Friday, March 20, 2009

D2 Shoe Review

The superginormous secret is revealed!

I know many of our readers have had trouble sleeping lately as they wondered what the fancy-looking box I posted about earlier this week contained.

Well, all of your questions will now be answered. The container is actually a crush box from D2 Shoes (FYI, this is pronounced D squared). So today I’ll fill you in on the ordering process, and also a bit about why I’m ordering them.

First some background
As Rider 3 has referenced at least once on this blog, and virtually every time we ride together, I am particular about certain things about my bike and gear. The key words in this previous sentence are “certain” and “things.” For whatever reason (maybe it’s the four knee surgeries I’ve had?) I’m very sensitive to changes in my position, and I acknowledge that I am especially picky about the gear that represent my link with the bike: namely my shoes, my handlebars and my seat. I also like a helmet that fits and vents well. As Louis Sullivan said, form follows function. Then again Frank Lloyd Wright said that function follows form. Anyway, one or both of these dead architects is right.

Years ago I was in the fortunate position to get a lot of equipment for free. Shoes, bikes, clothing, helmets, glasses, etc. Free stuff is great. Mostly. I  say mostly because I can guarantee you that there isn’t a single pro team that doesn’t have riders that complain about the fit of their clothing, their chamois, their helmets, their saddles, and more. A delivery of new equipment to the team was often followed by riders taking part in practices most manufacturers preferred not to know about. Dremmels and files were taken to helmet vents to make them bigger. The inside of shoes were sliced to allow  for toes to be jammed in comfortably. Stock insoles were replaced with orthotics to make shoes more comfortable (or shoe covers were used to mask another manufacturer's products, even in 90 degree heat), arm holes on jerseys were tailored to fit freakishly skinny riders, and more. And still the complaints followed. One person would be mad because the jersey zipper with big teeth was too obtrusive. So new jerseys would be made with smaller zippers. Then another rider would get upset because the smaller zippers would jam. And on and on it went. I don’t blame the riders. Putting in big miles with an uncomfortable saddle (or shoes or jersey or helmet) isn’t very much fun.

So what does this have to do with me? Well for years, and when I write years I mean like 10 or 12 years, I have really wanted a set of custom cycling shoes. I’ve heard riders high enough up on the athlete food chain to have sets made for them by Sidi or Northwave gush about how amazing they were. And while I’ve had some shoes I’ve liked/tolerated, nothing has ever fit me exceptionally well.

During my time riding I’ve had a lot of shoes. How many? Too many to count or at least to remember. A quick recollection though includes shoes from Detto, Vittoria (with wooden soles!), Diadora, Time, Brancale, Shimano, Northwave, Carnac, Sidi, Nike, Duegi, Specialized and a few others. I even had a set of absolutely hideous Alpinestars kicks way back in the early days of mountain bikes.

Part of my shoe fitting challenge is that I have a very wide forefoot, but a narrow heel. So a wide shoe often means I experience heel lift. But shoes that fit my heel are typically too narrow up front. And I’m sure you’ve noticed how expensive shoes are. I don’t have a problem spending money on shoes (or saddles), but I do have a problem spending a lot of money on shoes I’m not happy with.

The D2 process
So a couple of weeks ago I finally decided to plunk down for a set of custom shoes. But which ones to buy? The two brands I considered were D2 and Rocket7. I know people with both. I liked the way the D2 shoes looked more, but initially I was going to order the Rocket7s. They’re in Washington state, and I like the idea of supporting a semi-local company, and they get great reviews from people I trust. If you’ve seen the new “Nike” shoes Lance is wearing, you’ve seen Rocket7s (allegedly). Unfortunately they didn’t return my calls or e-mails.

D2 on the other hand were, and continue to be, exceptionally responsive. This is important to me, especially when I’m plunking down this much money on a set of shoes. Plus, like I said the D2 shoes are very cool looking. I love the sailcloth they use for the harness of the shoe. Very slick stuff. 

I ordered their shoe fit kit online. Two days later it arrived. In between that time I picked colors for my new shoes using their handy little online shoe designer.

Opening up the fit kit revealed two large pieces of foam, a set of instructions, paper for tracing your feet, and a series of tools and guides for said tracing.

From Team Two Wheel

My friend, and rolfer extraordinaire, Jake McBurns, helped me with the process. In all it took about 30 minutes to complete. We first traced both feet using one of the tools, and took some relatively simple measurements with the included paper tape measure to record the width of my feet, circumference of my arches and heels. Then it was on to the crush box.

The foam is pressure sensitive so it’s important to follow the instructions very carefully. It was a straightforward process. We made a couple of marks on my feet with the included depth gauge to ensure we made a consistent impression, then I sat in a chair while Jake pushed my feet into the foam.

From Team Two Wheel

I planned to include a couple of additional pictures, but when I looked at the pics I realized I haven’t trimmed my toenails in a while, and they looked kind of disgusting. Trust me when I say skipping the photos is all for the best. Plus, the D2 site has plenty of good examples (of what to do, not of nasty toenails).

Then I was off to work, where I used this ancient thing called a “fax machine” to send off the tracings to D2 to make sure they were appropriate. 30 seconds later, Dan Kurtanich (one of the “D’s” from D2) called to say they looked great. He also freaked me out by telling me I should have the shoes within 6 months. He was kidding.

From there FedEx came to pick up the fancy box. Three days later Don Lamson (the other “D”) called to talk through the specifics of what I was looking for in a shoe. He said he was very surprised I was wearing a size 45.5 Sidi, because according to what he measured with my foot molds I should be wearing more like a 44.5. But because I have such a wide foot his guess was that I was more comfortable in a bigger shoe to get the width I needed. He said they’d use a EEE last for my shoes. My take on Don is that he’s obviously done this a lot and is a very quick study. He pretty much nailed my situation by reading an e-mail and studying my molds and foot tracing.

By the way, D2 has 9 different widths they choose from, and 42 sizes. It sounds like they also make a completely custom lasts and patterns for people with freakishly odd feet.

Don also suggested I use a new shoe they don’t have information about on the D2 site, called the Super Criterium. Sounds fast, eh? It’s their most performance-oriented model. I’ll take any help I can get...

Don was friendly and professional, and it turns out we have a few people we know in common, so it was fun to make that connection too. He’s been in the industry a long time. And while I’ve been out of it for many years, it’s a small world.

So, the shoes should be complete sometime next week. D2 is in Colorado (where they have weather I have been desperately missing lately!) so I should have them in hand within the next week and a half. I’ll certainly post some pictures and initial thoughts once I get them.


  1. need to tell Lance his front skewer is open

  2. Can you comment on how you like the shoes now? I'm in the process of ordering mine and wouldn't mind hearing how you like them a year later. Tks

  3. Hi Joe:

    The shoes have been great. Overall, I couldn't be happier. I ended up sending them back twice to have the insoles tweaked a bit--the shoes were a hair on the tight side. Now though, they're perfect. Hands down the best shoes I've ever worn.

    They've also held up exceptionally well. A couple of minor scuff marks, but that's from normal wear and tear, riding in the rain, etc.

    As an aside, it wasn't until the last time I sent the shoes in to be adjusted that I realized how good they were. In the three days I went without the D2s I rode in my old Sidis. It wasn't a fun experience. The only downside is that I think it will be tough to ever go back to a 100% stock shoe.

    Buy the D2s. You won't regret it.