Fizik certainly don't hide the fact that the R3 SL shoes are Italian through and through. The fetching styling is distinctly Euro, the shoes are actually made in Italy, and if there was any question as to their lineage, the inside of the tongue is decorated with a proud tricolore.
The shape is typically Italian too, and your feet will be cossetted in silver microfiber gloves if your hooves are the right shape. Look elsewhere if you don't fit the mold, though.
Riders with classically European feet generally reported an exceptionally comfortable and secure fit – the instep is high, the arch support is aggressive, the mid-section is narrow and the toebox is highly tapered. While some may scoff at the lack of a ratcheting buckle, the three hook-and-loop straps hold tight, are easy to adjust on the fly and are quite flexible thanks to the unique sailcloth backing.
Omitting the buckle and subbing in titanium D-rings also makes the R3 SLs the lightest shoes in Fizik's range, at 536g per pair (size 42). That's not an exceptionally low figure, but one we're willing to accept given the superb construction quality.
However, we found the R3 SLs last to be less accommodating than most if you fall outside the intended shape, making them one of the more polarizing shoes we've tested. Even with various insoles fitted, riders with wide and/or flat feet couldn't get them to feel right. Complaints ranged from sloppy heel hold to downright painful arches on longer rides.
Those riders also reported the D-rings digging into the tops of their feet through the softly padded tongue – possibly because they had to pull the straps tighter to keep their heels in place.
Sole stiffness and overall quality are beyond reproach, though, with the highly profiled carbon plates feeling impressively stout and the fit, finish and feel among the best we've tested. The Microtex synthetic upper material – the same Fizik use on their bar tape – is particularly impressive, with a supple hand and luxurious appearance. We did wish for more mesh, for better ventilation in hot weather.
That deep sole plate contouring also yields an unusually tall stack height. Fizik claim 7.58mm – better than Sidi, Shimano and Specialized, supposedly. But it feels and looks like more based on saddle height adjustments.
Hat Tip To: BikeRadar.com Road Bikes & Gear