ETNIES CAMBER CRANK SHOE REVIEW
Review by Robert Johnston
Photos by Adam Lievesley
Following feedback from the mountain bike community, who shared my concerns with the ultimate grip on the Marana Mid crank tested previously, Etnies and Michelin went back to the drawing board to produce a revised offering. The Camber Crank is the product of this revision, targeting increased grip whilst maintaining tread durability to provide riders with a shoe that should continue to impress ride after ride.
For the Camber Cranks, Michelin offered up a new rubber compound termed OC3X which they claim to offer 3x increased grip whilst also providing improved durability and damping. They revised their tread pattern on the sole to focus on obtaining the best pedal engagement possible and added lugged sections to the heel and toe to bite into the terrain when walking. A stiff TPU shank is featured to transfer power and reduce foot fatigue without adding too much thickness below your foot; with Etnies’ classic Pro1 insole and STI Evolution foam midsole taking the sting out of the impacts. The outer features a weather resistant Action Nubuck material that repels the ingress of water and resists abrasion, which should help to keep the Camber Crank looking fresh for the long term. The tongue is gusseted to keep trail debris out and has a pocket at the top to allow for the laces to be tucked out of harms’ way. With previous Etnies models falling short of my expectations for aggressive riding, I was very excited to find out how all this added up out on the trail.
It took all of 30 seconds for me to realize that the Camber Crank is a big departure from the previous Etnies Crank series shoes I had tested. Although they are still unmistakably Etnies in looks the materials used have a much more purposeful, less “skate” feel to them; with the sole being almost tacky to the touch and the outer material clearly being more suitable to muddy environments than the suede and other materials used previously. Do not let these pictures fool you, the Camber Crank is not scared of use out in the mountains. The fit is still very much Etnies, with bang on average portions and plenty of space for those with a higher instep – those with more svelte feet will need to cinch down the laces tight for the best connection with the foot, but no more so than most flat pedal shoes.
The first step on a set of pedals confirmed that Michelin had delivered a sole that greatly exceeds the grip levels of their previous offerings, with a level of traction that is a solid 90% of the best in the market. I am sure I am not alone in finding problems with too much grip keeping your foot on the pedal at a weird angle on some other shoes, but this was never an issue with the Camber Crank shoes. Yet there was not a single instance throughout testing where I was left wishing for more grip, even though the entire test was conducted in seriously wet and muddy conditions. I can only imagine it’s the shallowness of the sole tread combined with the very tractive rubber that allow for this, avoiding the pedal pins from becoming overly “locked” into the pedals as can happen in some other brands’ deeper recesses. This easy repositioning also makes them an absolute dream for dirt jump and BMX riding – you can easily remove your foot from the pedals when you want to, but they will firmly latch back on when needed. The excellent feel from the previous Michelin sole has also remained, offering a great balance of cushion and feel that ensures you know exactly what is happening on the pedals.
This tread shallowness does unfortunately mean that the Camber Crank shoes struggle when walking with the bike in the wet, as even the lugged sections struggled to find purchase in the worst mud. By the end of testing there was a little scarring on the rubber from the pedal pins, but nothing out of the ordinary and certainly no cause for concern. As the looks suggested, the weather resistance of the outer is another strong suit, with most moisture being shrugged off without an issue; and them cleaning up particularly well when hosed off after a gloopy ride. The lining proved to dry quickly after wet rides too, without the need to get any newspaper or serious heat involved.
Unfortunately, the low cut around the ankles prevents the Camber Crank from being completely weather sealed, as the water can get over the low-cut cuff and infiltrate your socks. This low cut also exposes your ankles to the crankarm and trail obstacles, meaning they are not the most protective offering. The flip side of this is the cut affords great maneuverability and reduces the overall heat of the shoe on your foot – I would like to suggest that they sit in the middle of the scale in terms of heat management but would need to test them in some mid-summer conditions to confirm this. The lace pocket on the tongue also proved to be fairly useless for me, as I found it couldn’t be used when the shoes were laced up fully and done up tight, but this didn’t prove to be a major issue.
Etnies, can you please create a mid-top version of these? I have no doubt that it would be my favorite riding shoe out there for many of my rides. Combining a grippy sole that still allows for easy foot repositioning with excellent pedal feel and great materials; Etnies have come so close to striking pure gold with these Camber cranks. The low cut is not to my preference and reduces the ultimate protection and weather resistance of the shoe, but otherwise Etnies have left very little to complain about and have placed themselves right up near the top of the ladder in the mountain bike shoe market.