Is Carnac’s dialed fit Grit the best value MTB/gravel shoe?

Carnac’s Grit shoe gets dialed closure at a price where most rivals are strap only, but how does it ride? Guy Kesteven went a globetrotting test spree to find out

Dusty Carnac Grit cycling shoes on a pile of rocks
(Image: © GuyKesTV)

Bike Perfect Verdict

Lots of features at a low price makes Carnac’s Grit shoe a comfortable, cost effective bargain for MTB, gravel or bikepacking

Pros

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    Bargain price for a dial fastened shoe

  • +

    Comfortable power vs flex balance

  • +

    Lightweight, vented synthetic upper and fungus fighting inners

  • +

    Surefooted tread with toe stud options

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    Two color options

Cons

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    Direct sell only, so no pre-buy fit try

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    Sizing starts at EU39

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    No micro-adjust tension release

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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.

Carnac Grit shoe side view

Plenty of perforations kept the Carnacs comfortable even on long days in the Moroccan mountains (Image credit: GuyKesTV)

Design

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.

Close up of the dial on the Carnac Grit shoe

Getting a dial tightening setup is a big deal on a shoe at this price (Moroccan mountain dust not included)  (Image credit: GuyKesTV)

Performance

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.

Sole of the Carnac Grit shoe

Flat, relatively flexy sole and broad rubber tread make Carnac's Grit shoes comfortable and communicative on and off the bike (Image credit: GuyKesTV)

Verdict

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
Guy Kesteven
Technical-Editor-at-Large

Guy has been working on Bike Perfect since launch in 2019. He started 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, Specialized Chisel, custom Nicolai enduro tandem, Landescape/Swallow custom gravel tandem

Height: 180cm

Weight: 69kg