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Verdict: 
Dowdy looks hide the stiff and efficient character of these performance lace-ups for all kinds of efforts, on and off the road
Weight: 
685g
Specialized Recon Mixed Terrain Shoes
8 10

The clue to these Specialized shoes' use is right there in their name: the Recon Mixed Terrain Shoes are designed for riders who like to mix up their road and off-road riding on the same bike and ride, taking in all the gravel, fireroad, groad, gnarmac, blacktop, tarmac, asphalt, track, trail and whatever happens along the way.

The Recons are stood up on the price podium with other performance shoes, lace-up or not, although on the surface they look, to me, like a shoe a fraction of the price. That may or may not be an issue to you. Once horned on, their price justification and performance credentials shine through the bland exterior with a race-stiff sole and comfy all-day upper.

> Find your nearest dealer here

The Recon shoes only come in black in the UK (the USA gets a funky Orange Fade colour), which makes them pretty boring looking, some might say practical, or orthopedic. Plain may be your vibe, though; you might not want to be associated with the racy looks of other performance shoes, or you might want a shoe to pedal about in and then stop at places along the way and look almost normal, and maybe even a little smart... If so, then the frumpy look of the Recon is a benefit, but I'd prefer to see a little splattering of colour in there. You could jazz them up a bit with some coloured laces, but you'd have to make sure they were the non-stretch ones that maybe another brand of lace-up cycling shoe might supply in a variety of zazzy hues.

While we're on laces, tying them does take longer than sticking and clicking a common straps-and-ratchets shoe, especially if you like to take advantage of the ability to customise the tension of each lace cross-over across specific parts of the foot to help with comfort. A feature you might appreciate if you find other shoes can cause tension areas and hot spots. There's a Lacelock elastic strap halfway down the laces to keep the loops and lace ends tidied away from rotating rings and chains.

Specialized Recon Mixed Terrain Shoes - Laces.jpg

Specialized Recon Mixed Terrain Shoes - Laces.jpg

Taking the shoes off can take longer too, a minor detail you might think – until you're cold and wet and hungry and just want to get in the bath. The laces are resistant to water absorbency, though, meaning they're easier to undo after a muddy ride, if you're haunted by memories of trying to get your schoolboy football boots off...

The laces are non-stretch, too, so are supposed keep their tension over the course of a ride; that said, they do tend to loosen up over time and I found myself having to tighten and re-tie the laces during most rides. If you use the extra pair of holes at the top of the shoe and thread the laces in a 'Runner's Loop' this seems to lessen the gradual slackening... I'm a habitual cranker-up of straps and ratchets on shoes during a ride anyway, so this sort of thing may or may not bother you.

Specialized Recon Mixed Terrain Shoes - Extra Lace Hole.jpg

Specialized Recon Mixed Terrain Shoes - Extra Lace Hole.jpg

The uppers are made from a Micromatrix synthetic leather (graveggie riders rejoice!). They're lacking in much venting – just a pattern of pin-holes across the body and a pair of mesh sections at the toe ideally placed to let puddle water splash in – so they can get a little sweaty on hot days, but are ideal if you're into all-season riding or cyclo-cross where they'll keep the worst of the cold and water out and then easily wipe clean afterwards. There's a toe bumper up front to protect the shoe from knocks, dabs and stubs.

Specialized Recon Mixed Terrain Shoes - Toe Mesh.jpg

Specialized Recon Mixed Terrain Shoes - Toe Mesh.jpg

Sole

The sole is a rigid FACT carbon composite with a Stiffness Index of 10.0, so Spinal Tap fans might want to look elsewhere for a mixed terrain shoe that's one stiffer. As it is, it's plenty stiff enough; despite its casual appearance the Recon definitely has a performance sole. Stomp on the pedals and there really is no discernible flex, they feel very much like a rigid road-bred shoe. Even with the smaller contact point of an SPD pedal compared with a road pedal, there didn't feel like there was any loss of power.

Specialized Recon Mixed Terrain Shoes - Soles.jpg

Specialized Recon Mixed Terrain Shoes - Soles.jpg

The grip on the sole is pretty fat, chunky and made from SlipNot (see what they did there, Spinal Tap fans?) rubber tread. There's even a little bit of waffle grip mid-sole should you fluff a clip-in or be a little nervous and need to ride a section resting on the pedal not clipped in, and there are studs in the toe in case any rides see you scrabbling up muddy banks and suchlike.

Specialized Recon Mixed Terrain Shoes - Mid Sole Grip.jpg

Specialized Recon Mixed Terrain Shoes - Mid Sole Grip.jpg

The tread works well in both on and off-road environments, although they're going to flounder in really muddy situations, and for off-bike applications they're confident even in the slipperiest of surfaces – such as the floor of a gent's toilet in a pub.

Specialized Recon Mixed Terrain Shoes - Body Geometry.jpg

Specialized Recon Mixed Terrain Shoes - Body Geometry.jpg

Despite the rugged gummy grip on the sole, you wouldn't want to be walking too far in the Recons. The stiff sole that makes them so good on the pedal makes them rigid and clumpy to walk in – okay for the occasional run-up if you're cyclo-crossing, brief scrabble over some rocks if mountain biking, and the walk into the gas station for an ice cold Coke after a long gravel section – but if you're proper adventure biking and might need to walk or carry your bike any distance, they're going to get tiresomely unforgiving.

Insole and fit

The Recons come with Specialized's Body Geometry insole, something it says is ergonomically designed to boost power, increase efficiency, and reduce chances of injury by optimising alignment of things below the hip. You may or may not get on with this; I do, although I replaced the standard footbed with Specialized's most extreme Body Geometry insole, as I do with any shoe, and my knees thank me.

> Beginner's guide to cycling shoes and comfy feet

The top-line around the heel is well padded, extending halfway down the heel cup, and the outside band is a 3M reflective strip for night-time visibility – handy if you were to use the Recon as a Cat 1 commuting shoe.

Specialized Recon Mixed Terrain Shoes - Recon Tongue Tab.jpg

Specialized Recon Mixed Terrain Shoes - Recon Tongue Tab.jpg

The fit of the Recon is snug-racery tight, again belying their sneaker looks, and that's coming from someone who likes a close-fitting shoe. They're snug across the whole of the forefoot and the top-line around the ankle has a tight, padded grip, doing a supreme job of keeping the heel in place and minimising lifting when grinding up a climb. Some might find the fit around the top a little too restrictive after some time in the saddle, causing the achilles to feel a little pinched.

Specialized Recon Mixed Terrain Shoes.jpg

Specialized Recon Mixed Terrain Shoes.jpg

The one-piece construction of the upper and the suppleness of the faux-leather makes them an extremely comfortable shoe that wraps seamlessly across the foot, and that ability to customise the tightness over the tongue helps too. The combination of stiff sole and comfy upper makes them perfect for the all-day-efforts-and-grinds kind of riding they're aimed at, but that doesn't mean they won't make a good high-end mountain bike shoe or high-class commuting brogue.

Verdict

Dowdy looks hide the stiff and efficient character of these performance lace-ups for all kinds of efforts, on and off the road

road.cc test report

Make and model: Specialized Recon Mixed Terrain Shoes

Size tested: 41

Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?

Specialized says: "When the paved road ends, the Recon Mixed Terrain shoes begin. Designed for riders who take one look at that switch from paved to gravel and say "yes please," they're the perfect blend of durability, comfort, and adventure. And with their stiff FACT carbon soles and Body Geometry footbeds, you'll feel a tremendous connection to the bike, which translates to power as you tackle fireroad and paved climbs, alike. Should you encounter any obstacles that say hike-a-bike, the grippy SlipNot™ tread delivers superb traction for confidently scrambling over the rough stuff."

You wouldn't want to scramble over rough stuff for long on those uber stiff soles though.

Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?

From Specialized:

Body Geometry sole and footbed are ergonomically designed and scientifically tested to boost power, increase efficiency, and reduce chance of injury by optimizing hip, knee, and foot alignment.

SlipNot™ rubber tread for confident traction on all terrain with removable toe studs.

Engineered FACT™ carbon/composite sole for power transfer: Stiffness Index 10.0.

Adaptive Fit lace-up with non-stretch, non-water absorbent lace for superb fit.

Lacelock™ elastic keeps laces out of the chainrings.

Supple Micromatrix synthetic leather with laser perforated venting and molded toe kick protection.

Classic low profile heel for ankle comfort with 3M reflective collar for visibility.

Two-bolt SPD-style cleat pattern.

Replaceable threaded toe studs.

Standard Fit last for all day comfort.

Approximate weight: 325g (1/2 pair, size 42)

Rate the product for quality of construction:
 
9/10
Rate the product for performance:
 
8/10
Rate the product for durability:
 
8/10
Rate the product for fit:
 
8/10
Rate the product for sizing:
 
8/10
Rate the product for weight:
 
4/10
Rate the product for comfort:
 
8/10
Rate the product for value:
 
5/10

How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?

Easy, the Micromatrix synthetic upper with few mesh holes made the shoes easy to wipe clean.

Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose

As a performance on/off-road shoe it works very well, the sole is road-shoe stiff and the upper comfortable. Its walkable credentials are compromised by that too-stiff sole, though.

Tell us what you particularly liked about the product

Stiff sole for pedalling, comfort.

Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product

Stiff sole for walking, laces, boring looks.

Did you enjoy using the product? I wanted to enjoy them more, but their plain looks failed to inspire me and I don't think I'll ever get on with lace-up cycling shoes.

Would you consider buying the product? I'd probably buy a lighter performance mountain bike shoe that suited my aesthetic more.

Would you recommend the product to a friend? I know some who would like this shoe.

Use this box to explain your score

Appearances can be very odd. If you're splurging this much on a shoe you kind of want it to look like you've splashed out and not like you've bought a pair of £27.99 Dad trainers from the market. But underneath that dull exterior they're a comfortable yet real performance shoe with a stiff sole, although too stiff for extended walking. I'm marking them down for the laces thing (I could take another mark off for looking ploddy, but that's personal taste) and needing to have to stop to tighten them up mid-ride instead of being able to just reach down and haul on a strap or ratchet. This may not matter to you.

Overall rating: 8/10

About the tester

Age: 47  Height: 180cm  Weight: 73kg

I usually ride: It varies as to the season.  My best bike is: The one I'm on at the time

I've been riding for: Over 20 years  I ride: Most days  I would class myself as: Experienced

I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, cyclo-cross, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, moutain biking, fun

Jo Burt has spent the majority of his life riding bikes, drawing bikes and writing about bikes. When he's not scribbling pictures for the whole gamut of cycling media he writes words about them for road.cc and when he's not doing either of those he's pedaling. Then in whatever spare minutes there are in between he's agonizing over getting his socks, cycling cap and bar-tape to coordinate just so. And is quietly disappointed that yours don't He rides and races road bikes a bit, cyclo-cross bikes a lot and mountainbikes a fair bit too. Would rather be up a mountain.

11 comments

Avatar
rjfrussell [362 posts] 6 months ago
2 likes

I'm still waiting for a road shoe evangelist to explain the science behind their claim that a bigger contact area improves power transfer.  That ain't how it works!

 

Avatar
HalfWheeler [596 posts] 6 months ago
2 likes

Hipster fodder...

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mike the bike [898 posts] 6 months ago
0 likes

 

I've had Specialized shoes in the past and they have invariably been excellent but these seem wildly overpriced.  I might be tempted to buy nine pairs of Aldi's touring, SPD shoes for the same money.

Avatar
Kevcaster [16 posts] 6 months ago
0 likes

£180, mmmm Louis Garneau £50. Specialized TTP quel surprise!

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drosco [261 posts] 6 months ago
1 like

What's cycling coming too? If it's not 6 grand bikes, it's 200 quid jackets. Now 180 quid shoes.

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Andy Eunson [6 posts] 6 months ago
2 likes

Let's see, butt ugly, check, really expensive, check, old school laces that don't work as well as Velcro and buckles, check. No thanks. I remember the old days of wet laces, coming home with a full bladder and not getting the laces undone quick enough. I want function way before retro style. Besides I won't grow a beard or wear a table cloth as a scarf. 

Avatar
bigmoose [12 posts] 6 months ago
0 likes

@rjfrussell - I'm waiting for this too. Did some online reasearch to try to find out why folk use the big plastic road cleats but couldn't find any scientific justification! Nothing even to show SPDs are better than open pedals. Can anyone point me to such a paper? (Peer-reviewed, ideally)

Avatar
ktache [521 posts] 6 months ago
0 likes

I know nothing about road cleats, but I think the big S designed the SPD system for mountain bikers with mud in mind.

Avatar
mike the bike [898 posts] 6 months ago
3 likes
ktache wrote:

I know nothing about road cleats, but I think the big S designed the SPD system for mountain bikers with mud in mind.

Nay lad, they are much more useful than that.  I gave up road cleats years ago on account of their utter crapness and complete overpricedness.  I use SPDs for every type of cycling although I disguise them on road bikes by fitting touring pedals.

Avatar
bechdan [116 posts] 6 months ago
1 like

another great way to spend lots of money, pass

Avatar
muppetteer [91 posts] 6 months ago
1 like

£180 for a pair of shoes which don't have a replaceable sole system is very strange. Its pretty wasteful. It might be cheaper to produce a fully molded sole, but it essentially means the whole shoe will be thrown away, a long time before the upper has reached its life expectancy. It means you'll reach that stage where the sole/grippy parts have worn down to the point where you're essentially walking on the cleat... And then you've got that conundrum where the uppers are still find, but you know each step is grinding your cleat away.

Even Sidi MTB SRS shoes can be had for less. Bikechaincafe has got whizzy ones with carbon stuff and replaceable sole bits for around £150 where pretty much everything is replaceable. I'm not really sure why anybody would buy the Specialized?