Is the Carnac Grit the best value off-road shoe? Once the choice of world record holders like Chris Boardman in their heyday, the Carnac brand is now owned by direct sell discount disruptors Planet-X. With a dial closure, decent sole and stylish looking, cool running synthetic upper, the Grits are killer kicks when it comes to low cost high performance and budget contenders for best MTB shoes.
The nylon sole is shallow and broad which gives the shoe a distinctively low profile. That means a direct connection to pedal or the ground and there’s no shock absorbing EVA (ethyl vinyl acetate – a foam rubber-like material) sandwich between the lattice top sole and the removable insole. The molded-in tread is limited to a heel section, two pontoons either side of the cleat slots and a couple of small knobs under the toe. It definitely feels and grips more like rubber than plastic though and there are screw threads for cyclo cross style toe studs.
The upper is a single piece of heel seamed synthetic leather with perforations over the toe box and all down both flanks. An extra heel wrap and heel topper are stitched on at the back and there’s a thin TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane) protective toe kicker too. The insides get a wicking anti-bacterial liner with light centreline padding on the perforated tongue.
The big news is that while most shoes at this price get Velcro straps or maybe laces, the Grits use a single 'atop' dial on each shoe. This pulls a plastic cable tight across the mid and top section of the shoe, while the lower tongue is tightened down with a wrapover Velcro strap.
Sizing starts at 39 and finishes at 47 so small or really large footed folks aren’t catered for, but sizing for my 44 sized feet was spot on. There’s enough width for broader northern European feet too, so the lower strap closes comfortably rather than crimping and pinching. There’s a reasonable amount of wiggle room behind the toe box which is welcome on longer and/or hotter days.
The 'atop' dial does it’s job OK with consistent fine tooth ratchet tightening and a reverse to release mechanism. That means you can’t slightly slacken them if you crank them up too tight at first, but it makes pulling them off after a ride easier than some dial designs.
While they certainly don’t match the deeper carbon composite soles of dedicated race shoes for stiffness and sprint power, there’s enough rigidity to stop you getting hot spots over the cleat even on dusk till dawn missions. The flex and twist in the mid and rear sections of the shoe make them a lot more forgiving on and off the bike so I didn’t obviously miss the EVA layer either. The low flat and broad sole with rubber tread right to the edges alongside the cleat mean they feel stable and planted when walking too.
The perforations and fungus fighting lining proved their worth during five back to back bikepacking days in the Moroccan mountains and the shoes have continued to stay fresh despite regular wearing under overshoes during winter.
Carnac’s Grit shoes aren’t the stiffest but that makes them less numbing on long days without feeling obviously floppy under power. Fit is good, the dial gives more accurate, secure fastening than straps and I’ve had no comfort or stink issues despite a pretty extreme African initiation and plenty of riding since. That’d make them a decent buy for £100, so at 30 percent less than that they’re a proper bargain for XC style MTB, gravel, bikepacking or even commuting.
Tech specs: Carnac Grit shoe
- Price: £69.99
- Sizes: EU 39 to 47
- Colors: Olive (tested), Midnight Blue
- Weight: 840g (pair of size 44 with cleats)
- Available from: Carnac.cc (opens in new tab)