The Expert XC retails for R3,290 putting it in the upper end of the mid-price range (and notably R2,300 less than the S-Works model). The claimed weight is 350 grams for a size 42 shoe. My size 46 shoes (including some sweat and grime) weighed around 437 grams each.
I found the shoes thoroughly comfortable throughout testing. I experienced no hot spots on my feet or irritation from seams or lacing. The Body Geometry sole and footbed claims to align the foot and joints in the leg resulting in a power boost and reduced chance of injury. Specialized also have footbeds for varying arch types should the standard footbed not fit your feet.
As now expected from performance mountain bike shoes in this price range, the sole is constructed from stiff carbon fibre to optimize power transfer through to the pedal. The Expert XC felt like they were doing just that, with no noticeable flex under power.
The carbon sole is covered in a grippy SlipNot rubber outsole. The grip was adequate: allowing for a quick dash after coming unstuck, as well as being suitable for pre and post ride loitering. On very steep and moist terrain, I did feel slightly vulnerable but it is unreasonable to expect mountain goat abilities from a dedicated race shoe.
The durability of the shoe has been good with little sign of wear on the upper. The sole, however, shows some indications of having been worn and walked through rugged terrain, and there are some cosmetic scratches to the exposed carbon. The only real wound is a small tear in the SlipNot rubber cover.
The lacing system works well to bind foot and shoe. The Boa IP1 Snap dial is easily adjustable on the bike mid ride. My only minor complaint is that the closure system can get a bit sticky when trying to loosen the shoe. The velcro does the job at the toe box end of the shoe, an area that is mostly set and forget.
The uppers have a classy look and feel, with sufficient ventilation to keep the foot cool even in the hottest conditions. Drainage and drying are also reasonably efficient. The reinforced toe cap does well to ward off rock and tree (and whatever else) strikes while the heel section holds the back of the foot firmly in place.
In the end
Specialized have equipped the shoe with all the right features while applying their comfortable Body Geometry fit in a sleek and polished looking shoe. When it comes to cross-country racing, the Expert XC mountain shoes do it all and they do it well.