Bontrager Ballista Knit: Best Road Cycling Shoes for Most People
The Bontrager Ballista Knit shoes are stiff enough and comfortable for long rides.
I love a good story. Ask any marketer about their product and if they are good at what they do they’ve got a story. It’s not just marketing though. A good product tells a good story. There’s a point to it, it does something different, and it’s interesting to think about.
Last year the Bontrager Ballista Knit came out and it had a story. It’s a knit cycling shoe, all the rage right now, and it comes with a special rain cover. It uses the BOA fit system and places the dial on the back of the heel. Knit shoes are near impossible to clean and a standard overshoe makes it hard to adjust shoes while riding. Bontrager seems to have thought all this through but is that the end of the story? I have been using the Bontrager Ballista knit shoes for close to a year and I’m ready to say they are some of the best shoes on the market.
The obvious feature of the Bontrager Ballista Knit Road Cycling Shoe is the knit upper. Knit cycling shoes are all over the cycling world right now for good reason. Going with a knit construction allows more tunability in the fit. Every brand offering a knit shoe seems to be taking a slightly different path and Bontrager has their own unique mix.
While the Rapha shoes I recently covered use a very dense knit structure the Bontrager approach feels very open but thicker. There’s a lot of padding material along the ankle opening and on the tongue that contributes to the thicker feeling. Despite seeming to be a thick construction the openness of the weave lets plenty of air flow through and almost has the feel of a natural fiber. These are perfect for the hottest days.
The sole of the Bontrager Ballista Knit Road Cycling Shoe uses a full carbon construction. For the Ballista Bontrager rates the stiffness as 12 of 14. The only stiffer shoe Bontrager carries is the XXX road racing shoe. If you are a racer who wants the stiffest possible sole then look to the XXX if you like going fast but aren’t a sprinter then the Ballista is still very stiff.
My riding is fast endurance riding. I like to go fast but I almost never race and I look for routes at least 75 miles long in most cases. This is exactly the kind of riding Bontrager had in mind when they designed the Ballista Knit Road Cycling Shoe. They are stiff, but not overly so. There’s plenty of space in the toe box and as the hours tick by, and your feet swell, it’s fast to reach down and make precise adjustments to the fit.
I also much prefer to ride in the heat and the Ballista knit shoes are a great partner in that as well. The open knit makes for one of the best breathing pairs of shoes I’ve ever ridden in. Having a shoe that allows air to flow right through is great when the sun is beating down.
How do you know when cycling shoes need replacement? In most cases it has a lot more to do with how raggedy they look than actual wear. In my experience the two biggest contributors to rough looking shoes are toe overlap and rainy rides. Trek seems to agree as there is a solution to each in the Ballista Knit shoes. To handle tow overlap there’s a rubberized coating that covers the toe of each shoe. Then of course there’s the included rain cover to help deal with dirt and grime from rainy rides.
I mention this in the value section because while the Bontrager Ballista Knit is not priced near the top of the market they also aren’t cheap. Knit shoes tend to be more fragile than a synthetic leather and fragility isn’t great for value. Bontrager has taken care to make sure these are going to stay looking good for a long time. Your investment should last long enough to make for a good value shoe.
A shoe with an included rain cover is interesting. It starts a story that can help you pay attention. The Bontrager Ballista Knit continues the story with a thoughtful design that’s perfect for long, fast, riding. It’s not a sprinters shoe but it’s stiff enough for whatever you want to do and the knit upper is breathable and comfortable. Pricing is reasonable and thoughtful features should help keep them looking good for a long time.