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Are S-Works Cycling Shoes That Much Better Than Torch 2.0 Shoes? The Scientific and Special Differences Between a $150 and a $400 Pair of Cycling Shoes

In my first post on the difference between a pair of S-Works and Torch 2.0 cycling shoes that explored whether they’re worth the extra $250, I gave the touchy-feely version of what’s better in the S-Works shoes to come up with the conclusion that, if you can afford the price tag, they’re worth it – but not necessary for the local club ride and definitely not necessary if they put a strain on the budget.

In this post, we’re going to get into the science of the shoes and get a little geeky. Know this, before I’ve ever done the research, if you can’t stomach the $400 sticker price, don’t despair. The S-Works shoes are about as necessary on a club ride as a bell. The Torch 2.0 shoes, at $160 and in the middle of the road lineup, are more than enough… even though the S-Works version are the cat’s pajamas.

Let’s start with the easy part: The stiffness index of the S-Works shoe: 13 (newer versions are 15!). The stiffness index of the Torch 2.0: 7. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out which will allow you to deliver better power to the pedals. In shoes, as in bottom brackets, flex isn’t a good thing. There’s a lot to be said for vertical compliance in a frame, but in shoes stiff wins. When I tested my S-Works 6 shoes, I had no idea what the stiffness index was (I knew the Torch 2.0s were a 7 and my old Specialized Road Pro shoes were a 13, so I had a feeling the S-Works would be close but I did no research before riding them). After the first ride, I knew by feel, it was substantial. I was correct.

Power to the pedals is only one giant plus for a stiff shoe sole bed. The second is comfort. Assuming the shoes, you know, fit, a stiff sole will do a better job of limiting hot spots at the cleat/pedal interface on the feet. After having spent 15,000-ish miles in the Torch 2.0 shoes, I could feel a big improvement going from them to the S-Works shoes.

Next we have the space-grade materials in the S-Works shoes against the thermoplastic polyurethane and mesh construction of the Torch 2.0s. Before we get into the whole “space” thing, the mesh and TPU construction of the Torch shoes is excellent and exceedingly comfortable. They’re fantastic. Having put in some hard miles on the S-Works models, I never wished I’d switched sooner. The S-Works’ leather and Dyneema panels, however, are outrageously wonderful. It’s pretty simple, really; there’s no question the Torch shoes punch above their weight, but S-Works is still S-Works.

As for those Dyneema Panels, the designer of the shoe described them thusly (according to Bike Radar):

“The single-layer base synthetic is selected as it has adaptive stretch for comfort in the forefoot, lateral side and ball area,” explained the shoe’s designer, Rob Cook. “The Dyneema material is actually a film holding a custom lay-up of ultra-fine Dyneema strands. These strands do not stretch at all and we have placed them in an orientation to hold the foot. Bonding this to the synthetic creates zones of absolute non-stretch for locking the foot in place. The film is still soft and flexible. Applying this film means we can tune the fit of the upper in zones without cutting and joining separate parts with seams.”

Well, alrighty then.

Next up is the one category where the Torch 2.0 shoes punch above the S-Works; weight. My S-Works 6 shoes are 440 grams for the pair. The Torch’s only weigh 30 grams more. For the pair. Looking strictly from a weight standpoint, the S-Works shoes, after tax are just shy of a Dollar per gram. The Torch 2.0s are just 36 cents per gram. Chalk one up for the Torch 2.0.

To make a whole lot of science-y stuff into a nice little ball, the science backed up my experience and my opinion; if you’ve got the money, the S-Works shoes are phenomenal and exceedingly comfortable and awesome. On the other hand, if you don’t, the Specialized’s Torch 2.0 punch well above their price tag and are more than enough shoe for the fastest club rides. Mine have been excellent for years (that shoe above has more than 15,000 miles on it and still looks that good).