Crankbrothers Candy Lace XC/gravel shoes review – are these retro-looking Candy shoes the sweet spot of comfort and performance?

I’ve been putting ride time into Crankbrothers Candy Lace shoes months before their release, so why have they become firm favorites and will they work for you too?

Crankbrothers Candy
(Image: © GuyKesTV)

BikePerfect Verdict

Comfortable neutral fit, with well balanced on bike performance all-round comfort and off-road grip. Laces mean accurate but slow adjustment and they’re heavy too.


  • +

    Excellent lace-tuned fit

  • +

    Surefooted sole tread

  • +

    Solid pedaling performance

  • +

    No delicate dials

  • +

    Decent walking comfort


  • -

    Laces are slower to use than dials

  • -

    Relatively heavy

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Looks-wise, Crankbrothers Candy Lace shoes take me right back to when I started riding. They’re totally up to date in terms of comfort and performance balance for fast, all-day off-road riding on mountain or gravel bike. Laces are a great idea in my view too, although not everyone will agree.

Design and specification

The Candy Lace start with a ‘Match’ outsole in ‘MC1 Match’ rubber compound with supporting blocks either side of the cleats and a cloven heel for goat vibes. A variety of toe blocks get deeper from the tip back and there’s tread under the midfoot. There’s a long clear zone fore and aft of the extended 35mm cleat track too, but there’s no provision for cyclocross style screw in toe studs. The rubber wraps right up round the edge all around and at the heel. 

The sole itself gets a fiber-reinforced shank for reasonable stiffness with a thin layer of EVA cushioning built in. It’s tape-sealed over the cleat slots. Neither sole or insole has a prescriptive orthotic shape.

The single-piece PU upper is thicker at toe and heel for protection. Pinprick perforations over the toe and flanks and bigger holes in the tongue add ventilation/water leaks depending on climate. The heel counter is tall and well padded and the whole shoe has a more generous fit than most race-style clogs. Ten-hole lacing tops out with a ‘Crankbrothers’ icon insert that gives a gentle lock effect. They’re available in sizes 5 – 15 US (4 – 14 UK, 37 – 49 Euro) and three colors: Black / gum (tested here), two-tone blue and white / grey.

Crank Brothers Candy Lace XC / Gravel shoes

Laces are a simple, reliable and really adjustable shoe-tightening system that's worked fine for several thousand years. The Candy laces are really secure too (Image credit: GuyKesTV)


Let’s talk about the potential love/hate aspect of these shoes straight away. Maybe it’s because I’m old or maybe it’s because I’ve broken/jammed too many shoe dials myself and seen too many fall off/fail in races, but I’m a big fan of laces. Especially ones like those on the Candys which are secure enough to tie in a single bow and then not touch again for however long you ride. They also allow a much more accurate tensioning setup than a dial system which is increasingly important in terms of comfort the further you ride. There’s no denying they don’t offer the instant twist-and-go convenience of a dial though and some riders won’t like the retro aesthetic either.

Combined with the larger than average volume of the upper, I found the Candys to be super comfortable. They also gave me room for waterproof socks or an easy fit with overshoes compared to a Boa-type shoe. The ventilation holes do let water in without extra protection over the top, but on the plus side they dry a bit faster as a result. Presumably, they’ll be a bit cooler on hot, dry days too but I’ve not had the luxury of testing that yet.

Relentless wet weather has amply proved that the Match MC1 rubber is more likely to grip rather than slip compared to out-and-out race shoes. The natural curve to the sole tread and compliance in the shank make them comfy off the bike too. The EVA sandwich, accurate lace fit, padded heel and more relaxed fit overall also boost comfort on the bike. I certainly didn’t miss the lack of orthotic lump and bumps and the ability to use a more rearward cleat position is likely more useful to people with knee issues.

In terms of pure performance, you don’t get the pack-shattering power transfer of a carbon-soled, double-dial strangled pure race shoe. But then you don’t get the ankle-shattering, foot-numbing flipside either, so if your strategy is the long game, don’t discount them for longer race events.

They’re 100g heavier than the new Quoc Gran Tourer XC Lace shoe and the Rapha Explore, but also nearly 100 $/£/€ cheaper. That makes the Giro Privateer the closest price and design match, but again, that’s a 100g lighter shoe.

Crank Brothers Candy Lace XC / Gravel shoes

Decent all-condition grip and extended cleat slots with plenty of clearance are the heart and sole of Crankbrother's Candy shoes (Image credit: GuyKesTV)


You could argue that I’ve used the words comfy/comfortable way too many times in this review and I should go back and edit them out. To be honest though, that is my overwhelming feedback on these shoes. Along with a relaxed, fit and forget vibe that’s made them one of the few positive things about being an off-road rider’s foot on this miserable sodden island in the past few months.

If you want a super stiff or super tight shoe, then take your sad masochist hunt elsewhere. And if you don’t like laces and are still reading this over 730 words into the review then you’re a bit daft. If you want a very well-balanced, super comfortable – bite me – surefooted all-rounder with a retro look at an OK price though, then the Candy Lace is one sweet shoe.

Swipe to scroll horizontally
The lowdown: Crankbrothers Candy Lace
PerformanceDecent balance between hard pedaling and OK walking★★★★★
ComfortOne of the most comfortable shoes i've tested★★★★★
DurabiityLaces are much more reliable than dials★★★★
Value for moneyCompares well to most similar shoes★★★

Tech specs: Crankbrothers Candy Lace

  • Price: $159.99 / £159.99 / €159.99
  • Sizes: 5 – 15 US (4 – 14 UK, 37 – 49 Euro)
  • Options: Black/gum (tested), two-tone blue and white/gray
  • Weight: 920g (size 44 EU)
Guy Kesteven

Guy has been working on Bike Perfect since we launched in 2019. Hatched in Yorkshire he's been hardened by riding round it in all weathers since he was a kid. He spent a few years working in bike shops and warehouses before starting writing and testing for bike mags in 1996. Since then he’s written several million words about several thousand test bikes and a ridiculous amount of riding gear. To make sure he rarely sleeps and to fund his custom tandem habit, he’s also penned a handful of bike-related books and talks to a GoPro for YouTube, too.

Current rides: Cervelo ZFS-5, Forbidden Druid V2, Specialized Chisel, custom Nicolai enduro tandem, Landescape/Swallow custom gravel tandem

Height: 180cm

Weight: 69kg