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When approached about testing a pair of top-of-the-line Louis Garneau T-Flex LS-100 shoes, I’ll admit I was a bit apprehensive. I consider myself a trail rider, a downhiller, and in general just a mountain biker. My shorts are baggy, my jerseys loose, and my helmets all have visors on them. In other words, I am not really the “racer”, and as such have favored more “all-mountain” style shoes for many years. Plus, my feet are just plain weird: flat, wide and low volume, with fallen arches and a tendency to overpronate. Louis Garneau, although not as common a cycling shoe brand as Sidi, Northwave, Pearl Izumi, or Shimano, has been around for nearly three decades with some innovative products. With that in mind, plus the hope they wouldn’t destroy my feet, I rolled the dice and agreed to test them for a few weeks on everything from my favorite local Colorado rides to a grueling 3-day, 152-mile mountain bike trip on the Kokopelli Trail from Fuita, CO to Moab, UT. I tell you what, I’m glad I did.
T-Flex LS-100 Size and Fit
I mentioned my foot is weird, and it is. I have a long, flat arch area and a wide, flat, low-volume foot. My right navicular protrudes grotesquely. Seriously, my feet have issues. Fitting any shoe is a challenge, and I expected the Louis Garneau’s to be doubly troublesome. So I was honestly a bit surprised how well they felt out of the box. The middle of the foot isn’t extremely narrow, nor is it extremely wide. Sort of middle-of-the-road, and while I could feel some hot spots on my flat arch walking around, it wasn’t any worse than most other shoes I’ve tried on. It’s my belief that this “average” width will fit a large variety of foot shapes, and is a smart move by Louis Garneau. The T-Flex LS-100 comes with two swappable, antibacterial insoles: a perforated, thinner one for warmer weather and a non-perforated one with more plastic for cooler temps. Nice touch. The toe box seemed ample enough, and there’s a velcro enclosure to adjust how much room my little piggies have. The rest of the shoe is cinched by a Boa enclosure system, and it’s magical…
Oh BOA, I Just Can’t Quit You
The BOA Lacing system, if you’re unfamiliar, is a lacing system comprised of a strong cable routed through nylon guides, and tightened using a round dial. The result is a super lightweight, strong, micro-adjustable lacing system that provides even pressure across the entire lace area. It also enables the rider to tighten/loosen the shoe on the fly, without even stopping. Just reach down, twist the dial tighter or pop it to loosen, and you’re good. I have noticed that with a few hundred miles in the dirt, the locking function of the dial can get a little sticky, probably due to dust and dirt invading it. It’s not so bad the system doesn’t function, but it’s noticeable. One way to try to clean out the debris is to lift up on the dial and spin the dial around which gets most of the dirt out. The BOA system also helps keep the weight down, and these shoes weight in slightly lighter compared to other brand’s shoes at this price point I was able to find weight data for. All in all, it’s a great feature.
On (And Off) The Bike
An integrated internal cleat mounting plate made installing the Shimano SPD cleats super easy. I ride “platform style” clipless pedals, which have a large platform surrounding the clip part of the pedal. The T-Flex LS-100s have some serious lugs on the sole, but I found getting into and out of even my gigantic pedals to be no problem at all. I cannot say the same for more “downhill” oriented shoes I’ve had in the past, which are supposed to be designed to accommodate such pedals.
The soles are relatively stiff when you need them to be, which is when you’re pedaling. To compare, they feel at least as stiff as my current shoe (a Shimano DX MP66), and equally as stiff as Sidis, Northwaves, and Adidas I’ve worn in the past. My foot felt secure and planted thanks to the BOA system, my heel stayed put except for when I had to hike up a steep hill. Because let’s face it—this is mountain biking, and sometimes you need to push your bike. Whether it’s a steep, rocky hill or a gnarly technical section that’s not rideable by regular humans, it happens. I feared the worst out of these shoes for hiking, and got my chance to test them out on a ridiculously technical, boulder-filled steep decent on the Kokopelli Trail. Chalk it up to the T-Flex Technology, the aggressively lugged soles, and the durable upper, these shoes could do some walking. Would I summit Everest in them? Gosh no, but if you have to walk out of a rough spot they’ll be alright. For extra hiking traction, they include a removable crampon, which looks more like a “toe spike” to me. Expecting rocky terrain, I opted not to use these during the course of my test.
The Louis Garneau’s also feature a Power Blade, which is a removable carbon plate that screws to the bottom of the shoe, right under the arch. I tried them for about 20 miles, and when I removed them felt no noticeable difference stiffness. With the Power Blades out, there is a vent in the bottom of the shoe through which I can feel additional airflow, which does a lot for foot ventilation. And the T-Flex LS-100s aren’t hot to begin with, to be fair. Their pretty well vented, and additionally they dry quickly, which is nice when you go charging through multiple creek crossings on your ride.
Features I’d Like To See, But Aren’t Deal Breakers
I’ve worn the Louis Garneau’s for close to 300 rugged, all-dirt miles, and they seem to be holding up really well. That said, a replaceable sole system would be a nice feature for a shoe at this price point. Not a big deal since the sole seems to be durable, but it would be nice. And due to my ankles that roll in, I could personally use a bit of ankle support/protection—like a 3/4 height inside bit or something. I realize this won’t even be an issue for most people with normal feet, and it does make the shoe that much lighter and that much cooler. That’s it, nothing major.
The Bottom Line On The Louis Garneau T-Flex LS-100 Shoe
Overall, I’ve really grown to like these shoes. They have a comfortable fit despite my hard-to-fit foot, but have an average enough width and shape to fit a variety of people. They’d would be good for riders who are looking for a lightweight, stiff shoe that can take a bit of abuse. The Louis Garneau T-Flex LS-100 is available in men’s half-sizes from 4-1/2 to 14-1/2 and retails for $249.99. For more information, please visit https://garneau.com/