Bontrager Foray Shoes
Bontrager Foray Shoes
Bontrager describes the Foray as “an undeniably durable and versatile cycling shoe perfect for trail riding, cyclocross, or gravel.”
My take: A light, stiff, fast shoe for pedal-focussed gravel and XC style riding that is versatile enough to venture into the gnar occasionally and offers great air flow for warmer months. Less suited for riders looking for a shoe to take them on hike-a-bikes or primarily into technical, challenging trails.
Every Monday from my upstairs office I listen to one side of the NSMB Team meeting through our cavernous ducts, and my un-named partner's occasional fart, and for months I always contributed my unrequested two cents of "you need more women reviewers!" to my partner after the call ended. You know, women have feet, and hands, and heads so I feel like we can also probably give a (maybe slightly different) viewpoint on mountain bike gear. Of course, I never meant ME - I always meant some other woman who is more tech minded and has more free time and is just maybe more "gnar". But low and behold, one day a box of shoes showed up in just my size, and I got a "put your money where your mouth is" look and here we are. I like gear, and I love bikes, and I love mountain biking and the mountain biking community to the core of my being. Riding has brought so much to my life and helped me grow as a human and I know it has for some many others too, and so many women find their permission to be gritty and bad-ass and find their tribe in this little community we have that has grown so much in the last few years, but we also sometimes experience or communicate things a bit differently. So I'm going to do my best here, to review these shoes in a way that hopefully speaks to anyone who reads it. Maybe I'm putting too much stock in all this, but heck I'm a bit nervous about the high caliber of techy bike nerdiness reading this review, so take it easy on me for this first one ;) Here we gooo...
I’m “gifted” with exceptionally wide feet, so my first impression of the narrow profiled Foray was some serious fit concern. However, the shoe has a much higher volume that it looks, so my wide feet made it in just fine. For riders with low profile feet, the shoe may benefit from a custom insole to take up some of that tall shoe volume. The Foray also has a combination ratchet and strap system, but unlike every other shoe I’ve ridden, the strap is on the metatarsal end, with the ratchet tightening the forefoot to the ankle. The position of the strap also gives more fit adjustability for people like me with duck feet. The paranoid cynic in me holds concerns about not having a strap at the ankle as a back-up in case the ratchet breaks, but I didn’t experience any issues with the ratchet on the Foray while riding them.
I rode the Forays on a mix of rides – some north shore XC, some wet winter hike-a-bike, a few trails on the more gnarly & scary end for me, and longer pedals. For context, I’ve been riding the Crankbrothers Mallet Boa shoes with Time pedals over the last year, and the Bontrager Rallys before that - both softer-soled, more enduro-focussed shoes. I did my time with XC shoes in the past during my spandex and Test of Metal days and I now direct my shoe choice strongly towards comfort, trail feel and ability to walk (up or down) the trail when required.
My impression of the Forays is that they are a fairly stiff, with excellent power transfer and good breathability. Bontrager gives these shoes a 6/14 on the stiffness index, which feels low to me. I also confess to not knowing exactly what a stiffness scale is - I put these closer to the firm bed in Goldilocks. They are also lightweight, with limited padding or insulation, so they were a bit chilly on the colder days, but really nice and breathable on the two warmer days we’ve had here in the PNW this spring. The soles are well lugged with a rubber sole, which added to their versatility, but I found the rubber compound on the harder side so they were manageable, but not confidence inspiring, while walking over slimy logs or creeks on the wintery north shore. The stiff soles also limit foot flexion so they aren’t super comfortable walking and hiking for any extended period of time.
The Forays make a great versatile XC shoe, and I would agree with Bontrager’s description that these would make great shoes for gravel, cyclocross or “gentler” trails. These were great shoes to pedal in and could stand the occasionally hike-a-bike, but they were definitely not my shoe of choice in the wet and cold and I found them too stiff for highly technical riding as I felt a bit disconnected from the feel of the trail. If I was heading out for a more XC or pedal-focussed ride, these were top of the pile, and would be perfect for my N+1 future dream gravel bike or a trip to rack up miles in Sedona.