This is pretty much the way we have been conditioned to make purchases: a continuum from the most basic to the most advanced and feature laden. The problem is that we’ve also been conditioned and led to believe that more features necessarily means better; and that more features cost more, justify higher prices with the end result being: you get what you pay for. Let’s take a look at that from the ground up… using shoes as an example.
Standing on Solid Ground…. or Not: How to Pick the Shoe That’s right for YOU.
There’s a not-so-old saying about ski boots: the best boot is the boot that fits best. If you’ve ever worn – or tried to wear – a ski boot that doesn’t quite fit your foot, we don’t need to say another word. But, if you either don’t wear ski boots or have been lucky enough to have good fitting boots, the basic issue is this: ski boots are made almost entirely of relatively hard plastic. While you can cut, drill, even heat-up and remold the them somewhat, if the boot’s basic “last” and overall “volume” doesn’t match your feet, ankles, and lower calf, what could be the best boot (for someone else) is just about worthless for you. Each of the boots above is considered a great boot…. if and only if it fits.
Knowing what YOU Need out of YOUR Gear
If you’re thinking “are these guys saying I need to construct some complicated Decision Tree to decide what mountain biking shoe to get?” the answer is, to a degree, yes. But the good news is that while we may not always create a physical decision tree, we almost always go through the process: can I afford this? Is a decision tree as surely as does this fit, is it the right product for what I am doing? is as well. The key is to know what your decision factors are… because if you don’t, you can bet America’s sharpest marketers are steering you towards their most expensive offerings, products that may not be the best – or even at all right – for you and or how you intend to use them.
While there are several factors to consider and weigh when buying a mountain biking shoe, we know that one of the most important is also one that is counter to how mountain biking shoes are marketed, or in marketing speak, how they are “positioned.” We know that most mountain bikers need to be able not only to walk in the their shoes, but as former World Champion Joe Lawwill put it “it seems to me that the better rider you are, the more slippery and or dangerous it’s going to be when you have to walk your bike…” The implication being that the best riders need mountain biking shoes that have the greatest walking traction. So we thinking the bottom of your shoes are not only every bit as important as the tops, they might even be more critically important.
A fancy name for sure – Sequential Decision Making Process – and keep in mind we’re having fun here, but, we really do think that if you follow the steps above, you will not only get the right shoe for what you need, but more importantly you just might start making other purchases, whether it’s your bikes or car tires, in the same way. And remember that with most purchases, and certainly shoes, that the sequence can be the most important part of the process: how many times have you bought some piece or part that was a great deal, looked really good, other people had great luck with but simply didn’t fit you, your bike, car, whatever? We have!
Before we tell you that the shoe on the left is a better shoe – for you – than the one on the right based on price, remember the process…. all of it: maybe the more expensive shoe fits you better. In this case, probably not as all Shimano M Series shoes use the same “last” so should fit about the same (although the M310 has some fit customizing capability… some) But, if you are racing at an elite level, need the absolute stiffest sole to transmit the most amount of power, won’t ever need any traction from the soles on a trail ride, then the M310, despite its costing over four times as much as the M076, could very well represent the best overal value for you. As they say, do your homework!
A final word about how and why we picked the Shimano M076 and the M310 to base this article and comparison on. First off, there are many good shoe lines out there, Shimano being just one of them. The reason we used the M076 and M310s to work with is because independently, several of our instructors and pro riders ended up with M076s – even though a couple of them have the M310s on hand for race day.
In what will no doubt be a controversial comparison, we’re going to look at two bike lights that are rated at the same output, use the same technologies in both emitters (as in “bulbs”) and batteries. But one 900 lumen light costs more than eight times as much as the other! Is one way overpriced, or, the other a great deal? Stay tuned.