Specialized describes its Recon 3.0 as an XC/gravel shoe that combines a carbon outsole with a carbon fibre forefoot designed to balance a natural toe flex off the bike with the need for maintaining power when you’re riding.
The Recon 3.0’s rubber outsole has an aggressive tread pattern with fittings for a pair of screw-in studs and the synthetic upper is perforated for lightweight breathability. Fitting comes courtesy of a pair of Boa fasteners and a Velcro tab for the forefoot.
When it comes to fit for my size 46 feet, these were roomy in terms of volume but not too long. The dual Boa fasteners allow you to really finesse the fit, so you keep a great connection to the pedals at all times but your heel stays firmly in place when you’re walking.
A possible side-effect of the shoe’s generous width over the toe was that I found it impossible to tighten it effectively. I also found that during my first few rides the collar rubbed the inside of my ankle, but swapping the original insole for a Specialized Body Geometry Footbed – available separately for £30 – raised my foot and solved the problem.
The stiffness of the carbon sole becomes immediately apparent when you start riding, with a real focus when you really put the power down that you can’t fail to appreciate.
The Recon 3.0’s slightly flexible forefoot makes the shoe relatively easy to walk in considering their stiffness, though it’s still not a shoe I’d choose for prolonged sessions off the bike. But the rubber outsole, which extends into a generous protective toe-bumper, does deliver a good balance of grip and effective mud clearance.
The Recon 3.0’s upper, while having a water-repelling finish, does otherwise allow water in through the perforations – but that seems to be a trade-off for the reduced weight and increased breathability common to many shoes with synthetic uppers.
There are lots of things to like about Specialized’s Recon 3.0 shoes, especially if you value maximising your power output. However, they do represent a serious investment.
How we tested
Gravel shoes need to balance stiffness and efficient power transfer, comfort for longer rides and walkability for rugged terrain or off-the-bike use.
Throw into the mix the special individuality of fit and it is easy to see why there is unlikely to be one perfect solution so the best place, as with everything bike, is to start by considering your own skills, fitness and preferred riding in order to understand whether you might want to trade off some walking ease for stiffness or if comfort is everything.
So, to help you choose what’s best for you, we’ve mixed up country lanes with dirt tracks, bridleways and forest roads on day-long routes. Nothing too extreme technically but all calling for dismounts to push up steep climbs, open gates and to hit the coffee queue.
Also on test:
- Bontrager GR2
- Fizik Terra X5
- Giro Sector
- Lake MX176
- Mavic Allroad Pro
- Northwave Rockster
- Rapha Explore
- Scott MTB Comp Mid
- Shimano XC501