The dhb Aeron Carbon Road Shoes are stiff, a reasonable weight and pretty comfortable. With a carbon fibre sole and an Atop dial closure, they're great value at their £120 RRP never mind at the £84 you can get them for now.
Let's start at the sole because, to me, that's the best feature. It's full-carbon with a 3k weave top layer. Although it's not the most rigid sole I've ever used, it's pretty damn stiff and there's no sense that your power is being directed anywhere but straight into your pedals.
The sole takes road-style three-bolt cleats – Shimano SPD-SL, Look Kéo, and so on – with grid markings to help you match one shoe to the other, and you get mesh vents under the toes and the middle of the foot. The heel protector isn't replaceable but, even so, the sole is of a quality you'll find on much, much more expensive shoes.
The polyurethane upper isn't as supple as you'll find on some higher end shoes but it conforms to the shape of your foot reasonably well, the tension applied by two Velcro lower straps – the lower one of which you'll set once and never touch again – and an Atop dial-adjusted upper strap.
If you've not used one before, an Atop dial is a little like a Boa in that it's a clickety-click wheel that controls a lace. Turn it one way and it incrementally tightens the lace, turn it the other way and it lets the tension go. One slight wrinkle is that you can't loosen incrementally – you'll end up letting out a little too much lace and dialling it in again, which is very much a First World problem, admittedly! On the plus side, you can adjust the dial through thick neoprene overshoes, and it's easily replaced if it ever gets damaged. If you're not into the dial, the dhb Aeron Carbon Road Shoe Ratchet is cheaper at £100 RRP, currently reduced to £78.
You get deep padding around the opening, and the tongue is padded too. Holes through the tongue provide ventilation and various sections of the upper are perforated, although there are no mesh panels up top. I rarely get hot feet (ooh, I'm a martyr to poor circulation; don't get me started) so that's not really an issue for me, but if you do then maybe you'd be better off with something with more airflow.
dhb has completely redeveloped the fit from that of its previous shoes using a different last, the idea being that the new range will work well for most foot shapes. The fit is said to be close to brands like Giro and Fizik, if you've tried either of those.
I took my usual shoe size here and found the dhb Aeron Carbons roomy in the toe box, so I had that lower strap cinched right in. I could easily wear a pair of thick merino wool socks underneath. If you're wide across the forefoot then these might be worth a try. I had to cut the straps down a bit and I'd almost – but not quite – be tempted to go a size smaller than normal.
The uppers are comfortable in use, the offset straps – a feature you'll also see on shoes from Giro and Shimano, for example – pulling the two sides together over the top of your foot, spreading the load evenly and holding tight with no noticeable stretch when you're sprinting. I felt that the heel counter could have been firmer to lock my foot in place on the upstroke, but that was an issue only when really going for it out of the saddle.
The footbed (why aren't they called insoles anymore?) adds to the comfort. Along with the outsole, it offers some arch support and there's a little cushioning in the forefoot, over the top of the cleat attachment area.
Overall, you're getting a lot for your money here. The full-carbon soles are exceptionally good for what you're paying and the uppers are decent enough too. The dhb Aeron Carbon Road Shoes might be a little clumpy compared with high-end race shoes, but that's fair enough because they aren't high-end race shoes. For the price, you'll struggle to find anything as good as these.
With an impressive performance largely thanks to very good carbon fibre soles, these offer exceptional value for money
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road.cc test report
Make and model: dhb Aeron Carbon Road Shoe Dial
Size tested: 46
Tell us what the product is for
Here's dhb's full writeup. Strap yourself in, it's pretty long.
"Lightweight & stiff, the all new dhb Aeron Carbon Road Dial cycle shoes are engineered for performance. Not only do these shoes enhance your performance out on the road, they also deliver on comfort and fit.
"Designed for speed, these dhb shoes combine a premium carbon sole with a sophisticated ATOP dial system.
"The ergonomic strap system works to spread even amounts of pressure over the whole of the foot for a secure, comfortable fit. The dial adjustment allows for a fine-tuned fit, with on-the-fly adjustment - whether that's to loosen the pressure from a long climb, or to tighten it up for that finish line sprint. Keeping a slim profile while offering plenty of toe box room was dhb's goal for the fit, and striking the right balance makes these shoes suitable for a wide range of foot shapes.
"The full carbon sole works to deliver excellent power-transfer, making the most of every watt. dhb have used a 3k weave for the top layer to offer an ideal combination of stiffness and comfort where it counts. Ventilation is key to comfort when the efforts are intense, and dhb have added air vents to the sole to improve this.
"Perforated holes on the top of the shoe increase breathability even more for warmer weather riding, or more intense sessions. The side of the shoes is more robust, protecting against contact with the terrain or bike. The perforated tongue also helps to increase airflow and shapes over the top of the foot for added comfort when you close the straps.
"These shoes have a default, flat neutral footbed, which allows you to use your favourite footbed if required, for an even more specific fit."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
The shoes use an Atop dial adjustment and three bolt Look/SPD-SL cleats.
The uppers are tough. The heel protector isn't replaceable but it's thick and is going to last a long time.
dhb has gone for quite a wide fit here (people with narrow feet can draw the sides of a wide shoe in whereas people with wide feet will never be able to use a narrow shoe) so you get a roomy toe box.
Sizing is generous. I nearly had to go for a size smaller than usual.
They're not especially light compared with higher end shoes but they're a reasonable weight considering the price.
Pay more and you'll get more supple uppers, but these still offer a good level of comfort.
The soles in particular are ahead of anything else I know of at this price. The Bontrager Circuit Road shoes (£99.99) that we reviewed recently, for example, have nylon composite soles and we found that to affect efficiency. These also have better soles than the Northwave Sonic 2 SRS (£99.99) shoes that we reviewed last year. The dhb's uppers aren't as good as their soles but these still offer exceptional value for money.
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
You just wipe over the uppers with a damp cloth. Easy. Grit can get caught in the perforations on wet rides but it's not really an issue. It'll come out if you're persistent.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
These shoes put in a good performance – very good when you take price into account. The stiff carbon fibre sole is the real star of the show.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The price and the carbon fibre sole.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
A slightly slimmer fit, especially across the toe box, would suit my foot shape better.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yeah, they put in a surprisingly good performance.
Would you consider buying the product? If I was after something at this price point, certainly.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your overall score
If you average out the scores these would get a 7. However, I'd put much more importance on the value score than on the sizing score, for example, hence an 8 overall.
About the tester
I usually ride: My best bike is:
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding
Mat has been in cycling media since 1996, on titles including BikeRadar, Total Bike, Total Mountain Bike, What Mountain Bike and Mountain Biking UK, and he has been editor of 220 Triathlon and Cycling Plus. Mat has been road.cc technical editor for over a decade, testing bikes, fettling the latest kit, and trying out the most up-to-the-minute clothing. We send him off around the world to get all the news from launches and shows too. He has won his category in Ironman UK 70.3 and finished on the podium in both marathons he has run. Mat is a Cambridge graduate who did a post-grad in magazine journalism, and he is a winner of the Cycling Media Award for Specialist Online Writer. Now pushing 50, he's riding road and gravel bikes most days for fun and fitness rather than training for competitions.