If you’re like me, you’re discontented with the mountain bike industry’s offerings when it comes to footwear. With most options looking like a mid 90’s skate shoe, they tend to feel bulky and heavy, which is not ideal if you’re the type that enjoys bigger backcountry loops with hiking usually involved.
The same can be said about gravel shoes, with most being adopted from ‘cross racing shoes. They’re narrow and not ideal for hike-a-bikes or long days in the saddle. This is all ATMO, of course, but I’m always on the hunt for the ideal in-between shoe for gravel riding and mountain biking.
Giro’s latest shoe, the Ventana seems to be the perfect in-between shoe for both activities. Can it replace your gravel and mountain shoes? Read on to find out.
At $180, the Ventana is not cheap, yet it is a drop in the bucket when compared to some of Giro’s $400+ road shoes. Yikes! There’s also a non-Boa version of the Ventana which retails for $130 called the Fastlace. Yet, for that price, you get a lot of high-end details. From the Boa closure system to the stainless hardware and molded sole, the Ventana looks like a high-end shoe, at a mid-end pricepoint.
This shoe has a one-piece construction system Giro calls synchwire, which has a PU bonded mesh holding it all together. This is bonded to a EVA cushioned midsole and an EVA footbed with medium arch support. The material is durable and in the three months I’ve been using them, is robust, rigid, and free from abrasion marks.
What’s most impressive about these shoes is their stiffness to weight ratio. They feel stiffer than the big Chamber II MTB shoes but the Ventana shoes only weigh 1000g for a pair in size 47, versus the Chamber II which comes in around 1300g for a pair in size 47.
Fit and Feel
When people ask how these shoes fit, I like to reference other footwear familiarities. Whereas the VR90 ‘cross shoes fit like a soccer shoe and their MTB shoes like the Chamber II fit like a skate shoe, the Ventana fits more like a standard athletic trainer, right in between. If it weren’t for the Boa system and the super stiff shank in the footbed, you could wear these shoes off the bike all day and they’d look like something offered from an outdoor or sport footwear brand.
I have narrow feet but the Boa closure and velcro strap allow me to compress this roomier-than-average shoe down to a snug fit. Since I usually wear thicker wool socks, this helps as well, but even on days when I wear thinner socks, they’ve never felt too big. I’d say, they should fit narrow to medium width feet just fine. To be sure, however, get over to your local dealer to try a pair out.
At first, I wasn’t sure if I’d like the Ventana while MTB riding, yet the thing that really got me hooked was the grippy sole on my Saint pedals. The rubber sole and cleat bed mesh so perfectly with those pedals that even if I do come unclipped, the sole still sticks to the pedal. They’re also light feeling and stiff. Since I ride hardtails, I find that a show without ample stiffness can make my feet sore at the end of a long day, yet strangely enough, I prefer more supple footbed when touring or bikepacking on platform pedals. My guess is it has to do with impact from mountain biking in the San Gabriel Mountains, a range characteristically hard on gear and body alike.
For gravel, they really look great with casual apparel like shorts and a t-shirt. Their width says “I’m here for a good time” not “I’m here to win a race.” Or at least ATMO, anyway. They might be a tad too wide for people who like to have a slim and sleek look with lycra, however. You can be the judge of that with the width comparison below…
The Chamber II is about as wide of a shoe I’d wear and the VR90 is the narrowest. You can see the Ventana fits right in the middle, both in terms of width and weight. By comparison to the 1000g Ventana pair, the VR90 weighs 850g for the pair.
I go through these fits of pairing down. Owning a bicycle website and as someone who loves gear, I tend to accumulate excessive amounts of bags, camping gear, shoes, and other accessories. Every few months I purge my kit, giving away shoes and other things to make more room in my cramped bike closet. For the past several months, I’ve been on a new shoe kick, trying on shoes when I go to shops, looking for the perfect shoe for riding both MTB and gravel. When Giro sent over these Ventana shoes, I wasn’t convinced, yet after several months of riding, I can’t imagine letting go of them…
See more information at Giro.