Over the past few years, Fox Racing has undergone a rebrand, and we’ve taken note of the new footwear in particular. Earlier this year, Fox unveiled the crème de la crème of MTB footwear with the Union BOA Clipless Shoes ($249.95). John’s been gettin’ these shoes dusty on the trails in Santa Fe and has some thoughts to share in a review below…
Mountain bike footwear is pretty bomber these days, and while a lot of the offerings on the market just blend together for me, when I notice something enticing I’m not afraid to try it out. Earlier this year, I got a press release for the new Union BOA Clipless Shoes from Fox Racing, and my interest was indeed piqued! I reached out and asked if they’d send me a pair to review.
I’m a pretty no-nonsense fella when it comes to MTB footwear. My preferences are pretty simple. I like shoes that favor a more narrow silhouette and have subtle branding. I don’t want to wear big chunky shoes that look like 90s skate shoes. Been there! Done that. In the 90s. Nine times out of ten, I’ll pick a muted earth-tone color for my footwear. But perhaps my most important requirement is that my shoes are hike-a-bike friendly and comfortable on all-day rides. Plus, they’ve gotta protect my feet, which are prone to injury from growing up skateboarding.
Union BOA Clipless Shoes Overview
First, let me say I’m closure agnostic. I don’t care if shoes are lace-up or BOA; as long as I can adjust the fit on the fly during rides. I’ve had great luck with BOA–never broken a dial–but I’m also a fan of lace-up shoes. In the end, I’ve found it boils down to personal preference, as strong opinions on either side exist.
As is the case with the Fox Union, BOA shoes are typically more expensive than lace-up shoes, which is the only downside I can think.
If you’re looking for other shoe reviews in this space, check out the following:
- This Just In: PEARL iZUMi X-Alp Launch SPD MTB Shoes
- Giro’s Ventana Shoes are the In-Between Shoe for Gravel and MTB
- Laces, OUT!: Testing Seven BOA-Equipped Flat-pedal MTB Shoes
- First Look: Crankbrothers Mallet Trail Pedals with Mallet BOA Shoes
The Union BOA Clipless Shoes specs are as follows:
- Ultratac™ outsole balances grip and durability
- Dual Li2 Dials, powered by BOA® Fit System, provide on-the-fly micro-adjustability and improved power transfer to the pedals through a secure and formed fit
- Molded toe cap and reinforced toe for protection against rock strikes
- One-piece upper for a consistent, precise fit
- Weather-resistant welded construction protects from the elements
- Molded internal heel counter locks in heel for a premium, no-slip fit
- Tuned EVA midsole balances cushion, for all day riding comfort, with on-bike pedal efficiency
- High-density textured print in high-wear areas for improved durability
- Exchangeable arch support options to suit riders with lower to higher foot arches
- Lightweight, reinforced nylon shank adds stiffness to efficiently transfer power to the pedal
- 2-bolt cleat system is compatible with most major pedal suppliers
- “Power and Control” guide on bottom of shoe to help select cleat placement
- Materials: TPU, EVA, Rubber
- Weight as tested: 2 lbs 4.5 oz for size 12, including LOOK 2-bolt cleats
Breaking Down the Basics: Uppers
In the summer, I primarily ride our upper mountain trails here in Santa Fe, which are not only very rocky but, when we’re having a low rainfall year, incredibly dusty and blown out. It’s on these dusty and dry trail rides where I’ll often unclip to course-correct a bad line or to keep the bike from washing out.
These high-speed and harsh foot-downs are always when I hurt my feet. When this sort of injury occurs more and more frequently, it’s usually a sign that I need new shoes, as worn out shoes lose their rigidity and ability to protect your feet from such impacts.
Notice how more structured the Union (bottom) shoe is when compared to the TrailCross (top)
Good MTB shoes should behave as armor for your feet while still allowing for pedal connectivity and feel. I don’t want to wear super stiff foot shields, nor do I like floppy shoes without structure when on rough trails. Finding that balance is tenuous, but the Union BOA strike a sweet spot in terms of comfort and protection.
These shoes were a night and day experience for me after swapping out my blown-out two-year-old trail shoes. What I noticed immediately was the construction. Not a single drop of excess glue marred their appearance. The materials all blended together, and after a series of long rides in the high country, they still looked fresh.
That’s in part due to the textured print on the toe box, eliminating marks from trail abrasion and hike-a-bike moments. The entire upper of the shoe is molded and one-piece, eliminating the potential for delamination or separation of materials, too.
All this design and intentionality is moot if your shoes ain’t comfy! And one of the things I’ve noticed with a lot of trail shoes is the stiff uppers can be uncomfortable at the foot opening. It’s a big reason I moved away from molded trail shoes to “clipless sneakers” like the FiveTen Trailcross.
My two-season thrashed TrailCross versus the two-month used Union
Yet, the Union’s cushioned opening had zero break-in period. These shoes fit perfectly right out of the box, something that’s hard for me to find with my long, skinny, and bony feet. I was able to cinch down the BOA system and didn’t have to worry about my heel getting rubbed raw on the first ride.
We had a late, warm summer, and even riding with thick wool socks–Woolie Boolies or the like–the shoes were incredibly well-vented and quick-drying (thanks to our low % humidity here!)
As Above, So Below
With all the attention to detail found on the uppers of the Union shoes, it should come as no surprise that the soles will also be dialed.
In terms of width, the Union shoes measure 4.25″ at their widest point for a size 12. I found these shoes to fit true to size, as I’m a size 12 across the board…
The grippy soles grab onto your platform clipless pedals (I’ve been riding the LOOK Enduro pedals as of late and really like the platform size). At the same time, the placement guides make aligning your 2-bolt cleats a cinch. My knees have a good amount of tendonitis from childhood Osgood Schlatter, and so my cleat placement is critical for pain-free riding.
As you can see, my left shoe’s cleat is slightly pointed outward. My cleats also have to be all the way back on the shoe due to my long legs deflecting while I ride. 78º seat angles can really put a lot of wear-n-tear on your joints when you have long legs like me!
The textured lines in the cleat bed make it easy to ensure your cleats are dialed perfectly! While I haven’t noticed a ton of wear and tear on the soles, I’m in the best shape of the year now and am mostly riding the steep sections of trail I tend to walk earlier in the season. Yet there are some sections of trail that aren’t ridable here, and the soles show very little wear from constant riding.
Inside the sole is a nylon shank that I’d rate a 7/10 in terms of stiffness, which is ideal for me. I like shoes to flex a little so I can feel the pedals and control my weight distribution on the bike. Shoes that are too stiff create a “dead” sensation in this regard. While this isn’t a big deal on my Murmur, it makes a world of difference on my rigid 29er Black Cat and Moots Womble hardtail.
A High-Quality Premium Shoe
A few years ago, I couldn’t find trail shoes that hit the marks for me and switched over to lighter-weight shoes like the TrailCross Clipless ($160) by FiveTen. Well, after flogging those shoes for over two seasons, my feet were ready for a change. Luckily, the Fox Racing Union BOA came at an opportune time and exceeded my expectations. Fox makes products for everything from downhill to XC, and their years of knowledge in how to make a great shoe that delivers comfort and protection was heightened by a rebrand and fresh, neutral colors.
This Mocha Brown colorway is so easy on the eyes, but it was a toss-up between this color, the Olive Green, the Grey, and the all-black shoes. Fox clearly knows some people like minimal and clean designs, and that’s what it chose for its high-end Union BOA Clipless Shoes.
My only critique after a few weeks of riding is that they are expensive at $249.95, but in an economy that has everyone being mindful of their spending, I can say unequivocally that these shoes are indeed worth their price tag.
- Colors are great
- Durable and comfortable materials
- BOA closure enables on-the-fly fit adjustments
- Sole is grippy
- Shank is stiff without being too hard to walk in
- Cleat fitting is a cinch
- Quality is impeccable
- Drains and dries fast and breathes well too
- Expensive. Almost $100 more than the last shoes I bought! Yet rest assured, the quality is worth the price point.
Check out more at Fox Racing.