Lake TX312

I tried to order these shoes for my retail store, and was told I could take delivery in 10 to 12 weeks. Eager to try these shoes, I took my search to the internet.

Once they arrived at my store I found out that they are actually a brand that fits pretty true to size, which was a relief as they cost $400. I ride Bont shoes in size-41, which I need because those shoes fit a bit small (my actual size is US7, European 40. The same for Bontrager, Sidi, Scott and Pearl Izumi).

The very interesting heel in the Lake TX312 drew my attention. The shoe opens in the back, so you can put your foot in when you ride them already mounted on your pedals. I'm not a huge fan of this strategy in triathlon because of my lack of perfect balance and I feel I always lose more time struggling to get in. So I just put the shoes on in T1 and run to the mount line. But I tried it with the bike on the indoor trainer and the shoe is ideal for a technique I'm not able to otherwise use.

You can step in the shoe very easily and use the BOA system to close it. This is a cable-activated system on the back part of the shoe that tightens with a turn of a knob, not unlike what you'd find on the back of your cycling helmet. You just turn it a few times and the cables close the heel as tight as you like. To open you pull the knob out and it releases the tension. It even works better than I expected. With the shoes even a bit big for my feet the fit of the heel is so tight there is no heel slippage at all. I can get it so tight that it is uncomfortable. You can adjust the tension of the fit to suit.

The interior of this shoe is so soft. You can feel the quality of materials it's made from. Its combination of quick drying Tektile microfiber and soft foam fabric gives a very nice snug fit without creating any friction or hotspots. I just called the fit snug but I don't mean it's narrow. I've developed wider feet over the years and in this shoe my forefoot has enough room, yet the midfoot feels compact and supportive.

This supportive feeling is also due to the attention Lake spends on the insoles as well. In shoes made by most brands you're getting a thin piece of foam as the insole or sock liner. But more and more brands are building their shoes with supportive insoles. I see this with Bontrager, Scott and Pearl Izumi.

Lake chose e-Soles as its insole brand and these are very easy to adjust to your feet with different heights of arch supports and metatarsal pads—which are aftermarket products. For me this model of sole is not comfortable enough when I'm riding sockless, which I do in my tri shoe, to prepare my foot for how I'll race. I feel the edges of the separate parts. So I use the Pearl Izumi cycling insoles.

The upper is made with one large Velcro strap at the forefoot and another large Velcro strap at the top of the shoe. Lucky for me this is not too close to the ankle—a feature I don’t like and that I unfortunately find in some other shoes. When I flex my ankle I don't want to feel any material pressing on my skin.

More of the specific triathlon cycling shoes that come out this year are built with a closed upper. So no bare feet shown anymore through the shoe. It's not that I have something against seeing bare feet but it's just something I've noticed, and I wonder if there is a reason for this.

This carbon outsole of this shoe is stiff, and power transfer is great. What I like about this shoe, compared to my Bonts, is that the carbon in the forefoot is not wrapped around the sides. It stays low so your toes are not pressed against the stiff carbon, rather are wrapped in the soft upper material, which makes them feel more comfortable.

You can get the shoes with a 3-hole Look/Shimano sole or with a Speedplay-specific 4 hole sole.

The shoes come with a manual explaining how you can bake your shoe in the oven to mold the carbon to your feet if you want this. But Lake's website does not mention that this is a moldable shoe.

I have just minor issue with this shoe. The hook-and-loop strap will likely interfere with your chain unless you cut a piece of the strap.

Overall this is one hell of a shoe. You can see in all details that the shoe was created with passion for the sport and it will definitely be my shoe for the coming season.

If the TX312 is out of your budget there is also the TX212 which is built from similar materials but without the fast transition heel and a fiberglass reinforced outsole.

Lake Cycling seems on the upswing of late. The company was started by Lee Katz out of Evanston, Illinois back in 1982. Katz was a wizard of cycling shoe production in the Orient, and the shoes were distributed by the Dutch-based Veltec in Europe and its U.S. counterpart. Veltec shut down in America, and the Dutch-based company, owned by the Krikke family, just sold Lake Cycling in February, 2012. The new owners are Bob Maas and Christian van Asten, according to a recent article on the sale in Bicycle Retailer. The long time shoe designer, Chris Hutch, who is based in China, remains the talent behind designs like this excellent TX312.

The problem is finding the shoe in North America. The current U.S. importer is not in the U.S. at all, rather it is a small Canadian outfit, Stage Race Distribution.

[Editor’s note: Our capable editor-at-large for footwear Jeroen van Geelen owns Total Running, one of the more important running and triathlon retail establishments in The Netherlands.]