These new Aria R3 shoes from Fizik are both smart to look at and in their operation, with two Boa dials over a sleeved upper for adjusting the fit. They're supremely comfortable on the bike, with a stiff full-carbon sole, and reasonably light – with a price tag to reflect the high-end quality.
Fizik is a brand most road cyclists will be familiar with, and for good reason: its shoe and saddle ranges are some of the best regarded in the business – the number of professional teams that use them are testament to that.
I've had Fizik shoes before and been very happy with them, but that was a few years ago, and these are the first I've tried from its newer range. The Aria R3 is pinned at the higher end of the range, one step down from the top model, the Infinito.
With Fizik, the box itself is a work of art: a folding drawer affair that doubles as a useful place to keep the shoes when not in use, reminding you that these are a bit special.
The shoes themselves are good looking, whether the single colour variant or this two-tone red and black pair on test. The full Microtex uppers are almost one-piece with the absolute minimum of seams (and none on the sections that cross the top of your foot). The wrapover enclosure gives a clean look, with perforations along both sides to aid ventilation.
Two Boa IP1-B dials cover all of the adjustments. These newer dials tighten in small increments, can be wound back click-by-click, and when pulled outwards release the cable tension for easy removal of the shoes.
Underneath there is a full unidirectional carbon sole, with small vents incorporated, and a full-width, replaceable heel bumper. They only accept three-bolt cleats.
From the off, the fit was good, these size 46s comparable to most others I've tried or owned. I do have relatively narrow feet and find that some shoes crush inwards as I need to tighten the straps so much. Here, the wrapover enclosure makes them a doddle to slip on then tighten as required, with the two dials giving plenty of movement as needed.
Fizik says the level of adjustability with this method allows for a much wider range of foot widths with one shoe type. As the top pulls over another section of upper there is no seam, and therefore no rubbing or pressure from a tongue, for example.
I found the toe box roomy enough for a bit of wiggle, which should help prevent sore toes on a hot day with a bit of swelling.
The heel cup holds well once the shoe is tightened, without being too tight.
Cleat fitment is pretty standard: the holes positioned at the mid-foot as you would expect, with enough adjustment in position for most people.
The first few rides were indoors on the trainer, with the weather being particularly dire – overshoes and warm socks wouldn't have held out for long. Indoor trials aren't a bad thing anyway with new shoes, as for one thing it's easier to tweak cleat positioning in the warm and dry than out on the road. With Zwift now my indoor mainstay, it did mean that rides weren't just a 20-minute spin, with a minimum of an hour and one 2.5-hour session ensuring they were bedded in nicely.
Supremely comfortable in motion, they stayed that way for the duration of the rides, the Boas making it a cinch to adjust on the fly. With a fixed trainer and big efforts you can generally suss out the flex in the shoes too, and as expected with a high grade carbon sole it was minimal.
Out on the road when the weather picked up they had their proper test, with a number of runs from 50-70 miles and up to 4.5 hours in the saddle. I won't lie, I did get cold feet, even with warmer socks and overshoes, but that's to be expected wearing summer shoes. I didn't block up the vents in the soles either, which would have helped a little.
However, the comfort factor certainly carried over to long rides, I maintain in large to the wrapover system. Even with overshoes or oversocks on, the Boa dials were chunky enough to grab and adjust as needed, a little more difficult in thick gloves but still manageable.
Power transfer was great here too: super-stiff for 99 per cent of the time, the only slight flex I felt was on big out-of-the-saddle hill efforts, but I'm a hefty lad and most people wouldn't notice a thing I reckon.
Weight-wise they do okay; they're not featherweight like some of the shoes I tested last year, but compare well with competitors in the same range. Bear in mind the weight we have is for a size 46 pair: Fizik claims 243g per shoe for a size 42.5, Mavic claims 240g for size 42 of its Cosmic Ultimate II shoes, which are more expensive than the Fiziks.
A month on, after numerous indoor and outdoor rides, the build quality shines through. They look good as new – mainly down to the Microtex used for the uppers; it's pretty scuff-resistant and cleans up a treat with a damp cloth. There were a few oil marks on the right shoe but a little solvent got rid of that with no effect on the finish. Even the sole still looks good, the decent sized bumpers keeping the carbon off the grit and mud.
They aren't cheap but you are paying for quality and a brand trusted by amateur and pro cyclists the world over. If you aren't sold, there are similar alternatives from Specialized – the Torch 3.0s are quite a bit cheaper at £200, or if you want something featherlight but a little less practical there are the Lake CX301s I tested last year at £239.
Overall, though, these are some of the most comfortable shoes I've worn, and I love the wrapover enclosure – it's simple and just works. If you value quality and all-day riding comfort these are a very good bet.
Beautifully made road shoes with an innovative closure to give a great fit and all-day comfort
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Fizik Aria R3 shoes
Size tested: 46
Tell us what the product is for
High-end road shoes from the Italian brand.
Fizik says: "With excellent adaptable fit, proven comfort, great looks and highly efficient power transfer, the Aria R3 road cycling shoe delivers premium performance.
"The Aria R3 will fit any road-rider's foot thanks to the Enhanced Volume Control which uses two micro-adjustable Boa IP1-B dials running strong, light steel-coated nylon laces and lightweight plastic lace guides.
"The closure system draws the pliable yet protective Microtex upper around the foot to fit snugly with no seam-rub or pressure points. Laser Perforated and 1.2mm thick, it's ideal for the all-season blend of light weight, breathability and flexibility, strength and support. A superb range of distinctive new colorways include the unique combination of a shiny/opaque combination material.
"Aria R3's Uni Direction Full Carbon Outsole is lightweight and laterally stiff for ultimate power transfer, while the discreet toe stud and removable double heel-stud provide purchase when off the bike. It features an advanced ventilation system for rider comfort and peak performance whatever your ride, and works with the fi'zi:k Cycling Insole's subtly cushioned structure and supportive heel-cup.
"Like all fi'zi:k's performance road shoes, the Aria R3 is the result of our program of designing with, and for, leading professional racing cyclists to create the best possible shoes for you."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Materials: Microtex Laser Perforated
Outsole: UD Carbon Fiber
Closure system: Double Boa IP1-B Dials
Insole: fi'zi:k cycling Insole
As is usual with Fizik's offerings, the presentation and construction of the shoes is excellent. Using the highest grade materials and expertly put together, they look and feel like a premium product.
In use the shoes are top notch. From first putting them on, to the last miles, they were comfortable thanks to the new closure system, and the full-carbon sole is stiff with no noticeable flex even with big efforts.
With a four-week window for testing they aren't going to be pushed to the limits of destruction, but for the good amount of use they had, plenty in the mucky and wet winter weather underneath overshoes, they have stayed looking new and with no defects or dilapidation at all.
The new closure system of the dual dials and the top that pulls around the foot, rather than two halves and a tongue, make getting the fit right a doddle and easy to adjust when needed.
Fizik shoes always seem to come up as expected in Euro sizes and these were no different, spot on for a 46.
They aren't featherweight, and you can buy lighter and cheaper, but they also pip some of the more expensive options. They certainly don't feel heavy in the hand or when worn.
Comfort was a strong point with this shoes. The wraparound closure hugs your foot with the dual dials allowing you to tweak the fit as required, the dials also allowing a click-by-click loosening as well as tightening. The heel cup is designed to retain your heel once the shoes are tightened and it worked well.
These are not a cheap pair of shoes, but they are well made, high spec and comfortable, so do go some way to justifying the price.
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
One of the advantages of the man-made Microtex upper is that it's easy to clean – a damp cloth (with a little detergent for grease) cleans them up well. With no fabric at all on the shoes, keeping them looking good is quick and easy.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
A classy pair of shoes whose comfort, adjustability and surefooted power transfer shone through on all my rides, indoors and out, despite generally being hidden by overshoes. Summer-style shoes aren't going to be at their best this time of year, and my feet were occasionally a little chilly, but that's understandable. When summer comes, I'll give you an update...
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
I liked the look of the shoes, quite minimalist and clean. The fit and comfort was a big plus, they're super-easy to get on and adjusted, and comfortable for a full day in the saddle.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Only the cost – but you do get quality.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your overall score
They're a quality pair of shoes, well made, comfortable, and offering high performance. It's a premium price, but they're worth the investment.
About the tester
I usually ride: Boardman AirPro Di2 My best bike is:
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: A few times a week I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, cyclo-cross, commuting, club rides, sportives