived with a set of black laces fitted and a spare set of white laces. With the classy bovine leather and the uniquely marbled composite outsole, this is a great looking pair of shoes regardless of your stylistic leaning — the laces hinting to a classic approach whilst the design of the patented lace system prevents them from appearing overly retro.
On the subject of that lacing system, this is something that really needs to be tried to be believed. At the midway point on the laces and at the top, there is a pair of eyelets that manage to create a ‘lock’ of sorts in the lacing. The result of this is that once the laces are tightened through the midway eyelet pairing the lower half of the shoe won’t loosen off. The same occurs once the laces are tightened at the top eyelet pairing.
This works to the point of not really needing to bother tying a knot in the laces other than to keep them tidy, rather than the knot itself being what keeps the shoes tight. It also means that you can keep the bottom half of the lacing loose then crank down the laces on the top half — or vice versa — without each portion of the lacing affecting the other. In terms of dialing in the comfort of the shoe, this has been quite a revelation.
Although the laces take slightly longer to do up than a boa, velcro straps or a ratchet, the comfort that results is perfectly fine tuned all the way up the laces; and with complete control over two distinct halves of the shoe. When you’re done, the lace loops tuck into an elastic strap on the tongue to ensure they don’t end up wrapped around your drivetrain.
I also ordered a set of QUOC’s 3-pack of laces to give me the option to change the shoes up in a manner that perfectly matches the unique color of the eyelets on the shoes that I refer to as ‘orange-pink’. This pack includes a set of white laces with orange-pink dots, black laces with orange-pink dots and orange-pink laces with white dots; the latter of which became my go-to and are pictured here.
QUOC have paid strict attention to the characteristics of these shoes as, unlike the urban focus of the rest of their range, they have targeted them towards a more performance application; and specifically with long distance comfort in mind — which is no doubt encouraged by the explosion in popularity of Sportive and Gran Fondo style endurance events.
To help with this they have worked to develop a carbon composite compound of their own formula to offer the stiffness required of a performance shoe, but which also yields slightly to offer a level of comfort over these bigger distances. This is also what brings the unique marbling of the outsole mentioned earlier, as the process brings a more organic finish meaning no two outsoles look the same.
If this nod to a level of comfort in a performance shoe leads you to believe there is a compromise involved, allow me to put your mind at rest. Never once have the shoes left me wondering whether I need something stiffer; and although they do feel different to my go-to shoe (the Lake 402) on account of the extra comfort, the stiffness and performance of the shoe have always been up to the task.
But what of the shoe width and my awkward feet? Thankfully the decision to go with the leather version of the shoe appears to have been a wise one. The Nights aren’t wide out of the box, but the leather has softened — and continues to do so — enough to be comfortable for my regular local ride of around ninety kilometers.
In fact the only less-than-comfortable thing about these shoes is the supplied insole. Whilst some might consider this to be a negative and others might expect to see shoes supplied with some form of adjustable insole, it is my belief that many riders will have their own preferred solution on this so I don’t consider it to be an issue — although it is perhaps a point to bear in mind if you don’t have an insole preference.
Whether or not the micro-fiber versions are as forgiving as these leather test shoes are not something I can comment on. They do come in three other color ways, though — white, black and the same orange-pink I referred to earlier; and if after 90 days you are not happy that they are for you, QUOC will refund you fifty percent of your purchase price in return for the shoes, which will then be donated to charitable causes.
Finally, a consideration that I never expected to highlight in a cycling shoe review. Walking isn’t something any performance road shoe is specifically designed around, perhaps aside from some consideration into preventing it from being a totally impossible task. Walking in the Nights almost feels odd compared to other road shoes on account of the fact that they’re bordering on feeling normal to walk in. Don’t get me wrong — you’ll still look like someone walking barefoot across hot sand, but at least in the Nights it is more like hot, firm sand…
I like these shoes. They’re not perfect — their stretching to accommodate my awkward foot makes them bulge a bit at the sides, and if I’m in a hurry or running late it’s easier to chuck on a pair of shoes that I can tighten up a bit quicker. But there’s no denying that these are clever, stylish, cool and — with the orange-pink laces in especially — are even bordering on being funky. They do everything I ask of them and they make me smile in the process. You can’t really ask for much more than that, can you?