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Let’s start with the obvious: the Bont Helix shoes look super cool. The Shiny Red/White color scheme can’t be beat. The real question is, do the shoes live up to the look-at-me exterior?
The answer, for the most part, is yes.
And we predicted that might be the case since we’ve been so impressed by Bont’s Vaypor S shoes over the course of almost two years of testing. The Helix shoes fit almost identically to the Vaypor S, so there were no surprises here. There’s lots of room in the forefoot for wide-footed riders. And narrow-footed riders, that wide toe box shouldn’t scare you off either. More on that in a moment.
The big difference between the Vaypor S and the Helix is the Boa IP1 fit system. Instead of two Boa dials (like on the Vaypor S), one over the ankle and one over the forefoot, the Helix only has one Boa dial mounted near the ankle. The cable wraps from the Boa dial and into the shoe below the ankle. It is then routed through the carbon outsole underneath the foot, back up on top of the tongue, and then it weaves its way down to the top of the toe box. This wraparound design allows for quick adjustment on the fly from just one Boa dial. (Bont says replacing the Boa cable should be as simple as pushing the cable into the guide holes.)
Does it work? It snugs up and holds your foot just fine, but if you’re narrow-footed, you’ll notice that the ankle tends to tighten up more than the forefoot does. At first, this was somewhat annoying and it invited constant buckle tightening in an effort to get the forefoot snugness to increase. But the longer we rode these shoes the more we realized that we didn’t need more snugness in the forefoot.
In fact, when the forefoot has some room to breathe and expand, forefoot tingling and numbness became less of a likelihood. But that’s a subjective assessment that may not necessarily be right for you. If you’re in need of lots of forefoot snugness, the best way to get it is to over-tighten your shoes when you first put them on, then back off the buckle a click or two. This will pull the cable all the way from the toe, and then you can loosen it around your ankle. Or the Vaypor S shoes might be a better option.
But if you suffer from any tingling or numbness, the Helixes allow the foot to expand in the forefoot, so it might be worth giving them a go.
There was a brief break-in period. These shoes tend to be a bit stiff around the ankles on the first few rides, but after that, the slipper-like fit feels exceptionally comfortable throughout. There was no noticeable heel slippage either. Even better: the shoes are heat-moldable, so you can get a custom fit. Once these conform to your feet, it’s hard to find a more comfortable shoe.
Like the Vaypors, the unidirectional carbon outsoles on the Helix shoes are incredibly stiff. Racers will love the power transfer. If you’ll be hitting chattery roads frequently, you might notice some bothersome vibration as a result, but otherwise, Bont’s outsoles make a case for best-in-class status.
The stock insoles are pretty thin and flimsy, though they are heat-moldable. The shoes felt a lot more supportive once I swapped those out for Bontrager’s inForm BioDynamic insoles.
While the shoe features a few vents at the toe and some perforation in the upper, it would be very easy to find shoes with much better airflow. This wasn’t particularly problematic during our testing, but if you struggle with hot feet in the summer, these may not be ideal for you.
Ultimately, the Helix shoes are just as excellent as the Vaypor S shoes that we’ve been so keen on in the past. Are they better? That depends. The fit is nearly identical, so it comes down to the Boa system. If you’re a fidgeter who likes to tailor snugness throughout the foot, the Vaypor S shoes are probably a better choice. If you’re after simplicity and on-the-fly adjustment in a super-stiff platform, it’s hard to beat the Helix shoes.