Review: Afton Vectal Shoes

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Afton are very much the new kids on the block in the bike shoe world, but the San Diego based company have hit the scene with a bang. Their modern stylish looks and cutting-edge shank designs have seen them establish a bit of a cult following in a very short time.

With current incumbent shoe brand Five Ten’s future looking uncertain, with rumours of them getting the three-stripe treatment from new owner adidas, the playing field is open for the taking, so the time seemed right to lace up a new set of kicks.

Afton’s range is as simple as it is stylish: two models of shoe, each in four colourways. The Keegan is their flat pedal shoe and the Vectal their clipless option. For an old schooler like me who likes to remain firmly attached to his pedals, the choice was simple—the Vectal it was.

Out of the box, I was pleasantly surprised at the snug fit, and once I’d done up the large Velcro strap, my foot was as secure as I could ever need. However, my first problem with the Vectals was that they looked far too hip and snazzy to head out for a ride with. I decided a bit of wear would make me feel less self-conscious so I went for a solo mission to get them scuffed up a bit before unleashing them on a group ride, where I was bound to cop some flack.

Something I’m fussy about when it comes to shoes is the cleat box, specifically the size and range of adjustment available. Since I have the biomechanics of a three-legged donkey, I need to put the cleats in weird positions to get comfortable. With an oversized 35mm window for the cleat, this was very easy on the Aftons. I found I could achieve better cleat positioning than on previous shoes, which made my knees and hips very happy.

Afton use a tapered shank and varied rubber thickness (4mm–12mm) throughout the length of the shoe, allowing for some flex under the ball of the foot while retaining the stiffness required for good power transfer throughout the rest of the shoe. This sounded ideal for my style of riding—while I’m certainly no XC racer, I do enjoy the odd longer ride.

Clipping in on the trail was trouble-free, and the Intact rubber sole gripped the pedals well. I’ve been riding the Vectals solidly for over a month now and they haven’t missed a beat. Comfortable, easy to walk in, great grip on rock, and power transfer has been very balanced. I’ve found my calves and feet feeling less fatigued on long descents, which could be due to either that tapered shank or the fact that I can position the cleats so much better. Either way I’m stoked.

The only slight annoyance is that the cleats protrude a bit far, making them rather noisy on the garage floor. On the plus side, it’s given my tap dancing career a boost. Dancing with the Stars here I come.

Afton may be fresh on the scene but they seemed to have nailed it first try—contemporary looks, intelligent design that works well, and all-day comfort, making for the perfect package. My Vectals have worn in well and now have that used look, so I’m happy to wear them anywhere, and my mates have gone from paying me out about my shiny shoes to looking on with a pang of jealousy. - Neil Kerr