The Worst Day of the Year Ride is February 11th

Made in Portland: A very classy pair of bicycle shoes

Posted by on July 10th, 2008 at 4:50 pm

Handmade, leather bicycle touring shoes…
and they’re also good for dancing.
(Photo: Jeff Mandel)

Remember Jeff Mandel of ExIT Shoes?

Back in January I shared photos and a story of his handmade leather bicycle saddles.

The other day, I came across his latest creation — a bicycle touring shoe.

According to his blog (Mandel posts an entry for each pair of shoes he makes — these are #25), this is Mandel’s first bicycle touring shoe. Mandel was inspired by a pair of shoes made in 1960 that he reproduced from photos brought to him by his friend Joel Metz (a veteran Portland bike messenger).

Mandel writes that he “really loved the classic look and the straightforward design. No liner, big holes, low heel. Best of all, there was no messy cleat interface to accommodate.”

As for ExIT Shoes pair #25, Mandel says they have been reinforced to be stiff in the ball of your foot and were designed to be used with clip and strap pedals. He also says that they’d “make fine summer dance shoes” (Mandel is an avid tango dancer).

See more about this stylish pair of handmade bike shoes at Mandel’s blog.

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  • sh July 10, 2008 at 6:39 pm

    Beautiful, really beautiful.

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  • Matt M July 10, 2008 at 6:56 pm

    I\’ve seen them in person and they look great (and actually the fit my feet pretty good too)! Nice going Jeff!

    Small Typo- should read \”stiff in the ball of your foot\” not \”stuff\” .

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  • Zachary July 10, 2008 at 7:06 pm

    Looks good Jeff! Very hip – best of luck.

    It was nice to meet you at Carfree…

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  • Jessica Roberts July 10, 2008 at 8:47 pm

    Yeah, I saw these today, and they\’re beyoootiful. Love the red soles and the decorative-yet-functional punchwork!

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  • Roma July 10, 2008 at 9:51 pm

    \”One pair of handmade shoes costs $800. I ask for a deposit of 50% ($400) to get the process started. The initial deposit is non-refundable.\”

    Wow – they\’re only $800! What a bargain!

    Get real. I could get a new bike for $800.

    They are beautiful, but come on man. That is a ridiculous price for a pair of shoes.

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  • Michelle July 10, 2008 at 10:11 pm

    Ladies version, please…in light yellow! Can you do little shapes for the cut-out holes too? Maybe little birds? Or crescent moons?

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  • nathan July 10, 2008 at 10:16 pm

    those darned messy cleat interfaces. oy vey the ever-present nuisances of modern cycling.

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  • J.M. July 10, 2008 at 11:00 pm

    First boutique bikes, now boutique bike shoes.

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  • N.I.K. July 11, 2008 at 7:50 am

    those darned messy cleat interfaces. oy vey the ever-present nuisances of modern cycling.

    Heh. Reminds me of how Rivendell\’s site gripes about fancy-schmancy unessential modern \”gimmicks\” like clipless pedal systems when clips-and-straps have been used for generations, and then turns around and uses the \”true craftsmanship\” argument to hawk boutique frames. Reaction there: \”I kinda get your point, but c\’mon, you\’re selling luxury items.\”

    Here, though, it\’s more, \”If the cleat gets in the way, it\’s in time *off* the bike. These $800 shoes with their non-textured super-stiff soles are probably equally bad for walking in.\” Strikes me more as willful anachronism than anything else (though admittedly, I was half-expecting a mention of how good old-school cleats nail into the bottoms after seeing the photograph!).

    Oh well. Still neat in that \”glad someone knows how to make this even though I\’ll never buy it\” kinda way.

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  • N.I.K. July 11, 2008 at 7:54 am

    Whoops. Seems the soles aren\’t stiff but more the ball-of-foot area. Still: totally flat soles strike me as a bad idea in wet conditions, as does $800 leather shoes. But they\’re probably right: fine dancing shoes. 😀

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  • Shoemaker July 11, 2008 at 8:16 am

    In response to the comment on the price, I\’d like to say that much of the time spent on making custom shoes is the custom part. Custom as in customer.

    Working with people to fit their feet is a time consuming, iterative process. It\’s fun and challenging and interesting, and it takes a lot of time. Several pairs of trial shoes are made and discarded to achieve the best fit. It\’s a different process than going to the store and selecting a shoe off the shelf.

    I have been considering making cycling shoes in fixed sizes. Custom would always be available if you can\’t wear the fixed sizes offered. If you\’ve ever had trouble finding shoes that fit, you know the dilemma.

    If you\’d like to share some feedback on price, contact me directly and let me know what you would pay for non-custom cycling shoes of this quality.

    Jeff Mandel
    ExIT Shoes

    ps. I have been thinking about other punches and patterns for holes…

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  • Steve Brown July 11, 2008 at 9:03 am

    The perfect shoe to go with your new Rapha outfit.

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  • Gregg July 11, 2008 at 9:10 am

    Great Shoes from a Great Guy.
    Congratulations on all of your successes, Jeff!

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  • Roma July 11, 2008 at 9:19 am

    \”If you\’d like to share some feedback on price, contact me directly and let me know what you would pay for non-custom cycling shoes of this quality.\”

    Call me crazy, but if I don\’t have clipless pedals, I don\’t need \”cycling shoes\”; especially $800 ones.

    If I\’m riding with clipless pedals, I could buy top of the line SIDI shoes with carbon soles that would be lighter and better for cycling (and probably more comfortable) for about $400. They\’re also made of a material that is lighter, more breathable and more inclement weather friendly than leather.

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  • chuck July 11, 2008 at 9:33 am

    jesus, I can\’t believe you people are complaining about the price on these shoes. I\’d much rather spend $800 on a pair of custom fitted, hand crafted, locally made (i.e. low carbon footprint for manufacturing and shipping) cycling shoes, which will probably last at least 10 years with the proper upkeep from customer and cobbler, instead of some mass produced, half-assed fit commercially made shoes.

    if it\’s too much for you, don\’t buy it. simple as that.

    I applaud you Jeff, for dedicating yourself to a craft that\’s long been going the way of the dinosaur. handcrafting goods like this is a lost art form, and you my friend are an artist.

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  • Kristin July 11, 2008 at 9:57 am

    \”this is a lost art form, and you my friend are an artist.\”

    Truly these shoes are a work of wear-able art. Maybe not as good as SIDI\’s for every day abuse, but more in the spirit of investing in a thing of beauty and craftsmanship.

    And often people who do touring ride with leather saddles, leather chamois\’, wool jerseys, and other such old school gear, so perhaps there is something to leather touring shoes. Don\’t knock it till you try it.

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  • The Machine July 11, 2008 at 10:13 am

    Leather hardly has a low carbon footprint.

    Most of the people defending these $800 shoes are the same people chiding others for buying $6,000 carbon bicycles.

    To each his own.

    Chuck – if you\’re so hip to locally made handcrafted products, I\’m sure you\’re riding a $3,000 Vanilla bicycle and will soon be ordering these cycling shoes.

    These shoes are art – but most art is not practical for real everyday use.

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  • Lesli Larson July 11, 2008 at 10:35 am

    Lovely shoes but price does seem a bit stiff given the wear and tear and wet weather to which they would be subjected. Not sure mine would last ten years–maybe two. I\’d probably wear them to work instead. Here\’s another custom option from a UK shop doing custom leather cycling shoes for many years. A bit more affordable though certainly not as snazzy sans red soles.

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  • N.I.K. July 11, 2008 at 11:02 am

    jesus, I can\’t believe you people are complaining about the price on these shoes. I\’d much rather spend $800 on a pair of custom fitted, hand crafted, locally made (i.e. low carbon footprint for manufacturing and shipping) cycling shoes, which will probably last at least 10 years with the proper upkeep from customer and cobbler, instead of some mass produced, half-assed fit commercially made shoes.

    If you spent $800 on mass produced half-assed fitting commercially made shoes, you\’d be a moron. Thankfully, extremely high-end, very well made, super durable cycling shoes with generally good fit options top out below $500.

    As such, there are three reasons to bother with these shoes:
    1) appreciation/support of highly-skilled craftsmanship
    2) need of a custom fit in a cycling-oriented shoe
    3) \”Check out my $800 dancing -er, I mean, cycling shoes!\”

    1 is important, 2 is unlikely, and 3 is eh (for me, anyway; fashion\’s not my bag).

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  • chuck July 11, 2008 at 11:09 am

    The Machine: Nope, unfortunately I can\’t afford either. being a craftsman myself, I just would prefer something being handmade locally. I ride a god-knows-how-many-hand Scwhinn I picked up off craigslist for $40, and second hand skate shoes.

    unfortunately, these shoes would probably never be in my price range. not even the standard sized non-custom versions. I still respect them, though.

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  • joeb July 11, 2008 at 4:04 pm

    Fashion\’s not my bag either, but these Exit shoes look REALLY nice. $800 is out of my price range, but I believe it to be a fair price. I\’ve got about $180 into my current low-end Specialized clipless shoes. I search high and low for locally made products. I probably spend less than $200 a year on clothes. Since I don\’t buy many clothes, I do spend time looking for ethically sourced and locally manufactured items. I think my price range for non custom clipless shoes would probably top out around $250.

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  • Carissa July 11, 2008 at 5:08 pm

    Quick, someone alert Robert Mackey! The NYT would be all over these tigers. (

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  • joel July 11, 2008 at 10:29 pm

    for what its worth, to respond to the \”if i dont have clipless pedals, i dont need cycling shoes\” concept – this isnt necessarily true.

    its more a matter of what kind of riding you do without clipless pedals, really. me, i ride clipless for mountain and cyclocross, and clip-and-strap or flat pedals with whatever shoes ive got on for work and general around town stuff – but i ride clip-and-strap pedals with purpose-built, leather touring shoes of this old style for distance riding/randonneurring/touring (and no, i dont drink the rivendell kool-aid). i get the best of both worlds – a shoe/pedal system that offers a firm shoe-pedal interface and efficient power transmission, and a shoe that offers easy walkability. im not saying its for everyone, but it how i like things.

    i think youd be surprised how weather-resistant leather is as a material (even untreated), and how tough it is, even when fancy or thin. ive ridden the shoes that i brought jeff to look at through all manner of weather, and over quite significant distances – and i dont doubt that his shoes would hold up as well or better than the production models i currently own (which, by the way, are no longer made, and cost about $200 new)

    and lesli – just try getting ahold of reynolds shoes. 3 years, and ive never received a response to any inquires (email and mail). oh, and they dont do custom, or sizes larger than 46 (im a 47)

    i cant afford custom shoes from jeff, but im incredibly pleased at his interest in this project, and think what hes done is beautiful – not to mention excited to hear hes at least open to the idea of a production model. jeff, id be thrilled at $200, would willingly shell out $300, and could probably pull $400 out of my ass if it came down to it.

    and heck, id really be getting 2 pair of shoes in one – cycling and dress!

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  • beth h July 12, 2008 at 9:28 am

    I\’m with # 5 on this one.

    I appreciate craft as much as the next person. I\’m glad, for the maker\’s sake at least, that this shoe seems to have found an appreciative audience (though how many will stop admiring and actually step up to buy is still unclear).

    For myself, in a society where so many people lack basic needs and the divide between those who have and those who haven\’t has become a yawning chasm, I am left shaking my head. Riding an 800-dollar bike is one thing — you have some confidence that the thing will last — but 800-dollar shoes are entirely another. And as long as we make it clear that they aren\’t — and can\’t be — for everyone, then admire away.

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  • Keith Walker July 13, 2008 at 2:11 am

    $800 shoes are out there (Prada, etc.), but hand made $800 are something else. If Jeff can make a living at it, more power to him. And if his business prospers, perhaps the cost will come down if he ever makes non-custom shoes.

    His story reminds me of Cydwoq (say it like \’sidewalk\’) shoes. They are handmade from vegetable tanned leather, and are lifetime shoes.

    I have a pair and they have been re-soled 3 times in the past 10 years or so.

    The uppers look just as good as when they were new. These shoes can\’t be killed!

    Not as pricey as Jeff\’s shoes ($250-350 range) but they are not custom either.

    Quality costs, and with quality comes durability.

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  • FauxPorteur July 13, 2008 at 1:55 pm

    $800 custom shoes would help keep the cobbling business alive. These wouldn\’t be like the Sidis you throw away every couple years, you would have them re-soled, mended, etc…

    Having said that, I\’ve never spent more than $60 on a pair of shoes my whole life. If I could find a comfortable, breathable, non-leather, durable, mendable, resole-able, looks-good-with-jeans shoe that is good for cycling with toe-clips in the $100-$300 range, I\’d think about it.

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  • Matt M July 13, 2008 at 11:39 pm

    FauxPorteur – Historically, a cobbler is one that repair shoes. So technically speaking, Jeff would be considered a Shoemaker. Old school shoemakers might consider it an insult to be referred to as a cobbler.

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  • FauxPorteur July 14, 2008 at 11:58 am

    Yes, I know a cobbler is one who repairs shoes. I was trying to get across that a well-made shoe would be worth repairing rather than wearing out and throwing away. Therefore, keeping cobblers in business. In my opinion, Sidis are not worth repairing (if even really possible).

    Another example, pianos are very expensive and people \”could\” just use synthesizers (smaller, more portable, and less expensive). But, if people stopped buying pianos, the piano tuning industry would be in trouble.

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  • Matt M July 14, 2008 at 1:53 pm

    Point taken on the cobbling. It would be nice if more shoes were repairable, I\’d be better off. Too bad we live in such a disposable culture, and we are exporting it to others.

    By the way, Sidi\’s are somewhat repairable- the velcro and ratcheting straps/buckles can be replaced and stitching can be redone, but the soles can not be replaced (except for the Sidi Dragon mtn bike shoes).

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  • James Mason November 25, 2008 at 1:20 am

    The shoes are cool, but I’d rather have $800 worth of really good whiskey. I’ll keep riding in my Aqua-socks when I don’t need cleats. In 1962 I read in one of those teenage fan magazines that the Rolling Stones were wearing cycling shoes and cycling jerseys in concerts. Being one of maybe 30 people wearing cycling shoes and cycling jerseys in Portland at the time, it made me feel less isolated.

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