FIRST RIDE REPORT
FOX UNION MTB SHOES
Words by Drew Rohde | Photos Courtesy of Fox Racing
Adding to an already massive catalog of mountain bike protection and riding gear, Fox Racing has teased the release of their new Union mountain bike shoe line. We were lucky enough to once again get the invite to visit Fox Racing HQ for a chance to learn about the shoes and ride with some members of the Santa Cruz Syndicate who’ve been testing and racing in the shoes already. The Fox Union shoes will be available in three different configurations for flat and clipless pedals and are set to hit shelves some time in February. Head to Fox’s site to sign up to “stay in the know.”
UNION CLIPLESS SHOES
Two versions of the Fox Union clipless shoes were shown to The Loam Wolf, a dual-BOA closure option and a lace/Velcro option. We opted for the lace and Velcro option as we like the looks and ease of use should things get really muddy and nasty, and they did!
Both clipless models feature a lightweight glass-filled nylon shank, which gives the shoe an efficiently stiff platform. Ultratack outsole is made with bromobutyl and is laid out in unique hex shapes that we tested on some steep hike a bike sections and snow-covered trails. The Union BOA will retail for $249.95 and the lace version will retail for $179.95.
UNION FLAT SHOES
A flat version of the Fox Union shoe will also be available for a more affordable $149.95 price point and features a slightly different tread pattern for optimal contact with flat pedals. Fox uses the same Ultratack outsole with bromobutyl to offer the desired blend of grip and durability.
Like the clipless shoes, the Union flats will be available in four colors and broad range of sizes.
Fox’s Union mountain bike shoes feature molded heel counters and one-piece uppers for a precise-fitting, reliable shoe. Seeking to further increase the durability and features, the shoes are constructed with welded materials for a technical look and impressive protection from the elements. A molded toe cap and reinforced toe offer serious protection that we tested on our first ride down the San Juan Trail while chasing Laurie Greenland, Jackson Goldstone and Steve Peat.
Of course, the most durable shoe isn’t worth much if it’s not comfortable, so Fox offers a custom-tuned EVA midsole that they worked very hard to develop over several years. After just a couple rides the shoes seem to be on the stiffer side without being abusive or tiring to wear. Fox will also be including Velcro inserts for arch support so riders can dial in the shoe volume and fit based on your arch. It’s a nice touch that should make the shoes more pleasant to wear for a wider range of riders.
THE WOLF’S FIRST IMPRESSIONS
Due to some less-than-ideal management by the folks at United Airlines, my arrival at Fox HQ was delayed to just moments before the group’s departure for an epic ride on the famed San Juan Trail. I had but a few minutes to try them on to ensure the correct size, install my cleats and get geared up. I liked Fox’s Power-Control sliding scale labeling on the cleat track. It’s likely not a big issue for clipless die-hards but it shows some forethought for newer clipless users who may not know where to slide their cleats in relation to the ball of their foot. Also appreciated was how much I could rotate the cleats in and out. Duck foot and pigeon-toed riders rejoice, the adjustability is impressive.
Regarding the fit, I noticed the 44.5 was a bit larger than some and so I went with a 44 (10.5 according to Fox) and instantly felt better. I ran the OE-spec’d arch insert as they offered the best feel for my foot shape.
Lacing up and closing the Velcro top was easy and I appreciated how easily the laces slid through their guide holes and cinched up. Some shoes require a lot more force to pull the laces, the Fox Unions are not those.
For my first time wearing the shoes, I spent about six hours in them doing everything from driving in the car for 45 minutes to walking in snow, splashing through huge puddles and hiking up near vertical rain ruts. Each time we stopped to smile and high five I’d look down at the shoes and see more and more mud, water and grit covering the once brand-new looking kicks. I was a bit sad, but more surprised than anything. I was wearing thinner socks than usual and despite the cold snow and tons of water on the trail, I couldn’t believe my toes weren’t wet or cold. I suppose this could mean they’re going to be a bit warm in the summer, but we’ll have to wait until warmer temps arrive and our long-term review goes live, but for now, I’m thankful and impressed at how well they handled the elements.
Fox scrapped the first version of these shoes deep into their development and went back to the drawing board before releasing the Union shoe you see here. While it must have been a tough call to walk away from the costs of R&D up to that point, it seems that Fox made the right call as these new shoes are pretty damn impressive. The clipless shoes I’ve ridden in seem to be a bit on the stiffer side, but no so stiff as to be an issue or causing fatigue on long descents like some shoes I’ve ridden. I mostly noticed it on very steep climbs or off-camber walking bits.
What stands out most though when I think of the Fox Union shoes, is the protection and durability they offered on that first ride. From rock strikes, impacts and water splashes, the Fox Unions are likely to be some of my new favorite mountain bike shoes. We hope to get a pair of the Union Flats in the near future and will continue putting miles in both models for a long-term review to see how they hold up.
To learn more about the shoes, or get a pair for yourself, visit Foxracing.com
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