We are rapidly approaching the point at which ‘Gravel’ as a genre becomes too disparate to be encapsulated under a single term, much like how ‘mountain biking’ encompasses everything from short track XC in Lycra, through to flinging yourself off a mountain on a bike with more spring than a trampoline. Specialized’s two new Recon gravel shoes, released today, do a pretty good job of catering to both extremes of the gravel world; the gravel racers, looking for all-out speed, and the adventure types, who love nothing more than carrying their bike up something totally unrideable for some sweet shots, both of single-origin coffee, and for the ‘gram.
The new S-Works Recon replaces the outgoing model, which currently sits in our list of the best gravel bike shoes, by making a few changes. The most obvious is that the Velcro strap has been removed in favour of two BOA dials. There is more, which we’ll dive into, but Specialized is now marketing it as a gravel shoe, while the previous S-Works Recon model was listed as XC. Labelling does nothing for the performance of an item; a gravel shoe by any other name would still be both lighter, stiffer, and more comfortable after all, but it’s noteworthy from a market trend perspective.
The Recon ADV is a new shoe in the brand’s range and appears to be a hybrid of the S-Works Recon Lace and the standard Recon MTB shoe. It looks to serve those riders who spend some time walking, but who don’t want to sacrifice performance on the bike. Let’s get into both models then: Choose your fighter.
New S-Works Recon
These follow in a similar fashion to other S-Works shoes we’ve reviewed (Torch, Vent, Ares et al), both visually and in terms of tech. The main changes from the current Recon, as mentioned above, are the lack of a velcro strap at the toe, and the fact that this is now nominally a gravel shoe and not an MTB one. The tread underneath has adapted to reflect this different use case, with smoother lugs and no ports for studs. It’s about as close to the best road bike shoes as you can get while still being off-road focussed, perhaps trying to draw pro racers away from opting to wear road shoes for gravel races as we see very regularly.
As per the rest of the S-Works shoes you get a Varus Wedge, Longitudinal Arch, and Metatarsal Button: These are all the internals of the Body Geometry insoles and footbed design that Specialized claims provides the optimum platform for efficiency and biomechanical injury prevention.
The new BOA placements apparently eliminate the need for a toe strap, which also means no Velcro to wear out if it gets consistently caked in muck. A wider toe box, by 4mm compared to the standard and 8mm to the Recon MTB, will be a blessing to those with a wider forefoot, but also perhaps allows for a little more foot expansion over the course of extremely long gravel races or rides. Interestingly, shims come included too, to account for any leg length discrepancies.
The heel area also has a novel, asymmetrical design: The reinforced heel cup is asymmetrical, and the outer body of the shoe is lower around the ankle, appearing to provide more support on the bike-side of the foot. Removing extra material may well be a weight-saving exercise as much as a biomechanical one, with a pair of size 42 shoes weighing in at 280g.
New Recon ADV
Maybe you don’t race, or don’t at least cosplay as a gravel racer, and would rather go for a big day – or several days – out. If that’s you then you’re who Specialized are aiming to cater for with the new Recon ADV. It’s not specified that ADV is short for Adventure, so feel free to choose your own adventure here, for want of a better phrase.
The Recon ADV features the same Body Geometry tech as the S-Works model, but in a less racy, more lacy package. Laces allow a highly tuneable fit to keep you comfy on your epic rides, and the less epic ones too. The lugs on the sole are very similar to those of the S-Works model, but feature central slits in each for greater grip, and the whole front portion is rubber covered, rather than just the toes. The rubber itself, here a SlipNot compound, is noticeably tackier to the touch.
These are carbon soled, performance shoes, but the carbon sole has been engineered to allow greater flex in the toe area, deemed ‘STRIDE’, to provide greater traction and comfort while walking, especially up steep inclines, without compromising the power transfer of the shoe as a whole.
Colours, sizes, and pricing
The press images we’ve been given paint a very monochromatic view of the shoes.
The S-Works Recon will retail at $450 / £385 / AU$625 and will be available in, black, white, off-white and turquoise, a (gravel specific) olive green, and a bright red option. The Recon ADV will retail at $225 / £200 / AU$350, and be available in black, purple, or beige options. Both shoes are available in sizes 36-49, with half sizes available throughout the majority of the size range. We’re still waiting on the full picture regarding EU pricing.
We’ve been sent a pair of each to test out over the coming weeks, so stay tuned for our verdict.