Northwave Extreme XC MTB shoe review

Flashy Italian mountain bike shoes for cross-country and gravel riders

Northwave’s Extreme XC Shoes

Northwave’s Extreme XC mountain bike shoes blend performance and panache. While the looks may not be for everyone, the exceptional function is undeniable.

What is it?

A stylish, lightweight XC mountain bike shoe that offers excellent power transfer and reasonable walking stability. Quick, on-the-fly dial adjustment, a stiff sole, and snug fit culminate in an Italian kick for hard riding while looking good.

  • It’s hard to beat camouflage for style points
  • Easy to adjust dial closures
  • Super stiff carbon fiber last
  • Well-designed, reinforced upper
  • Michelin lugs offer good traction but are too narrow for great off-bike stability
  • Narrow fit won’t suit all feet
  • If your tastes run towards low-key, look away
  • $350 isn’t cheap, though the value can be argued

Mtbr’s Take

There are few people who add flair to function like the Italians. Northwave didn’t go the safe route when styling up its Extreme XC mountain bike shoes. Garish neon orange and gray-tone camo are hard to miss. But don’t let the looks distract you from the fact that these are really nice shoes with small details that really set the Extreme XC’s apart.

Northwave’s Extreme XC Shoes

The higher of the two dial closures has a pull-tab on the cable. When you pull on the release lever while simultaneously tugging on the pull-tab, they loosen.

The fit is on the narrow side, typical of Italian cycling footwear. But the upper accommodates a wide range of insteps. Some of this is thanks to the way these sleek shoes are tightened to the foot. The Speed Lace Winch (S.L.W.2) dial closures are unique to Northwave with a large orange outer ring for tightening the shoes. A small button provides a single click release of the cable, loosening it just a touch. Pulling up on the edge of that same button disengages the ratchet and provides slack to take the shoe off. On all fronts, the function is great.

Northwave’s Extreme XC Shoes

Synthetic cat’s tongue material on the inside of the heel cup helps hold the foot in place on the upstroke.

The upper is reinforced in critical areas to make it more resistant to abrasion. A bit of synthetic cat’s tongue material graces the inside of the heel cup to help retain the rider’s foot.

The Extreme XC’s are made with pedaling in mind. If you’re off the bike often, especially in rocky or wet conditions, look elsewhere. The Michelin lugs on these shoes offer good traction, but their shape is rounded and their size is minimal.

Northwave’s Extreme XC Shoes

Michelin produces the rubber for the lugs on the Extreme XC. They offer good grip for their size, but larger lugs would make the shoes more stable off the bike.

Bottom line, Northwave has delivered exactly what their marketing promises, a high performance XC mountain bike shoe. They’ll serve training and race duty for cross-country mountain biking and gravel racing. I wouldn’t recommend them for cyclocross racing, though, because of the limited traction.

Rating: 4 out of 5 4 Flamin' Chili Peppers
Price: $350

More Info:

About the author: Nick Legan

Nick Legan is happiest with some grease under his nails and a long dirt climb ahead. As a former WorldTour team mechanic, Legan plied his trade at all the Grand Tours, Spring Classics, World Championships and even the 2008 Beijing Olympics. In recent years, gravel and ultra-distance racing has a firm grip on Legan’s attention, but his love of mountain biking and long road rides hasn’t diminished. Originally a Hoosier, Legan settled in Boulder, Colorado, 14 years ago after finishing his time at Indiana University studying French and journalism. He served as the technical editor at VeloNews for two years and now contributes to Adventure Cyclist, Mtbr and RoadBikeReview. To follow along on Legan’s cycling adventures, find him on Instagram at @nlegan and be sure to check out his new book Gravel Cycling: The Complete Guide to Gravel Racing and Adventure Bikepacking.

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  • pparker48 says:

    I have a 2.5 year old pair of these shoes in black that aren’t quite so flashy.
    They are great shoes that are crazy stiff in the soles and really light with a quality build. The reviewer is correct about the soles. Get ready to slip around once you get off the bike. They don’t provide much traction. The biggest buyer beware I have is this company has NO support in the US for their shoes once you are past the two year warranty. I broke an eyelet (lace guide) on these shoes and I couldn’t buy a new one from the company and had to retire my shoes early. They are based in Italy and have a contracted US company who supports the shoes through the warranty period but not beyond. If you toss your shoes after two years I guess this isn’t an issue. I do not and am very disappointed with Northwave as a company. Their shoes were great otherwise…….

  • peper says:

    I bet they ride really well. But, you better be able to crush the ride with something that bright on your feel.

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