northwave multicross gtx flat pedal shoe cover 4
Review

Northwave Multicross GTX Flat Pedal Winter Shoes

Photos Deniz Merdano (unless noted)
Reading time

Until a couple of weeks ago I was certain about two essential elements that were required to make a good shoe for riding flat pedals on challenging terrain. First of all, the sole must have decent flexibility, allowing your foot to wrap over the pedal some, enhancing grip. It couldn't be too flexible however, because you won't have enough impact protection. Even more importantly, it shouldn't be too stiff. The second, and even more vital element, is sticky rubber. Without rubber that is almost gummy to the touch, I was quite sure there wasn't much point in even bothering to make shoes for flats. While some riders prefer a stickier shoe, and others a little less, most will agree that a level of gumminess is essential.

Northwave Mutlicross GTX flat pedal shoes 4

My pooch was as suspicious as I was about these shoes.

And then I got a reminder about how important humility is for anyone who reviews products, all thanks to Northwave.* I reviewed a pair of Northwave flat pedal shoes not long ago and I thought they were pretty good, but not quite sticky enough for my tastes. More recently a pair of waterproof Northwave shoes arrived for testing, and I knew they would be crap almost immediately.

I pulled one out of the box and tried to flex it between my hands and it hardly moved. Beyond that, they had a Vibram sole that didn't seem sticky at all. I had tried several riding shoes with that brand's name on them previously and, frankly, they sucked; great for hiking, but worthless for mountain biking.

*Whenever I read a review by someone who is too sure of themself, I am automatically suspicious. At the same time, I know I have been guilty of that myself.

Northwave Multicross GTX Flat Pedal Winter Shoes 1

Perfect testing conditions arrived just in time for these shoes. Photo - Cam McRae

I procrastinated about trying them because I knew the combination of stiff sole and firm but not gummy rubber was bound to be a disappointment. Eventually I put them on and packed up to go for a ride. Before I left I was careful to put a pair of recent Crankbrothers shoes in my truck as well, quite sure I'd be taking off the Northwaves for the actual ride.

Northwave Mutlicross GTX flat pedal shoes 17

I'm standing on a slippery, snow-covered log 12 feet above a rocky creek-bed here and, despite their smooth appearance, the Multicross GTX shoes handled the experience easily.

"These shoes are way too stiff," I told my buddies, "I'm going to do a lap of the parking lot to find out how terrifying they would be and then probably change shoes." I pedalled around a little and was surprised that they didn't feel too bad. I rode down some stairs to challenge them a little more and they were okay there too. I came to the conclusion that I was unlikely to have a fatal incident because of the grip offered by these shoes, and off we went.

I focussed a little more than usual on standing tall on my pedals and keeping my heels down and began to realize I was sticking to the pedals confidently. In fact I was doing better than I do in some of my favourite shoes. What sorcery is this?

Northwave Mutlicross GTX flat pedal shoes 6

Do these look like flat pedal shoes? To my eyes they look like clipless shoes, particularly because of the forefoot rocker.

Not only does the rubber sole lack gumminess, it also lacks the traditional tread pattern of popular flat shoes, with their spaced lily pads of traction. Instead the pattern is a completely flat sole that has been recessed with two sets of fine parallel diagonal lines, leaving diamond shapes separated by gaps of less than a millimetre. Surely a recipe for disaster. My arrogant assumption was that the roadie product manager (had to be a roadie) for the Multicross GTX decided to kill two birds by using the same shank in both the flat and clip in versions.

*I examined the clipless version of these shoes today and while the forefoot of the flat version is more flexible, the mid foot and torsional flexibility is quite similar.

Northwave Mutlicross GTX flat pedal shoes 16

This is an unconventional sole for a flat pedal shoe to say the least. Photo - Cam McRae

In truth I have no idea who the product manager was and whether my assumption above is correct but it turns out to be irrelevant because the shoes work. They don't just get by however, they are great to ride in. Traction is excellent and I'm starting to think I lose descending grip less often wearing these than my usual favourites. A bonus is that it also seems easier to reposition my feet wearing these Northwaves.

Northwave Mutlicross GTX flat pedal shoes 7

I can't think of a moment when I lost traction wearing these shoes, which I can't say about any other flat pedal shoes I've worn.

Being humbled is the good news. The bad news is that I have no idea why these work. If it was the stiffness alone, other shoes I found to be too stiff would have worked fine. If it was the less gummy sole, obviously shoes I'd previously found to be terrifyingly slippery would have been okay. What I do know is that I'm at least as happy wearing these shoes as any of the best I've worn previously. With a little more time I may even decide I'm happier in these but more testing is needed.

Northwave Mutlicross GTX flat pedal shoes 11

I wouldn't call this rubber stiff, but I also wouldn't call it particularly sticky, and certain not gummy. This shot was taken after 6 or 7 rides and I can only see microscopic evidence of any pin damage, Maybe stiff rubber is where it's at?

My guess is that a combination of the stiffness, the more robust rubber, and the tread pattern of the sole makes the magic here. It's possible that flexible shoes with sticky rubber work, but stiff soles with sticky rubber do not. Similarly, stiffer rubber may not work with flexible soles. What I'm guessing is that the stiff soles allow more pressure to be applied to each pedal pin and that pressure, combined with firm rubber produces very good traction. While pins stick in to soft rubber easily, that softness is unlikely to provide as much hold. The tread pattern, without larger voids between treads like those found on my most shoes, likely allows pressure to be distributed more evenly between the pins. If a pin on a fiveten shoe sits in a void rather than on a raised tread, it can't have as much pressure as one that sinks into one of those lily pads.

Northwave Mutlicross GTX flat pedal shoes 1

I did my best to get wet feet wearing these and I was unsuccessful. At one point I thought a little water had got in but when I checked, everything was dry.

Climbing Traction

Normally I have no time for flat pedal shoes with a stiff rocker in the forefoot. This is particularly bad using convex pedals like Canfield Crampons or OneUps, but even true flat pedals can be a problem, particularly when climbing.

Despite a relatively distinct rocker on these shoes, they get up hill very well. I think in this situation the stiff shoe helps with power transfer but even in bumpy technical situations these shoes did a great job staying glued to the pedal pins. I did not try them with convex pedals, perhaps because that shape tries to solve a problem that these shoes aren't subject to.

Northwave Mutlicross GTX flat pedal shoes 9

Wouldn't you like to be hugged by a Koala membrane (made by Gore)? These shoes are indeed nice and toasty. Images - Northwave

Northwave Mutlicross GTX flat pedal shoes 10

The entire shoe deconstructed.

Oh Yea, These are Winter Shoes...

I'm so enamoured with the way these shoes grip the pedals, I've almost forgotten they are winter specific, and waterproof as well. They have a soft lining inside that gives your feet a warm hug. I've only ridden in them in temperatures that start at or near the freezing mark and then drop lower as I gain altitude, and my feet have been nice and toasty. I've also stood in creeks and sprayed them off after rides without getting my tootsies wet.

Beyond a Gore-Tex insert, these also have a Gore insulating product wrapped around the lower portion of the shoe. "Gore Koala" is described as a "membrane for a warm shelter against weather elements."

Can confirm.

Northwave Mutlicross GTX flat pedal shoes 8

These did a great job of keeping my feet dry and warm and, surprisingly, the walking grip wasn't bad either.

Closure (that's not a Boa)

This appears to be Boa/velcro (hook and loop) closure system but that's only half true. The dial system is Northwave's in-house X-dial SW3+. It tightens the way a Boa does but to release it you need to click a little lever. The nice thing about his is that you can release a click at a time if you'd like a little less tension. If it's time to take off your shoes these aren't quite as nice as Boa because they require tension applied to release them. With a regular Boa you turn to tighten it and pop the dial up to release all tension while the multi-directional L-series can be tightened or loosened by turning but still pops for release. Before I pull my foot out of these shoes I need to push my foot upward while repeatedly pressing the release on the the SW3 to incrementally loosen the cord. You could also use one hand to cycle the lever while the other pulls the lace out of the dial.

This probably sounds worse than it is and really, it isn't a big deal, but if you are accostomed to Boa it'll take a little getting used to. Overall the combo of dial and strap work very well, and the loops on the neoprene gaiter make putting the shoes on easy peasy.

Northwave Mutlicross GTX flat pedal shoes 14

The Forecast

It looks like the weather is changing soon. The forecast is generally shitty and mostly wet for the next five days or so. And it's getting warmer, so the snow will be limited to the peaks locally. I'm almost sad about the changing seasons because I'm enjoying riding in these shoes so much and because I'm intrigued by the way they perform so well despite so much being 'wrong' about them.

Northwave Multicross GTX Flat Pedal Winter Shoes 1

This was excellent timing for testing, considering most of this winter has been like an early spring.

My plan now is to get some other testers to try them, to prove I'm not crazy (or that I am*) and squeeze as much time as possible in them before it gets to warm. Hopefully Northwave will send me a pair of the summer version of these shoes. There are two models, the Multicross and the Overland Plus, that have the same sole as the GTX version but sizes are limited and I fear those shoes are being discontinued. This doesn't surprise me because, as a long time flat pedal rider (punctuated with several multi year stints riding clipped in) I would never have checked out these shoes in a store and tried them out. Sadly, this may be a case of a superior product being discontinued because of what has traditionally been successful.

*Pete did the parking lot test after our ride today and agreed that they felt very secure on the pedals.

Another shoe with a different Vibram sole, the Crossland Plus, may be replacing it but I'm a little uncertain about the elevated arch in the sole. At the same time, everything I thought I knew about flat pedal shoes may be wrong so these could be the cat's pyjamas. At 270 EUR, these are not cheap. At the same time, my experiences with shoes from this Italian brand have been excellent and they have been more durable than most.

Northwave Multicross GTX

cam@nsmb.com
Cam McRae

Height - 6'/183cm (mostly legs)

Weight - 170lbs/77kg

Inseam - 33"/84cm

Ape Index - 0.986

Age - 58

Trail I've been stoked on lately - Sam's Dad's Trail

Bar Width - 760mm

Preferred Reach - 485-500mm (longer with 27.5 wheels than 29)

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Comments

NickM
+1 Cam McRae

An excellent review, Cam, and I would be very interested in these if I had conditions to ride in like the ones pictured. I would like to point out that the last pair of Shimano road shoes I purchased (2018 Shimano RC7) had BOA dials that worked in both directions, so you didn't need to release all tension but could release tension one click at a time...I'm surprised more cycling shoes don't offer this feature!

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cam@nsmb.com
+2 Nick Meulemans Schmolson

Thanks Nick.

Of the two Boas, I too prefer the multi-directional L- series. It's nice not to have to start from scratch when you just want to loosen your shoes a little. I guess it only takes an extra second or so but it seems easier to be more precise without the full release. It would be interesting to know how much of a premium Boa charges for the H series which has that feature. 

That part of the world of products is opaque to consumers and media alike. How much, for example, does Gore charge for their textiles compared to other brands? And what does it cost to have Gore approve your product once you have a pre-production sample? 

It's relatively easy to determine what the margin is for products going from wholesale to retail, the last mark up, but I'd like to know what sort of margin big bike companies make on an entire bike. This would be particularly interesting for a brand that supplies many house-branded components. A high end Trek might have house-branded bars, stem, saddle, tires, wheels, grips and headset and then be sold at a Trek store. It seems to me that allows for a pretty nice mark up, but that's just a guess.

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MNKid
+1 Cam McRae

Love this review. Thanks for sharing your honest preconceptions and then re-conceptions.

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manu_moisan
+1 Cam McRae

Great review. I have the clipless version and rode them a lot last spring and fall. Toasty warm and comfy...  Only issue is the knob for thightening them came loose and I lost the dial. NW did send me a replacement but I had to put them aside for a couple of weeks during that time. I would suggest you double check tightness on yours

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T0m
+1 Cam McRae

Craziness. I made all the same assumptions just looking at these. Vibram is a huge company however and that rubber magic may be found in other shoes soon. Case in point, I have a pair of Anatom (Scottish company) hiking boots with a Vibram outsole that I’ve seen used on multiple other Euro shoe brands. And the rubber is awesome. It doesn’t slip in loose gravelly or in slimy wet UK conditions, is reasonable on ice, and wears about the same as the old hard and crappy hiking compounds. Maybe the giant in the outdoor shoe market is awake.

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Dogl0rd
+1 Cam McRae

I feel like northwaves work great with certain types of pins. Love them with PNW pedals

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Ride.DMC
0

I have the 5-10 Trailcross GTX.  They work well.  Everytime I think my feet got wet (usually when I am hosing myself down after a muddy ride) I take off the shoe to find dry socks and realize it was just the cold that made it feel wet.

I will say I hate putting the Trailcross on - and the fact that these have a loop on the front & back of the neoprene gaiter seems like an improvement over the 5-10 design.

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cam@nsmb.com
0

I like the Trailcross as well, but they are a little too sticky for me. These are also warmer by a considerable margin for better or worse, depending on your climate.

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macias
0

Thank you for the review. So Northwaves are warmer... What would you say is the upper limit for Northwaves and Trailcrosses? The point when the feet start to overheat. I am asking because I am looking for rather spring (cold spring) shoes, not winter, but I would like to have my feet warm, not freezing, and not toasted :-). Thank you in advance for the tips.

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dubxion
0

How are these walking/hike-a-bike in the different conditions?

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cam@nsmb.com
+1 Christian Strachan

Looking at the sole. thought they would be awful, but they aren't bad at all. I've worn them in both wet and snowy conditions and I found them just fine. They aren't ideal when it's snowy but as good as other flat shoes I've worn and in other conditions they may be better.

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khai
0

What's the width like on these?  The look fairly narrow...

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cam@nsmb.com
0

I would call them moderate. I sometimes have trouble with narrow shoes but haven't had any issues with these.

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