Review: Northwave Clan Shoes

by Karl Rosengarth

Northwave Clan Shoes — $150

Northwave has jumped into the flat shoe market with both feet. The company recently introduced two shoes specifically designed for flat pedals. The flagship Clan aims to satisfy schralp-y shredders. My Northwave contact told me that the Clan is designed for “downhill, slopestyle and aggressive trail riding,”  and that the less technical Tribe (which retails for around $50 less) is “more of a dirt jump, light trail ride and lifestyle shoe.” 

The Clan is offered in full sizes 36 through 49, in black or blue/orange (tested).  They ran true to size and their shape fit my foot well. Padding on the tongue and uppers provides a cushiony environment, and these puppies proved comfortable enough to keep on my dogs before and after the ride. 

There’s a thermoplastic urethane (TPU) shank inside the sole that is stiffer in the midsole for improved pedal support and more flexible at the toes for better control while walking. The TPU shank makes the Clan feel crisp and sporty while pedaling, which should suit anybody looking to lay down some power on the enduro or downhill course. Full disclosure: My racing days are in the rear-view mirror. However, I do occasionally enjoy an “aggressive trail ride” and I appreciated the Clan’s efficiently stiff pedaling platform. Of course, not everybody wants or needs such a stiff shoe. If you’d prefer more conformal flexibility in your kicks, you may want to consider Northwave’s Tribe model, which lacks the TPU shank, resulting in a more compliant midsole.

Where the rubber meets the pedal, the Clan uses Michelin’s Gecko+ compound, which Northwave says has “extreme stickiness and grip, keeping adherence on wet and slippery surfaces while still ensuring good durability.” The Clan’s tread pattern provides a large flat area at the midsole for gripping the pedal, with deeper “walking” treads at the heel and toe. 

I found the sole compound to be sticky from a “traction” standpoint, but it’s not Gummi Bear soft. Those used to squishy soles might find the “durometer rating”  of the Gecko+ stiffer than expected. I’m used to stiff-soled shoes, so I appreciated the crisp pedal-to-shoe feedback that the firm compound provided. I felt in touch with the pedals, but not stuck to them.  Think Post-It note rather than duct tape. 

As advertised, the Clan’s TPU shank bends easily at the toes, making those death marches a little more bearable. The inverted tread at the heel and toes, while not super aggressive, provided good for traction when scrambling up/down steep terrain, even on wet/loose ground and sweaty rocks. Only when trying to trudge through deeper mud did the Clan feel overmatched. 

The Clan gets high marks for durability.  After several months of use, I noted very little wear and tear on the soles or the uppers, and they cleaned up easily with a damp cloth. Welded TPU reinforcements on the toe and heel provide impact protection. The Clans exude a capable ruggedness without getting bulky.  Thanks to a generous mesh insert they don’t run as hot as I feared they might. I wouldn’t call them breezy, but they are comfortable on warm days. 

If you’re a flat pedaler looking for a top-shelf shoe that will stand up to hard hammering and race day rigors, you owe it to yourself to take a long look at the Clan. They’re supportive, protective, comfortable and provide plenty of grip to let you rip.