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The Fizik Terra Powerstrap X4 is a gravel-focused SPD shoe optimised for adventurous rides, with practical features to enhance off-the-bike performance. It's a good shoe for going far and fast off the tarmac.
Nothing seems to exercise folks like Big Cycling forcing them to buy into yet another marketing trend. First it was disc brakes, then wider tyres, then 1X drivetrains – all culminating in what is to some that unholiest of holies, the 'gravel' bike. And now your kit – bibs, jerseys, helmets and shoes – can be 'gravel' too.
But was it not ever thus? Every cycling innovation, from the rear derailleur to the quick release to 6-7-8-9-10-11- and now 12-speed drivetrains has always met with howls of derision from certain quarters, bemoaning that it weren't needed (Yorkshire accent optional) back in *their* day, by 'eck.
Just as many 'women-specific' bikes have simply been 'pinked and shrinked', some efforts to 'gravelise' products have been little more than a tweak or two and a dollop of marketing hyperbole. Fortunately in the case of the Fizik Powerstraps, the thought and innovation has resulted in a product with genuinely useful application-specific benefits.
Falling – as you would expect – somewhere between a road shoe and a cross-country mountain bike shoe, the Powerstrap doesn't feel like a compromise of either when used for its intended purpose: adventurous gravel riding with the occasional foray into hike-a-bike when things get vertiginous or indeed impassable except on foot.
So why not just use an XC mountain bike shoe and be done? Liam liked the identically priced Fizik Terra X5 shoes which feature a Boa dial and a more-aggressive tread, and which are also a bit lighter – go figure. On the face of it the Boa dial and carbon sole should make the X5 a considerably pricier shoe over the Velcro'd, nylon-sole Powerstrap – which might fuel speculation that the 'gravel' moniker has bumped the Powerstrap's price up. Certainly the likelihood of needing to walk about, either portaging between watersheds or at the campsite – will make a less-stiff sole preferable. Also some will see a Boa dial as a liability. But we digress.
The Powerstrap comes in three colours – Black, Mud/Caramel, or the as-reviewed Anthracite/Grape. I think we can agree it's a sharp look.
The headline feature is of course those two huge Velcro straps, encompassing the whole foot. The forward strap zig-zags to give forefoot-mid-foot coverage, then the higher 'instep' strap is a more traditional straight-over affair, albeit anchored all the way down at the footbed, as is the front strap on both sides. Fizik claims this gives 'secure containment'. What it feels like is a firm cinch down on the whole foot, both sides – as opposed to what can be a somewhat-vaguer feel as traditional Velcro or Boas simply tighten either side of the shoe around the tongue cutout, and can feel looser if the shoe wets and stretches.
Speaking of the tongue, it's what I'd call moderately padded, with a Velcro dot hidden just out of sight to keep it in place relative to the shoe. This could come in handy if loosening or removing mid-ride – maybe to eject a pebble, twig or volume of water. Once you've got a few hours in and your feet have settled into shape, any change in the shoe's fit can be off-putting, so this is appreciated.
The synthetic upper fabric is a smooth material, laser-cut with vents that to me resemble falling streaks of rain – apt for an adventurous shoe. And it looks quite the business, even after a month of gravelling about. The toe area is slightly raised and textured, so as to hide the inevitable scuffs and cuts that area's likely to attract. Testing in late autumn meant no scope for assessing the shoe's breathability, as more often than not they were under overshoes as the Highland mercury hovered around 5-10°C. The heel padding doesn't extend past the instep, so they feel like they'd handle hot days with a thinner sock just fine.
I imagine those holes would be a good place for water to exit from should you dunk yourself, and indeed I lived exactly that experience during a mile-long bogfest joining up two separate forestry blocks.
The heel cup is one of the snuggest I've worn for a while, and features silicone grippers on the inside to keep socks and heel in place through the wet or walking efforts.
Which takes us down under to the Powerstrap's other main feature, the rubber tread on the outsole. This manifests in three areas at the toe, heel and around the cleat, comprising a cross-hatch-textured raised rubber with deep cuts across the footbed to aid traction on moderately muddy ground or in the cafe queue.
A full-on XC mountain bike or cyclo-cross shoe this is not, but if you need to walk a particularly treacherous bit of singletrack or ascend a deer fence ladder, the grip afforded should see you right. The cleat is just slightly recessed by the rubber when new, so the chance of slipping on a flat surface is minimal.
The nylon 'fibre-injected' sole is rated 'Stiffness 6', which in the absence of any industry-wide scale for This Sort Of Thing can be taken as 'pretty much right for most people, most of the time, doing most things'.
Out gravelling about autumnal Perthshire, the Terra Powerstraps kept my feet happy on and off the bike. The best shoes are the ones you only remember when it comes time to take them off at the end of the ride, and in that regard I have no complaints – I had to remember to remember them for review purposes, if you get my drift.
I'm a big fan of winter boots for road or gravel, suffering as I do from poor circulation. I wore the Terra Powerstraps with a thick waterproof merino sock, and found the fit generous enough not to feel tight across my wide feet – 45 means a generous 45, so you shouldn't need to size up and the Velcro gives loads of adjustment.
I was paying attention during any periods of pushing or climbing off the bike, and can report – touch wood, retrospectively – that there was never a loss of traction that concerned me. A sole of this nature is never going to work miracles in deep mud or on steep slopes, but for most gravel applications should be just fine.
Some may question Velcro's ability to hold through thick mud or snow. I'd argue these are not snow shoes unless under a thick overshoe anyway, and as for mud, again conditions would need to be borderline-swamp to impact the performance of such wide straps.
They're pretty decent value too – the most obvious comparison would be Fizik's own X5 Terra – the same price, but with the Boa and carbon sole. Likewise, Rachel really liked the Shimano XC7 shoe, another one that manages to fit in a Boa dial and carbon sole, though she did note some faff with the Boa wires, and they're £20 more.
All in all, for £149 RRP the Fizik Terra Powerstrap X4 is a great shoe. Yes, you could run other shoes with their own specific focuses and have a happy ride most of the time, but if you want something optimised for gravel that could also be used for normal riding (assuming you run SPDs), it's a solid option.
Good-looking and feeling choice using a bombproof closure mechanism, that should keep going for many gravelly miles and years
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Fizik Terra Powerstrap X4
Size tested: 10 1/2 UK
Tell us what the product is for
POWERSTRAP X4 is a versatile and ubiquitous gravel-focused shoe, designed for drop-bar riders whose adventures and aspirations take them beyond the traditional paved roads.
Mixing terrain, grinding gravel or gliding through flowy singletrack: these shoes are designed to take you where regular road shoes can't.
To suit what today's gravel-orientated adventure cyclists want, we designed the Powerstrap X4 to be simple, efficient and reliable. In line with this approach we equipped it with the innovative Powerstrap Velcro closure, designed for an enveloping fit.
While most traditional Velcro closures just pull together two sides of the shoe's upper, in the Powerstrap configuration a ribbon wraps around the foot, providing secure containment using just two straps. The instep and the midfoot are separately adjustable for customized fit and compression.
For these versatile shoes we developed a specific outsole, the X4: a carefully considered combination of stiffness and comfort, to turn pedals effectively on mixed surfaces; blending nylon – with targeted stiffness – and a rubber tread for effective grip and durability.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Fizik lists these details:
* X4 nylon outsole – with rubber tread, stiffness index 6
* Weight: 292g (size 42- 1/2 pair)
* Powerstrap: foot-wrapping Velcro closure designed for an enveloping fit
* X4 outsole: targeted stiffness and rubber tread for mixed surfaces
Colours: Black, Anthracite/Grape (tested) or Mud/Caramel
Really well put together. The finish is excellent.
Probably the only thing I might want is a bit more aggressive tread.
They look good a month or two on, with no cuts in the footbed and the uppers are scuff-free.
For wider feet in winter socks, they fit pretty well. I'd like them a smidge wider, but I have really wide feet. Most people should be fine.
The 45 reviewed fit really well for my target 45, with a thick winter sock.
Not the lightest – but then gravel isn't about low weight.
Really comfy. Not quite flights of angels, but good for long rides in the muck.
They're on a par with the Fizik X5 Terra and £20 less than Shimano's XC7. I think you're getting a good deal; the inevitable discounts will only improve this.
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
They scrubbed up well – the uppers don't hold onto staining mud.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
For gravel riding, with even prolonged periods of walking, they do the job really well.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The straps – set and forget.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
As noted in the review, the Fizik X5 Terra is a more aggressive shoe in design and performance for the same cash. And the Shimano XC 7 much the same. Usually full-Velcro shoes are the most budget option, but not in this case.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your overall score
I can't complain at all regarding the fit and performance of the Powerstraps. They look sharp and do the job, on or off the bike. Whether you feel Velcro is budget and therefore the shoe is overpriced is very much a personal call.
About the tester
I usually ride: Merida Ride 5000 Disc My best bike is: Velocite Selene
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: A few times a week I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: cyclo cross, club rides, general fitness riding, mtb, Dutch bike pootling.