Lake MX331 Cyclocross Shoe Review

LAKE MX331The Lake MX331 during happier times. These shoes refused to clog with mud.

Long Story Short: The Lake MX331 had the potential to be a category defining shoe if not for a fatal design flaw.

Long Story Long: Really? That sentence above didn’t scare you away? If you want the whole story, here you go…

I originally wasn’t going to review these turds but like all mediocre cyclocross racers, I chose to spend a lovely June Saturday indoors scouting purchases for the upcoming season. When I saw Competitive Cyclist had them on ultra-mega-too-good-to-be-true closeout and The Clymb has them at a if-you-have-little-feet-and-insist-on-black-you-will-pay-a-premium price, I thought it’d be best to warn the others.

I bought a pair of Lake MX331 shoes on closeout before last ‘cross season. If you’re too lazy to do the math, that means these shoes are going on three years old.

When the Brown Santa dropped them off, I couldn’t have been more pleased. These shoes were going to be bar far my most brilliant purchase ever.

Then I read the instruction manual.

LAKE MX331 WARRANTY INFOAs a general warning, any product manual that has more words related to dire warnings and advice on what to do if (and when) it falls apart than actual instructions should be avoided at all costs.

I was too enamored by the new shiny kicks to heed my own advice and set to work to get them thermo-custom-molded to my feet.

Having fit at least 100 pairs of Shimano’s heat moldable shoes during the tail end of my illustrious bike shop career, I can say on good authority that the Lake method of tossing them in your own oven is more than a little hoopty.

I followed the instructions to the letter down to using an in-oven thermometer and by the time things cooled down, my feet were whelmed with a sense of ‘meh.’ I guess they sorta changed the fit but it was hard to tell.

Not to worry though, surely the Boa Closure System would take care of the fit.

It did and all was well.

Except when my feet were constricted to the point of falling asleep which was pretty much anytime I wore the shoes.

Because the shoes have only one Boa system placed near the ankle, you have to ratchet the crap out of it to secure the fit of the whole shoe. In their limited lifetime, I re-molded them three times and am unconvinced that Lake’s moldable heel cup keeps its shape. It seemed to return to normal within a couple weeks of riding.

Even with these two rather significant quirks, the MX331 was an awesome shoe once you were actually cyclocrossing. The lack of lugs at the front of the sole gave a wide open path to the cleat. In over 20 years of using clipless pedals, these were by far the easiest shoes to clip into (and no, my skills and coordination didn’t suddenly improve in my second decade) and were seemingly impervious to mud. The kangaroo leather was tough as f and the Boa system held up to anything.

In fact, the Boa system was so durable it kept on working like nothing happened even after it ripped itself clean out of the shoe.

Lake MX331 BrokenAs you can see, the Boa system was far too strong for the shoe.

I wasn’t even doing anything cool either. Took a quick spin up Nichols Canyon on the eve of Santa Cross and came home with a busted shoe. There would be no fixing it either. A three-month-old pair of shoes that had seen 10 cyclocross races and maybe 30 hours of ride time had bitten the dust. What a waste.

Not to worry.

Surely they could be warrantied, right?

Yeah, right.

Knowing full well that the week before the holidays is the worst time in the world to expect anything done, let alone in the bike industry, I wrote a note to the Lake warranty department (a teammate had their email handy from a previous encounter) and explained what happened. Since ‘cross season was over, I was in no rush to get a replacement pair. Anytime before February’s Rock Cobbler would be great.

Surely Lake would respond, right?

Yeah, right.

After a month with no reply, I wrote to Lake’s sales manager (a friend who’s a pro hooked me up with his email) with the lofty request of seeing if anyone at Lake could address my warranty claim directly. I had filled out the warranty paperwork with Competitive Cyclist (where I had purchased the shoes) and was still waiting to hear back.

39 days later, I finally did. Of course Lake was out of stock and I would have to wait a few months for the redesigned replacement model.

Yeah right.

Instead, I bought at replacement pair of shoes at a local bike shop and used my Competitive Cyclist “credit” (Refund? Refund?) to get a new pair of tubluars for next cyclocross season which is something I need like a hole in the head.

Want A Second Opinion? Check out Road Bike Review here and Mountain Flyer Magazine here.

 

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