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Specialized Recon 1.0 gravel shoe review: budget gravel shoes with plenty of nice features

The entry-level shoe in the Recon range from the big S is wallet friendly yet doesn't skimp on features

Specialized Recon 1.0 gravel shoe review
(Image: © Dean Hersey)

Our Verdict

A simple and comfortable take on the gravel bike shoe concept with sticky aggressive tread to match

For

  • - Great value
  • - Aggressively grippy tread
  • - On- and off-bike comfort

Against

  • - Velcro straps clog with mud

Specialized launched the Recon shoe range to tackle both singletrack trails and open gravel expanses. The comprehensive five-shoe range offers something for every budget and tops out with the S-Works Recon shoe in a choice of lace and Boa retention systems costing $325 / £300 and $425 / £370 respectively. The next shoe down is the Recon 3.0 with its carbon sole and twin Boa system ($230 / £230). Then it's the Recon 2.0 with the combination of a single Boa and a Velcro strap and XPEL mesh upper ($170 / £175). 

Last but not least the entry-level shoe is the Recon 1.0 pictured here. Can the budget shoe still kick it with the best gravel bike shoes?  

Our testing explained

For information on Bike Perfect's testing procedures and how our scoring system works, see our how we test page.

Specialized Recon 1.0 gravel shoe photographed from the rear

Gum-colored spikes of Slipnot rubber compound denotes the shoes off road capabilities and can be seen from any angle (Image credit: Dean Hersey)

Design and aesthetics 

The neutral sand brown colorway pictured here is right on trend with the gravel scene. Specialized does offer a few other color variations that take the natural approach. Don't be concerned, if you prefer your shoes to be louder and stand out you also have the choice of Hyper (fluro yellow) or the bright Rocket Red.

The most standout aesthetic feature of the Recon 1.0 is the outer sole. You can’t help but notice the uber-aggressive tread pattern. The gum spikes protrude from whichever angle you choose to stare at the shoe and cover the entire outer sole. The sole is made using the Specialized's proprietary and cleverly named Slipnot rubber compound. The tread covers a nylon soleplate and features what Specialized calls “Stride Technology”. The idea is basically a sole that bends allowing the toe area to flex, enabling a somewhat normal range of movement.

The first thing you notice when you slide your feet inside the Recon shoe is that there is minimal padding. The Specialized Recon 1.0 uses the well-established Body Geometry inner sole that is shared with the more expensive models in the range.

Specialized Recon 1.0 gravel shoe photographed from the front

The Recon 1.0 is a well vented pair of kicks with a perforated upper and mesh around the tongue (Image credit: Dean Hersey)

The upper is covered in small vent holes and the area around the tongue is mesh to aid breathing further. You will find a thinly padded heel that is raised to aid comfort both when pedaling and walking. There's a loop out the back to assist you when putting them on, too. The closure duties are taken care of by a trio of Velcro bands that gradually increase in length as they go up the shoe. The strap eyelets are substantially reinforced and will certainly take some punishment.        

Performance

You will have no complaints about the amount of grip provided by the Slipnot rubber. Combined with the spikey tread, the Recon excels when you are forced to dismount and traverse muddy sections and the like. Perfect if your rides regularly take you away from firm gravel paths, as mine often do. These shoes ensure that you have confidence when hiking in the worst conditions and you remain sure-footed no matter how slippery the ground becomes. I found, a few times, that when the going is so soft that you are forced to get off push-up climbs, the flex in the toe and the spikes really come into their own, digging in and providing unrivaled traction.

Specialized Recon 1.0 gravel shoe sole detail

Entry-level money but this shoe is packed with premium features. Stride Technology and Slipnot rubber compound offering well thought out off-bike performance (Image credit: Dean Hersey)

While the tread can operate in the worst conditions, the upper is so well vented that these shoes will only fend off a sprinkling before they start to take in water especially through the mesh material around the tongue. This however, is more a compromise than a spoiler - the shoes are good at what they do. 

The Velcro closure might be reminiscent of your first school shoes, but it offers a lightweight (658g a pair in size 42), solution that just works. This low-tech option helps to keep the shoe reasonably priced and the simplicity means it is easy to adjust on-the-fly. Just be wary that if you do submerge the shoe in mud deep (as I did on one particularly mucky ride) it will render the Velcro pretty useless once it's clogged. 

Specialized Recon 1.0 gravel shoe sole detail

A lightweight gravel package with a nylon sole plate and uber aggressive tread pattern (Image credit: Dean Hersey)

The Recon 1.0 toe box is fairly wide, roomy and comfortable. The heel cup is deep and offers plenty of padded support for stomping on the pedals. Sizing was perfect with no time needed to wear or bed things in. During the test period, I used the Recon for long gravel rides as well as 60-minute commutes and suffered no hot spots, blisters or pinching. 

Verdict

The Specialized Recon 1.0 shoe might represent an entry-level option but there is no shortage of features. The flexibility of the sole not to mention the roomy toe box and sticky Slipnot tread has resulted in a supremely comfortable gravel bike shoe choice for both on and off the bike situations. If you want more tech features or a more personalized fit, it's worth looking at models higher up in the range starting with the Recon 2.0.

Tech Specs: Specialized Recon 1.0 gravel shoe

  • Color: Sand / Hyper / Rocket red / Oak green / Blue / Maroon / Black
  • Retention: Triple Velcro closure
  • Uppers: Synthetic 
  • Outsole: Nylon cleat plate + Slip Not rubber
  • Weight: 658g a pair Men’s size 42
  • Size: EU 39-49  
  • Price: $110 / £99.99 / €109
Dean Hersey
Dean Hersey

 

Dean is a freelance cycling journalist and a self-confessed pedal addict based in Dorset, who's fortunate to have the New Forest National Park and the Isle of Purbeck on his doorstep. Not confined to his local spots, riding bikes has meant Dean has been fortunate to travel the world in search of the best trails. From summers spent in the Alps to exploring iconic locations such as Scotland, Aosta Valley, the Pyrenees, Finale Ligure, New Zealand and Whistler to name a few. Over the years he has dabbled in racing DH and enduro to XC. More recently Dean has been exploring the UK with his gravel bike and loves a bikepacking trip. As passionate about writing as much as his riding, by recapturing his adventures through his stories and sharing his own experiences of products by writing technical reviews, he's also a regular contributor for Singletrack and Grit CX.

Rides: Open U.P

Height: 180cm

Weight: 65kg