Product Review: Lake CX402
If you're pressed for time, here is the review in one sentence. Go buy these shoes right now, barring a full custom shoe you will never find a shoe that performs this well and is as comfortable as the Lake CX402
For additional information and an update on the sizing and fit of the CX402, see the comments at the end. Thanks to one of the readers for contributing.
Never quite satisfied with the fit and performance of the Fizik R1, I'd been searching for an alternative. Starting with the CX237, I quickly jumped to the CX402. I will be upfront and honest and say that until last season, there had never been a pair of Lake shoes that appealed to me aesthetically. Every design is a personal choice and preference and their design aesthetic didn't match my taste. Sure the technical details of some of their offers made sense and their reputation was something that peaked my interest, but nothing seemed to 'fit' my style.... Then I saw the 2014 lineup. Two shoes in particular stood out. The Lake CX237 and the top of the range CX402. First glimpses of the CX402 started appearing in online reviews coming out of coverage from the Sea Otter classic. They seemed to stand out to a lot of the press.
If you are familiar with the brand Assos, you know their focus is on the highest attainments of quality and performance. Well, if you look close you'll see what appears to be the Lake CX402 under the covers of the Assos CyclingSlipperG1. The Assos CSG1 is clearly a Lake shoe (and is logo'd as such) and from all I can see, it's the CX402. To be honest, it's a hot looking shoe and although I usually strive for subtle all black, the Assos CSG1 is one I'd love to rock with that jeckyl & hide colour scheme and a smattering of dusty gold.
As a fan of minimalism, the 'limited edition' CX402 in a stealthy black on black colouring hits the mark. Sleek and subtle, the CX402 definitely looks familiar, but different. There are similar shoes on the market in terms of general shape, but something about the way Lake puts it together stands out. There is an immediate sense of quality when the shoe is in hand. That's for sure. The materials selected are all top shelf. Kangaroo leather, Boa closures, and a stiff woven carbon sole. It's what you'd expect in the top of the range shoe at this price point. They are light but feel sturdy. Lake shoes seem to be generally known for being a little roomier in the toe box than other brands. I'd say this is definitely true for the CX237 model but the extra space is a bit more modest in the CX402. In putting the shoe on, I can only describe it as 'right'. When I picked up my shoes from Blacksmith Cycle and Stage Race Distribution it took about an hour before I was back out the door. The time was spent warming up the shoe in the shoe oven and then gently molding it to my foot until it was perfect. Maybe most important, I had to let them cool back down while still on my feet. I think this is the secret sauce. When they are cooling, they are also relaxing to the contours of your foot.
My initial impression were that on the bike the shoe performs as good as it feels. Most shoes need time to break in. That's a nice way of saying you need to suffer a bit to help make the shoe conform to your feet. Well when the shoes starts out perfectly molded to your foot, there is no 'break in' period. You get to love them from the first ride.
The CX402 comes in 3 stock colours. White, Red, and the not so limited 'limited edition' black. I've also seen some custom colours out there like a dusty gold (so rad), orange, and others but these are not on the Lake website. The CX402 is also not in their custom colour program on the website. Maybe check with your local retailer if you want a customer colour scheme. If you want an unbranded experience, this is about as good as it's gonna get. On the limited edition CX402 the entire upper is black and has matte black logos which almost go undetected. Extra points in my book because let's be honest, cycling has a tendency to think that logos are good design. The back of the shoe has a matte grey reflective patch for high visibility. A small, subtle, but important feature.
Construction - the heart and sole
The CX402 has a carbon sole, but not a carbon sole like any other. The shoe itself is essentially a carbon fibre shell built around a slightly larger volume last. From the sole it wraps up around the foot. So it's not just a carbon sole attached to a leather upper. The carbon shell is completely exposed on the under side of the sole. That's to be expected. It is also exposed around the outside of the heel cup. Why? Well unlike other cycling shoes that uses moldable insoles to customize the fit, the CX402 molds the entire shoe to your foot! To describe what this means, it essentially turns your shoe into what feels like a customized slipper for you and only you. There are no extra space, no dead spots, no hot spots. Just a perfect match for the contours of your feet. The left is different from the right because your two feet are different and unique to only you. For someone like me who has nearly flat feet, this equates to the most comfortable shoe I own... cycling shoe or not. That 'doesn't work for me' feeling is what had me searching for a new shoe.
The sole features comes with a 3-hole cleat pattern as standard but is available with a Speedplay specific pattern for use without adapters. There air holes on the bottom at the front and mid-foot to help with dissipating heat and to get some cool air around the foot. This helps add to the overall comfort level of the shoe. Not unique to the CX402 or exclusive to high end cycling shoes, but a welcome addition.
The shoes upper is made of kangaroo leather. Known for its light weight, durability, and it's tendency to form its shape around the foot, Kangaroo leather is a common material in high end shoes. You'll also find this in soccer and football footwear. To aid in ventilation, the shoe's leather upper is perforated with plenty of small holes to let air in and heat out. The shoes tongue is a well ventilated mesh material which also helps with breathability. Add this to the vents in the sole and you're going to be quite happy.
To hold the shoe snug, Lake has chosen a double Boa closure system. The upper closure is attached to a wide and generous strap that goes over the top of the foot, below the ankle, at the top of the tongue. This strap is also made of Kangaroo leather. This strap helps sink the heal into the heel cup and keep it there. The generous width of the strap helps spread the pressure across a larger area which means a more comfortable fit. Adjustment from the Boa closure lets you dial (pun intended) the tension. The lower closure is again a Boa closure but this one pulls a lace across the front half of the foot. This closure covers the space of about 4 to 6 traditional laces. Why is Boa so much better? Unlike laces it won't slip over the course of a ride, and unlike velcro straps it is easy to adjust on the go (even while riding) and can be adjusted to a nearly infinite degree. Having 2 Boa closure means you can really dial the fit to your liking with effectively to separate zones to work with.
Not standard on the CX402 but available as an upgrade, Lake offers a custom moldable carbon fibre or fibreglass insoles. There are a lot of great positive reviews of the insoles online that talk to how much better they make the a shoe like the CX237 feel (even though it's a great shoe to start with). But, in my opinion it's not really necessary when the whole shoe is already molded to your foot such as with the CX402.
All I've described about the CX402 is great but it means nothing if it doesn't perform well. As I mentioned earlier, I have fairly flat feet and I've tried nearly every shoe in every sport. What I've learned is that for me, a shoe either works or it doesn't. Nothing in between.
On the bike, these shoes are stiff in the right places without feeling too stiff. They are as comfortable when I roll back into my house as they were when I left. Honestly, I hardly ever think about them when they are on. They are so comfortable they just sort of disappear. I have no way to quantify how stiff they are or how much more effective they are at power transfer but they are light. I measured them to be 317 grams per shoe including a Look KEO cleat and hardware. They are comfortable while never getting in the way of enjoying a ride and they are comfortable to walk in off the bike and in the coffee shop. The ventilation design with holes in the sole, perforations in the upper and a mesh tongue work well to keep the shoe moving air while on the bike. Even though my shoes are all black, they never feel hot.
While riding, the CX402s do all you'd expect a cycling shoe to do but they just seem to do it better.
The CX402s come with a small shoe bag to keep the shoes in. A nice touch so that they are kept clean and protected from the other stuff kicking around your gear bag or closet. The shoe bag has a reflective ink screen print on it. Why reflective? I have no idea, but it looks cool. I do appreciate the shoe bag being included.
If it's not clear yet, let me be frank. I love my Lake CX402s. You'll be prying them off my cold dead feet. On weekend hammerfests or long sportives, there is no question or hesitation as to what shoe I'm going to reach for. The CX402 is my favourite shoe. For training days I happily reach for the CX237.
At full retail, the Lake CX402 is one of the most expensive shoes on the market yes. Surely if you look around a deal can be had and you'd be well rewarded for the purchase. The shoe performs as well as it feels in your hands. It's an all day, any condition, looks good kind of shoe. Remember, if all black isn't your taste you can get them in white and red and possibly customer colours too. After moving over to the Boa closure system, I don't think I could go back. I just can't see the advantage to any other option.