The Rio marks Risto Sports fourth reiteration of their handmade weightlifting shoe. The Rio is not so much a new model as it is a more refined version of the previously launched Olimpico. They’ve gathered customer feedback and suggestions from the community and used them to implement a few minor but impactful changes.
For those of you not familiar with the Olimpico, click here to read my full review.
So what’s different about the 2014 Rio model? We’ll start with the design changes as they are the most obvious.
Risto has continued with the stippled leather upper, but gone now is the circular leather insignia on the back of the shoe. The arrowhead shaped cutouts on the sides of the heel are also gone. Both of these design features looked somewhat out of place on the Olimpico.
The rear of the shoe is now trimmed with a single piece of leather and engraved with the words “weightlifting” and “Risto”. This trim along with the inside of the shoe are the same color – neon pink or neon yellow. The sides now feature a single, patent leather design that runs the length of the shoe. Together, these changes alone make the Rio much “cleaner” looking. This is hands down the best looking model Risto has released in their 5 years of making Olympic lifting shoes.
They also fixed the single largest complaint I had about the Olimpico – the strap. The previous design featured a strap that appeared to be more about style than functionality. The decision to cut out the center portion of the strap and use Velcro only on the end resulted in two problems. 1) It stretching too far if pulled tight causing it to drag the ground and 2) the Velcro would barely fasten.
To remedy this issue Risto has opted for a single 1.5″ wide piece of patent leather for the strap with Velcro running the entire length. The uncut leather is more resilient to stretching and more Velcro means that regardless of how loose or tight you pull the strap it will catch.
The final change is the simplest but could have the most profound effect on the durability of the shoe. The sole of the Rio is stitched directly to the shoe at the front of the toe.
The most common “breakdown” for a weightlifting shoe is for the sole to start separating at the toe. This is due in part because Oly shoes are built with rigid heels yet flexible toe boxes. This places a lot of strain on the rubber sole that is typically attached to the midsole and upper with glue.
Those of us who have experienced this type of “blowout” just use super glue to reattach the sole. (I had to do this to my old Ironworks at least twice.) By actually stitching the sole to the toe, Risto has tried to prevent the issue altogether.
The rest of the shoe remains unchanged from the Olimpico. The Rio has a full leather interior, leather tongue, 0.75″ wood heel and medium to wide fit. The sizing is still weird. If you’re unsure which size you need, measure your foot and shoot them an email; they will tell you which size to order.
As I have mentioned, this is by far the best looking shoe Risto has released and one of the sharpest looking shoes on the market. The stippled and patent leather combine to create a nice contrast of high-gloss and rough textures. The result is clear lines that give the Rio an almost race car-like visage.
I have noticed on the three different pairs I have seen in person, the stippling is deeper on the sides of the upper than it is across the toe area. I’m unsure whether this is on purpose or a result of the manufacturing process – either way it doesn’t detract from the shoe’s aesthetics.
Speaking of aesthetics; love it or hate it, all Risto shoes are going to have some minor cosmetic flaws. After speaking to owners Ivan and Gwen, it is clear that they feel this adds to their shoes handmade “uniqueness” and they have no intentions of making the shoes less “quirky”.
Personally, I don’t mind the odd wart here and there, so long as it doesn’t affect the performance of the shoe. I mean… I’m just going bang them up in the gym anyway. I don’t like to see uneven or crooked stitching, or excess material hanging out as these are signs of poor craftsmanship. Thus far, none of the Olimpico or Rios I’ve seen had any issues that were more than cosmetic in nature.
Then again, the Risto Rio is a fairly expensive shoe…
So it seems you will fit in one camp or the other: Another loyal Risto customer who loves the fact that your shoe is handmade and unique; or, someone who feels that at this price range your shoes should be flawless. If you’re in the latter camp, Risto isn’t for you.
FIT, FEEL AND PERFORMANCE:
The Rio feels just like the Olimpico did; like wearing a leather dress shoe that was nailed to the floor. Being constructed of solid leather means the shoe will (and should) fit pretty tight at first. It will start to break-in after a few workouts and results in a shoe that is great for a foot of any width.
Again, the Rio is made with a solid wood heel but remains a paltry 15.5 ounces (439g) per shoe. This makes it one of the lightest shoes on the market weighing the same as the Power Perfect II and a few ounces less than the AdiPower.
When on the platform the shoe performs as expected. The feel is very planted and stable. Split jerks land nicely with a moderately flexible forefoot section and decent grip from the sole. The grip isn’t as sticky as the AdiPowers though and perhaps the only aspect of the shoe where there could be improvement.
I did note that the neon yellow review pair I received came with a black sole, whereas the product photo on the store shows them with a neon yellow sole. I was a bit disappointed; the neon yellow sole looks much better than black. Not sure if I received old stock or if Risto isn’t making the yellow sole available on all pairs.
FINAL THOUGHTS ON THE RISTO RIO:
With the changes to improve the functionality, the Risto Rio may be one of the best values on the market. Still, at $157, it is pricey for a shoe that you will only use to lift in. As such, I would recommend this model only to those of you that are serious about lifting.
WHERE TO BUY:
Risto shoes are only available directly through Risto Sports. They do offer International shipping as well as custom shoes.
ADDITIONAL SHOE FEATURES: