Best gravel bike shoes | Gravel-friendly footwear for adventure riding

Including gravel-specific and mountain bike footwear

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These are the best gravel bike shoes of 2019, as rated by our expert testers.

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As gravel bikes and gravel riding grow in popularity so too has the amount of gravel-specific kit marketed at those who take part. This year we’ve seen many big manufacturers turn their attention to producing gravel-specific footwear, but we aren’t yet at a point where gravel-specific footwear is the norm.

Gravel-specific shoes, are they really necessary?

The natural crossover between the riding conditions and pedal systems used in cross-country mountain biking and gravel riding mean that a lot of mountain bike footwear is already well suited to gravel.

For that reason, you’ll find a lot of the shoes in this list were originally designed for mountain biking.

However, the likes of Specialized, Shimano and Fizik are all now producing gravel-specific footwear. This new generation of discipline-specific footwear tends to go without the considerable sole, heel and toe protection that is commonplace on cross-country shoes. This naturally makes them the lighter choice too.

The best gravel bike shoes, in order of score

  • Fizik X5 Terra: £150 / €159 / $150
  • Giro Privateer Lace: £124.99 / $140
  • Mavic Crossmax Elite CM: £160 / €179.95
  • Shimano RX8: £219.99 / $250
  • Quoc Gran Tourer:  £219 / $275
  • Shimano XC5: £120 / $150
  • Specialized S-Works Recon: £340 / $425

Fizik X5 Terra

4.5 out of 5 star rating
Fizik X5 Terra
Fizik’s X5 Terra gravel shoe.
David Caudery/Immediate Media
  • £150 / €159 / $150
  • Gravel-specific
  • Proven upper design
  • Unique looks

The X5 Terra is a truly gravel-specific option from Fizik and it’s one we are really fond of.

We particularly like the uppers on these, which are based on the single BOA design of Fizik’s R1 road shoe. The sole is efficient when it comes to putting down power but has enough flex to make shouldering, walking or running with the bike relatively comfortable.

The unusual suede look might seem like a strange choice for a shoe that is designed to get mucky, but we’ve been pleased with the way they’ve worn.

Giro Privateer Lace

4.5 out of 5 star rating
Giro Privateer Lace
Giro’s Privateer Lace.
David Caudery/Immediate Media
  • £124.99 / $140
  • Comfortable yet efficient
  • Generous sizing
  • Great looking shoes

Originally designed for mountain biking but also great for gravel riding are the Privateer Lace shoes from Giro.

They’re comfortable with a sole that provides a good compromise of efficiency and comfort. We found the sizing on these to be rather generous, so be sure to try before you buy.

We also think they look the part, and the Privateers are some of the cheapest shoes in this list.

Mavic Crossmax Elite CM

4.5 out of 5 star rating
Mavic Crossmax Elite CM shoes
Mavic’s Crossmax Elite CM.
Immediate Media
  • £160 / €179.95
  • Truly weatherproof
  • Stiff soles
  • Not too weighty

The Crossmax Elite CM shoes are a favourite among mountain bikers who brave wet and wintry conditions and so naturally work well for those who gravel grind through the colder months.

Unlike most weatherproof winter boots, these have a  stiff sole and, at under 900g for a size 44, aren’t too heavy either.

The solid toe and tongue sections make a real difference in cold conditions and the neoprene collar keeps ankles warm even when it’s wet.

Shimano RX8

4.5 out of 5 star rating
Shimano RX8
Shimano’s RX8 gravel shoe.
Shimano
  • £219.99 / $250
  • Gravel-specific
  • Impressively light
  • Superb ride quality

The RX8 is Shimano’s dedicated gravel shoe and it’s currently one of our favourite choices. The RX8 is a close relative of Shimano’s excellent S-Phyre XC9 mountain bike shoe but manages to save over 100g (in a size 45) from the aforementioned despite a lower retail price.

Once clipped in the RX8s are superb and manage to combine the qualities of the best road and mountain bike shoes.

Rubber grip sections at the sole allow you to dab your feet without damaging the shoes and provide plenty of grip, even in muddy conditions.

Quoc Gran Tourer

4.0 out of 5 star rating
Quoc Gran Tourer
Quoc’s Gran Tourer gravel shoes.
Immediate Media
  • £219 / $275
  • Gravel-specific
  • Water-resistant
  • Stylish design

These stylish shoes from Quoc are designed specifically for gravel riding.

The lace-up uppers are manufactured without stitching, making them superbly comfortable but also usefully water-resistant.

The SPD compatible soles are another highlight thanks to a stiff carbon-composite midsole and grippy rubber outsole that’s been designed to protect your cleats while walking.

Although not the lightest, they’re a comparable weight to many cross-country mountain bike shoes.

Shimano XC5

4.0 out of 5 star rating
Shimano's XC5 lace-up mountain bike shoes
Shimano’s XC5 lace-up MTB shoes are good for gravel too.
Josh Patterson / Immediate Media
  • £120 / $150
  • Michelin rubber outsoles
  • Lace-up closure
  • Carbon-reinforced mid-sole

Not strictly a gravel shoe but one that remains very capable is the Shimano XC5.

They’re well priced with a grippy sole and soft, supple uppers that allow for plenty of comfort.

The carbon-reinforced sole is coated in Michelin rubber, providing useful midsole grip if you miss your pedal, while raised toe, heel and forefoot tread blocks make for secure walking.

The lace-up nature of these — as with the other lace-ups on this list — does mean they take a little longer to put on and aren’t adjustable on the fly.

Specialized S-Works Recon

4.0 out of 5 star rating
Specialized S-Works Recon shoes
Specialized’s S-Works Recon is another MTB shoe that’s good for gravel duties.
David Caudery/Immediate Media
  • £340 / $425
  • Twin alloy BOA dials
  • Seriously lightweight
  • Premium price tag

The S-Works Recon is a fantastic mountain bike shoe that’s very much suitable for gravel duties.

Aside from the eye-watering price tag, these shoes are very difficult to criticise.

The twin alloy BOA dials mean you can cinch the uppers to your preference while a Velcro strap over the toes further refines the fit. The carbon sole is the stiffest Specialized makes and features a bonded dual-density grip section.

At 665g (for a pair of EU46), they’re also seriously light.

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