I’ve been riding in the Fi’zi:k R3 road shoes for most of this season, first mounting cleats to them in early May. I waited for the worst of the spring weather to subside so as to not subject the supple kangaroo leather to too much moisture right away. This means, of course, that I rode through the rather warm Salt Lake summer in a shoe constructed primarily of a less-than-breathable material. The surprising part? It wasn’t uncomfortable.
Let’s back up, though. The out-of-the-box presentation of this pair of shoes was a genuine delight. Each shoe is mounted to a piece of heavy, printed card stock, wrapped in a nicer-than-average piece of tissue paper, and then placed in a fold-out box that slides into an outer shell box. If you have a cyclist on your list, these shoes would be a fantastic gift for the unboxing experience alone.
For me, there were two features that really set these shoes apart: The sole stiffness and the heel cup. To be honest, over the first few shorter rides, I was concerned about how comfortable they’d be over the course of a long ride. My fears were unfounded. The sole is well engineered, and permits enough flex to provide comfort over the course of a four or five hour ride (and likely longer, but my longest ride this year was just shy of five hours).
The manner in which the heel cup of the shoe keeps your foot in place is remarkable. For the first few rides, I adjusted the ratchet strap to the tension I normally would, and caused myself some serious discomfort, owing to the ultra-thin tongue, and the very stiff sailcloth of the strap itself. It wouldn’t be hyperbole to say that it felt like the top of my foot was being slowly sliced by a thin piece of wire. I was mid-way through a ride, cursing the shoes, cursing sailcloth, and cursing most of everything else around me when I decided this review was over and it wasn’t worth the pain. I tapped the micro-buckle to loosen the strap, expecting pedaling to become a heel-lifting affair—but it didn’t. After a little more fiddling, I found the perfect strap tension to be markedly less than I was used to, and the fit certainly better.
This leaves us with perhaps the most compelling feature of this pair of shoes—the kangaroo leather uppers. Despite the ubiquity of various synthetics in the market, a leather this soft, supple, and conforming is superior in nearly every way. After an anticipated break in period of a month or two, I noticed a gradually better fit every time I put the shoes on. This process seemed to accelerate as the summer wore on, and I spent more time wearing the shoes through the heat of the day. Speaking of heat, my feet weren’t bothered by wearing a nearly full-leather upper in the summer. The perforations in the uppers seemed to work quite well, and the very thin, mesh tongue no doubt aided in ventilation.
That said, Fi’zi:k has updated the shoes to include dramatically more mesh this year, so I would assume that the new ones are even more breathable.
Once I had the strap tension sorted, my attention turned to the insole. If there’s a weak point in nearly any pair of cycling shoes, it’s the insole. These shoes are no different. The included insole is more substantial than most, and may be perfectly suitable for those with low-to-medium arches. My arches are quite high, however. A switch to my preferred Giro Supernaturals with the high-arch insert resolved this issue completely.
In summary, the Fi’zi:k R3 shoes are ideal for anyone who values fit and style above all else. How very Italian, Fi’zi:k. You’ll receive compliments from cyclists of every stripe (especially in the white colorway), and you’ll be privy to a new level of comfort after a couple months of break in. And, while fit and style may be at the forefront, rigidity and weight are certainly not far behind. At this price, we tend to expect a low-compromise shoe, and the R3 is just that, and beautifully executed.
A final note for those questioning the provenance of the shoes: Made in Italy is stamped on the box, on the insole, and in the shoe itself. Your feet will be able to tell.
Photos: Ian Matteson