SPECIALIZED TRAIL 110 $135
I've always thought that this sort of shoe—a no-nonsense, 3/4-cuff job with a stiff sole and an aggressive tread—is exactly what a mountain bike shoe should look like. Forget about those brightly colored, Italian-made ballerina slipper with carbon fiber stickers, zero ankle protection and space-age buckles that fail when the going gets tough.
The 110s are organically shaped, protective and good-looking in a form-following-function sort of way. Even better, these are budget versions of Specialized's top-shelf Trail 120 SLs— making them a perfect choice for the finicky, but financially challenged among us.
I spent several months with the Trail 110s, and the first thing I noticed picking them out of the box is how light they are—about 400 grams each. For a relatively affordable shoe, the pleather-like material held up well. Specialized puts a lot of emphasis into the "Body Geometry" aspect of the shoes' fit, and in terms of arch support and overall feel I've got no complaints. A few stitches in the hard plastic toe pieces started to fray, but the shoes have continued to last.
Four Velcro straps provide a great snugged-down fit, although I found that the shoes run small and I probably could have jumped up a half-size. Then the top strap might not have come undone as often as it did.
The tread left a little to be desired, as the hard plastic compound more than once instigated "Risky Business"-style slides down sandstone faces. But they were comfortable enough to hike in, didn't weigh me down any, and gripped exceedingly well in loam or mud, which they shed as good as any aggressively trod shoe.