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Northwave Clan Review

A stiff, grippy, and ripping shoe designed for enduro and downhill riders
Northwave Clan
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Price:  $150 List | $149.94 at Competitive Cyclist
Compare prices at 2 resellers
Pros:  Plenty of protection, solid grip, nice power transfer
Cons:  Heavier weight, limited breathability, a little expensive
Manufacturer:   Northwave
By Jeremy Benson ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  Jan 6, 2021
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80
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#7 of 10
  • Grip - 30% 9
  • Fit and Comfort - 25% 7
  • Rigidity and Power Transfer - 20% 10
  • Breathability - 10% 5
  • Durability - 10% 8
  • Weight - 5% 4

Our Verdict

The Northwave Clan is an understated and impressive flat shoe that delivers excellent grip, plenty of protection, and great power transfer. The Clan's Michelin rubber sole is paired with a very low-profile tread design under the ball of the foot which provides excellent grip on every pedal we tested with. The stiff sole delivers great power transfer and stands up to the roughest descents. They've got a comfortable medium volume fit with a secure heel pocket, generously padded tongue, and toe and heel protection. They aren't exactly lightweight, but if you're looking for a burly shoe for hard-charging gravity riding, we feel the Clan is worthy of consideration.

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Northwave Clan
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Northwave Clan
Awards  Editors' Choice Award Top Pick Award Top Pick Award Best Buy Award 
Price $149.94 at Competitive Cyclist
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$129.97 at Competitive Cyclist
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$120.00 at Competitive Cyclist$149.95 at Competitive Cyclist$99.95 at Competitive Cyclist
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Overall Score Sort Icon
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Star Rating
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Pros Plenty of protection, solid grip, nice power transferExcellent pedal grip, comfortable, true all-mountain performanceGrippy soles, casual looks, reasonable price, versatility, lightweightGreat pedal grip, sturdy construction, protective features, comfortableImpressive grip, protective, reasonable price
Cons Heavier weight, limited breathability, a little expensiveOn the expensive side of the spectrum, Stealth rubber wears more quicklySomewhat loose fit in the forefootHeavier weight, sizing runs a little smallHeavier weight, limited breathability
Bottom Line A gravity shoe with nice amounts of grip and loads of protectionThe flat pedal shoe by which all others are judgedThis casually styled flat pedal shoe is a versatile performer with excellent gripComfortable, beefy, and protective, these are a great option for gravity ridingAn affordable shoe that delivers impressive grip, comfort, and protection
Rating Categories Northwave Clan Five Ten Freerider Pro Specialized 2FO Roost Flat Ride Concepts Powerline Ride Concepts Livewire
Grip (30%)
9
10
9
9
9
Fit And Comfort (25%)
7
9
9
10
9
Rigidity And Power Transfer (20%)
10
9
8
8
8
Breathability (10%)
5
8
8
7
7
Durability (10%)
8
8
8
9
9
Weight (5%)
4
8
9
4
5
Specs Northwave Clan Five Ten Freerider... Specialized 2FO... Ride Concepts... Ride Concepts...
Rubber Type Michelin-NW Stealth S1 SlipNot ST DST 4.0 MAX GRIP Kinetics DST6.0 High Grip
Tread Pattern Full Triangle Dot Full Dot Full Hexagon Dot Hexagon dot Full Dot
Weight per Shoe (ounces) 17.18 (size 44) 14.11 (size 11) 12.96 (size 43.5) 16.97 (size 11) 16.15 (size 11)
Weight per Shoe (grams) 487 (size 44) 399 (size 11) 367 (size 43.5) 467 (size 11) 458 (size 11)
Closure Laces Laces Laces Laces Laces
Lace Keeper Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Volume Medium Medium Medium Medium Medium
Upper Materials Welded synthetic with mesh inserts Synthetic Leather Leather/textile Welded microfiber Synthetic/mesh
Midsole EVA EVA Cushioned EVA
Insole AM/MT insole Body Geometry

Our Analysis and Test Results

Northwave may not be the first brand that comes to mind when thinking of mountain bike shoes, but they have been in the market for a long time. The Clan is their top-of-the-line flat pedal shoe, and we were generally quite impressed with its performance. Grip and power transfer stood out as particularly impressive, while weight and breathability were low points. We feel that Northwave delivered a rock-solid option here and it should be a consideration for riders seeking a flat shoe for aggressive gravity riding.

Performance Comparison


The Clan shoes provide grip on par with the best in the business...
The Clan shoes provide grip on par with the best in the business. The Michelin NW rubber outsole and unique tread design cling to the pedals well.
Photo: Laura Casner

Grip


Northwave partnered with Michelin to develop a rubber compound for their sole which is called Michelin-NW. When paired with the Clan's unique tread design, this rubber provides some of the best pedal grip of all the models we tested, on par with the best in business.

The Michelin NW rubber works well and the triangular tread pattern...
The Michelin NW rubber works well and the triangular tread pattern holds the pedal pins in place.
Photo: Jeremy Benson

The Michelin NW rubber has a relatively soft and tacky feel, similar to that of Five Ten's famed Stealth rubber soles. The sole's tread is quite unique among the models we tested and is most similar to the Five Ten Freerider Contact shoe. Underfoot where the pedal makes contact with the shoe, the sole is quite smooth with thin triangular grooves, or sipes etched into the surface. At the toe and heel, these triangles are actual tread knobs that stand up from the sole a couple of millimeters. When weighted on the pedal, the rubber compound is soft enough that the pins sink into it and really engage the narrow channels. When standing on the pedals, there is a very positive, connected feel that inspires the confidence to charge hard. Given the otherwise relatively smooth design of the sole's pedal interface, it is quite easy to reposition your foot on the pedals. Unlike some shoes that feel stuck to the pedals, it only takes a very slight unweighting to adjust your foot position. We did notice, however, that when climbing we could occasionally pull our feet off the pedals accidentally.

Off the bike, the Clan deliver a pretty good grip although they have one of the least flexible soles of all the models we tested. It is relatively easy to scale a gnarly section of a rocky trail or scoot up a root-infested climb. The smooth tread pattern in the mid-section of the sole does reduce traction a bit in loose soils and requires some extra attention when things get wet. The more aggressive tread at the toe and heel helps provide a little extra traction when walking, though careful foot placement is still recommended.

The Clan shoes feel very, very supportive, and protective. This is...
The Clan shoes feel very, very supportive, and protective. This is reassuring when things get gnarly.
Photo: Laura Casner

Comfort


The Clan delivers average levels of comfort. This shoe is pleasant on the foot but seems to have a few quirks that could prove problematic for some riders. Given the intended aggressive application of this shoe, it delivers a very protective and sturdy feel with bo slop or unwanted foot movement.

The Northwave website states that "Northwave shoes are sized to provide a classic tight cycling fit." We'd agree that this is relatively accurate, and upon slipping our feet into them, there is an interesting balance of a slightly narrow midfoot section paired with a fairly spacious toe box. The shoe feels a little snug near the arch of your foot. It was comfortable for testers and made the shoes feel like an extension of the body, but we feel this could be an area of concern for riders with wider feet. The toe box offers a sufficient amount of space for the toes while retaining a relatively snug, performance fit around the forefoot. The non-stretch laces draw even tension over the top of the foot and stay tight for the duration of your ride.

Inside the shoe, a cushioned insole feels good on the bottom of the foot, although it doesn't provide much arch support. The EVA midsole helps absorb some trail feedback and the deep heel cup does a good job of locking your foot in place. The generously padded tongue puts a good amount of pressure on the top of the foot which creates a nice, secure feel. Speaking of the tongue, it is definitely one of the thicker and more padded in our review, which adds some protection for the top of the foot and helps keep lace tension feeling even and snug. Additional welded TPU reinforcements on the toe and heel add peace of mind and round out the protective features of the Clan.

Hard landing? No problem. These shoes are very rigid and feel...
Hard landing? No problem. These shoes are very rigid and feel excellent on big impacts.
Photo: Laura Casner

Rigidity and Power Transfer


The Clan shoes are quite stiff and provide excellent power transfer to the pedals. As a matter of fact, these are among the stiffest shoes in our review. Upon unboxing these shoes, we gave them the old hand flex. It was immediately apparent how stiff these shoes were.

On the trail, these shoes felt great. If your idea of fun is sending gaps and rowdy rock gardens, the Clan shoe will deliver plenty of support. Having a nice, substantial, shank between you, your pedals, and gnarly trail can be confidence-inspiring. On larger impacts, we didn't feel this shoe flexing over the pedals or folding at all. We even dropped a foot in some janky rocks a few times and this shoe offered more than enough protection.

When it is time to hammer on the pedals, the Clan maximizes the rider's energy and there is no power lost to sole flex when seated or standing. Given the weight and heft of this shoe, however, it isn't going to be the best choice for an all-day epic ride. That said, if you are putting the power down in an enduro or downhill race run, these shoes have your back.

Given the heft and protective attributes, it shouldn't come as a...
Given the heft and protective attributes, it shouldn't come as a surprise that these shoes don't breathe especially well.
Photo: Laura Casner

Breathability


Given the thicker, armored, design and the portly weight, it shouldn't come as a surprise that the breathability of the Clan wasn't particularly impressive.

The upper has a synthetic construction that is infused with some mesh inserts. The tightly-knit mesh covers the top of the toe box, much of the side of the shoe, and some of the instep. The main reason this shoe feels particularly warm is the general thickness of materials. It feels burly, though, and thick. None of these attributes lend themselves to great airflow. They aren't eggregiously hot, mind you, but if you're a heat-of-the-day rider or you live in a hot climate, they may feel a bit warm.

These shoes are heavy, stiff, and armored. They are built to last.
These shoes are heavy, stiff, and armored. They are built to last.
Photo: Jeremy Benson

Durability


Throughout testing, we didn't observe any signs of premature wear or damage. The soles are well bonded to the uppers and all of the stitching remains in perfect shape. The softer rubber used in the sole does show some early signs of wear from the pedal pins, but it doesn't seem worse than other shoes with similar levels of grip.

Northwave appears to have made some thoughtful design decisions regarding the construction of the Clan. The welded, reinforced areas have a very substantial feel and look like they are built to last. Stitching is not found in the highest-wear areas that contact the cranks, pedals, and trailside obstacles most frequently. All of the shoelace eyelets are also reinforced to prevent stretching or blowouts from repeated use. This feels like a tough shoe that should have at least and average lifespan.

Yes, these shoes are quite heavy. That said, we don't think it is...
Yes, these shoes are quite heavy. That said, we don't think it is such a big deal as they trend towards the gravity application.
Photo: Jeremy Benson

Weight


Our size 11, Euro size 44, test pair hit the scales at an average weight of 487-grams, or 17.2-ounces, per shoe. That makes it the heaviest model we tested. Given its gravity fed intentions, we don't believe the weight should be a serious deterrent.

If your idea of fun is a 4-hour trail ride, however, this probably isn't the best shoe for you. There are lighter and more sleek options available. If you fancy some shuttle runs, hit up the bike park here and there, and like to air it out, the Clan could be your shoe.

Value


The Clan delivers a strong value for the right buyer. If you're looking for a shoe that specializes in gravity-fed riding and delivers excellent grip, power transfer, and foot protection, this could be the shoe for you. It carries an average price tag but is built to last and should be able to sustain multiple seasons of abuse.

These shoes are definitely built to last and they should have a long...
These shoes are definitely built to last and they should have a long lifespan of climbing up...and importantly, descending singletrack.
Photo: Laura Casner

Conclusion


The Northwave Clan is an excellent shoe for gravity-oriented riding. This is not the shoe for the average trail rider who prioritizes light weight and breathability. That said, if riding downhill, rough trails, and sketchy jumps are your idea of fun, this could be the shoe for you. A very substantial and protective feel is paired with excellent grip and power transfer making these shoes ready to charge as hard as you are.

Jeremy Benson