Specialized Recon ADV Shoes Review
The Specialized Recon ADV Shoes combine the efficiency of a stiff clipless cycling shoe with a roomy toe box, lace-up closure, and unique aesthetics. Miles has been wearing them almost exclusively for the last three months on long gravel rides, rowdy singletrack rides, and several bikepacking trips to see how they hold up. Find his review here…
I’ve been spending more time riding flats these days for a number of reasons. The main one is that they’re usually more comfortable off the bike and on long hike-a-bikes. I’ve also found the fit of flat shoes to be roomier than most clipless alternatives, and they sometimes allow me to leave my camp shoes at home. However, I still think clipless shoes have their place for bikepacking. For me, nothing beats the body-to-bike connection they offer while riding technical terrain or when I’m looking to crank out some serious power.
With cooler temperature on the way, I’m reminded that flat shoes are also generally much warmer than clipless options. Not only because of the metal interface that connects pedal to shoe that can dissipate heat, but also because the fit of clipless shoes is often slimmer and lower profile. This is especially true when wearing cross-country mountain bike or gravel-inspired footwear. As the mercury drops, having room for thicker socks and circulation is crucial. My feet seem to be extra sensitive these days, and they take some time to warm up on cold mornings. As such, tight shoes are a no-go in the fall, winter, and spring. That’s where the Specialized Recon ADV Shoes come in. On paper, they have all the features I appreciate in a gravel-esque shoe, and their wide toe box and lace-up closure looked promising as a summer/shoulder-season riding shoe. As soon as they became available, I jumped on the opportunity to put this theory to test.
Design and Construction
The Recon ADV Shoes are the most recent addition to Specialized’s Recon lineup. They were described as being “suited for the rider who values adventure, time on the bike, and needs an all-day shoe that will keep going when the gravel ends,” as well as having “excellent walkability.” Marketing lingo aside, what caught my eye was the roomier-than-average toe box and the lace-up closure–a combination I imagined would offer a comfortable and adaptable fit for all types of rides.
The Recon ADV shoes use a standard two-bolt cleat pattern, classic lace-up closure, and a TPU mudguard for protection and durability. They use a full-length carbon plate in the sole for pedaling stiffness, a flexible toe box for walkability, and a laser-perforated upper with a microfiber backing for “better moisture management and supple feeling.” Logan’s original pair of ADV shoes are still going strong after six years, and the Recon ADV looks like a long-awaited redux of their original Specialized Recon Mixed, a shoe that was launched around the time the big S announced a line of bikepacking bags. In short, the Recon ADVs had some big shoes to fill, so to speak.
The Recon ADV is based around a simple nylon upper backed with a microfiber liner. The upper itself is pliable but feels durable to the touch. The shoe uses Specialized’s SlipKnot rubber tread, which is apparently “optimized for gravel traction,” whatever that means. The Recon ADV is part of Specialized’s Body Geometry lineup, meaning the fit is tweaked to stabilize the natural movement of your forefoot, and a 1.5mm Varus Wedge helps to maintain hip, knee, and foot alignment and eliminate excessive pronation while riding. The included insole is thin and fairly unremarkable but easily swappable for orthotic insoles or something more supportive.
Upon receiving the Recon ADV Shoes earlier this summer, two things stood out: their weight and toe box shape. My size 44.5 weighs in at about 500 grams, which is light, although not as light as my beloved Bontrager GR2 lace-ups. The toe box is the widest and roomiest out of any warm-weather clipless cycling shoe I’ve used. Love it or hate it, the taupe and purple colorway gets a thumbs up from me, although they do come in all black for folks seeking a more subdued look. I crossed my fingers and hoped they’d live up to Specialized’s lofty claims and $225 price tag.
My test period began in warmer conditions this summer, riding mountain bikes back home in the Pacific Northwest. It was an unusually dry and dusty summer, so having a comfortable and breathable shoe was important. The tiny perforations on the upper presumably allow for some airflow, but they aren’t the most breathable shoes. With that said, I was never uncomfortably hot or sweaty. I feel they shine around 68°F (20°C) or cooler. If I did sweat, the minimal interior padding never took long to dry out, which is always appreciated during back-to-back days on the bike.
Thoughts While Riding On (and off) The Bike
Having some flex through the shoe can add comfort on long, rowdy rides, but the Recon ADV shoes don’t offer much give. Still, they were never uncomfortable, especially on longer, more gravel-focused rides. In fact, I place them right up with my Bontrager GR2 shoes in terms of comfort, which I believe can be attributed to their lace-up closure, roomy toe box, and pronounced heel cup. I love the way a classic lace-up closure can be adjusted depending on your foot shape, loosened to create more volume, or tightened when desired. Plus, unlike some other lace-ups I’ve been using, neither the eyelets or laces are showing any signs of wear yet.
Walking in the Recon ADV shoes is a different story. Despite their claims of having “excellent walkability” and “a more natural feeling for off-the-bike adventuring,” I find there isn’t enough flex to walk comfortably for any serious distance. Paired with an underwhelming number of stubby lugs on the sole, they never felt great hiking up steep slopes and were downright unstable when trying to navigate loose rocks or awkward creek crossings. However, I was surprised at how well the sole grabbed onto my pedals when resting my foot before clipping in. The area just behind the cleat channel is slick and has minimal tread, but it seems to grab a hold of enough pedal without running the risk of slipping off. There’s some flex toward the front of the shoe, but not enough for me to recommend them to anyone who regularly finds themselves pushing their bike for hours at a time.
I’ve spent the last couple of weeks riding in cooler temperatures down in Idaho and Colorado, including a scouting trip of the new Dollarhide Summit Overnighter. The roomy toe box and adaptable lace-up closure have been great on chilly mornings. I’ve been able to fit slightly thicker Defeet wool socks without compromising the circulation in my feet, although they aren’t as warm as flat shoes. It’s worth noting that I’ve been chasing Emily around on her full-suspension trail bike for the last month on a gravel bike, so I’ve spent way more time underbiking trails than riding smooth gravel.
On a few long day rides, including Teocalli Ridge in Crested Butte and up to Pioneer Cabin in the Wood River Valley/Sun Valley, Idaho, some hike-a-bike was unavoidable due to the elevation and my inability to catch my breath. The stiffness of the sole was noticeable on these multi-hour rides, and I wished I was wearing more flexible footwear. Despite this, I was also surprisingly comfortable on the ride down and never felt out of place on rugged, technical singletrack.
All in all, the Recon ADV Shoes are a bit of a mixed bag. They’re too stiff for prolonged hike-a-bike, super comfortable on all-day rides, and they’ve proven to handle more aggressive mountain biking with ease. The Recon ADV could be described as a stylish gravel shoe, but I see it as more of a laced cross-country shoe for riders who prefer a stiff sole.
- Roomy toe box doesn’t cramp toes and pairs nicely with cooler temperatures
- Lace-up closure is adaptable and has proven to be durable
- Durable construction is holding up well after mountain biking, gravel, and some bikepacking
- Some fun color options and an all black version
- Powerful and sporty thanks to a full-length carbon shank
- Stiff sole and minimal toe flex aren’t conducive to long hike-a-bikes
- Stubby tread and lugs aren’t stable on loose surfaces
- Pricey at $225, but might be justified considering how well they are holding up
- Material: Reinforced Nylon/Rubber
- Weight: 498 grams
- Place of Manufacture: Vietnam
- Price: $225 USD at Jenson USA
- Manufacturer’s Details: Specialized.com
I loved my Bontrager GR2 shoes. They became my go-to shoes for all types of rides, even if that wasn’t Bontrager’s intention. Unfortunately, this led to their ultimate implosion. Since then, I’ve been on the lookout for something to replace them. I was excited to see the new Recon ADV shoes announced earlier this year, especially considering Logan’s positive experience with the original Recon lace-ups and the Recon 2.0. I’ve been impressed with how they’ve held up over the last few months. I’ve put them through the wringer. They’ve seen more mountain biking than gravel riding, and I’m guessing I’ve logged well over 500 kilometers at this point. They have proven to be durable and comfortable, and their wider-than-average toe box is the cherry on top. I can picture myself pairing them with a waterproof overshoe for longer gravel rides this winter, even if they aren’t my first choice for when hike-a-bike is imminent.
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