Catlike are a company better known for their range of cycling helmets but you can top and tail your cycling attire should you so wish with their Whisper shoes, a pair of higher-end road slippers that share both name and looks with one of their most well known lids.
The first thing you notice about the Whisper shoe is that Catlike have carried over a lot of the styling cues from the shoe's namesake helmet, with the oval ventilation holes mirroring the distinctive vents on the Whisper helmet. Love it or hate it, it's impressive that a company can create a visual identity based on a hole. I don't have a Whisper helmet and yet I like the look, so I'd consider buying one to go collar-and-cuffs matchy matchy. Yes, I'm one of those people.
At 480g for the pair they're a suitably pleasing light weight and within the ballpark for a shoe of this price. Probably helping towards that weight is what Catlike say is a unique graphene nanotech sole. This isn't just your common-all-garden carbon sole like all the other pricier cycle shoes out there, the Whisper is the first cycling shoe to have a sole infused with graphene according to Catlike. Graphene is still a form of carbon but it's the posh stuff and the current new wunder-material that's all set to change the world. Or you can put it in a pair of shoes where the useful attributes of graphene of being 200 times more resistant than steel and yet extremely light and stiff are a hallelujah to the eternal goal of the bicycle industry. The inside of this graphene sole curves high up the instep to help with foot support.
More mundanely the sole has the usual three-bolt mounting for road cleats, printed graphics to help with the positioning, and has actually useable and useful toe and heel pads. Made of a thick plastic they're not the cursory affectations to the brief but necessary walking about you have to do in a road shoe that other manufacturers attach to the base of their shoes. The rear pads on the Whisper are held in with some screws via the inside of the shoe so they're potentially replaceable should they get worn from too many café stops.
Moving to the upper, the top of the Whisper shoe is made from just two pieces of Clarino microfibre. One piece takes care of the inside of the midfoot, while the other makes up the entire outside of the shoe, the toe box and the tongue. The one-piece construction of the body and tongue really wraps the upper around the foot in a firm enveloping hug with no edges, joins or stitching to rub or cause pressure points. Another benefit of the one-piece design is that you don't get 'tongue creep' over the course of a ride when the tongue shifts to the side as can happen sometimes in loose tongued shoes.
Rubberised toe bumpers protect the front of the shoe from everyday scuffs and stop your expensive shoes looking tatty, while out back there are reflective panels on the heel as a little rotating nod to safety.
When it comes to ventilation the Whisper is well covered, literally. The sole has two meshed ventilation holes, one in the toe and one midships, while 11 oval holes flank the sides and a pattern of smaller vents perforate the top of the toes. It's those larger 11 holes in the upper that give the shoe its Catlike look as they share the same shape as those holes in the namesake helmet. Worn over winter with thick overshoes it was hard to test the efficiency of the venting but I'm hazarding a guess that being both Spanish and helmet manufacturers they'll know a bit about keeping cool.
The Whisper shoes can be a bit of a struggle to get on. The heel box is really very tight and you might initially think that you've bought a size or three too small, but once squeezed on they're incredibly secure and yet comfortable shoes. The overall fit across the midfoot is pretty narrow, as tends to be the Euro way, but things do open up into the toe box and they're not as pointy-tipped as some Continental shoes so your toes aren't clamped into a ballerina's point.
The inside of the heel cup is thickly padded and covered in a 'cat's tongue' material with a one-way nap that prevents your heel lifting up when pedalling and it really works. Combined with that snug heel opening it keeps your foot firmly in place even under the hardest sprinting or climbing efforts.
Closure on the Whisper is performed by a pair of BOA dials over the main body of the shoe tightening a pair of wires each and one Velcro strap towards the toes. The dials tighten with the usual clicks but if you get over-excited you can release the tension in similar increments by clicking the other way, and come the end of the ride you just pull out on the dial to release the wires all in one hit. Adjustment on the move is easy as the BOA dials are chunky and sit proud of the shoe so are easy to find and adjust either way, even with gloves on and oversocks at a push, hardcore aero junkies might have issue with this though. While the BOA dials did a good job the strap at the front of the shoe felt pretty redundant to my foot.
Just like at the heel the padding on the tongue is quite thickly cushioned to contribute towards comfort, and you certainly can't feel the four BOA straps crossing it no matter how tight you ratchet them up. The tip of the tongue has a cut out insert filled with a lighter and more compliant foam-like material for more give to the foot when ankling a pedal stroke. The only issue I could find with any of this is that the base of the tongue could wrinkle up when the ratchets were done up tight tight, that's a purely an aesthetic moan though and it made no difference to the performance of the shoe.
There was definitely a discernible and immediate ease of pedalling and fleetness of foot compared to any of my library of road shoes on clipping into the Catlike Whispers. There's nothing really amazing on paper to set them apart from many other shoes but they just felt right, to my feet at least. Without an extensive testing lab with expensive bending and measuring tools there's no way to quantify the claims of the graphene-infused sole but real world testing over a fair furlong of miles came to the conclusion that the soles are nicely stiff, efficient without being uncomfortably and uncompromisingly rigid. It's not uncommon for me to get a hot spot in a shoe after a few hours but this never happened in the Catlikes so they must be doing something right.
Overall the Whispers are some of the most comfortable road shoes I've ever ridden. And I've been through a lot of shoes. Shoe choice is a very personal thing but the Whispers fitted my foot just right. I did a lot of riding in them: big all-day rides, short punchy rides and everything in-between and there were never any painful little niggles while pedalling or blessed sighs of relief in horning them off on the sofa at the end of the ride like some shoes that you can't wait to prise off. Efficient and comfortable enough to completely forget about for a good few hours. What more do you need from a shoe?
Excellent, comfortable shoes from a company better known for helmets
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Catlike Whisper
Size tested: 41
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
The Whisper Road shoe is the Catlike bet for road cycling say, um, Catlike. Whisper Road is the first cycling shoe that incorporates a sole that is infused with Graphene. The Graphene is 200 times more resistant than steel, and is extremely light. That boosts strength without adding weight. The sole is super light and ergonomically curved to match the shape of your foot perfectly. The outside part of the Whisper Road incorporates Clarino microfiber, a material three times stronger than real leather with a minimum weight, which makes heat dissipates in warm weather and retained in cold weather.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Graphene carbon fibre sole
Detachable rear WAD
Compatible with Shimano and Look system outsole
Dual density footbed
Template with neutral arch
Anti-slip padding at heel
External part of the fibre of extra-light Clarino
Outdoor breathable and with 11 air vents
Retention of heat in winter, expulsion of heat in summer
2 wheels ATPO and velcro closure system
They're a good looking and tidily put together shoe but there's the odd bit of clunky finishing here and there.
Stiff and yet comfortable, all day if you want.
Rubber toe bumpers and decent pads on the sole mean the Whispers should resist wear and tear for a while.
Reassuringly snug around the heel keeping things tight for efforts yet roomy enough in the toe to not feel like Chinese binding.
Just about right.
Light enough for the money, but not the most svelte out there, but neither are they hefty clogs.
With a wrap round upper, a well padded tongue and a tenacious yet thickly cushioned heel box they're incredibly comfy.
Not a cheap shoe for some but it does the job remarkably and yet humbly well. As they're not a well-known shoe poke about and you'll find them nicely discounted which makes them even better.
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
The Clarino faux-leather is incredibly easy to clean.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
A really very good shoe that you can comfortably ride all day in and yet light and stiff enough to race.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Comfort, easy BOAs, snug heel and helmet hole styling.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
The tongue could wrinkle up under hard BOA ratcheting, a shallow vanity whine.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes.
Would you consider buying the product? Yes.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes.
Use this box to explain your score
Some people will blanche at spending this much on a road shoe but they're a stiff and incredibly comfortable shoe that will you soon forget the price you paid. Although bargains can be found.
About the tester
I usually ride: It varies as to the season. My best bike is: The one I\'m on at the time
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, cyclo cross, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, mtb, Fun