Maybe it’s fitting that talk of a brand steeped in “football’s” past be discussed during this WC season, right on the heels of the Giro, where, in case you hadn’t noticed, the overall winner and his early Aussie pursuer were both wearing a certain Italian label’s kicks.
It just shows the reach that Diadora — with humble roots originating in the manufacture of custom hiking boots — has on the highest level of multiple world sports. Its top-end Vortex Pro Shoes are no exception, as they were created for the most demanding racing cyclists, with power transfer, a precise fit, and low weight (276g per shoe) as top priorities on the long list of features. So while Quintana could smoke just about anyone in flip-flops, here’s a breakdown of the Vortex Pros he and his Movistar teammates continue to rely on day-in and day-out.
I’ve been riding in a pair of Vortex Pros for about five months, starting off with them under booties and over wool socks, and then transitioning into the early summer months. The first thing that I noticed while pulling them from the box was the fluorescent color pop and clean finishing details. Diadora went with its proven Suprell-Tech material for the uppers, which originally proved itself in the Vortex Racers Cadel used prior to the Pros.
This synthetic material is glossy, bright, and smooth, while still being pliable and light. Perforations throughout mean that more material can be strategically applied to create better support than mesh inserts, which Diadora refers to as its Morpho AM Cage technology. This design is built around its low-volume race-fit last, meaning that overall width is on the narrow/medium side.
For the soles, any breathability lacking in the uppers is made up for with its airy 3K carbon structure. Diadora calls it the NET Breathing System, which is a series of windows in the carbon sole. These slots are screened with a mesh and breathable membrane designed to let air flow, while also keeping external elements such as road-spray and mud from entering. The cleat-mounting interface is solid, however, in order to maintain a rigid pedaling platform. Rounding out the uppers is the dual Boa closure system, which builds off of the single dial of the previous Racers, with two separate cables controlling retention for the upper and lower section of the foot, respectively. This means more tunability, as some cyclists prefer more or less tension across the instep and forefoot zones.
The first reaction I had after dialing down the Boas and snapping into my pedals was how well the uppers wrapped the top of my feet. I have a fairly average foot shape, always leaning more toward standard and race lasts in both cycling shoes and ski boots, and I felt that the toe box was more generous than most race shoes.
It took a minute to get used to the glaring fluoro yellow when I glanced down, but that quickly faded. Power transfer was as I expected, with no sole-flex whatsoever, and the feedback through my pedals was lively, without leading to any weird hotspots or uncomfortable vibrations common with some carbon-soled race shoes that I’ve worn. I also felt that the ventilation windows worked as advertised, directing cool air into the shoes while I pedaled. The best attributes would have to be the dual Boas and their independent cables. I prefer to run low tension over just the lower part of my feet due to circulation issues, and the Pros allowed me to get the tension perfect every time. The cables also held throughout long rides, without loosening the way that some lesser dials tend to do after several hours of pedaling.
With a heel cup that locks in the foot, combined with the precise closure system and rigid sole, there’s really not too much to gripe about. The only real issue that I had with the Pros was size-related, in that I usually wear a 42.5 cycling shoe, and my 43s were still on the smallish side. This is easily remedied, and I would just advise anyone considering these shoes to bump up a half size, especially if you prefer a little more wiggle room up front. Another minor annoyance was that the markings on the soles were inconsistent from one shoe to the other. Not a huge deal, as I’ve rarely seen brands get it right, but still something to note (and measure) when bolting on your cleats.
Whether you race, ride in a bunch, or are just super particular about precise fit and low weight (276g), the Vortex Pros are definitely worth checking out. And while there are many companies making shoes with dual dials, glossy uppers, and carbon soles, the Pros kick it up a notch with a distinct aesthetic only achieved by Diadora, which is to say that the shoes stand out visually as much as they do in the fit and functionality department.