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Rapha's new race-orientated Pro Team shoes come with woven uppers, a dual Boa dial closure system, and stiff carbon fibre soles, and they do a great job of mixing a high performance with plenty of comfort.
Rapha released a couple of new shoe models last year – the Classics and the Explores – but the Pro Teams are very different in that the uppers are made from Powerweave rather than microfibre, and feature a Boa dial closure rather than laces.
You're doubtless already familiar with Boa dials. Turning the clicky dial in one direction tightens the lace, turning it the other loosens it, and pulling the dial upwards allows you to release all the tension at once.
You get two grippy Boa dials per shoe here, so getting everything adjusted comfortably is simple, even on the fly. If you ever damage a Boa in a crash, replacement is easy.
Powerweave, though? It's a new jacquard woven fabric created with materials science specialist Avery Dennison.
We've seen a lot of shoes with knitted uppers lately, but a woven upper is different. Whereas a knit fabric is made up of a single yarn, a woven fabric comprises multiple yarns.
"With Powerweave, yarns and weave patterns can be precisely engineered to deliver strength where needed to provide a form-fitting and virtually seamless upper," says Rapha. "The woven nature of the fabric produces incredible strength and durability, essential for a shoe upper. The flexibility of Powerweave allows the upper to hug the foot perfectly, for improved comfort and reduced friction, while being stronger and possessing less stretch than materials such as microfibre or knit, thus aiding power transfer."
Hold the polyester fabric up to the light and you can't see through – it's too dense for that. On the other hand, air can pass in and out. It's supple enough to conform to the shape of your foot – even if your foot has some odd geographical contours! – which is great for comfort, and it's pretty strong and tough too. You can't catch a thread and end up with a hole in the fabric, for instance. I've only been using the Pro Team shoes for a few weeks, though, so can't yet vouch for the long-term durability or tell you how it'll look six months down the line.
As Rapha says, the Powerweave fabric doesn't stretch much. With the Boa dials ratcheted tight, there's no noticeable movement in the uppers when you get out of the saddle and sprint, and nor have they become looser over time.
Powerweave isn't waterproof but, as mentioned, it's more dense than you might imagine and it also has a hydrophobic treatment. If you're worried that the woven uppers will just suck in water and keep your feet cold, you needn't. Go riding in persistent rain and water will get through, but Powerweave can handle spray from surface water. The treatment also helps keep the uppers cleaner than they'd otherwise be because dirty water beads up and rolls off.
The Pro Team shoes aren't as breathable as options with large mesh panels, but they let more moist air out than most with big areas of leather or synthetic leather – which is what you'd probably expect. I've yet to use these in high temperatures outside (it being winter and all, most of my rides have been below 10°C) but I have worn these on the turbo and I've not experienced uncomfortable or particularly sweaty feet.
The tongue is padded enough that you can't feel the laces – they're just snug and secure…
…while the almost rigid external heel cup is really scooped in towards the top, preventing any lift at the back when you're sprinting or climbing.
Heading south, the carbon fibre sole is very stiff, featuring a trapezoidal cross-section that was inspired by box-girder bridges, apparently. If your knowledge of box-girder bridges isn't all it should be – perhaps you're more of a humpback bridge fan – the main beams comprise girders with profiles shaped like hollow boxes. Look at the sole and you'll see where they're coming from. Anyhow, I couldn't detect any sort of flex whatsoever in use. Zero.
The carbon is protected by TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane) treads at the toe and heel – the heel one is replaceable, secured by a bolt from the inside – while the nuts for three-bolt cleats are stainless steel. As ever, the carbon scratches quite easily and, as ever, it's heartbreaking the first time but you don't think anything of it by ride number two.
Inside, the EVA (ethylene-vinyl acetate) and microfibre footbed has a customisable arch height; you have the choice of two different supports or going without. The top surface is antimicrobial to minimise bad odours.
The sole is a similar shape – not quite identical – to that of Rapha's existing Classic shoe although the upper feels slightly less roomy to me. That said, my foot is a medium width and I had enough space to give my toes a little wriggle to keep them happy.
As for value, £260 is a significant investment for most of us, but we've reviewed high-end road shoes that are much more expensive: the Giro Imperial Road Cycling Shoes are £374.99, for example, the Specialized S-Works EXOS shoes are £450 and Shimano S-Phyre RC9s are £319.99.
All of those shoes are lighter than these (521g, 340g and 542g respectively in a size 45, compared with 620g for these in a size 46), but I'd still say that the Pro Teams offer good value for money.
Available in light grey and purple/blue colourways, as well as the black version shown here, Rapha's Pro Team shoes feature stiff soles, supple uppers, and a secure, comfortable and easily adjusted fit. If you also like the looks, these are definitely a great buy.
Woven upper, Boa dials and super-stiff sole combine to produce an exceptionally good race-orientated shoe
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Rapha Pro Team Shoes
Size tested: 46
Tell us what the product is for
Rapha calls this its "first cycling shoes created specifically for racing". You don't have to race in them, of course, but they're intended for performance-orientated roadies.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Rapha says, "Working with world-leading weaving technologists Avery Dennison, we created Powerweave, an entirely new jacquard woven fabric and in doing so set a new benchmark for cycling footwear.
"The result is a shoe unlike anything on the market, with glove-like comfort, a stiff carbon sole, and race-ready performance.
"With Powerweave, yarns and weave patterns can be precisely engineered to deliver strength where needed to provide a form-fitting and virtually seamless upper. The woven nature of the fabric produces incredible strength and durability, essential for a shoe upper. The flexibility of Powerweave allows the upper to hug the foot perfectly, for improved comfort and reduced friction, while being stronger and possessing less stretch than materials such as microfibre or knit, thus aiding power transfer.
"Powerweave ensures lower moisture retention when racing in warm weather and a hydrophopic treatment promotes weather resistance on cold, wet days, helping keep feet dry and healthy. This makes the Pro Team Shoe suitable for year-round use.
"The sole unit of the Pro Team Shoe has been developed alongside a world-leading carbon fibre supplier and features a trapezoidal cross-section inspired by box-girder bridges. The sole is designed to be incredibly stiff from toe to heel for maximum power transfer, and features an external heel cup to increase hold and minimise heel lift. Putting the heel cup on the outside also allows for a sculpted fit with less weight."
* Powerweave seamless, one-piece upper
* BOA dials with tighten/loosen on the fly as well as engage/quick release adjustability
* Lightweight and stiff full length carbon sole delivers power through the pedal stroke
* Stainless steel cleat nuts
* External heel cup for improved heel fit and hold
* Replaceable, non-slippery TPU heel tread
* Durable TPU toe tread
* Footbed with customisable arch height (Neutral, Medium and High) and soft antimicrobial microfibre top
* Lightweight 220g per shoe (approx. weight size #42)
* Three-bolt cleat/pedal compatible
* Upper: Polyester yarn
* Liner: microfibre
* BOA: plastic
* Sole: carbon fibre
* Tread: TPU
* Insole: EVA & microfibre
* Cleat nuts: Titanium
The soles get scuffed in use, as usual, but nothing worse than that. TPU protectors at the heel and toe definitely help there.
The uppers look great with no sign of any damage so far. Judging by the way they look now, I suspect that they're going to prove highly durable, but I can't say for certain because I've been using these shoes for weeks rather than months.
The uppers don't stretch but they are very flexible/supple so the fit is exceptionally good straight out of the box.
I take a size 46 in nearly everything. That's what I used here and it was bang on.
There are lighter shoes out there, if that's your number one concern, but these are a good weight.
These are really, really comfortable.
I know £260 represents a significant investment but the value is good compared to other high-end shoes.
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
They're not quite as easy to wipe clean as some shinier shoes, but keeping them looking neat isn't difficult.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
They do a great job of mixing sole stiffness with plenty of comfort.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Mega-stiff sole and supple upper.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Nothing stands out, although I can't tell you for certain how the uppers will be after six months, say.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
£260 is a significant investment for most of us, of course, but we've reviewed high-end road shoes that are much more expensive: the Giro Imperial Road Cycling Shoes are £374.99, for example, the Specialized S-Works EXOS shoes are £450, and Shimano S-Phyre RC9s are £319.99.
Given that the Powerweave upper is entirely new and the sole is super-stiff, I reckon the price is pretty good.
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
The average of the individual scores is closer to an 8, but a 9 reflects just how well these combine performance and comfort.
About the tester
I usually ride: My best bike is:
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding,
Mat has been in cycling media since 1996, on titles including BikeRadar, Total Bike, Total Mountain Bike, What Mountain Bike and Mountain Biking UK, and he has been editor of 220 Triathlon and Cycling Plus. Mat has been road.cc technical editor for over a decade, testing bikes, fettling the latest kit, and trying out the most up-to-the-minute clothing. We send him off around the world to get all the news from launches and shows too. He has won his category in Ironman UK 70.3 and finished on the podium in both marathons he has run. Mat is a Cambridge graduate who did a post-grad in magazine journalism, and he is a winner of the Cycling Media Award for Specialist Online Writer. Now over 50, he's riding road and gravel bikes most days for fun and fitness rather than training for competitions.