CRANKBROTHERS MALLET SPEEDLACE
CLIPLESS SHOES REVIEW
Words by Sourpatch | Photos by Drew Rohde
More and more companies seem to be expanding their product offerings into territories they weren’t involved in before. Crankbrothers – a company well-known for their pedals, tools, and other components – joined that group with the addition of their Mallet and Stamp shoe line up. We were interested to provide a detailed Crankbrothers Mallet Speedlace Clipless Shoes review since they are branching into the footwear arena only made sense as their Clipless and flat pedals are some of the best in the game. The aesthetics of their shoes made me instantly want them when I first saw them, but unfortunately every time I went to buy a pair, they were sold out – a promising sign. Fast forward to Sea Otter many months after their release, and I was finally able to snag a pair of the Classic Edition Mallet Speedlace shoes to put to the test and provide you with a comprehensive review for Crankbrothers Mallet Shoes.
Crankbrothers offers the Mallet shoes with three different closure configurations: a BOA closure; standard lace, or a Speedlace option, which we tested here. The price of the Mallet shoe varies with each option: $149 for the lace; $169 for the Speed Lace, and $199 for the BOA. With the exception of the Mallet BOA, each shoe is available in two colorways.
At the heart of the Mallet clipless shoe is Crankbrothers’ Match System. The Match System is designed to offer an optimized engagement for any clip-in set-up, SPD included. The Match System comprises three parts: the Match Box, Match Compound and Match Outsole. The Match Box is the cleat box, which has been ramped in the front and rear to help shed debris and make pedal entry a breeze. Crankbrothers went above and beyond by adding markings to the cleat box to help dial in Cleat set-up and added a “race zone” bar for those that spend more time going downhill than pedaling. The Match Compound is a mid-friction compound that is just hard enough to hold up to wear and tear, while allowing for easy clipping in and out. Rounding out the Match System is Crankbrothers’s Match Outsole. The tread pattern on the Match Outsole has been designed with off-bike traction in mind. The toe and heel lugs are directionally angled to aid in traction for hiking up and down trails, with the toe lugs being ramped to increase walkability on steep trails.
Moving up from the Match system, we have the synthetic upper. The synthetic upper is designed to conform to an array of foot profiles and promote breathability. Securing the Mallet shoe to the wearer’s foot, is a Speedlace closure system in this case – a system that is essentially a dial-less BOA. The user pulls up on the finger loop to their desired tightness, wraps the Speedlace up and tucks it neatly into the lace pocket on the padded tongue. With the Speed Lace freshly tucked away, the Velcro can now be cinched up. Aside from the breathability in the upper material, the perforated tongue and toe box along with mesh side panels promote more airflow. Rounding out the upper is a reinforced toe box to help prevent any unwanted trailside toe bashing. The interior of the shoe offers a bit of padding around the ankle for added comfort in addition to an EVA midsole to take the sting out the trail.
There’s no denying these shoes are bright and unmistakable, and that’s partially why I wanted them so much. After lucking out and picking up a pair at the fall Sea Otter, I was able to get them dirty almost right away during a quick rip in Santa Cruz. Before setting out on the ride, I had to replace the pre-installed Crankbrothers Cleats for a pair of SPD cleats (I know, how could I do such a thing). The markings on the cleat box are a nice touch for those that want to know how the cleat placement translates to riding style or keep cleat position consistent between multiple Crankbrothers shoes. The initial break in period maybe lasted all of 15-minutes, after which the shoes were comfortable and good to hit the trails hard.
The Mallet Speedlace shoes do an excellent job of blending performance and comfort. The shank is not overly stiff but still allows for proper push-pull through the pedal stroke and resists any foot fatigue issues well. Pair that with the awesome Speedlace system and Velcro strap, and your foot and shoe almost become one. One of the best things that I’ve noticed with the Speedlace system is that there doesn’t seem to be the pressure point that can arise from a standard lace closure, so they felt damn comfortable for all day missions. Keeping up on the topic of comfort, the padding found all the way around the shoe is still soft and enjoyable after hundreds of miles, and I don’t see that changing any time soon.
Clipping in and out of the pedals is a mindless task, on the shoes behalf anyway. The cleat box offers enough space and guidance for the cleat to easily find the retention system of the pedal. Clipping out is about as one would expect with SPD pedals, once the float is met, they pop off with ease. With SPD cleats and XT pedals, no cleat spacers are needed, however, spacers are needed when using XTR pedals and Crankbrothers pedals/cleats. There have been a few occasions where I have hopped on a set of flats with these shoes and cleats installed and traction is surprisingly good and unhindered by the cleat. Though I probably would not want to ride like that down steep, rough terrain…however, it works fine for mellower Bend trails.
Off-bike traction is decent in most terrains, and the Mallets performed better than alternative shoes that feature a circular tread design. There’s enough flex in the sole to make walking feel relatively natural too, avoiding that numb feeling that stiffer shoes can produce. When it comes to mud, the shedding capabilities are surprisingly good, with almost no mud packing to prevent clipping in. After some wet and muddy rides, the upper cleaned up well every time and returned close to new with a good wipe. Water ingress is less of concern than expected – the few times I have ridden in the rain or smashed through puddles; the interior of the shoes remained dry. It wasn’t until they were directly sprayed with the garden hose during a quick rinse that water started to seep in.
One of the downsides of the Mallet shoe, in my opinion, is a side effect of the soft upper that contributes to the shoe’s high comfort levels. The upper, just above the toe cap area, can get snagged on rocks and roots. While it’s only happened a few times it’s worth mentioning, as each time I just about tripped or fell, so it pays to be a bit more careful with your foot placement especially off the bike. Outside of that, the toe cap/box is fairly sturdy and can handle a kick or two. I would like to see a mid to high top version of the shoe for added ankle support, since that is one knit pick area regarding low-tops.
The Wolf’s Last Word
To round off the Crankbros Mallet Shoes review, we found that after almost a year of testing and going from shoe to shoe, I can safely say that the Mallet Speedlace shoes are some of my favorites. Every time I slip them on I can’t believe how comfortable they are, especially when compared to other similar style shoes. They stay tight on the foot and provide ample power transfer to the pedals; offer plenty of off-bike traction and look great doing it. The Speedlace system is far superior to the standard lace closure in my eyes and has been a real treat to use. The only downside is its ability to catch on protruding roots and rocks. Though that is rare, it’s something to keep in mind. Crankbrothers really knocked it out of the park with their shoe line-up, and I’m stoked to keep abusing these on the trails.
Disclosure: Our team selects all of the products we review and do so with honesty and objectivity in mind. Some of the products we receive come directly from Competitive Cyclist, who also value our readers and have offered them a 15% discount (exclusions apply) on their first purchase by using LOAMWOLF15. Through this program we may also receive a small commission at no cost to you. Thanks for your support, TLW.