I like SPD clipless pedals, but I’ve always hated the look of the majority of the SPD-compatible shoes and the fact that most of the shoes aren’t really made for walking. Instead they just ENABLE you dismount and walk around without the pedal cleats clacking against the floor; setting up a racket like you’re auditioning for a tap-dancing part in a Fred Astaire movie.
There is a big difference between “walkable” and “walk friendly,” as I explained in “SPD: More Mettle to the Pedals.”
DZR seems to appreciate that first part, because none of their line of shoes looks like a typical SPD bike shoe. Sure, they have some avant-garde styles like the limited-edition Zurich boot, but nothing like the George Jetson Dress Shoe look of my old Shimano M076’s.
My standard office attire is business casual: a pair of khaki’s and a polo shirt. When I’m shod with my Shimano’s, people definitely notice I’m wearing bike shoes. But when I started testing a pair of DZR Minna’s I found they are so like regular shoes that nobody noticed.
At the end of the first day of wearing them around the office, I resorted to asking our receptionist “Hey! You haven’t said how you like my new shoes!” She looked down at them and said “Oh. They’re nice.” Then I turned to the right and lifted the right shoe up so she could see the cleat bolted to the bottom of the sole and she said “Wow! Bike shoes? Now that’s pretty neat!”
So they pass the appearance test, but how do the Minnas work for walking around? Are they a walk-friendly shoe you can wear all day?
Years ago, a bout with foot problems forced me to get a layman’s education on what makes for a good walking shoe, and I put that knowledge to use from the moment I first put on the Minnas.
The first thing I noticed was that the Minna’s have a generous toe box. Not only could I wiggle my toes freely, but I could also splay my toes slightly. This was a promising sign, because a good shoe shouldn’t crimp your toes together like a pointy-toed woman’s fashion shoe. In addition to being uncomfortable, according to some experts a shoe which pinches your toes towards one another can lead to bunions and hammer toes.
The vamp of a shoe is that part of the upper which contains the tongue and the lace eyelets. Even with shoes of a proper width for my narrow, flat feet, sometimes the material in the vamp is so generous that the laces easily pull the sides of the shoe together over the tongue, so the sides of the upper almost meet. This can mean a fit which is too loose.
The Minnas have a decently sized tongue, with just the right amount of height to upper from the eyelets to the sole, so a broad range of foot height and width at the arch can be accommodated by these shoes.
For me, the heel counters have just the right amount of curve at the top, so my foot did not suffer from heel lift. I had no problem using my standard brand of aftermarket insole, the PROFOOT 2oz. Miracle, which serves to keep my ultra-narrow heel from banging left and right like a bell clanger. Folks with a more normal heel width shouldn’t have any problem using the insoles which come standard from DZR.
The width of the soles is better that some of the regular shoes I’ve had. I like a wide sole because it serves to keep my feet from rolling inward or outward.
The majority of podiatrists I’ve spoken with have said that for most people a walking shoe should have a stiff sole in the mid-foot area, and should flex primarily in the area at the base of the toes. A bike shoe should also have a stiff sole in the mid-foot area. You don’t want your shoe folding and bending over the pedal clip mechanism; that will cause you a decent amount of discomfort.
DZR has a technology called Variable Flex Shank (VFS) which, according to their product literature, is stiff and flexible in the proper places. It certainly worked for me. I walked around the office for two days straight wearing the Minnas and my feet were comfortable the whole time. The gum rubber sole bottoms were nice and grippy, whether on the tiled floor of the office or the platform pedals.
While on the bike, the Minnas did their job well. There was no problem with clipping and un-clipping. The amply sized hole for the SPD cleat allowed a full range of proper motion, whether I was using single- or multi-directional release models. The uppers of the shoes stretch more than my other bike shoes, but this did not cause a problem with either performance or comfort.
It is the nature of the beast that walkable bike shoes will have a lump in the sole in the area of the bolt holes for the cleats. There is no way around the fact that the sole needs to be thickened in that area to endure the stress of tugging and mashing on the pedal clip mechanisms. To DZR’s credit, they seem to have done a good job of minimizing the obtrusiveness of that lump. By the end of the day, I hardly noticed it.
With a tasteful design incorporating nylon fabric, suede and smooth leather, I think the Minnas are a good value at $105 USD.
And you won’t look like a Space Pirate while wearing them!
BluesCat is a resident of Phoenix, Arizona, who originally returned to bicycling in 2002 in order to help his son get the Boy Scout Cycling merit badge. His bikes sat idle until the summer of 2008 when gas prices spiked at over $4.00 per gallon. Since then, he has become active cycling, day-touring, commuting by bike, blogging (azbluescat.blogspot.com) and giving grief to the forum editors in the on-line cycling community.