Bont Sub-10

The problem moldable, monocoque shoes like Bont is that you have to—or think you have to—dip into your home equity line to purchase a pair. But not with the sub-10! These tri-specific cycling shoes have most of the features, and virtually all of the fit characteristics, of the pricey sub-8 and sub-9 models.

The sub-10 prices out at $179, which places it very squarely in the wheelhouse of the better shoe models, but far below the top-end prices of the top-end brands. But this shoe has features a lot of other top tri shoes do not.

First, of course, Bont is a moldable shoe, and by that I mean the shoe goes further than just having a moldable upper (as is the case with certain other brands). This shoe has a moldable upper and a moldable sole.

Heat-molded shoes are not formidable for those who in-line skate, or who ski. If that describes you, then you know moldable boots have been around for awhile. Even cyclists have been exposed to this technology. But if you've never had moldable boots, the idea might be intimidating.

But it shouldn't be. The process requires a toaster oven, or even your conventional kitchen oven; heat guns are really not recommended.

Most retailers have a toaster oven in the store, and you get your shoes molded there. In any case, you can do this at home, all you need to do is heat your kitchen oven to 160° for 20 minutes, which isn't going to melt anything. Heck, that's not much hotter than the Natural Energy Lab.

If your kitchen oven does not heat at a temp below 180°, just go with that, but, pull your shoes out in 15 minutes—no longer—and you're ready to mold. By the way, you do all this with the sock liner out of the shoe.

Then you put the shoes on and stand. If your shoes need to be narrower, just bend over and gently press the outsides of the shoes together. Make sure your heel cup and arch form around your foot. A minute or so later, presto, your shoes are molded. If you don't get it quite right, or, after a ride or two you have a hot spot, you can repeat the process as often as you need.

In my case, I had hot spot in my arch, causing a blister. You might find that this happens after you get your shoe varus wedged. In any case, I just needed to heat the one shoe, slightly press out the hot spot, and, good to go.

Because a lot of retailers perceive this process as scary, they are afraid to sell the shoes. But, because it's so not-scary—and fixable if you don't get it right the first time–you can buy these shoes mail order (if you can't find them at a retailer near you), and mold them using your kitchen stove.

Everything I've written pertains to all the Bont cycling shoes. But Bont does more: it really makes features that are precise to triathlon and for triathletes. For example, Bont really does make a functional heel loop. It's really the best on the market, and it's called its "shoe horn" because, in fact, it looks and works just like a shoe horn. If you can't slide your foot immediately into your Bont sub-10 post-swim, you've got problems no shoe can solve.

The strap mechanism is simple and intuitive. But here's the nice part of this narrative. I find that the lack of a positive closure to tri shoes—versus the closure mechanisms in road shoes—is less of an issue with Bonts, because, the deep heel cup, the moldability, renders the top closure less important.

Then there's this shoe's fit. It's the anti-Sidi. If you've got narrow feet, Italian-made cycling shoes, Sidi in particular, are more likely to fit you. Bonts feature a lot of volume in the forefoot. I like this, because feet tend to swell, and are subject to hot spots, and pressure sensitivity. Forefoot room is a real benefit, then, as long as the shoe doesn't move around, and its moldable nature makes this the case.

In fact, the Bont looks unlike any other cycling shoe in its appearance, because the shoe is shaped like your foot. What comes to mind are the Earth Shoes of my youth—shoes that are intuitively shaped to match the contour of your foot.

The Sub-9 and Sub-8 models are in the low and high $300s respectively. These shoes are progressively lighter, though not by much, and they're progressively thinner in terms of the "stack" of the foot above the pedal axle. This, because these higher-end shoes are made of better composites, so, you need less composite material. Indeed, the Sub-10 is constructed of fiberglass mesh, rather than carbon fiber, and these materials trend high-end as the price goes high-end (the Sub-8 is entirely carbon fiber).

There is also a difference in the upper. The Sub-9 and Sub-8 feature a shinier microfiber upper that's longer lasting and, in general, a higher quality material.

But I look at a tri shoe like I look at a race wheel, or an aero helmet. In general, I ride in a road shoe in training, and, other than riding enough in my tri shoes to break in both my feet to my shoes, and vice versa, I'm saving my shoes mostly for the race. Therefore, I'm a little less interested in longevity than in performance out of my race day equipment.

That said, if you want a lighter set of Bonts, the Sub-9 is probably the best bang for your buck, and the Sub-8s are truly featherweights.

Keep in mind, these are not custom shoes. They are production shoes made in production sizes. They're moldable inside the confines of the shape and size of the "chassis" onto which the uppers are glued.