At the end of the review period, how have Northwave’s Core Plus road cycling shoes fared?
PROS: NEAT, CLASSY LOOKS
Just look at these shoes. These are on the “quietly confident” end of the Italian styling spectrum, opting for relatively understated flourishes and logos instead of loud logos and lurid color splashes. The black and fluoro yellow colorway goes great with almost any cycling kit, and I have a soft spot for its red-on-white sibling as well.
PROS: GREAT ADJUSTABILITY
The SLW2 ratchet dial closure system is solid. With a bit of familiarization, quick fit adjustments are easily done, although pushing the release button to loosen the shoe is best done singly and deliberately. It’s not quite a no-brainer operation but is easy enough to do.
That said, the Velcro strap for the toe box isn’t quite as adjustable as you’d think. To Northwave’s credit, the volume of the fit is forgiving, but there’s just not enough difference in how much the Velcro toe box strap actually tightens up the fit until you pull a lot of it.
PROS: HARD WEARING MATERIALS
Northwave doesn’t use leather on the Core Plus, but what material it does use on the upper is very hard-wearing and shrugs off scratches. In black, it’s a very “wash-and-wear” shoe, unconcerned with cyclists with clumsy feet. As a side benefit, ventilation is quite good too.
PROS: STIFF OUTSOLE
Road cyclists desiring good power transfer and minimal deformation from leg to pedal should enjoy this shoe. Northwave sells these short by rating them on the low side for stiffness. They’re great for repeated full-gas efforts, in my experience, such as the kind you’d kick out in a criterium. You may be able to coax the tiniest bit of twist out of them in your hands, but underfoot and under pedaling duress, they are strong.
One other thing is that the cleat positioning on these shoes is very centrally located when looked at from side to side. Other shoe manufacturers like Shimano tend to push the cleat a bit outboard; these Core Plus shoes were more truly centered.
CONS: SPD CLEAT COMPATIBILITY
Northwave touts these shoes as compatible with SPD cleats or other two-bolt mountain bike cleat systems, but the process involves having to cut into the shoe’s midsole. A cursory search of just how well that can go reveals that if you value compatibility with two-bolt cleats, this shoe just isn’t a good fit unless you go the adapter route.
If you like Northwave but can’t give up SPD cleats, opt for their mountain bike shoe lineup instead.
CONS: PERHAPS NOT QUITE THE BEST FOR FLAT FEET?
I’ve documented at length the journey I’ve had making these shoes fit for my relatively flat, low-arched feet. While the looser and more adjustable fit works great, the hot spots I got with these shoes never totally went away, and they seemed to arrive faster than in my other pairs. To these shoes’ credit, it took quite a long while before the hot spots degenerated into discomfort.
It was a little saddening to see the Ergon IP3 Solestar insoles didn’t result in a great improvement with these shoes, when they had proven transformative with the Shimano XC5s. This tells me something else is afoot – something not as easily explained as outsole width, or as easily addressed by cleat positioning, and perhaps is just down to how the Core Plus’ foot last is shaped.
All that said, everybody’s feet are different, and these may well fit yours better than they did mine. If your feet can play nice with the fit, the Northwave Core Plus shoes shouldn’t let you down.