O’NEAL SENDER PRO SHOE REVIEW
Review by Robert Johnston
Photos by Adam Lievesley
Since way back in 1970, O’Neal has been supplying the Moto market with innovative apparel to allow riders to perform as best as possible on their bikes. A natural progression in the 80’s was the addition of a line of slimmed down MX gear for pedal-based activities with their dedicated cycling range. Since then, they have continued to supply downhillers and freeriders with moto style gear, with the recent addition of more enduro and trail riding focused kit to cater to their differing needs. O’Neal sent us a bunch of their gear that unfortunately is not included in their North American catalog, as they consider it to be more appropriate for the European market. This included a selection of Wet Riding gear, which will be reviewed in an upcoming feature. Read on here to find out how I fared with their Sender Pro flat pedal shoe.
The Sender Pro is O’Neal’s flagship flat pedal shoe, featuring their own version of the BOA retention system, dubbed “MOZ”. I am not entirely sure what that stands for, but regardless the important thing here is that there are no fabric laces. The shoe instead utilizes a ratcheting system with a wire-like lace to cinch them tight and spread the force equally across the top of the foot. Simply set the switch to its “on” position and crank up as tight as you dare and flick the switch up to release the tension and easily remove your foot. Backing this up is a wide Velcro strap at the top, which allows you to tug the upper portion of the Sender Pro super tight in order to maintain the most direct connection between your foot and the sole.
Gripping duties are taken care of by their “Honey Rubber Super-Grip” sole, which features some deep recesses to allow the pedal pins to really lock in place and hold tight. They claim this produces a “perfect balance of grip and foot repositioning”, which is undoubtedly subject to personal preferences. The area above the toes features breathable mesh to keep things cool in the hotter times, which means the Sender Pro’s are not a particularly water resistant shoe. There’s padding around the ankle and on the tongue, and the toe box and heel are reinforced to keep your feet from harm. The footbed is removable should it need a bit of a freshen up, which should help you avoid the dreaded swamp smell that can accumulate from multiple wet-footbed instances. At €119.99, the Sender Pro’s come in a little cheaper than other premium offerings in typical O’Neal fashion.
The Sender Pros fit very true to size, with quite a wide toe box that should play friendly with most feet. The MOZ system is intuitive and fast to use, with a very wide range of adjustability to cater for varying foot shapes and sock thicknesses. Doing up the MOZ tight followed by wrenching down hard on the Velcro strap at the top provides a very secure shoe on the foot with no pressure points. The looks of the shoe seem to be quite divisive, with some suggesting it looks a bit orthotic. But who really cares how their riding shoes look?
It took a decent ride for the Honey Badger rubber on the sole to bed in and offer its full grip, which made for a scary initial test on a particularly muddy day. Once bedded in, the grip levels were good, without the ultimate tackiness of some of the competition. The Sender Pros instead rely on a more physical grip than frictional, with the pedal pins locking into the recesses in the sole and keepings your feet in place. Repositioning your feet is fairly easy since the shoe doesn’t latch on to the pins quite as hard as some, but the flip side is the occasional accidental shifting of your foot if it goes light. Even still, I was happy to use these for even the wettest of rides without fearing for the life of my shins. The stiffness under foot lies somewhere in the middle of the scale and there is enough padding to take the sting out of all but the biggest impacts, but you still retain an acceptable amount of pedal feel to know what is happening down there. Though I have managed to avoid any serious trouble contacting trailside obstacles so far in the Sender Pros, the protective reinforcements and padding feel substantial enough that aggressive riding needs no consideration, but this thankfully comes without an overly bulky feeling.
The perforated panel above the toes manages to find a reasonable compromise between breathability and weatherproofing. Sure, big puddle splashes will penetrate to your socks, but they manage to shrug off some light moisture quite well, whilst allowing a bit of heat out. A good compromise for the drier times in Spring and Autumn, but not the shoes I would choose in the heat of summer nor the snowy depths of Winter. Drying times are acceptable, with a day on the radiator getting them back to a stage where they are good to go again after a mildly wet ride. My experience with a previous model of shoe featuring the same sole suggests that the Sender Pro will stand up to the test of time, helping to justify that premium price tag.
The O’Neal Sender Pro shoe is a welcome addition to the bustling flat pedal shoe market, with its lacing system allowing it to stand out from the crowd, and performance that allows it to be a contender for all but the most grip-demanding riders.