The Specialized S-Works 6 is stiff, tight, and feels like a slipper. The stiffness of the shoe comes through, with a profound sense of stability emanating from the sole to the upper. It’s ideal for a race where weight and stiffness really mattered.
The Specialized S-Works 6 is among the stiffest shoes we tested. It is also light at 222 grams for a size 42 (7.3 ounces 10.5 U.S. size). Specialized’s proprietary Body Geometry sole and foot bed is engineered to increase wattage and power output. There is a noticeable feeling of power transfer. The FACT Powerline, which is the carbon plate that supports the rider within the sole, has a stiffness index of 13, placing it among the stiffest we tested.
Some of the S-Works 6’s power transfer comes from the incredibly snug fit. There is no question that your foot is completely ensconced by the S-Works 6. This is both a benefit and a detriment to this shoe. Getting in and out of the Specialized S-Works 6 is laughably difficult. Perhaps the riders on the World Tours have domestiques to help them get their shoes on or off, but for us commoners, needing a teammate for shoe removal may or may not be realistic.
The S-Works 6 has a snug fit. The first time putting these shoes on requires a modicum of effort and time and is a learning experience. This is largely a result of the rigidity of the Padlock molded heel and single piece Strobel upper, which are “firm” in construction. The result of this is even with the Boas opened up fully, and the Velcro strap unfurled, it still takes a considerable effort to get these shoes on.
Once in the S-Works 6 however, all of that effort is worthwhile. We were concerned that the rigidity of the upper would manifest in cutting edges and discomfort. That was not our experience at all. The stiffness of the upper transforms into a glove like fit – comfortable and powerful.
Featuring two Boa S2-Snap dials across the top of the foot, the adjustability of the S2’s is good. These are back and forth dials, not pull to release. The Boas worked well with nice micro-adjustment. Specialized also incorporated a Velcro adjustment across the forefoot. This provides ample adjustability, while also firmly enclosing the shoe around the foot.
This is a more complex shoe than most with a mix of materials on the upper. Specialized claims this is to improve the shoe’s performance, and our testing backs that up. That said, the Specialized S-Works 6 has more seams than most other shoes in this class. The quality of the construction is good, though the glue lines look a bit messy. The sewing is clean. There are seams on the interior of the shoe, though testers didn’t report feeling them. All of that said, our experience with Specialized shoes in particular is that they wear well over time, and we would expect the S-Works 6 to be a long-lasting durable shoe.
Specialized S-Works 6 has ample perforations through the front of the upper, but nothing in the heel cup. The tongue is breathable and perfectly stiff. The drainage on the Specialized S-Works 6 is typical for shoes in the class, with a single drain at the forefoot. Breathability is good given the material selection and venting.
This shoe won’t disappoint the S-Works loyalists, assuming they can get it on, however at $400, other shoes are a better value for similar performance.
Seth Portner has been riding and racing mountain bikes since the late 1990s, specializing in XC, marathon and ultra-marathon events. He also enjoys regular multi-day road tours, and is an accomplished ultrarunner and XC skier. Seth, his wife and their daughter all split their time between Lyons and Winter Park.