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Best Gravel Shoes 2023 – Explore the Latest for Off-Road Enthusiasts!

Best Gravel Cycling Shoes: Your Gateway to Unbounded Adventure

Gravel cycling shoes have carved a niche for themselves, transitioning from the erstwhile norm of settling for MTB-designed footwear. The pinnacle gravel shoes draw a significant chunk of their design inspiration from elite road bike shoes, albeit with a robust build to navigate the multifaceted challenges posed by gravel terrains.

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The gravel cycling sphere has blossomed into a haven of diversity, stretching from near road racing adventures to mountain bike escapades, highlighting why the available market options now mirror this broad spectrum, akin to the diverse range of gravel tires.

Traversing Through the Market: A Sneak Peek into Premium Gravel Shoes

Embarking on a mission to unearth, review, and collate an invaluable list of top-tier gravel shoes across different categories and price brackets, led to an enthralling journey. It was a blend of comfort-challenging rides and awe-inspiring cycling moments over the preceding months of rigorous testing. The expedition bestowed a wealth of insights regarding the efficacy of various models and general pointers, paving the way for precise product endorsements.

Charting the Terrain: Unpacking the Attributes of Gravel Shoes

Gravel shoes are a quintessence of sturdy construction melded with the sleek design cues of road cycling shoes. They are tailored to tackle the ever-evolving challenges thrown by gravel tracks, making them an indispensable gear for gravel aficionados.

  • Design Evolution: Gravel shoes have evolved from merely being a rugged version of road shoes to boasting features that cater to the specific demands of gravel riding. They now offer a perfect blend of flexibility, grip, and comfort, essential for traversing uneven terrains.
  • Diverse Offerings: The market is now flooded with a plethora of gravel shoe options, each with unique features and price points. Whether you are a seasoned gravel rider or a newbie, the market has something to cater to your needs.
  • Performance Centric: The top gravel shoes are performance-centric, ensuring that riders don’t have to compromise on speed, stability, or comfort. They are built to endure the harsh conditions of gravel trails while ensuring an optimum cycling experience.

The Journey of Discovery: Unveiling Top Picks and Vital Insights

The quest to discover the crème de la crème of gravel shoes was nothing short of enlightening. It unrolled a canvas of what works and what doesn’t in the realm of gravel footwear.

  • Model Specific Learnings: Each gravel shoe model brought to light specific pros and cons. It’s imperative to weigh these factors against your personal riding style and the terrain you intend to conquer.
  • General Takeaways: The journey also highlighted some general takeaways. For instance, a good gravel shoe should offer a snug fit, excellent ventilation, and a robust sole to tackle the rugged trails.
  • Product Recommendations: Delving into specific product recommendations would furnish a roadmap for those looking to invest in a pair of gravel shoes. The right pair can significantly enhance your gravel riding experience, making every adventure worthwhile.

Navigating Your Queries: Tailored Guidance for Your Purchase

You might harbor a bevy of questions when on the brink of purchasing a gravel shoe. Heading to the conclusion section, you’ll find succinct answers to probable queries, aiding in making an informed decision.

Gravel cycling shoes are not just a purchase; they are an investment in unbridled adventure. Equipping yourself with the right pair is the first pedal stroke towards unbounded gravel riding explorations.

Quick list to all Gravel Shoes

Best gravel shoes overall

The Giro Privateer, a singular footwear option capable of multifaceted performance, emerges as the epitome of cost-efficiency and secures its place as the paramount gravel shoe overall. Scarcely is there any cause for dissatisfaction in these footwear items: they extend comfort and warmth throughout the year, display robustness sufficient for occasional hike-a-bike endeavors, and offer substantial support on rugged terrains.

Their fit leans toward the narrower end of the spectrum, devoid of excessive aggressiveness, rendering them an outstanding selection for the majority of gravel enthusiasts.

The Gravel Shoes most cheapest

The cheapest gravel shoes that are any good

If you’ve recently ventured into gravel riding or prefer budget-friendly options, consider the dhb Dorica MTB shoe. Priced around 50$ on sale, while not as premium as others, they offer good comfort with a spacious toe box and decent heel performance for most riding scenarios.

best gravel shoes

The Best Gravel Shoes

Best gravel shoes for aesthetics

While the Café du Cycliste Outlands may not be the top choice for serious gravel riding, they excel in aesthetics and the joy of cycling in sunny weather. Inspired by vintage hiking boots, these are the heaviest gravel shoes in the collection. However, they are impeccably crafted, luxurious, and suitable for both walking and everyday use

best gravel shoesBest race shoe

Best gravel race shoes

Introducing the unabashedly high-performance S-Works Recon gravel shoe. While it stands as one of the pricier options, it also boasts unexpected comfort. Thanks to its lightweight carbon sole, it’s incredibly light. But it’s the impeccable fit, including a well-designed heel cup, that truly sets it apart. The S-Works Recon is the top choice for those seeking a snug, premium shoe for their racing endeavors.

best gravel shoesBest for high tempo use

Best gravel shoes for high-tempo general use

If you share my affinity for the snug embrace of lace-up footwear and seek a pair that combines rigidity, comfort, resilience, and ease of maintenance, the Giro Empire VR90 stands as your ideal choice.

These high-performance shoes transcend seasonal limitations, boasting a carbon sole that adeptly secures your footing while maintaining a degree of flexibility that allows for unhindered mobility. They prove themselves as an excellent option for everyday wear, providing both style and functionality in a harmonious fusion.

best gravel shoes

The best gravel shoes you can buy today

Our experts spend countless hours testing cycling tech and will always share honest, unbiased advice to help you choose. Find out more about how we Review.

1. The Giro Privateer: A Versatile Cycling Shoe

best gravel shoes

SpecificationsDetails
Weight (Size 44, with cleats)813g
Sizes39-48
Fastening systemLaces
ColoursBlack, Dark Grey, Light Grey
Sole materialComposite

Reasons to buy

  • Great all-round performance
  • Durable
  • Year-round usage
  • Affordable pricing

Reasons to avoid

  • No half sizes
  • Not the most breathable

When it comes to cycling shoes, finding the right balance between performance, comfort, and versatility can be a challenge. Enter the Giro Privateer, a cycling shoe that ticks many boxes for riders looking for a do-it-all option.

Solid Sole for All-Day Riding The Giro Privateer features a composite sole that offers a good blend of stiffness and flexibility. While it may not be the choice for elite racers pushing maximum effort, it’s perfect for most riders. The grippy outsole is a boon, especially during extended hike-a-bike sections.

Race-Ready and Reliable While not the most race-focused shoe, the Privateer holds its own on the cyclocross circuit. If you’re not gunning for podium finishes, these shoes provide more than adequate performance. Sometimes, it’s the rider, not the shoes, that makes the difference.

Comfort and Support One standout feature of the Privateer is its comfort. The laces provide an excellent fit, and ample ankle padding comes to the rescue on rough terrain. The added padding also aids in heel retention, which can be crucial during technical descents.

Year-Round Versatility The Privateer might get a bit warm in the peak of summer, thanks to its non-perforated outer. However, this lack of perforations is a plus in wet conditions. Pair them with high-quality winter cycling socks, and you can comfortably use these shoes year-round. Plus, being in the more affordable price range means you won’t fret about wear and tear, allowing you to focus on your ride.

A Jack-of-All-Trades In summary, if you’re in search of a cycling shoe that can handle a variety of riding styles and conditions, the Giro Privateer is an excellent choice. Its affordability, comfort, and reliability make it the top pick for most riders. If you’re looking for a more race-focused option with similar features, consider the Empire VR90.

Narrow Fit, but Not Extreme Keep in mind that the Privateer has a narrow fit, although it’s not as tight as some other options on the market. If laces aren’t your preference, you can explore the Giro Rincon, which offers similar features with the convenience of a BOA dial and a Velcro strap. However, many riders find the Velcro strap on the Rincon to be less useful, and the Privateer remains the preferred choice for its well-rounded qualities.

In conclusion, the Giro Privateer is a versatile and dependable cycling shoe that caters to the needs of a wide range of riders, making it a solid starting point for anyone in search of the perfect cycling shoe.

2. The Quoc Escape gravel shoes

best gravel shoes

Another brilliant generalist that won’t break the bank

 
SpecificationDetail
Weight (Size 44, with cleats)702g
Sizes38-47
Fastening SystemDial
ColorsBlack, Sand, Amber
Sole MaterialComposite

 

Reasons to Buy:

  • Masterful Fit: The single-dial configuration of the shoe ensures a snug and brilliant fit, wrapping around the contours of your feet effortlessly.
  • Stellar Aesthetics: The design is not just functional but flaunts beautiful aesthetics that are sure to catch the eye. The refined finish and sleek look make it a stylish choice for cyclists.
  • Exceptional Build Quality: The craftsmanship is top-notch, showcasing excellent build quality that is built to endure the rugged trails and the test of time.

Reasons to Avoid:

  • Lack of Half Sizes: The absence of half sizes might pose a challenge for individuals falling between standard sizes, making it a tad bit difficult to find the perfect fit.
  • Heel Padding Rub: Some riders might experience a bit of rub from the heel padding, which could lead to discomfort over long rides.
  • Dial Quality: The dial, although functional, doesn’t match up to the finesse of a BOA dial, which could be a downside for those accustomed to the smooth operation of BOA dials.

The Quoc Escape gravel shoes offer a compelling option for riders seeking a combination of performance and style. While I was initially torn between these and the Giro Privateers, the Escapes have a unique appeal, particularly for those who prefer dial closures over laces.

One standout feature of the Escape shoes is the single dial closure. Although it’s not a BOA system, it performs exceptionally well. Often, single-dial shoes struggle to provide an even fit, with the upper foot snug but the forefoot feeling loose. However, the Escape’s dial manages to strike a balance, ensuring a secure fit throughout.

The overall fit is similar to the Giro Privateers, with a relatively narrow profile. However, the exterior of the shoe is soft enough to accommodate some foot expansion if needed. Unfortunately, shoes in this price range typically lack options for different widths. The Escapes are less padded than the Privateers, which might make them slightly less comfortable on rough terrain and in colder conditions. Nevertheless, they offer a more connected feel.

Heel retention is excellent, although the heel lining could use some improvement. The transition between the padded and unpadded sections around the ankle entry can be slightly irritating, though not painful.

Aesthetically, the Escapes stand out, especially in the vibrant deep yellow color. While aesthetics don’t directly impact performance, they can make the shoes more appealing and enjoyable to use.

I also had the chance to review the Quoc Gran Tourer XC, but it didn’t make it into this guide for a few reasons. Despite a stiffer ankle cup, it didn’t significantly improve heel retention. The dual-dial system, while theoretically offering more adjustability, didn’t deliver a better fit compared to the single-dial Escape.

The Gran Tourers are also heavier, with no noticeable increase in stiffness. The only marginal improvement was a reduction in rubbing from the heel pad, but this issue still persisted. Therefore, I recommend saving the £90 price difference and exploring other options.

I also tested the Sidi Dus, which features a single dial and a composite sole. However, it was more flexible and didn’t provide as secure a closure. The dial itself was less user-friendly. While the RRP may be higher, you can find the Escape at a similar price point during sales. Opting for the Sidi Dus might only make sense if you have extremely narrow feet or a strong preference for the Sidi brand or aesthetics.

In conclusion, the Quoc Escape gravel shoes offer a great blend of performance, comfort, and style. They may not be perfect, but they provide an excellent option for riders looking for quality gravel footwear.

3. The dhb Dorica MTB Shoes: Affordable and Functional

best gravel shoes

The cheapest gravel shoes that are any good

SpecificationsDetails
Weight (Size 44, with cleats)696g
Sizes39-48
Fastening SystemLaces
ColoursBlack, White
Sole MaterialComposite

 

Reasons to Buy:

  • Attractive Low Retail Price Point, with frequent discounts
  • Spacious Interior, accommodating a range of foot dimensions

Reasons to Avoid:

  • Extremely Rigid Outsole
  • Absence of Half Sizes
  • Lack of Structural Firmness

In the world of cycling footwear, there exists a distinct difference between “good value” and “cheap,” even though these terms are sometimes used interchangeably. Enter the dhb Dorica MTB shoes—a budget-friendly option that falls into the “good value” category. While they may not boast the same premium craftsmanship as some higher-end models and might not be the most aesthetically pleasing (depending on your perspective), they certainly have their merits, especially considering their price point.

Affordability without Sacrificing Functionality

One of the most attractive features of the dhb Dorica MTB shoes is their affordability. On sale, you can snag a pair for under £50, making them a frequent point of interest for budget-conscious cyclists. But do these shoes deliver on the trail?

A Roomy Fit

In terms of fit, these shoes are quite roomy. For cyclists with larger feet or those who prefer a little extra wiggle room, this can be a welcomed characteristic. However, for those with smaller feet, it might result in some movement inside the shoe. Sizing down could be an option, but be cautious about toe-squishing consequences. You might need to rely on the laces to find your perfect fit.

On the Trail Performance

On flat terrain, the dhb Dorica shoes perform admirably. The heel support is decent, ensuring a secure feel while pedaling. However, when you’re out of the saddle and maneuvering the bike side to side, you might notice some lift in the forefoot due to the shoe’s less-than-stiff exterior fabric. Additionally, the base of the tongue may exert pressure on your toes, which can be a minor discomfort.

Traction Matters

One notable downside is the extremely hard plastic rubber outsole. While it’s durable, it lacks grip, especially on rocky surfaces. On soft ground, you won’t encounter significant issues, but tackling rocky terrains might pose a challenge.

Conclusion

In summary, considering their affordable price tag, the dhb Dorica MTB shoes perform reasonably well. As the saying goes, “you get what you pay for,” and these shoes are a testament to that. However, the most significant jump in performance lies between these budget-friendly options and the mid-range models, rather than between mid-range and high-end shoes.

If you’re just starting your gravel riding journey or simply can’t invest in a more expensive option, the dhb Dorica MTB shoes won’t hold you back significantly or dampen your riding experience—especially if you manage to snag them at a sale price.

So, if you’re on a budget and in need of functional gravel shoes, these might just be the budget-friendly solution you’ve been looking for.

The best gravel shoes for racing.

4. The Specialized S-Works Recon Gravel Shoes: Race-Ready Excellence

best gravel shoes

Best gravel race shoes

Specifications
Weight (Size 43, with cleats):635g
Sizes:39-48
Fastening system:Dial
Colours:White, Black, Olive, Orange
Sole material:Carbon

Reasons to Buy

  • Lightweight: The feather-light construction of these gravel shoes ensures that they don’t weigh you down during those long, adventurous rides, enhancing your cycling experience.
  • Extremely Comfortable: Meticulously designed to offer a snug fit, these shoes provide exceptional comfort, making every ride a delightful adventure.
  • Sublime Fit and Power Transfer: The precision fit of these shoes coupled with stellar power transfer capabilities significantly enhances pedaling efficiency, making it easier to tackle challenging terrains.

Reasons to Avoid

  • High Retail Price: The premium features of these gravel shoes come with a high price tag, which might deter budget-conscious buyers.
  • Walking not Recommended: Though excellent for cycling, the design of these shoes might not lend itself well to walking, limiting their versatility when off the bike.

When it comes to gravel cycling, the Specialized S-Works Recon stands as an embodiment of high-performance footwear. These shoes are unapologetically racy, designed for those who demand the best in their gravel adventures. Despite their racing DNA, they manage to strike an impressive balance, offering a level of comfort that’s hard to match in this category.

Premium Performance at a Price

Let’s address the elephant in the room – the price tag. The S-Works Recon is not for the budget-conscious. In fact, they hold the title of being the most expensive gravel shoes in the lineup, surpassing the competition by a significant margin. But what justifies this premium price point?

A Fit Like No Other

The fit of the S-Works Recon is nothing short of sublime. From the tenacious heel cup to the roomier forefoot, these shoes are designed to conform to your feet like a second skin. The dual Boa closure system ensures a secure fit, making you feel like these shoes are an extension of your body. Specialized shoes have always excelled in the heel cup department, but with the S-Works Recon, they’ve taken it to the next level.

Even though the heel cup is exceptional, it’s worth noting that some high-end Specialized options can be quite stiff in this area. However, with the S-Works Recon, they’ve managed to strike a balance, ensuring comfort even when you’re navigating challenging terrain.

Featherweight Champions

When it comes to weight, the S-Works Recon takes the crown in this review. Thanks to a light carbon sole and a minimalistic approach to interior padding, these shoes are featherlight. The construction relies on a stiff yet durable outer material, with just enough firm foam around the ankle’s rim to keep everything securely in place. This design philosophy doesn’t compromise comfort. In fact, the S-Works Recon is among the most comfortable gravel shoes you can find.

Designed for Racing

It’s essential to recognize that the S-Works Recon is a race-oriented shoe, essentially the gravel version of the S-Works Torch. This distinction becomes more critical off-road than on the tarmac. These shoes are not intended for extended walks on rugged trails. Their outsole is primarily there to facilitate walking to and from your bike. If you’re in search of a race-oriented shoe that also allows for more comfortable walking off-road, options like the Empire VR90 or the Vento Ferox Carbon might be more suitable, especially if you have narrow feet.

Choose Wisely

One final note of caution: Specialized offers both MTB and gravel shoes under the Recon name. When making your purchase, ensure you’re selecting the correct one to match your cycling needs.

In conclusion, the Specialized S-Works Recon Gravel Shoes may come at a premium, but they deliver an exceptional blend of speed and comfort. If you’re a gravel enthusiast who demands the best in performance, these shoes are undoubtedly worth the investment.

5. Specialized Recon ADV

best gravel shoes

A carbon sole that isn’t awful for walking in

SpecificationsDetails
Weight (Size 43, with cleats)707g
Sizes36-49
Fastening systemLaces
ColoursBlack, Beige
Sole materialCarbon

Reasons to Buy:

  • The flexible forefoot aids in comfortable walking, adapting to your foot’s natural movement.
  • Exceptional heel retention ensures a snug fit and enhanced stability while cycling.
  • The precise fit of laces allows for customized snugness, ensuring a comfortable and secure fit.

Reasons to Avoid:

  • The sole lacks adequate grip, especially on wet days, posing challenges in maintaining traction.
  • Absence of toe spikes which could provide additional grip and stability on muddy or slippery terrains.

The Recon ADV, as Specialized calls it, is their take on the ‘adventure shoe.’ It’s another victim of the great gravel vowel shortage, but does it deliver on its promise? In reality, when you look at the sole, it’s not significantly chunkier than the S-Works Recon. So, would you want to go on long hikes in these shoes? Probably not. However, they do offer more coverage to protect the carbon, which is a plus.

In my opinion, these shoes are in the same league as the Empire VR90 when it comes to high-performance versatility, with the added benefit of a lace closure. Just like the Empires, you get that highly customizable fit. But with the Recon ADV, you also get a more secure heel cup. It uses a similar padded upper ridge as the Recons, but it’s more pronounced. On the downside, the sole isn’t as grippy, and it can’t accept toe spikes, so it’s definitely designed for gravel riding only.

One interesting feature I initially thought was a marketing gimmick is the fact that the carbon sole thins out in front of the cleat plate, allowing it to flex more when you’re walking. Surprisingly, it works quite well, though not dramatically so. I believe that combining this technology with a better outsole would create an outstanding bike-packing shoe for all terrains. As it stands, they’re still an excellent option, with the stiff rear sole being the standout feature.

When comparing these to the Empires, there’s not much to set them apart. For summer use, I’d opt for the Recon ADV, especially if I had a pair of top-notch winter cycling shoes to fall back on. However, for all-around use or riding in wet conditions, I’d go with the Giro option.

Perhaps it’s because the Empires have been around for years now and the Recons are relatively new, but the Recon ADV is the more visually appealing shoe. However, it’s worth noting that the wider spacing of the side panels across the upper foot does make your foot appear slightly bulkier.

The best gravel shoes for adventure.

6. The Fizik Terra Atlas: A Gravel Shoe with an MTB Flair

best gravel shoes

Best gravel bike shoes for MTB

SpecificationsDetails
Weight (Size 43, with cleats)806g
Sizes36-48
Fastening systemDial
ColoursBlack, Pink, Grey, Olive
Sole materialComposite

 

Reasons to Buy:

  • Sturdy Design: Crafted to endure the demanding terrains of gravel trails, ensuring longevity and reliable performance.
  • Very Good Single-Dial Closure: Offers a snug fit and easy adjustments on the go, enhancing the riding experience.
  • Great Sole: Provides optimal grip and stability on varied terrains, ensuring a balanced blend of comfort and performance.

When it comes to gravel shoes, many take their design cues from the sleek and streamlined road shoes. However, the Fizik Terra Atlas stands out as a unique offering, seemingly influenced more by the rugged world of mountain biking.

First impressions reveal its robust and somewhat bulkier design compared to other Fizik options. While it does provide a bit more width than the Vento Ferox Carbon, it still maintains a certain narrowness. The Terra Atlas clearly caters to the adventure-seeking rider, evident in its fully rubberized sole that extends from heel to toe. This sole boasts substantial cleats and added reinforcements around the lower portion of the upper fabric, making it well-suited for off-road escapades.

One notable feature is the single dial closure system, which admirably secures the foot throughout the entire length. This system, although resembling the Quoc Escape in effectiveness, bears the prestigious BOA branding. It’s worth mentioning that, being a lower-end model, releasing the tension does require popping it open and starting from scratch. However, with single-dial shoes, this inconvenience is somewhat mitigated as you only have one dial to deal with.

Heel retention in the Terra Atlas is decent, but the presence of small plastic dots and additional heel texture might not be as helpful as anticipated. While well-intentioned, they can be more of an irritant than a true aid in keeping the heel securely in place. After all, no amount of grip material can replace the importance of a snug and tailored fit, unless, of course, your socks are practically glued to your foot.

Despite not offering a perfect fit for everyone, the Terra Atlas exudes a sense of support and sturdiness that makes it a reliable companion for gravel adventures. These shoes strike a balance between being well-constructed and adequately padded for protection without feeling overly plush.

While they may not be the choice for competitive racing, they certainly cater to those curious about venturing into the world of mountain biking. In fact, these versatile shoes could easily transition from gravel to MTB, making them a do-it-all option for riders seeking diverse cycling experiences.

7. The Rapha Explore Powerweave: A Gravel Cyclist’s Dream

best gravel shoes

Best gravel shoes for fast adventure riding

SpecificationsDetails
Weight (Size 44, with cleats)801g
Sizes36-47
Fastening systemDial
ColorsGreen, Grey, Navy
Sole materialCarbon

 

Reasons to Buy:

  • Adjustable Arch Support: Tailoring the arch support to your unique foot contour enhances comfort and cycling efficiency, ensuring a snug fit and reduced foot fatigue during long rides.
  • Exceptional Heel Design: A well-designed heel cup enhances stability, providing a secure fit and better power transfer with each pedal stroke.
  • Top-notch Outsole as per Review: An outstanding outsole is crucial for optimal traction and power transfer, making your gravel rides more enjoyable and efficient.

Cons:

  • Cost: High-quality gravel shoes with the mentioned features could be on the higher end of the price spectrum, potentially being a barrier for budget-conscious riders.
  • Availability: The demand for premium gravel shoes with adjustable arch support, a brilliant heel design, and a top-rated outsole might outstrip supply, making it challenging to snag a pair.
  • Adaptation Period: There might be a brief adaptation period as you get accustomed to the tuneable arch support, especially if it’s a new feature for you.

When it comes to gravel cycling, the right footwear can make all the difference in your ride experience. The Rapha Explore Powerweave is a shoe designed for those who demand top-tier performance and versatility on mixed terrain. In this review, we’ll take a closer look at what sets these shoes apart from the rest.

Precise Fit and Comfort

The fit of the Rapha Powerweave is reminiscent of the S-Works Recon, particularly in the heel area. Thanks to the twin BOA dials, these shoes excel at securely cradling your foot, especially in the upper region. The unpadded heel is designed with a retention ridge at the upper portion, ensuring a snug fit. While the higher ankle may raise concerns for some riders, I found it comfortable even during long rides.

Toe Box Considerations

One notable aspect of the Powerweave is its pointed toe box, similar to the Vento Ferox Carbons. If you have a square toe profile, you might experience slight discomfort as a few toes press against the toe box. It’s worth keeping in mind if you prioritize a spacious toe area.

Stiffness and Performance

The carbon sole of the Powerweave is impressively stiff, providing the ideal level of rigidity for gravel riding, including racing. However, what truly sets these shoes apart is the outsole. Unlike many other gravel shoes, the Powerweave features an unbroken tread from the midfoot to the toe.

This design eliminates the awkward transition between cleat lugs and toe lugs, ensuring a smooth stride. It’s a small detail, but it makes a noticeable difference, especially if you anticipate a mix of high-tempo riding and walking, such as in bike-packing races.

Race-Oriented Fit

These shoes lean towards a race-oriented fit and profile. While they offer better walking comfort compared to some alternatives, they maintain a focus on performance. If you’re planning to push the pace on your gravel adventures, the Powerweave is a strong contender.

Durability and Maintenance

One aspect to consider is that the textured outer fabric of the Powerweave can be challenging to clean. Unlike shoes like the Empire VR90, which can be wiped clean with a wet cloth, the textured nature of the Powerweave’s outer requires more effort. It’s recommended to let them dry and then use a stiff brush for effective cleaning.

In conclusion, the Rapha Explore Powerweave is a gravel cycling shoe that caters to riders who prioritize performance, precision, and versatility. With its secure fit, stiff sole, and innovative outsole design, it’s an excellent choice for those seeking to conquer mixed terrains, whether in races or long-distance bike-packing adventures.

If you’re looking for a shoe that marries speed with walkability, the Rapha Explore Powerweave should be on your radar. It’s a testament to Rapha’s commitment to delivering top-quality gear for the gravel cycling community.

The best gravel shoes for custom fit.

8. Lake MX238 Gravel

best gravel shoes

Best gravel shoes for wide feet

SpecificationsDetails
Weight (Size 44, with cleats)846g
Sizes36-50
Fastening systemDial
ColorsBlack (suede), Grey, White
Sole materialCarbon

 

Reasons to Buy

  • Vast Selection: A broad array of options is available to cater to different preferences and riding styles.
  • Unmatched Comfort: The shoes are supremely comfortable, ensuring a pleasant riding experience.
  • Suede Adaptability: The suede material adapts to the contour of your feet, providing a customized fit.

Reasons to Avoid

  • Outdated BOA Dials: The BOA dials may seem dated and may lack the finesse of more modern closure systems.
  • Ankle Discomfort: Some riders might experience discomfort around the ankle area, especially while out of the saddle.
  • Heaviness: The shoes are on the heavier side, which might affect riding efficiency over long distances.

For cyclists with a wider forefoot, finding the perfect shoe fit can be a challenge. If you’re yet to experience a shoe that truly allows your foot to spread naturally, then the Lake MX238 Gravel might just be the game-changer you’ve been searching for. In this review, we’ll explore the remarkable features of the MX238 Gravel, known for its exceptional comfort and accommodating width.

Spacious Fit for Wide Feet

If you have wide feet like mine, the standard width of the MX238 Gravel offers ample room. Lake even provides a wider version for those with exceptionally narrow feet. The generous width of these shoes may feel cavernous to narrow-footed riders but can be transformative for those blessed with wider feet. To put it into perspective, they’re approximately 15mm wider than the Vento Ferox Carbons.

Unparalleled Comfort in Construction

The MX238 Gravel prioritizes comfort, boasting a construction using delightful, extremely supple black suede that not only feels great but also complements the gum outsole aesthetically. Even if your forefoot occasionally brushes against the sides of the shoe, the exterior is soft and forgiving, and it tends to give with time, especially in the suede variant (though this may vary with microfibre options).

Dual BOA Closure System

These shoes feature a dual BOA closure system, which provides an adequate fit. However, it’s worth noting that the BOA dials on the MX238 Gravel may feel somewhat dated compared to newer systems used in other high-end cycling shoes, such as the ones found on the Rapha Powerweave and S-Works Recon. While not identical to shoes like the Bont Vaypor G, they share a spacious toe box, which, although an adjustment, contributes to a more comfortable setup during long rides.

Considerations for Weight

If you prioritize weight in your cycling gear, the MX238 Gravel may not be the ideal choice unless they fit you perfectly. Suede isn’t the lightest material, and these shoes are generously padded, making them one of the heavier options in the market. However, if comfort and width are your top concerns, the weight trade-off might be well worth it.

Heel Cup and Ankle Cut-Outs

The MX238 Gravel shoes excel in many aspects, but there are some considerations to keep in mind. The wider heel cup, similar to the forefoot, may not provide the snug heel retention found in narrower options. While not a significant issue for general riding, it’s worth noting. The ankle cut-outs, on the other hand, have an unusual shape, with the lowest point positioned far behind the ankle bone protrusions. This design might lead to discomfort when pedaling out of the saddle unless your cycling style involves pointed toes, which may also indicate an issue with saddle height.

In conclusion, the Lake MX238 Gravel shoes offer exceptional width and comfort for riders with wider feet. However, some riders may find the heel cup and ankle cut-outs less than ideal. Despite these minor considerations, these shoes are a strong contender for those prioritizing comfort and width in their cycling footwear.

9. Fizik Vento Ferox Carbon

best gravel shoes

A great race option for narrower feet

SpecificationsDetails
Weight (Size 43, with cleats)739g
Sizes36-48
Fastening systemVelcro, Dial
ColoursBlack, Brown, Lilac
Sole materialCarbon

 

Reasons to Buy:

  • Unique Aesthetic: Gravel shoes come with a distinct aesthetic that sets them apart from traditional cycling footwear, adding a touch of rugged elegance to your riding attire.
  • Powerstrap Solution: The incorporation of a powerstrap provides a comfortable fit, ensuring that the shoe snugly wraps around your foot, providing a secure and comfortable riding experience.
  • BOA Dial Feature: The inclusion of a BOA dial is a boon for making minute adjustments, ensuring that your shoe fits perfectly, enhancing your comfort and riding efficiency.
  • Cleat Adjustment: The availability of cleat adjustment allows for a personalized setup, ensuring that you can align your cleats to your preferred position, promoting better pedal efficiency and comfort.

Reasons to Avoid:

  • Warm Fit:The design might lend itself to a warmer fit, which might not be ideal for riders who prefer a more breathable or cooler shoe, especially during hot weather rides.
  • Toe Protection: The toe area might lack ample protection, which could lead to toe rub, especially during long rides or when navigating rough terrains, potentially causing discomfort or blisters.

Full disclosure time: I haven’t tested these myself. Every other shoe I have ridden in order to compare and contrast, but these Fizik’s were simply too narrow for my feet. Fortunately, though my colleague Josh Ross has already given us a full review of them, and having gone through his guide to the best road shoes recently we have very similar opinions on footwear, even if our feet are very different, so I will summarise from his work in this case:

As you’ve gathered already, the fit is narrow. The one Powerstrap up top is wide and comfortable, and strong enough to retain the foot even at full power. It’s quick to adjust on the fly, thanks to its size, but rarely is the upper foot the bit that needs adjustment mid-ride. This is why it’s a Velcro closure that I can actually get on board with for gravel use, as you’re unlikely to actually expose the inner hooks and loops to grime that frequently.

At the forefoot, the single BOA dial, a dual-direction model, takes care of smaller adjustments with ease, for the part of your foot that actually swells over the course of the day.

The stiffness is spot on for fast-paced riding and racing. Stiff enough to be optimal, not so stiff as to be uncomfortable when you’re taking it easy. The other good thing about the midsole to is the cleat plate. The slots are extremely long, allowing tonnes of fore/aft adjustment, meaning if you’re into slamming your cleats to the midfoot then you’re in luck.

As for downsides… well that extremely pretty exterior that does kind of put me in mind of early 90’s graphic design isn’t hugely breathable, and while the toe isn’t flimsy, it doesn’t have the same protection from toe rub as the other models, so if you do slam our cleats back just bear that in mind.

10. Bont Vaypor G

best gravel shoes

Best gravel shoes for a custom fit

SpecificationsDetails
Weight (Size 44.5, with cleats)726g
Sizes36-50
Fastening systemDial
ColorsBlack, White, Grey
Sole materialCarbon

 

Reasons to Buy:

  • Width Options: Having different width options caters to various foot dimensions ensuring a snug fit for every rider.
  • Heat Moldable: The ability to mold the shoe to the contours of your foot enhances comfort and cycling efficiency.
  • Insanely Stiff: If stiffness equates to better power transfer for you, these shoes ace in delivering that aspect, ensuring each pedal stroke counts.

Reasons to Avoid:

  • Unforgiving of a Poor Fit: A misfit can lead to discomfort and potential foot ailments over long rides.
  • No Good for Walking: The stiffness that aids in cycling may hamper walking comfort, making them less versatile off the bike.
  • Inadequate Toe Protection: The lack of substantial toe protection might expose you to toe rub, which could be a concern in rugged gravel terrains.

When it comes to carbon-soled cycling shoes, the Bont Vaypor G stands out from the crowd with its unique ‘bathtub’ construction. While most cycling shoes utilize a flat carbon leaf sole, Bont takes a different approach by extending the sole up the sides, encasing the foot entirely in a carbon hull. The result? A shoe that is astonishingly stiff, surpassing the flexibility of traditional designs by a significant margin.

These shoes are so stiff that the thought of walking in them is almost unimaginable. They are stiffer than any other cycling shoe I’ve ever used, comparable to the rigidity of mountaineering boots designed for crampons. The extreme stiffness of the Vaypor G is a double-edged sword – it delivers unparalleled power transfer but can be unforgiving on rough terrain.

The key to a comfortable experience with the Vaypor G lies in the heat molding process. Placing the shoes in the oven at 70 degrees for twenty minutes renders the soles pliable, allowing for a few millimeters of adjustment. It’s crucial to select the right width option from the four available, as there is no soft material to provide flexibility; it’s just unyielding carbon fiber. Unfortunately, I found the regular width to be slightly too narrow, affecting my comfort.

However, when the fit is spot-on, the Vaypor G delivers a sensation of total power transfer that few other shoes can match. As a race shoe, it rivals even the S-Works option, and in some aspects, it surpasses it. The closure system ensures a comfortable upper, even when the sole is incredibly stiff. The wide flap design prevents pressure points, even when the shoes are tightened for maximum effort. Additionally, the roomy toe box allows your toes to move freely.

Despite the aggressive appearance of the lugged outsole, it’s essential to note that the Bont Vaypor G is not intended for walking. These shoes are purpose-built for racing and deliver outstanding performance in that regard. If you can achieve the perfect fit, you’ll experience a level of power transfer that’s hard to match in the world of cycling shoes.

The best gravel shoes for everyday

11. Café du Cycliste Outlands

best gravel shoes

Best gravel shoes for aesthetics

Specifications

Weight (Size 44, with cleats): 852g

Sizes: 37-47

Fastening system: Laces

Colours: Cream

Sole material: Carbon

Reasons to Buy:

  • Aesthetically Pleasing: The design and finish are visually appealing, making them a beautiful addition to your cycling ensemble.
  • Distinctive Appeal: Their unique design sets them apart from other footwear, adding a touch of exclusivity.
  • Superior Craftsmanship: The meticulous construction and high-quality materials reflect a level of craftsmanship that ensures durability and long-term performance.

Reasons to Avoid:

  • Hefty: The robust construction comes with a weight penalty which might not appeal to riders seeking ultra-lightweight options.
  • Laces Prone to Slipping: The lacing system may not provide a snug fit as the laces tend to slip, requiring frequent readjustments.
  • Lackluster Heel Retention: The heel retention system may not provide a secure fit, leading to slippage while riding, which could affect performance and comfort.

If you’re a gravel cycling enthusiast, you’ve likely encountered the enigmatic notion of “The Spirit of Gravel.” To me, it translates to “Sporting chic attire while enjoying the outdoors,” and no shoe embodies this spirit more than the Café du Cycliste Outlands.

I can only imagine the meeting where someone proposed fashioning a high-performance cycling shoe after a vintage pair of hiking boots. It likely took place after a convivial lunch, brimming with rich cheeses and dried meats.

Let’s be frank; the Outlands aren’t the best gravel shoes in terms of practicality. The heel retention leaves something to be desired, despite the cat’s tongue fabric on the inside. The laces tend to slip when you’re trying to secure them, making it challenging to achieve the perfect fit. Moreover, crafting a shoe with leather, metal eyelets, and a full gum rubber outsole makes them the heaviest among “proper” gravel shoes.

However, none of these drawbacks seem to matter when you consider their sheer beauty. At this point, they also have that delightful leather scent and are aging gracefully. Admittedly, they are an indulgence in terms of cost, but they make me feel like a million dollars when I wear them. In terms of general riding, they perform adequately, and I firmly believe that looking good enhances your riding experience.

Moreover, these shoes are impeccably crafted and exude a sense of luxury, arguably surpassing more expensive options on the market. The full gum outsole also offers a comfortable walking experience, albeit slightly hindered by a subtle heel lift with each step.

To sum it up, the Café du Cycliste Outlands are the type of shoes you buy simply because you desire them. And that’s perfectly acceptable; there’s a place for such indulgence alongside more practical choices. However, it’s still essential to consider factors like fit, as I’ll delve into later in the FAQs.

12. Quoc Chelsea Boots

Gravel Bike Shoes qUAC

Best gravel shoes for commuting

SpecificationsDetails
Weight (Size 43, with cleats)968g
Sizes41-47
Fastening systemElastic
ColorsBrown, Black
Sole materialComposite

 

Reasons to Buy

  • Office Chic with Cycling Efficiency: These gravel shoes boast a sleek design that effortlessly transitions from professional settings to cycling adventures. They embody a stylish aesthetic akin to office footwear while delivering commendable performance on the bike.
  • Easy to Slip On and Off: The design incorporates user-friendly features allowing for easy slipping on and off. This simplicity enhances the user experience, making the shoes a convenient choice for cyclists on the go.
  • High Water Resistance: With superior water-resistant features, these shoes promise to keep your feet dry and comfortable. Whether you’re pedaling through dew-soaked morning trails or caught in a sudden downpour, the high water resistance ensures optimal foot comfort.

Reasons to Avoid

  • Challenging to Walk In Due to Stiffness: Despite their on-bike comfort and efficiency, the stiffness designed for cycling support could pose a challenge when walking. This aspect might require a brief adjustment period for those looking to use the shoes off the bike as well.

For those seeking a versatile ride that can handle various terrains and effortlessly transition from cycling to office wear, the Quoc Chelsea boots are a game-changer. These boots offer the perfect blend of style, functionality, and performance.

Year-Round Versatility

The Chelsea is not just a regular boot; it’s designed with the modern commuter in mind. With an optional cleat recess in the sole, it seamlessly transitions from the bike to the boardroom. Whether you’re navigating city streets or tackling gravel roads, these boots have you covered year-round.

Impressive Water Resistance

While no footwear is entirely immune to water, the Quoc Chelsea boots excel in keeping your feet dry, especially when you unexpectedly encounter puddles during your ride. The combination of a leather forefoot and suede rear provides a commendable level of water resistance, ensuring you arrive at your destination comfortably.

Stiff Sole for Performance

The Chelsea’s sole surprises with its stiffness, offering better pedaling efficiency than expected. It may not match the comfort of traditional Chelsea boots for walking, but it’s remarkably comfortable for cycling. The added benefit is its excellent heel retention, ensuring a secure fit while riding.

Reflective Safety

Safety is paramount, especially during nighttime commutes. The reflective detailing on the Chelsea boots enhances visibility when riding after dark. While it doesn’t replace proper bike lights, these reflective dots make you more noticeable to motorists, enhancing your safety on the road.

Sizing Considerations

When selecting your size, keep in mind that the Chelsea boots might run slightly smaller than expected. If you’re unsure about sizing, it’s advisable to stick with the sizing recommendations for other Quoc options, typically your regular shoe size.

In summary, the Quoc Chelsea boots are the ideal choice for commuters who demand performance, style, and adaptability from their footwear. Whether you’re cycling to work or exploring various terrains, these boots deliver on all fronts, making them a valuable addition to your cycling gear collection. So, why compromise when you can have it all with the Quoc Chelsea boots?

13. The Giro Empire VR90: A Closer Look

Gravel Bike Shoes

Best gravel shoes for high tempo general use

SpecificationsDetails
Weight (Size 44, with cleats)757g
Sizes39-48
Fastening systemLaces
ColoursBlack, Olive, Orange
Sole materialCarbon

 

Reasons to Buy:

  • Comfortable: Ensures a snug fit and ease for your feet, ideal for long rides.
  • Multiple Arch Support Insoles: Provides a variety of insole options to cater to different arch needs, ensuring optimal foot support.
  • Retains Privateer Qualities: Inherits all the commendable features of the Privateer, enhancing the shoe’s overall functionality and appeal.

Reasons to Avoid:

  • Somewhat Dated: The design may now appear a bit old-fashioned compared to newer models on the market.
  • Insignificant Vibram Sole Branding: The branding on the sole doesn’t contribute much to the shoe’s performance or aesthetic appeal, making it a less attractive feature.

The Giro Empire VR90, a sibling to the Privateer, is tailored for gravel enthusiasts. Sporting an Easton carbon midsole and Vibram outsole, it promises speed and versatility. But is it truly the best choice?

VR90 vs. Privateer

The VR90 is a sleeker, improved Privateer. Its Easton carbon midsole boosts stiffness, while the Vibram outsole enhances traction. But is the performance gain worth the added cost?

Facing the Empire SLX

In comparison to the Empire SLX, the VR90 may seem slightly dated. The SLX sets a high bar. However, the VR90 shines when viewed among other high-performance options.

What Sets the VR90 Apart

If you prefer lace-up shoes, the VR90 offers a snug fit. It balances stiffness and walkability, ensuring efficient pedaling and comfortable walking. It has a revised heel design for a sleeker appearance.

Customizable Insoles

The VR90 includes customizable insoles for a tailored fit. While helpful, finding a shoe with perfect out-of-the-box insole support remains challenging.

VR90’s Role

Once a contender for the best race shoe, the VR90 now leans towards being a performance generalist. It excels in various areas but doesn’t specialize like some competitors.

Future Prospects

The VR90 might benefit from an SLX version in the future to add more competition to the top end of the market.

In conclusion, the Giro Empire VR90 offers performance, comfort, and durability. While not the absolute best, it suits those who value lace-up fit and versatile performance. As cycling evolves, the VR90 remains a reliable choice for avid riders.

Selecting the Ideal Gravel Bike Shoes: A Deciphering Guide

When it comes to acquiring the perfect pair of gravel bike shoes, the paramount factor lies in deciphering your precise requirements. To embark on this journey effectively, honesty about your intended usage is essential. If you’re not involved in competitive racing, the need for race-specific shoes becomes superfluous. It’s all too common to be ensnared in the “what if someday I…” conundrum. However, I earnestly urge you to meticulously define your current necessities before entertaining notions of future requisites.

Once you’ve meticulously addressed the functionality aspect, the next pivotal consideration revolves around the fit—arguably more critical than aspects such as closure mechanisms, sole composition, or even aesthetic allure, if you can fathom that. Footwear stands as a substantial element of the key points of contact between you and your bicycle.

An erroneous fit could have cascading effects along the biomechanical continuum. Footwear’s potential repercussions extend further than the selection of the perfect saddle or the finest cargo bib shorts, with the potential to disrupt not only soft tissue but also tendinous structures. If you remain uncertain about the breadth of your feet, it is prudent to conduct some research.

Personally, I had presumed to possess the dainty, narrow feet reminiscent of a ballerina. Yet, following a meticulous bike fitting, I was astounded to discover that my foot morphology resembled something akin to troll feet. Thus, be prepared for potential revelations.

Subsequently, attention can be directed towards closure mechanisms and aesthetic preferences. These aspects are significantly influenced by personal predilections and carry minimal consequential ramifications. Consequently, you are free to indulge in your inclinations without major repercussions.

FAQ About Gravel Bike Shoes

Can I wear mountain bike shoes for gravel riding?

Certainly, mountain bike shoes can be worn for gravel riding. However, it’s essential to consider that mountain bike shoes are typically more robust and feature soles tailored for the demands of mountain biking.

For gravel riding, cross-country (XC) shoes closely resemble gravel-specific options and can be a suitable alternative. Keep in mind that toe spikes, common in mountain bike shoes, may not be necessary for gravel riding, but they can be useful in cyclocross.

Can I wear road shoes for gravel riding?

While it is possible to wear road shoes for gravel riding, it is not the most recommended choice. Road shoes with larger cleats can provide a better pedaling platform, but they are less practical for off-road conditions. Gravel races often involve unpredictable terrain, and road pedals are more prone to clogging with mud and debris. If you plan to ride off-road regularly, it’s advisable to invest in off-road-specific shoes.

Do I need toe spikes for gravel riding?

Toe spikes are not a necessity for gravel riding, unless you specifically desire them. These spikes are primarily designed for cyclocross and CX MTB racing, where steep and muddy run-ups are common. Gravel riding typically does not involve such scenarios. However, if you also participate in cyclocross races, having shoes with the option to attach toe spikes can be advantageous.

Are laces better than dials?

The choice between laces and dials comes down to personal preference, as both have their advantages and disadvantages. Laces offer infinite adjustability, are lightweight, and durable.

However, they can be fiddly, especially in muddy conditions, and adjustments while riding are not as quick as with dials like BOA. Velcro closures, on the other hand, are not recommended due to their limited service life, especially in off-road conditions.

Should gravel shoes be stiff?

The stiffness of gravel shoes depends on the type of gravel riding you intend to do. For racing, a stiff shoe can provide better power transfer. Composite soles, while stiff and lightweight, may not necessarily result in significant weight savings.

If you plan to do a lot of walking in your gravel shoes, a carbon sole can be less comfortable compared to the flexibility offered by a composite sole. Consider your riding style and preferences when choosing shoe stiffness.

How should my gravel bike shoes fit?

Your gravel bike shoes should provide a comfortable and secure fit. It’s essential to avoid forcing your feet into overly narrow shoes, as they need room to spread out for efficient power transfer. Ideally, there should be enough space for your forefoot to spread while ensuring the heel remains snug to prevent lifting during the upstroke.

Italian brands like Fizik and Sidi tend to be narrower, while Giro offers a narrow fit with softer outer materials. Brands like Bont and Lake provide wide-fit options for those with wider feet. Check the sizing and fit recommendations for each brand to find the most suitable option for you.

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9 COMMENTS

    • Oh please, being an off-road fashionista wont make up for your lack of decision-making skills. Just pick one pair of gravel shoes and hit the trails already. No need to go overboard and waste money on unnecessary options.

    • Comment: Really? I found them to be a complete waste of money. They provided zero support and felt like walking on rocks. Guess we all have different experiences.

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