Bontrager Foray - Women's Review
Cons: Marginal power transfer and stability, not water resistant, very roomy fit
Manufacturer: Trek Bikes
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Our Analysis and Test Results
On the trail the Bontrager Foray's performance is middle of the pack, it absorbed trail chatter fairly well, but due to its roomy fit did not transfer power well and lagged behind shoes at a similar price point for stability and control. During hike-a-bikes we found the sole to flex and grip to surfaces adequately, but had concerns about the overall durability of the sole given how quickly the toe spikes deteriorated, which may or may not foreshadow the durability of the shoe as a whole. The highly perforated uppers do a great job of allowing air to flow into the shoe, but also allow water to easily flow into the shoe and should be taken into consideration when purchasing as other shoes tested provided similar breathability with better moisture management.
Bontrager describes the Foray as a "undeniably comfortable" shoe designed for trail riding, cyclocross or gravel, built around a "slightly roomier" last, meaning the Foray has a lot of volume which can either be a godsend or a curse depending on the shape of your foot. Our testers found the shoe to be comfortable, but we also found our feet to be swimming in the shoe, especially in the forefoot and toebox, making our desired fit unattainable. However, for riders who struggle with the volume or width of many mountain bike shoes, the Foray could be a good choice.
Stability and Control
Bontrager rates the stiffness of the Foray a 6 of 14, with 14 being the stiffest, meaning that the sole of the Foray flexes quite a bit. Our testers found the power transfer of the Foray to be marginal, especially in comparison to other shoes we tested. The power transfer is more in line with an entry level or spin bike shoe, rather than a shoe advertised as having a "stiff sole." Our testers feel the heel lift, paired with the roominess of the toebox, were factors that prevented our having a solid return or pull on the pedals on the backside of our pedal stroke.
However, our we did find the Foray to absorb trail chatter fairly well and in some cased better than shoes with similar stiffness ratings, especially on very rocky descents filled with softball to baby head size rocks. For riders who enjoy rocky descents, a shoe's ability to absorb impacts through the sole, midsole, and insole becomes quite important in helping alleviate sore feet, making these a poor choice for those bumpy descents.
The Foray offers some of the smallest fore and aft cleat adjustment we have seen in a trail shoe, measuring only 1 1/16". For riders who prefer to have their cleat at the extreme ends of the spectrum, the opening is too small. some of our testers prefer to have the cleat set as far back as possible for better control and stability on the pedals during descents. We were able to stand up and push into the pedals, but were underwhelmed with the amount of control we were able to put into the pedals. Overall, we felt the control and stability to me marginal and found other shoes at the same price point to perform better.
The Foray is the roomiest shoe we tested and has excellent out of the box comfort, as other reviewers have stated. Built on Bontrager's inForm Race last, this shoe is designed to have a "slightly roomier, high-performance fit." Our testers agree with Bontrager's claim and found the fit to be very roomy, especially in the toe box and the shoe's overall volume, making it difficult for us to achieve our desired fit. We struggled with our foot moving from side to side in the forefoot of the shoe and we experienced slight heel lift while pedaling. The Boa lacing allowed us to tighten the fit around our mid-foot, but we found the velcro strap did little to tighten the forefoot of the shoe. For riders with wide feet or whose feet have a lot of vertical volume, the Foray could be an excellent option, as we found few shoes to be so voluminous.
In regards to breathability, the Foray is one of the most breathable shoes we tested. It's large perforations above the fore-foot and mid-foot allow for excellent airflow. However, this breathability comes at a cost in terms of water resistance. The numerous perforations allow for moisture to pour into the shoe, making this a show best reserved for days when you are guaranteed dry trails.
Aside from making lacing a breeze, we found the Boa system to evenly distribute pressures associated with shoe closures, alleviating any type of pressure points on the top of the foot. The system also allows for quick and small incremental adjustments in how tight or loose the shoe is laced, something our testers came to appreciate, especially when compared to traditional laces.
Bontrager provides a stiffness index on their shoes, to help the consumer make a purchase decision in regards to the shoe's flex. The Foray is rated a 6 of 14 (14 being the stiffest) and our testers found the Foray's nylon composite Bronze Series sole to flex easily underfoot while hiking. The Tachyon rubber gripped rocky surfaces adequately but not as well as shoes with a stickier rubber sole. In muddy conditions the soles easily caked with mud, yet easily shed mud by kicking them on the ground.
One disappointing feature concerning walkability is the integrated front cleats, which began to quickly deteriorate and deform while hiking on our first use. While these cleats are not necessary during hike-a-bikes, they can provide extra grip and traction on soft dirt surfaces, especially while hiking uphill. Our testers expected this feature to be able to better withstand hike-a-bikes before beginning to wear out.
The Foray is reinforced in the toebox and heel with Bontrager's GnarGuard, which is designed to add protection from abrasions and debris. We found this to provide adequate protection from trail debris and scuffs for the front of the toebox, however, there is little protection for the top of the forefoot and the sides of the mid-foot. Riders whose home trails are known for kicking up rocks, may want to take this into consideration, as other models we tested offered better foot protection from rock strikes.
The forefoot and mid-foot are covered with large perforated ventilation holes that allow dirt, water and other debris to easily enter the shoe, making them a poor choice for wet and dusty conditions.
The Bontrager Foray weighs 334 grams for a women's EU 40, earning it high marks in this metric.
The Foray's MSRP is in line with or a little more than of the other shoes we tested. Because of the Foray's sloppy fit and poor power transfer, our testers felt that other shoes offered a better value for the money.
For riders prioritizing breathability over performance, or those needing a larger volume shoe, the Foray is worth consideration. However, we found its overall performance on the trail to be marginal, especially when compared to similarly priced shoes, and recommend those considering the Foray also give consideration to other models.
— Tara Reddinger-Adams