Review: Sombrio X-Slats Shoes
August 13th, 2012
By Olly Forster
Flat pedals might be getting a run for their money at the races right now, but out on the trails, their popularity is still going from strength to strength and with more brands coming into the fold and offering a wider selection of shoes to choose from, it’s never been so good to get some sticky rubber on your feet. Sombrio are a brand well known for their technical apparel, unique styling and a strong connection to their native British Colombia, but when they released details of a shoe line that looked remarkably unlike anything else on the market, we had to get some in for a closer look…
The X-Slats come in two colour-ways, this being the black with a white inner option – there’s also a grey with a tan inner option as well should the all black one be too stealthy for you. Style wise, these are high tops first and foremost, but unlike regular ‘high street’ high tops, don’t feel quite as restrictive around the ankle due to the way they are cut at the rear. Weight wise they are pretty good considering they are technically boots, weighing in at 500 grams each – that’s 20 grams lighter than a Five Ten Freerider.
The X-Slats are covered in lots of cool little features such as this little Bear logo embossed into the synthetic leather uppers, which I really liked, but then I really like bears. The drop back ‘Achilles panel’ provides a good level of mobility while maintaining a decent level of ankle protection.
The Sombrio ‘FS’ performance rubber is the end result of “research, design and testing of a proprietary molecular rubber compound for the bicycle action sports arena” – sounds good doesn’t it? The rubber used is designed to be malleable and to conform to the pins of your pedals and certainly didn’t cause too many any unwanted and frustrating foot positions, which are unavoidable on flats.
The tread pattern on the sole features a design made up of lots of little Sombrio logos. This is designed so that it hooks the pins on your pedals without catch points for a consistent feel across the length of the sole. Heel and arch support is provided by a molded perforated polyurethane insole, which is custom shaped to provide impact resistance across the whole of the foot. Cushioning of the foot under impact is taken care of by some custom molded and die cut Aeriole EVA foam midsoles. These provide both comfort and help keep the shoes nice and light. These inserts are additionally antimicrobial and breathable, which for dirty mountain bikers, is a good thing! Overall the X-Slats are bloody comfy, but high tops aren’t for everyone and they have a unique feel over regular shoes.
The sidewalls have been designed to enhance pedal feedback, provide more sensitivity and to “dispel the traditional clunky over sprung toes of yesterday.” Sombrio have certainly realised that they had to do their homework and come up with something that both performed out on the trail and adhered to a sense of style they are most recognised for.
Another cool feature is a removable ankle strap, which although helps keep the not in your laces tidy and away from the mud, isn’t essential and being able to remove it is there should you want to. The eyelets are all rectangular in shape allowing for a very neat and precise lacing system which I thought was cool, but then I am a bit anal when it comes to stuff like that.
and without the velcro ankle strap… I’ve left it on the whole time, but it might look a little better without it, but that’s up to you?
Don’t like High-Tops?
Sombrio know that not everyone wants or perhaps even likes high-tops, so they also offer the same shoe in a regular cut, known as the X-Float. It’s a bit cheaper at £80 and looks the business.
On the Trail.
The first thing I noticed when putting the X-Slats on for the first time, was how close a close fit they are across the foot. Not too tight, but noticeably more encasing than similar shoes and a feel that didn’t subside after quite a few rides. Although initially a concern, it was one that quickly disappeared while on the bike. Size wise, I’d go as far as saying they come up a tad small and it might be worth trying before you buy, especially if your on the cusp of a larger shoe already – but half sizes are available.
Once on and walking around, they are pretty damn comfy to say the least. They do of course feel like a high top and that alone might put some people off, but overall as a non high top kinda guy, I really liked the feel. Jumping on the bike, the next thing you notice is the grip. Grippier than the Vans Gravel and somewhere between the Five Ten Freerider and Five Ten Impact – so pretty damn grippy. After a few runs at a local DH track it was off to the French/ Swiss border for some big mountain shredding…
I don’t like my shoes to be too vice like when it comes to grip and the ability to move around on the pedals and position myself accordingly on the bike and at the end of the day, this is what riding in flats is all about. The X-Slats did give me some concerns that they might be too grippy, but after a few days descending some of the roughest trails in Europe they had me more than convinced that I’d packed the right shoes for the job.
The all black design gives off a subtle military vibe, but both the colour and the materials used were intentional and worked a treat when coping with the what mountain biking throws at you. Although they didn’t offer that much more protection from the wet than a regular shoe, they did however dry out rather quickly – this is mostly due to their synthetic leather construction. The X-Slats put quite a few other shoes to shame with how quickly they could be circulated from sopping wet to back on the trail.
These shoes and indeed Sombrio’s range of 4 shoes, represent another brand looking at the flat pedal shoe market with a refreshing outlook and also from that of an apparel company rather than a shoe company. This is pretty evident in the styling of the shoes, which for me really worked, but for others, it was a bit like Marmite, but as far as style goes, some riders like high tops and some don’t, it’s as simple as that, but there is a low top version available. High top or no high top, they certainly look a lot better than the sticky rubber offerings most of you currently have so it’s neither here nor there. The High Top design does offers more protection and support and unlike some high tops, didn’t impede on maneuverability around the ankle area.
Pedal feed back through the shoes was better than some, but not quite as stiff as the Five Ten Impact, but then sole stiffness with flats is also a matter of personal preference and this then goes back to having the feel and the connection to your bike and the trail, which for me, are more important. Would I race in these? Yeah, definitely, there’s no reason why these wouldn’t make the cut and into my kit bag.
They’re comfortable both off and on the bike and thanks to the materials used, are also pretty light for a high top design so there are no weight penalties for the increased protection. The all important ‘sticky rubber’ is sufficiently sticky enough for those looking for an alternative to Five Ten without giving the rider with an OCD foot position complex something to worry about after dabbing. The construction is impressive and I’ve done my best to use them and abuse them, but so far they’ve held up to the worst, although I think the leather insides won’t be white again any time soon.
With a price tag of £100, these aren’t cheap and this may well be the deciding factor for some of us used to spending a bit less on their riding shoes, but if your in the market for some new shoes, like lots of neat features, the all-black look, want ankle protection and like straying from the crowd, the Sombrio X-Slats could well be the riding shoes you’ve been looking for. Happy trails!
Sombrio is exclusively distributed in the UK by Hotlines and for everything Sombrio and beyond, tap the logo below!