Home > Gear Reviews

Q36.5 launches Unique shoe collection at autumn gravel camp in South Tyrol

Italian brand steps into footwear with high-end road, gravel and mountain bike options

Photo by: Mark Cohen

by Mark Cohen

Q36.5 has developed into a cult brand since its founding, sewing futuristic kit which is genuinely dissimilar to anything else in cycling. Having already established new boundaries in apparel, the brand has just launched road and gravel shoes, applying a similar design philosophy to its footwear.

Q36.5 Unique Road Shoe white Q36.5 Unique Road shoe in white. Photo: Mark Cohen

Shoe innovations

“I was a manic about cycling shoes throughout my career,” explains Q36.5 founder Luigi Bergamo at a press camp held last autumn in Italy. “What we are introducing furthers innovations in cycling shoes that have come over the years—from Look pedals, to Sidi buckles, to the BOA closure system—which were all revolutions in performance.”

“Now we have a completed the Q touch concept,” says Bergamo, “saddle, gloves and shoes—leveraging principles of thermoregulation and performance from our kit and applied them to something innovative in shoes.”

Q36.5’s road and MTB/gravel shoes will be available in Canada this month. The shoes were developed after an in-depth last analysis done on 1,000 different foot types, 15 prototypes and 1,000 hours of testing. The heel, girth and instep have been designed precisely to contour the foot. The shoes’ “power wrap” (a soft touch sock sewn into the shoe) hold feet in place to provide ergogenic aid during the pedal stroke.

RELATED: The rebirth of cycling apparel: five questions with Luigi Bergamo

The footbed—tested extensively by former pro and Q.36.5 marketing partner, Mario Kummer—reduces pressure in the foot by 10 per cent, according to the company. “It’s always a challenge to innovate—how stiff is stiff enough? How can we really take pressure away from the foot? The result, we believe, is a more comfortable, better-performing solution than what is currently available today,” Kummer explains.

Q36.5 road shoe Q36.5 builds on Boa’s innovation. Photo: Mark Cohen

Q36.5 Unique shoe and BOA fit

To dial fit, Q36.5 established a partnership with shoe closure brand BOA, using their ubiquitous dials to control foot volume on both the road and MTB versions. (Interesting stat: 66 per cent of 2020 Tour de France riders rode on shoes with BOA dials.) The road version comes in black, white and mango and weigh in at 230 grams (size 44). The MTB shoe comes in the same colourway and just slightly heavier at 330 g. A stiffer carbon compound has been added beneath the toe box where the shoe taps on the pedals for all the extra watts.

“This is not the lightest shoe in the market, but it is one of the most innovative and performance driven,” adds Bergamo. Both versions come with Elastic Interface memory foam insoles.

Q36.5 Adventure Shoe The Q36.5 Unique shoe line comes in black (above), white, or orange (top image). Photo: Mark Cohen

Q36.5: Unique Adventure Shoe ride impressions

The riding at this press camp, led by Kummer, sits on the knife-edge of gravel and trail riding, with roads punctuated by Dolomitic panoramas at every turn.

We were offered a pair of the MTB versions to test and write about for this article and have since used them for a few weeks of trail riding in Switzerland. If ever riders struggle with finding a comfortable, high-performance shoe, this is one we can confidently recommend. The caliber of its design and quality of the build is clear from the moment they exit the signature Q shoe bag, complete with branded shoehorn – all the trimmings you’d expect for a shoe at this price point.

REVIEW: Q36.5’s Unique bib shorts feel like second skin

The inner liner of the adventure shoe feels effectively like a soft foam sock, loosened or tightened at 1-mm increments with BOA dials. The result is a sublime contoured fit translating into joyous pedal stroke after joyous pedal stroke.

The only nit – if we have to identify one – is heel cup fit, which could be refined – particularly when hike-a-biking in mud. The in-ride feeling otherwise is unparalleled. Much like wearing their clothing, it presents a very specific version of what cycling shoes should be. In this instance, an iteration we expect will be popular amongst very discerning cyclists.

Unique Road Shoes retail for $690.00, while Unique Adventure Shoes are $590.00. Both are available in white, black and mango colours. Q36.5 Unique shoes are arriving in Canada through roadkit.com.

Mark Cohen is a contributing writer to Canadian Cycling Magazine based in Europe.