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