The Tribute is an update on the Tribal: a tri-specific cycling shoe with an extremely soft Lorica upper. I used this shoe myself for several years until Northwave introduced this new update.
Expecting the same fit and feel, I bought a pair of the all new Tribute. Just because you loved the Tribal does not necessarily mean you will like the Tribute equally. The Tribute is heavier, the upper is not as soft as it was in the Tribal and, most importantly, it fits wider in the forefoot.
I found irritating and unnecessary stitches in the upper, on the lateral side of each shoe, where your pinky toe sits. Where the Tribal was almost seamless in the upper the Tribute has a cosmetic pattern stitched on each side of the shoe. These stitches are also noticeable inside the shoes and in my case—after a several-hour ride—the pattern was also pressed into my little toe. Not very comfortable I can assure you.
The shoe is on the sweaty side. It’s not that it feels warm, but I think the moisture management materials are not that great on the inside of the shoe.
The Tribal was much more like the Specialized TriVent, in that quite a bit of the foot was visible through the shoe. The new Tribute displays much less visible foot than the Tribal did. The Tribute closes more like a regular cycling shoe, closing off the foot to ventilation.
The Tribute uses a small Velcro strap to adjust the width of the forefoot and one big strap to secure the midfoot and heel in the shoe. This Velcro strap closes to the inside so, for those with mounted shoes on their pedals in T1 this is great.
To further support this feature the Tribute has a small loop on the medial side of the shoe, which you can use to attach a rubber band to attach the shoe to your cranks. This makes it even easier to get your feet in the shoes while riding your bike.
Typically, when a shoe is open the Velcro strap is just hanging there, but with the Tribute the designers at Northwave thought about this. They attached a piece of Velcro on the top side of the strap which attaches the on the shoe's lateral side, so it stays in place and open. You don’t have this Velcro strap getting in your way. Very well designed!
Another great feature is that they have a very big heel loop. Okay, it's not that pretty but it functions perfectly. Sometimes I see shoes with a heel loop so small that you wonder if the company took the effort to test it, to see if anyone can get his finger through it.
The Tribute closes a bit higher on your feet than did the Tribal. It's not a very big difference—more a matter of personal taste. I preferred the Tribal.
The carbon sole is made on a slightly straighter last and made with the 3-bolt cleat pattern that holds Look, Shimano SL, et al. It feels very stiff and responsive and if you have to walk in T1 & T2 there is a replaceable rubber heel which gives a solid grip.
The price is around $170, very fair for this shoe and, overall, I must say you get a lot of bang for your buck. Just don't buy them if you have narrow feet, or you need a lot of volume in the forefoot and toe box.
No women's version available, just the unisex model. They are made from size 4 to 13 (U.S. Men's).
[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.]