by Carolyne Whelan
In all my thousands and thousands of miles of bike touring and bikepacking, I’ve always just used my mountain bike shoes. I already owned them, for one; plus, they were comfortable enough to walk around for a while yet sturdy enough to ride in for hours at a time without fatigue. This, to be honest, was not actually true. My toes have gone numb on every tour I’ve ever gone on, just about every day, and I always found myself changing into my camp sandals whenever I could. Frankly, I didn’t think my pinky toes could even grow nails anymore; they’ve both realized it’s an exercise in futility because I will inevitably cram them into shoes meant to be worn for a few hours and force their hands — err, feet — for 12-hour intervals.
When Quoc asked about a review of their shoes, I figured I’d give them a go but didn’t have high expectations. If my trusted mountain bike shoes weren’t comfortable, what hope was there for a brand I’ve never worn? Turns out, a lot. These are the most comfortable shoes I’ve ever worn for long distances, and the most comfortable shoe I’ve worn for daily commuting, which for me means a mixed surface ride with railroad ballast and out-of-the-saddle climbing up paths of crushed limestone, then a fair amount of walking around and standing. The slim cut of these shoes is form-fitting for my narrow heals while leaving plenty of room for my toes to wiggle. There’s also arch support. It isn’t a crazy amount, but I have high arches and it’s nice to feel something padded under that powerful part of my paw. It’s more in the padding than in the design, though the shoe does seem to be constructed with arches in mind. I think that someone with low arches would still find these a comfortable fit. It certainly helped me with the fatigue I have often felt in my feet, and the numbness has all but gone away in these shoes.
I was concerned about wearing a non-MTB shoe because my rides, no matter the length or destination, always end up on some sort of off-pavement adventure. The Quoc shoes have a road shoe profile, a sneaker feel, and a mountain bike shoe bottom. It’s chunky, with a gummy texture, so whether I’m walking around the linoleum of my local supermarket for a snack, climbing over a cement barricade shouldering my bike, or scrambling over a newly-fallen tree, these shoes have kept my upright. I wore these on a bikepacking trip to Big Bear Lake, West Virginia and these shoes, while not waterproof, held up fine to the puddle splashes of the bike path after an evening of heavy rains. There was enough sole support for the long climbs on paved road, and enough comfort for the section of my adventure that took me down an abandoned jeep road with water ruts and boulders to navigate. When I got to camp each night, my legs felt totally fresh from the feet up, and I thank that in large part to having the right footwear for the task.
Finally, they look slick. The pictures on Quoc’s website didn’t do them any justice, in my opinion, and I hardly recognized them when they came in the mail. These are shoes I feel fine riding to a bar to see some bands play without carrying a second set of shoes in my panniers. They are inconspicuous, with a low profile and no flashy labels or reflective gear to let everyone know you took the path less taken to get there (if your musky smell and muddy butt don’t already give it away).
My pinkies, in case you were wondering, can, in fact, grow toenails and they are doing great. At least on my right foot, the left is still in protest. But these Quoc shoes just might be the thing to break my nailbed shyness.