As gravel bikes and gravel riding grow in popularity, so too has the amount of gravel-specific kit marketed at those who want to get off the beaten track.
Over the past year, we’ve seen many big manufacturers turn their attention to producing gravel-specific footwear.
These are the best gravel bike shoes of 2020, as rated by our expert testers.
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 some 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 more commonplace on cross-country shoes, naturally making them lighter. The styling is often — but not always — more casual, 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
Triban RC 520: £70
Shimano XC5: £120 / $150
Quoc Gran Tourer: £219 / $275
Specialized S-Works Recon: £340 / $425
Fizik X5 Terra
Fizik’s X5 Terra gravel shoe. David Caudery/Immediate Media
- £150 / €159 / $150
- 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
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 try before you buy, if you can.
We also think they look the part.
Mavic Crossmax Elite CM
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’s RX8 gravel shoe. Shimano
- £219.99 / $250
- Impressively light
- Superb ride quality
The RX8 is Shimano’s dedicated gravel shoe and a close relative of the excellent S-Phyre XC9 mountain bike shoe. However, it 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 on the sole allow you to dab your feet without damaging the shoes and provide plenty of grip, even in muddy conditions.
Triban RC 520
They aren’t fancy, but the RC 520s are a tough pair of road shoes. David Caudery/Immediate Media
- Excellent value
- Very comfortable
- Decent adjustability
The design team at Decathlon have kept things simple with these shoes and they’re all the better for it.
Available at less than half the price of the next cheapest shoe on this list, the RC 520 shoes from Triban are a true bargain.
While there’s some protection on the sole, these are not best equipped for walking on treacherous terrain or thick mud.
They’re also a little heavy at 798g for a pair of size EU42s, but they are excellent value.
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 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, but they do look good.
Quoc Gran Tourer
Quoc’s Gran Tourer gravel shoes. Immediate Media
- £219 / $275
- 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.
Specialized S-Works Recon
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.